Food is the beating heart of Peru. Throughout its regions, pockets of unique culinary marvels are waiting to be discovered; from Michelin Star dining rooms to market stall delicacies.
Indeed, no luxury vacation to Peru would be complete without sampling the exquisite taste of true Peru. But more than that, foodie travel in Peru is about knowledge and history. Unearthing the story behind Peru’s meteoric rise to becoming the world’s top culinary destination – as voted for by the World Travel Awards, nine years running.
At Aracari, we have spent 26 years as Peru travel specialists, and so we’ve witnessed first-hand how the country’s unique foodie scene has exploded on the world stage. Yet, we’ve always known its magic. Our private travel itineraries to Peru include some of the most exclusive foodie experiences in all South America, and we’ve even dedicated entire luxury vacations to Peru’s magnificent gastronomy.
Leaning on our decades-long relationship with some of the pioneers of Peruvian cuisine, from the chefs of molecular kitchens to villagers preserving the ancient cooking techniques of the Incas, we’ve curated unique food experiences you won’t find anywhere else.
Our Ultimate Guide to Food in Peru
Navigating Peru’s culinary landscape during a foodie vacation to Peru can feel overwhelming. How do find the best restaurants in Cusco, for example? Or know an authentic dining spot over those vying for visitor attention? Or find a cooking class led by a real local expert?
Thankfully that’s where we come in. Throughout this insider foodie guide, you’ll glean a fascinating insight into what makes Peru’s gastronomic scene so unique. From the exotic fruits of the Amazon to root plants from the Andean heartlands to the succulent shellfish plucked from the South Pacific – you’ll read not only about where to go and what to eat but how to experience each culinary destination so that it delivers a true taste of Peru.
So, let’s begin in Lima…
Experience Peru’s Signature Dishes in Lima
Most luxury vacations to Peru begin in Lima, one of the world’s culinary melting pots, a place where Peruvian history and foreign cultures combine to create – some of the country’s signature dishes.
Yet despite the evolution, classic dishes are indispensable for most Limeños. Ceviche is ever present in the coastal capital, be it straight from the Chorrillos fish market or freshly prepared in a bustling cevichería. Other essentials include the mildly spicy and creamy ají de gallina, the Asian stir-fry-inspired lomo saltado, and the summer classic causa limeña, a layered dish of mashed yellow potatoes, vegetables, and chicken or fish.
Visit Lima with Aracari – a Peru travel specialist – and you’ll be treated to a whole host of foodie experiences in this cosmopolitan coastal capital. With our privileged access, we arrange reservations at even the most sought-after tables – including Central, Maido, Astrid y Gaston, and Mayta, all named amongst the world’s 50 best restaurants.
And take for instance our itinerary Peru with Flavor. It features a glorious day in the coastal suburbs of Lima with Penelope Alzamora – a professional chef and charming Lima native – exploring the charming town of Punta Hermosa and its local market, before cooking up a traditional treat at Penelope’s beachfront condo.
Then again, if hands-on experiences aren’t for you then you can be wined and dined by acclaimed Peruvian chef and longtime friend of Aracari Pedro Miguel Schiaffino. In a private kitchen, you’ll sample a gourmet meal cooked by Pedro himself and enjoy wonderful conversation with the famously charismatic chef.
Discover the Authentic Cuisine of Cusco and the Peruvian Highlands
History permeates the cuisine of the Peruvian highlands and indigenous heritage exists strongly here, with many recipes and cooking methods dating back to Pre-Columbian times. The Inca themselves were master agriculturists, and today, the sheer diversity found here is largely due to their agrarian prowess.
With the plethora of potatoes, tubers, roots, grains, and beans grown here, warming soups are ever-present in high altitudes. Those such as kapchi and lawa, wheat soups like llunca cashqui, and thick meat stews such as chairo, which include everything from beef to beans and chuño (a type of freeze-dried potato).
Yet perhaps the most emblematic dish of the central highlands is pachamanca, a mix of meat, vegetables, and other Andean ingredients cooked in an earthen oven. And it’s during our luxury Peru itinerary The Pillars of Peru: Coast, Jungle, Mountain – that Aracari guests will experience a traditional pachamanca lunch during their stay at one of our most recommended destinations in Ollantaytambo, the home of our longtime friends El Albergue. The meal is enjoyed after another of the exclusive foodie experience, creating your own Andean liquor at the property’s own distillery, using traditional techniques and local ingredients to craft spirits that embody the surrounding Sacred Valley.
Travel with Taste: Peru’s Spellbinding South is another of our luxury Peru vacations showcasing highland gastronomy. At the famous Pisac market, meander through the sights and smells of stalls, and purchase fresh produce and street food, as well as traditional handmade art and crafts. Whilst after visiting the Pre-Columbian sites of Maras and Moray, Aracari guests will enjoy a foodie trip to MIL – the Sacred Valley restaurant of Virgilio Martinez, the mastermind behind Lima’s world-renowned restaurant Central.
Taste Traditional Peruvian Dishes in Trujillo and Chiclayo
The cities of Trujillo and Chiclayo on Peru’s north coast are covered with archaeological sites left behind by powerful civilizations such as the Moche and then the Chimú. These two cultures left behind a wealth of artifacts, including fine ceramics that detailed every aspect of their lives. In Moche ceramics particularly, we can see images of local ingredients still used today, including fish, shellfish, corn, squash, tubers, peppers, and beans.
Fast forward to today, and it is goat, particularly kid (cabrito), that is typical on this stretch of coast, found in popular dishes such as seco de cabrito (kid cooked in chicha de jora, a type of corn beer). Duck is also common in Chiclayo and Trujillo, especially arroz con pato, a dish of duck cooked in black beer and served with rice. And then there’s shámbar, a meat, wheat, and bean soup famous throughout Trujillo, as well as sopa teóloga (literally ‘theologian soup’), a broth of chicken or turkey, bread, vegetables, and various local herbs and spices.
Undiscovered Peru is an Aracari itinerary that takes in the very best of this part of Peru, including 4 UNESCO heritage sites, the Moche site of El Brujo, and the mummy of The Lady of Cao, the first known Female leader in ancient Peru. As you traverse these unmissable sites, your journey will be punctuated by stops at some of the most authentic and delicious dining destinations, where you’ll eat like a local accompanied by your expert guide.
Find Foodie Experiences on the North Coast of Peru
Further down the north coast, this region too packs a punch when it comes to flavor, and each coastal region has distinct local dishes that are rarely found anywhere else in Peru. Take ceviche de conchas Negras for example, a unique ceviche made with black shellfish found only in the mangrove areas of Tumbes. Or, the chinguirito, a ceviche made using dried pacific guitarfish and found only in the Lambayeque Region.
Visiting the North Coast as part of a luxury Peru vacation with Aracari truly is extra special. You see, this part of Peru is home to our collection of luxury villas – a handpicked selection of sublime beachfront properties, offering serenity and seclusion on white sandy shores. Equipped with every comfort you need for an unforgettable stay, many of these private villas in Peru also include your own private chef. Masters of coastal cuisine, chefs will prepare fresh fish dishes every evening, cooked in the property’s professional kitchen, the outdoor grill, or an open fire right on the beach.
Depending on the season there’s also the chance to catch your own fish of the day. Out on the open water, you’ll be accompanied by an expert fisherman – who will lead you to the best spot to catch marlin, swordfish, and tuna. And once back on dry land, you’ll be guided on how to prepare a delicious local dish with the day’s catch.
Discover More of Foodie Peru in Arequipa and the South Coast
Dry deserts and dusty highways don’t bode well for fine cuisine, but Peru has a special way of cultivating dishes in even the most hostile of environments. The coastal regions south of Lima – Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua, and Tacna – produce a range of distinct dishes, many of which fall under the broad label of Peruvian creole food; a mix of pre-Columbian, Spanish, and Afro-Peruvian influences. An authentic example is the coastal carapulcra, dried potato, and meat stew that began with the Incas before being adapted by Spanish colonists and African slaves, and turning into a spicier, more flavorful version of the original.
Typical dishes from the Arequipa region include ají de lacayote (made using a local variety of squash) and adobo arequipeño (a juicy dish of pork, rocoto, chicha de jora, and red onions). Arequipa’s spicy rocoto relleno (stuffed rocoto pepper), meanwhile, is distinct from its Cusco counterpart, while the city is also famous for chupe de camarones, made from fresh river shrimp. Many of these dishes can be found in one of the city’s picanterias, which are always busy with locals and serve enormous portions.
It’s during our luxury Peru travel itinerary Travel with Taste: Peru’s Spellbinding South that guests will uncover this foodie destination for themselves. Accompanied by an expert local guide, spend a night spent in the white city sampling the bustling picanterias, along with some of the best fine-dining restaurants in Peru.
Beyond food, there is one thing that all the South Coast regions have in common: pisco. Peru’s iconic grape brandy is produced in the coastal vineyards of Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua, and Tacna. And in an exclusive experience launched just this year, our guests can now visit the beautiful intimate winery of San Nicolas in Paracas to discover Peru’s most famous tipple. Amongst the picturesque landscape, you’ll pick your own grapes from the vine during harvesting season, and enjoy a masterclass in cocktail mixology, all before sitting down to a delicious lunch overlooking the lush vineyards.
The Secrets of Amazonian Food in Peru
The Peruvian Amazon opens a whole new world of food for those traveling to Peru, with its rivers and jungles supplying an amazing array of fruit, fish, and meat. Take a stroll through any traditional jungle market and you’ll soon see the wealth of unfamiliar and exotic produce on offer. There are roasted ants and giant freshwater fish, leaf-wrapped oddities, and an endless selection of fruits.
Further to the west, as the jungle begins to rise into the foothills of the Andes, lies the strip of selva alta, or high jungle, with cities such as Moyobamba, Tarapoto and Tingo Maria. This upland jungle region is more suitable for agriculture and is known for coffee, cacao, and coca. In cities like Tarapoto, you can pull up a seat at the grill, order a beer from the bodega next door, and sit and watch the mototaxis stream by as you eat tacacho.
Visiting the region as part of our luxury Peru itinerary The Pillars of Peru: Coast, Jungle, Mountain – and you’ll witness the marvel of Amazonian food firsthand. Spending three days in one of the best Amazon lodges in Peru, Bosque Guardian, you’ll take part in exclusive foodie experiences (along with many other wonderful wildlife activities), such as visiting a real cacao plantation to make chocolate, as well as exploring the medicinal garden where guests can witness how medicinal sap is extracted from the ‘Sangre de Grado’ tree.
And in the evening? Dine at the Bosque Guardian restaurant. Accessed via a cleverly designed wooden bridge that leads from the hotel’s reception, the setting is especially beautiful at night, illuminated by discrete lighting. Sustainable and natural cuisine is the priority here, using as many locally foraged and fished ingredients as possible, following professional guidance from a local biologist.
Now all you need to do is taste true Peru for yourself.
Our insider foodie guide to Peru is, of course, only the beginning. Every one of our luxury Peru travel itineraries can be entirely adapted and built bespoke for you. Our travel designers are dedicated to fine-tuning every detail, whether you’re traveling to Peru as part of a luxury family vacation, or a couple’s adventure itinerary to South America.
With our expert guidance, we’ll help you uncover the true taste of Peru, whatever your flavor of travel may be.