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Peruvian Food Glossary: The Ultimate Guide from A to Z

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Discover the unique Peruvian cuisines, ingredients, and dishes in this Peruvian food glossary. Find out what the world's top culinary destination cooks and eats!

Peruvian food is undoubtedly some of the best food in the world. For the last 8 years (2012-2019), the World Travel Awards has named Peru the World’s Leading Culinary Destination. There are plenty of great dishes and ingredients to choose from, but sometimes names can be confusing or get lost in translation on local menus. Lomo saltado…jumped beef? That can’t be right! 

This Peruvian food glossary is the ultimate guide to traditional and popular foods in Peru. It will also give you an idea of what to expect in Peruvian restaurants. With so much variety, there’s something delicious on the menu to suit everyone’s taste buds. Dive into Peru’s culinary scene and you won’t regret one bite!

Table of Contents

  • Popular Peruvian Cuisines

  • Unique Ingredients in Peruvian Recipes

  • Top Peruvian Dishes

Popular Peruvian Cuisines

Peru has several distinct cuisine types, all using their own ingredients and cooking methods. The country is a melting pot of different cultures and flavors. With so much diversity, try everything you can! 

Here are the three most popular Peruvian cuisines: 


Chifa cuisine arrived when Chinese immigrants came to Peru in the early 1900’s. Today, chifa restaurants serving Chinese-Peruvian fusion dishes are all over the country. Large portions mean you can share one dish with several people. Lima has its own Chinatown, filled with restaurants and shops selling Asian products. The most popular chifa dishes include lomo saltado, arroz chaufa, and tallarín saltado. Peruvians typically drink Inca Kola, a sweet soda, with their chifa. 


Comida criolla translates as Creole food in English. It is a fusion of European, African, and native South American cooking techniques and ingredients. Popular dishes include anticuchos, tacu tacu, and papa a la huancaína. We recommend Calle del Medio in Cusco for tasty criolla food. 

Anticuchos on a grill.


Nikkei cuisine is a Peruvian-Japanese fusion that mixes Japanese cooking techniques with Peru’s unique ingredients. The first Japanese immigrants arrived in Peru in 1899 at the Callao Port just outside Lima. Most worked as farmers on two-year work contracts to escape poor economic conditions back home. Now, there are an estimated half a million Peruvians with Japanese heritage. Staple ingredients of Nikkei food include ginger, soy sauce, and both raw and cooked fish. The most famous Nikkei dishes include tiradito and sushi with Peruvian flavors, like makis acevichados (ceviche makis). One Nikkei restaurant in Lima, Maido, is currently ranked 10th in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. 

Unique Peruvian Ingredients 

The incredible variety of food in Peru comes from Peru’s status as a mega-diverse country. The three main regions of Peru – the coast, the mountains, and the jungle – provide an abundance of unique flavors and textures.

If you’re planning on hitting up a local market while in Peru, make the most of it! Below are some translations and simple explanations for common ingredients and food items to help you out. 


A mild-flavored fruit found in the crown of palm trees. Amazon natives use the fruit’s oil as natural sun protection, as well as in ice creams and wines. 


Goldenberry. While native to Peru, England and South Africa also grow this berry today.


Peruvian chili pepper. There are several varieties of ají but ají amarillo (yellow) and ají panca (smokey and mild) are the most common. Don’t confuse this with ajo (garlic)!


Sesame seeds. Sometimes also called sésamo


You can find alpaca steaks in many restaurants in Cusco. Alpaca meat tastes like semi-sweet lamb or venison.


A root vegetable that is like a cross between a carrot and a celery root. Arracacha cooks similarly to potatoes. 


Split peas. Normally served with rice. 


Steak. The name came from the mispronunciation of “beef steak” which sounded like bistec to Spanish speakers. 


Comber fish. Typically found in soups or stews.


The bean that is made into chocolate. Try out the chocolate-making workshop at ChocoMuseo in Cusco


A triangle-shaped green vegetable native to South America. Caigua rellena (stuffed caigua) typically has meat, raisins, onions, and garlic. 


Shrimp. Chupe de camarones uses sweet-flavored river shrimp as the highlight of the dish. 


Sweet potato. The classic accompaniment to ceviche. Peruvian sweet potatoes come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. 


A close relative of the guavaberry. This berry is native to the riverside of the Amazon in Peru and Brazil. It has lots of vitamin C – more than 30 times the amount in oranges!



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