Everything about cuisine in this region of Peru comes from a place of tradition and pride. The food from the highlands has been similar since the time of the Incas, with potatoes, maize and meat making up the key ingredients of an Andean diet.
The food here is hearty, including soups and stews, and great time and effort is put into preparing it – traditional dishes are often cooked for hours due to the lower oxygen levels at high altitude.
Different to the exotic flavours from the Amazon and the fresh seafood of the coast, the highlands specialize in these five items that you can’t miss next time you’re in this majestic region of Peru.
1. ROCOTO RELLENO
This stuffed pepper is a classic in the highlands and Andes Mountains region. Originally derived from Spain, Rocoto relleno is traditionally served with potato gratin and takes about 1 hour to cook.
Today, rocoto relleno can be prepared in various ways. In Cusco, you’ll see the dish covered in egg batter and deep fried.
In Arequipa, the dish is prepared in a lighter way. People tend to stuff their peppers with some type of meat, olives, spices, chili, egg, raisins, and a variety of other ingredients. Give rocoto relleno a try and put your own delicious spin on it!
2. QUINOA SOUP
Another highlands classic is the well renowned quinoa soup. Typically served on its own due to the delicious density – or with a side of bread for dipping – this soup is packed with sustainable and nutritious ingredients.
Typically made with onion, carrots, pepper, garlic, oregano, quinoa, corn, zucchini, and a few other spices, this dish will become a staple you’ll convince yourself you need every week after visiting Peru.
Is it simply the taste or the comfort of a hearty soup in the cold of the Andes Mountains? Definitely both.
3. GUINEA PIG (CUY) AND ALPACA
Now, I know what you’re thinking…but think openly here. With the abundance of guinea pigs and alpacas in this region of Peru, these animals have turned into a delicacy.
Guinea pig is eaten both in restaurants and at home and is considered to be healthier alternative to pork. Like other foods in the highlands, this meat dates back to pre-Incan times and is typically served with oyster and sweet-and-sour sauce.
As for alpacas, this animals is the country’s prized possession and appears in many tourist restaurants. This rough meat has even made its way onto menus in other countries.
While it may not suit everyone, others have rated it, and they always say, ‘don’t knock it til you try it!’
4. CHOCLO WITH CHEESE
You may have been advised to stay clear of street food in some countries but here in the highlands of Peru…go for it. One delicious street food classic is as simple as this: corn with cheese.
Considered a delicacy of the Incas, the Sacred Valley grows some of the best corn in Peru with large kernels and natural flavours. Street vendors get fresh corn on the cob, peel off the husk, boil it in water with aniseed, and serve it with ‘queso serrano’, a special type of cheese popular in the highlands.
This one is considered one of the best snacks when you need a little something while venturing through the highlands.
5. SAN PEDRO MARKET
If you have time to visit a food market while visiting Peru, you will definitely want to head to the San Pedro Market in Cusco. This is one way to quickly learn about culinary culture in the highland.
Only an eight-minute walk from the main town square, the Plaza de Armas, here you’ll see so much more than just food. You will have a chance to witness locals in traditional highland clothing and walk through the variety of vendors as they sell goods local to Peru.
As for the food scene, arrive hungry because you will want to try everything. Fresh juice, plantains, fried chicken, popcorn, and lomo saltado, are just the tip of the iceberg…go find out for yourself.
For more culinary adventures in Peru, visit https://www.peru.travel
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