In Peru, whether you are in a park, strolling Lima's downtown, or attending an event, there are always vendors selling food, snacks, or sweets. While it might be one way Peruvians make their living, for travelers it is a great way to taste local delicacies.
Western influences are noticeable (cotton candy, candy bars, hot dogs) but locally produced snacks still dominate the scene: local type of popcorns, chancho, rocoto relleno, anticuchos, tamales, and empanadas, to name a few. Vendors carry baskets on their head, sell their wares from wheelbarrows or carts, or sit on the pavements selling homemade drinks from buckets. Fascinated by street food in any culture, here's our collection of the locally-made snacks and sweet treats of Peru.
In Peru, something as basic and simple as fruit is for sale everywhere. Some vendors sell pieces of watermelon, others sell freshly cut slices of mango or pineapple.
If you’d rather not buy peeled fruit, you will find other vendors selling grapes and oranges in wheelbarrows or have carts loaded with staples like apples, bananas, and avocados to more tropical fruits like tuna fruit and chirimoya (custard apple).
Sweets & Nuts
Many street stalls carry a mix of western influenced and local products. Vendors sell international brands like Coca Cola and Oreo cookies, in addition to other locally produced candies like the ubiquitous Sublime, a small chocolate bar available in milk and white chocolate. Also popular at street stalls? Nuts and chips, some packaged at factories, others – like peanuts and fried lima beans – sold in bulk and wrapped by the vendor himself.
Cotton candy is a sweet treat popular throughout the world, and South America is no exception. It comes in the brightest colors like green and blue, but pink appears to be most popular in Peru.
Every once in a while, passerby might eye a cotton candy machine by the side of the road in which the vendor spins a puff of sugar on demand; however, the image above is more common: a vendor selling his cotton candy conveniently packed in plastic bags and attached to a stick so he can easily walk among crowds.
Churros originate in Spain and are a popular treat in Peru. It's a donut-like, sweet snack made of a potato-based choux pastry that is deep-fried. They are best when eaten hot, and you can generally choose between plain churros or churros filled with manjar blanco (a sweet spread made of milk and sugar).
Types of Popcorn
Corn is a staple food in Peru and comes in dozens of varieties. That makes it confusing sometimes because each variety has its own name like choclo, mote, mochero, or chaparreño.
At some street corners you will find huge baskets filled with roasted types of corn, such as maná, which is a large-sized corn kernel that has been popped and infused in sugar. At events, as in the photo, there are always vendors selling different types of roasted corn, but also habas (beans) or peanuts.
Anticuchos – Skewers of Meat or Organs
At the end of the afternoon or beginning of the evening, street vendors will start setting up their barbecues along the side of the road and heat up the coals.
It's a good time to have something hot to eat, especially in the mountains where temperatures plummet after sunset. Take your pick from grilled brochettes with marinated beef or chicken, or with organs like chicken livers or beef heart. If you like your meat spicy, you can add aji (the local hot sauce) afterwards.
Rocoto Relleno – Stuffed Pepper
In many Peruvian cities, you will find female vendors sitting on the pavement with a basket covered by a colorful blanket beside them. This usually means there's something hot and tasty within and, if you're lucky, it will be stuffed peppers or rocoto. Rocoto is acapsicum pubescens, a specific chili pepper grown in Latin America that is incredibly spicy when eaten raw, but loses pungency when boiled.
For 1 or 2 soles (35-70 cents), you can often get a rocoto stuffed with vegetables, egg, and ground beef, served with one or two boiled potatoes.
Forget typical Peruvian ingredients! Do you simply feel like eating something familiar? You're in luck, as Western influence has penetrated Peruvian cities with their version of the hot dog.
Though typical American hot dog stalls haven't yet arrived to Peru's shores, this version of a hot-dog-type of snack is all the rage: salsicha. Served in a pastry grilled on a waffle iron, you can condiment up to your liking, and add mayonnaise, ketchup and/or mustard.
In Peru, both in restaurants and with street vendors, pork is much more common than beef. Alongside locals road you may see entire chanchos being roasted on a spit above coals. In the case above, this vendor is selling chancho from a wheelbarrow, cutting her patrons slices of pork which she serves on a piece of bread with lettuce and tomato.
Ceviche de Chocho
Great food is often about simplicity, and one of the most simple yet most nutritious Peruvian street foods is ceviche de chocho. Chocho (in English, lupini beans) is a grain that grows in the Andes Mountains and is high in protein and healthy fats. Easy to prepare, cooking chocho requires time. After boiling the grain, it must be soaked for at least four days, rinsing regularly to remove toxic compounds and bitterness.
When ordering a portion (around 1 sole; or 35 cents), the vendor will sprinkle the chocho with lemon and salt, and then you can choose your toppings, which may vary by vendor or region: aji (hot sauce), tomato, onion, tiny pieces of chancho (pork), cancha (corn nuts) and/or banana chips.