An intro to traditional food in Cusco: 12 dishes to try and where to find them

Journey through the rich culinary landscape of Peru’s historic city with our definitive guide to food in Cusco. From traditional Incan dishes to contemporary Peruvian delicacies, explore the flavors that define Cusqueñan cuisine.

Apart from the food in Cusco being really cheap, it has one of the oldest food history in the world and is one of the best cuisines in Latin America. Peru is always on the list of the 50 World’s Best Restaurants so you may want to include food as part of your trip itinerary.

If you’ve been to other parts of Peru, you will see that the food in Cusco is quite different as it is more culturally and historically diverse. This post does not only include the list of traditional food in Cusco but also a map where you can find them! Let’s get started!

See also:

🗺️ Map of restaurants with traditional food in Cusco

Peru has a strong food culture and they are most likely to shy away from Western food. Use this map to find the restaurants that serve traditional food in Cusco.

🍲 Traditional food in Cusco: what to eat

A trip to Peru is not complete without trying food in Cusco. Here are the most traditional plates you can try while you are in town:

1. Cuy al Horno or Cuy Chactado

food in peru
In the heart of the Andean culinary tradition lies the guinea pig, or “cuy,” a unique delicacy of the Cusco region.

“Cuy al Horno” refers to an oven-baked guinea pig, while “Cuy Chactado” is a preparation where the guinea pig is flattened and fried. Both versions are typically accompanied by potatoes or Peruvian corn. Historically, guinea pig has been a crucial protein source in the Andean regions, consumed for thousands of years.

Its taste is somewhat gamey, akin to rabbit or dark chicken meat, offering a rich and distinct flavor. For those who want to try this traditional food in Cusco, restaurants like Pachapapa, Cuy Lokal, and Cuyeria La Cusqueñita are renowned for their exquisite preparation of cuy.

2. Lomo Saltado

food in peru
“Lomo Saltado” symbolizes the fusion of Chinese and Peruvian culinary traditions, often referred to as Chifa.

Lomo saltado is a stir-fried beef dish is a melody of flavors, mixing succulent beef with vibrant vegetables such as tomatoes and onions, all brought together with a dash of soy sauce.

It is commonly served alongside rice and French fries. The integration of Chinese cooking techniques and ingredients with Peruvian flavors has resulted in a dish that is both savory and umami-rich, with a fresh crispness from the stir-fried vegetables.

Restaurants such as Chicha por Gaston Acurio, Nuna Raymi, and Mamá Jama Restaurant in Cusco offer an authentic and delightful “Lomo Saltado” experience.

3. Chiriuchu

food in cusco
“Chiriuchu” is a ceremonial dish from Cusco, often savored during the Corpus Christi festival. | Photo: @lacocineraviajera

Chiriuchu is a cold plate ensemble of diverse ingredients, ranging from chicken and cuy to sausage and corn. This dish epitomizes the variegated fabric of Cusco’s cuisine, weaving together an array of flavors and textures.

It is a tasteful journey through various components, each carrying a distinctive flavor profile, ranging from the savoury meats to milder elements like cheese.

During festival times, Chiriuchu is predominantly available at stalls in San Pedro Market and is also featured seasonally in some local restaurants. You can also find this dish at El Indio Feliz.

4. Aji de Gallina

food in cusco
“Aji de Gallina” is a magnificent blend of Andean ingredients and Spanish culinary influences. | Photo: @papeaperu

Aji de Gallina comprises shredded chicken bathed in a spicy and creamy sauce, gracefully paired with rice, potatoes, and black olives. The amalgamation of cultures in this dish creates a harmonious and delightful eating experience. The stew carries a comforting warmth, paired with a gentle spiciness that tantalizes the palate.

In Cusco, restaurants like Morena Peruvian Kitchen, Yaku Restaurant and Inka Grill offer a wonderful rendition of “Aji de Gallina,” allowing visitors to immerse themselves in its delectable flavors.

5. Lechón al Horno

food in cusco
“Lechón al Horno” is the quintessence of Spanish influence mingling with Andean culinary traditions

Lechón al Horno involves pork that has been marinated with a mixture of indigenous spices and herbs, then oven-roasted. The resultant meat is juicy, tender, and infused with the aromatic essence of the marinade. It stands as a testament to the culinary diversity and innovation inherent in the region’s food culture.

For those exploring the landscapes of food in Cusco, Los Toldos Chicken offers a mouthwatering “Lechón al Horno,” promising an unforgettable gastronomic experience.

6. Adobo

food in cusco
Adobo is a quintessential dish of Cusco, often enjoyed as a hearty breakfast. | Photo: @imakay_food

Adobo is a spicy pork stew, marinated in a blend of local spices and chicha (a type of corn beer), and slow-cooked to absorb all the flavors. With roots deeply embedded in the local culture, Adobo carries the essence of Cusqueñan warmth and tradition.

The dish offers a burst of strong, aromatic flavors, with the chicha adding a unique touch to the marinade. For those looking to experience Adobo food in Cusco, local markets and eateries like Chola Soy are recommended, where it’s often freshly prepared in early mornings.

7. Caldo de Gallina

food in cusco
Caldo de Gallina, or hen soup, is a robust, nourishing soup that is popular in Cusco. | Photo: @ comidaperuanadeanna

Caldo de Gallina is made traditionally with hen, noodles, and a variety of vegetables and spices, it is known for its revitalizing properties. It’s a staple in local cuisine, embodying warmth and comfort. Rich in flavors, the soup offers a delightful blend of savory tastes combined with the freshness of herbs.

Caldo de gallina at Tambopata and El Sabor Abanquino are the ideal places in Cusco where one can savor this nutritious and hearty soup, often preferred as a breakfast dish.

8. Quinoa Soup (Sopa de Quinua)

food in cusco
Quinoa Soup reflects the rich agricultural tradition of the Andes. | Photo: @vitalfoods.oficial

Quinoa Soup is a delicious, nourishing soup made from quinoa, a grain that has been cultivated in the region for thousands of years, combined with vegetables and sometimes meat. The soup is a symbol of Andean resilience and creativity, making the best use of locally available ingredients.

The light, earthy flavors of quinoa combined with the freshness of vegetables offer a wholesome eating experience. In Cusco, quinoa soup can be found in many local restaurants, including Green Point Vegan Restaurant, known for its fantastic interpretation of local dishes.

9. Picarones

food in cusco
Picarones are sweet, ring-shaped fritters, a dessert that has become a beloved part of Peruvian cuisine. | Photo: @richardpujay

Picarones are made from sweet potatoes and squash and then deep-fried, Picarones are traditionally served with a drizzle of syrup made from chancaca (unrefined cane sugar). It is a delightful treat that echoes the culinary diversity of Cusco, blending indigenous ingredients with Spanish dessert traditions.

Picarones offer a soft, warm, and sweet taste sensation, a delightful way to satisfy a sweet tooth. Picarones Ruinas, Picaroneria Delicias and Picarones Elvirita are fantastic places to indulge in this sweet delight.

10. Coca Tea (Mate de Coca)

food in cusco
Coca Tea, or Mate de Coca, is more than a beverage in Cusco—it’s a tradition and a remedy.

Coca Tea (mate de coca) is made from the leaves of the coca plant, this herbal tea is often consumed for its effects in alleviating altitude sickness symptoms.

It is a warm, gentle beverage that carries a slightly bitter taste but is deeply ingrained in the local cultural practices. It reflects the Andean people’s profound knowledge of their natural environment and its medicinal plants.

Coca tea is widely available throughout Cusco, in hotels, restaurants, and markets, acting as a soothing companion in the high altitudes of the Andean city.

11. Chicha Morada

peruvian dishes
A refreshing purple corn drink, dating back to pre-Columbian times.

Chicha Morada is a non-alcoholic beverage that has earned its place in the rich tapestry of Peruvian cuisine. Made from purple corn, pineapple, cinnamon, cloves, and sugar, this refreshing drink is both sweet and tangy, offering a delightful blend of flavors that captivate the palate.

Chicha Morada carries the essence of the Andean agricultural tradition, utilizing indigenous ingredients like purple corn, highlighting the region’s biodiversity. The origins of Chicha Morada trace back to pre-Columbian times, symbolizing the drink’s deep-rooted cultural significance.

Throughout the streets of Cusco, Chicha Morada is ubiquitously available, served in various restaurants, street food stalls, and markets. San Pedro Market offers a taste of this refreshing, traditional beverage, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the authentic flavors of Cusco.

12. Chicha de Jora

food in cusco
This alcoholic beverage has been a part of Andean traditions for centuries, involved in various ceremonies and communal gatherings, symbolizing its societal importance.

Chicha de Jora is a traditional fermented corn beer that holds a special place in the history and culture of the Andean people. It is made by fermenting the jora corn, resulting in a drink that carries a unique, slightly sour flavor profile, reflecting the natural fermentation processes.

In Cusco, visitors can experience the authenticity of Chicha de Jora in local chicherias, traditional establishments dedicated to serving this unique beverage.

La Chomba is one of the renowned places where one can experience Chicha de Jora in a traditional setting, ensuring a rich, cultural, and flavorful experience.

🥘 What food is Cusco known for?

Food in Cusco is known for its vibrant and diverse culinary scene, reflecting a blend of indigenous Andean, Spanish, and other global influences.

Some notable traditional dishes include “Cuy al Horno” (roasted guinea pig), “Lomo Saltado” (stir-fried beef), and “Aji de Gallina” (chicken in a spicy, creamy sauce).

Cusco is also famous for its variety of corn and potatoes, and unique local ingredients like quinoa and coca leaves, which are used in various preparations, from soups to teas.

😋 Does Cusco Peru have good food?

Absolutely! Food in Cusco range from street food to high-end restaurants. Ingredients are often locally sourced, ensuring freshness and quality.

Many travelers find the local cuisine to be a highlight of their trip, appreciating the variety of flavors, textures, and unique ingredients that Cusqueñan cuisine has to offer.

🍛 What food did they eat in Machu Picchu?

In Machu Picchu and other ancient Incan sites, the diet was predominantly based on locally available ingredients. Staples included maize (corn), potatoes, quinoa, and various legumes and fruits.

They also consumed different kinds of meat, including guinea pigs (cuy), llamas, and alpacas, as well as fish from nearby rivers.

These ingredients were used in a variety of dishes, soups, and stews, contributing to a nutritious and sustainable diet.

🐹 What is traditional Inca food?

Traditional Inca food was primarily based on agricultural produce, as agriculture was a fundamental aspect of the Inca economy.

They cultivated a variety of fruits, vegetables, and legumes. In terms of protein, they relied on cuy (guinea pig), llama, alpaca, and a variety of fish and seafood.

The Incas were masters of preservation techniques like drying and salting, which allowed them to store and transport food efficiently.

Their diet was a balanced combination of carbohydrates, proteins, and essential vitamins and minerals, reflecting a deep understanding of nutrition and sustainability.

Trisha Velarmino (43)

Trisha Velarmino is the Global Editor-in-Chief of the Insider Media Group operating in Europe, Asia, and North America. She lived in Peru for 1.5 years and has helped thousands of expats, digital nomads, and solo travelers easily visit Peru. Trisha has traveled Peru extensively from North to South.

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