Eating our (vegetarian) way through Peru

with 20 Comments

Do you believe in the fact that food can make or break a journey to a foreign destination? Well at least we do, and a big part of this reason is due to our upbringing in Kolkata, India. But this isn’t about our hometown 🙂  Because it is a nation traditionally rooted in agriculture, a meal in Peru can satiate every sort of palate.  

Peru's food is...
Peru’s food is….

...as diverse as its landscape
…as diverse as its landscape

Which is why, while crafting our itinerary for Peru with the tremendous team of Responsible Travel Peru, we wanted to throw in some culinary experiences. Upon return, we can confidently say that Peru is a rich country for foodies. More than 2000 varieties of potatoes, beer made from purple corn, juice made from wild tomatoes- there are so many new flavors to discover! Though Peru is a meat-loving country, meals are a sensory overload even for vegetarians. 

Peru’s culinary marvels: 

Meals at Hotel El Albergue, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley

El Albergue is a small, sustainable hotel in Ollantaytambo, a town from where many travelers head to Machu Picchu. Not only does the hotel have an old romantic vibe, it also has its own farm which ensures that the meals are organic and fresh. It fit three of our favorite criteria – small, boutique accommodation, farmhouse, offering meals with ingredients grown from scratch. Breakfast consisted of a huge spread of locally grown fruits, Peruvian granola, cookies, seasonal juices and a choice of a hot entrée. I still salivate at the thought of the home fries they served us each morning.

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They have a restaurant which I can certify is exquisite. On the Christmas eve, we were treated to a seven-course dinner paired with drinks. A salad coming from its own farm will taste better and we had our first taste of Peruvian style tamales too. I will let some pictures do the talking 😀

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Peru Food-7

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Bonus Tip: The hotel’s location next to Ollantaytambo train station makes the train travel to Aguas Calientes a piece of cake. We stored extra luggage with them at no cost and picked it on the way back.

Lunch at Amilcar’s house, in the barren town of Maras

We explored Sacred Valley for the first couple of days which included a visit to the salt mines of Maras. Many tourists visit the mines, get pictures and head out. Responsible Travel Peru organized for us to meet a retired tour guide named Amilcar. We learned that life is very difficult at Maras due to the shortage of drinking water. Again trying to keep things local, we had lunch at his home. His mother’s homemade food impressed us beyond words. This was our first meal in Peru and we got introduced to ingredients and dishes like coca tea (herbal tea made of leaves / legal in South America, not so much in North America), amaranth seeds, algarobbo (a kind of a bean, used in desserts in its paste form), white corn with red chilies and of course a locally grown variety of potatoes. 

Peru Food-12
Banana with a chocolatey paste made of a local variety of beans and amaranth seeds 🙂

Such a meal is highly recommended plus you know your tourist dollars are going directly to help the locals. PS: more photos of this meal on our previous blog.

Lunch with the family of Chumpe community, near Pisac

We visited local families of the Chumpe community where we learned about their age-old traditions of textile weaving. During the visit, they welcomed us with their traditional lunch. It started with potato soup (never had this before!), main entrée consisting of quinoa (Peru’s favorite grain) and sauteed cauliflower. We were getting used to having coca tea served post every meal. Here, we also had a chance to taste the chulco tea, made with another kind of leaf. Chulco tea is served cold. 

Peru Food

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Again highly recommended plus it is deeply humbling to be welcomed by members of a small community. 

Meals at Refugio Amazonas, Tambopata Region

Refugio Amazonas has become a popular choice to stay and explore Tambopata region of Amazon basin. While the weather and wildlife viewing requires a generous dose of luck, the three meals served here do not. The unique yet rich produce of the Amazon basin is best put to use in the kitchen here. During our four days stay, there wasn’t a single meal that did not surprise us. Each morning, we tasted a new seasonal juice made with local fruits. Lunches and dinners were wholesome and included creative uses of vegetables in different forms as soups, grills, and curries. Dessert was my favorite course (passionfruit cheesecake anyone?).

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Plus being in the Amazon, how could we miss an opportunity to visit a local farm! Our guide introduced us to many known and unknown varieties of crops. Special mention goes to white cacao which is used by artisan chocolate makers worldwide.

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Peru Eat-25

Dinner at IK Restaurante, Lima

End your trip with a bang in the foodie capital of South America. Lima has numerous fine dining options but two which were really known to us were Central (thanks to Chef’s Table) and IK. We opted for the latter and let me just say that we could not have ended the year in any other way. The chef rolled out dishes ranging from Andean mushrooms with a fungal sphere to white chocolate in the disguised form of a stone. What was particularly fun was the vegetarian representations of meat dishes (roasted carrots shaped like an oyster for example).

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Do yourself a favor by having a meal here. #youarewelcome

Still thirsty/hungry? 

  • Drinks: we generally avoided alcohol until the end of our Cusco leg- to avoid altitude sickness. However, when our guide in Pisac mentioned about a beer named Chicha de Jora made from fermented corn found only in the valley- we had to give it a try on our second day (albeit just a small glass 😉 ). As a fun fact- it is very common for locals in the valley to have this beer every evening after a hard day of work. In addition, Cusco has its own specialty- Chicha Morada– a drink made from purple corn, which we savored on our last evening in the city. Bonus tip: when getting this drink, grab a seat on the balcony of the bar/restaurant overlooking Plaza de Armas.  
  • During our time in Cusco, we had a meal at Prasada. Literally a hole in the wall:). Also, don’t  hesitate to try the fried yucca sold on the streets.
  • In our first blog on Peru, we had recommended staying at least for a night in Aguas Calientes when visiting Machu Picchu. Our choice was Rupa Wasi Lodge and we dined at the adjoining Tree House restaurant. As a rule of thumb, everything is notably expensive in this town compared to Cusco. The meal at Tree House was really good and definitely opt for their killer fresh juices, irrespective of the time of the day.

If you’ve made it all the way, thank you! I really hope this has fueled your desire (and appetite) to visit Peru. I realize we have barely scratched the surface with so much more to see and eat. Which is why if you have been there, do share in the comments if you have anything to add or recommend, especially for vegetarians.

PS: We have an entire section on vegetarian travels. Click here to pin one of our posts on Peru:

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Bharat
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Bharat, the co-founder of Fun Travelog is based out of Boston, USA. He loves making travel plans with his like-minded wife Supriya, reading, toying with his digital SLR and playing tennis.

20 Responses

  1. Rachelle
    | Reply

    I also agree that the food can make or break a visit for me. Food is one of the best ways to delve deeper into a culture, in my opinion. I love that you recognized the importance of visiting a local farm while you were so close to the Amazon. There are just so many different types of food that aren’t found anywhere else in the world. It looked like a deliciously amazing experience!

    • Bharat
      Bharat
      | Reply

      Yay, high five Rachelle! Peru is definitely one of those countries that has so much to offer and so much to be discovered yet. We love visiting farms and could not afford to miss one when we were in Amazon 🙂

  2. umiko
    | Reply

    It’s just amazing how you can find all kind of vegetarian foods all over the world with the local taste and of course, sources, like you found in Peru. I’m not a vegetarian, but I like to try local fruits and vegetables. By the way, I didn’t know that there are passion fruits in Peru. Passion fruit cheesecake sounds yummy!

    • Bharat
      Bharat
      | Reply

      Peru really knocked our socks off Umiko. Just the sheer variety of indigenous fruits and veggies we had in Amazon itself was an experience. Wish I had a photo of passion fruit cheesecake to share, but we devoured it in minutes lol 😉

  3. Constance
    | Reply

    I love Peruvian food and I’d also love to visit Peru someday. It looks like its got amazing eats for vegetarians as well, which was something I was not expecting at all. Thank you for sharing!

    • Bharat
      Bharat
      | Reply

      You definitely should make the trip- it won’t disappoint! We had a fabulous foodie time in Peru 🙂

  4. Clara
    | Reply

    It’s very nice to read that Peru has so many vegetarian meals to offer, I will keep it in mind for my future trip. Thanks for sharing your experience! 🙂

    • Bharat
      Bharat
      | Reply

      Thanks Clara, hope you make the trip soon!

  5. One of the friends is a Vege and looking at your foodie adventures perhaps the other three should join in. We love trying exotic fruits and vegetables and you have opened our eyes to some taste sensations. I mean how to do you choose which potatoes with so many options.

    Thanks for sharing. Keep travel blogging. Adventure is better shared with friends!

    • Bharat
      Bharat
      | Reply

      Glad this is appreciated by you and your buds Anthony! Absolutely- we were somewhat spoiled for choice, lol!

  6. Lydia Smith
    | Reply

    Work. Seems like Peru is the home of veg meals. I’m no veg but I like what I see in your post. I like the meals at Hotel El Albergue, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley; looks so yummilicious. Since you said there is diversity of meals in Peru, touring the local market will as well be wonderful.

    • Bharat
      Bharat
      | Reply

      El Albergue was such a gem! From the staff to the food to the location, it definitely calls for a stay. We loved exploring the local market- especially in Pisac where our guide also made us taste lupine seeds which is eaten as a snack (who knew that!)

  7. Bruce Schinkel
    | Reply

    I definitely agree that food can make or break a journey! It’s one of the things that can impact an entire day, and it’s also one of the first questions people ask when you return from a trip. The food you described on this trip really looks amazing!

    • Bharat
      Bharat
      | Reply

      You’re right Bruce and thanks for stopping by. We get a lot of curious questions since we know a few vegetarian travelers like us. Hence the attempt to document these food experiences 🙂

  8. Sherrie Fabrizi Allbritten
    | Reply

    Peruvian food looks so tasty. I do not eat meat or poultry myself so it is interesting to see the variety that they have for vegetable choices. The cheesecake sounds really delicious!

    • Bharat
      Bharat
      | Reply

      Then you must absolutely make a trip down to Peru or even Ecuador. They are blessed with natural produce!

  9. Suma
    | Reply

    I’m a vegetarian myself, so this post makes me very happy as I love trying out the local cuisine. Love all of your pictures, I’m literally drooling over every single item. The visit to the local community accompanied by lunch sounds like a great way to know the place.

    • Bharat
      Bharat
      | Reply

      Big thanks Suma 🙂

      Nothing excites us more than hearing that our blog helped to make up your mind or photos that made you feel hungry 😀

      Any plans of visiting Peru?

  10. David
    | Reply

    I was in Peru a few years ago and loved hefood (not a vegetarian though). The corn was surprisingly varied in taste as well. Curious to try the banana with chocolate next time I go. It looks really good.

    • Bharat
      Bharat
      | Reply

      Thanks for stopping by David. Yes, it’s just amazing how they use corn in a variety of forms- you should also try chicha and chicha morada that I mentioned in the blog, both made from corn.

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