The gastronomy of Cusco is characterized by its great taste created with the combination of a series of Andean ingredients. Most dishes you will eat in Cusco are cooked with quinoa, corn, chuño (freeze-dried potato), olluco (root and leaf vegetable) and chalona (dehydrated lamb meat) or charqui (dried, salted meat) among others.
When you visit the beautiful region of Cusco, you can’t miss a superb 5 day Salkantay Trek or a breathtaking 4 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This is the best way to visit the Incan citadel set high in the Andes Mountains because during the tours a local guide will tell you everything about the area, its history, curiosities and cuisine.
Among the numerous reasons to visit beautiful Cusco and its surroundings you can count its food. These are the top 5 foods you should eat in Cusco to enjoy the delicious Peruvian cuisine:
1. Cuy Chactado
Cuy Chactado is one of the most typical dishes of Peruvian cuisine. You may want to try it when visiting Cusco or the region of Arequipa where it originally comes from. The main ingredient of this rich dish is guinea pig. The meat is fried in abundant oil under covered with a stone that serves as a lid. Then, it is strongly spiced. You will usually find it accompanied by boiled potatoes, corn and other side dishes. One of the most distinguishing characteristics of this dish is the fact that the animal is presented as a whole on the serving plate.
Meat lovers can’t leave Peru before trying a classic plate of adobo. While simmilar to the Filipino dish and cooking method based in the use of vinegar that receives the same name, you shouldn’t mix the two of them. This is probably the best-known traditional Peruvian dish. The stew is cooked with tender pork in a mildly sour broth, seasoned with spicy red aji, garlic, and cumin to taste.
This delicious Peruvian meat and vegetable soup is known in Cusco as timpu. In Lima the same dish is called sancochado, and in Arequipa they refer to it as puchero. The meat is cooked with a wide variety of local vegetables such as potatoes, camote (sweet potato), choclo (corn), yuca (cassava), leeks, pumpkin, carrots, beans or cabbage. What makes this dish different and special is that once the meat and vegetables are already cooked, locals serve them separately from the stock, accompanied by typical Peruvian salsas. That way to serve it allows you to create your own little variation of this popular soup.
TAKEAWAY: This hearty soup was already prepared in pre-Hispanic times. But later on, it was influenced by the Spanish immigrants that came to Peru. In the past, they used up to 10 different types of meats to prepare the original timpu. But today, they normally add to the pot only one or two kinds of meat.
4. Olluquito with charqui
Olluquito con Charqui is one of the most representative dishes of the prestigious Peruvian cuisine because its two main ingredients are exclusively Peruvian. Olluco is a tuber that grows in the Andes and was “domesticated” by the ancient Peruvians in the pre-Columbian era. Charqui is llama dry meat, an animal native to Peru. The meat has a pre-cooking and salting process so that it lasts a long time without cooling. This is how these two pre-Columbian ingredients come together to create a dish with a lot of tradition and lovely flavour.
5. Kapchi de habas
Capchi or kapchi de habas is one of the typical dishes of Cuzco. The taste of beans stands out, with the soft aroma of huacatay (Peruvian mint) and the texture and creaminess of cheese and milk. A variant of this dish is cooked with wild Andean mushrooms. This ingredient is only found during the rainy season between November and February.
Many of Peruvian dishes are linked to civic festivals. So depending on the time of the year, you may want to try a different traditional dish, such as:
- The timpu is prepared during the carnivals of the month of February.
- Holy Week is a real feast in Peru and it is usual to prepare 12 dishes between chupes, soups, main dishes, breads and cakes.
- Chiriuchu is a dish that is prepared during the Corpus Christi between the months of May and June.
- Huatia is a kind of adobe, which is typical during the Inti Raymi festival in the month of June.
- In November it is the feast of the deceased where Peruvians typically eat tamale, suckling pig and the guagua de pan (babies shaped bread!).
As you can see, Peru has a lot to offer. From its breathtaking Inca ruins up in the Andes, to the most amazing local dishes, all will make your trip worthy. So when you stop to eat in Cusco, which dish will you try? Tell us in the comments!