The Best Food to Try in Lima

Ingredients from all regions of Peru—jungle, highlands and coast—find their way to the capital city, Lima, turning it into the melting pot of the nation’s award-winning culinary scene. Traditional comfort food, fusion cuisine and delectable treats are simply part of Lima’s gastronomic DNA and can be found at varying price ranges: from fine dining restaurants voted among the best in the world to humble food carts that are stars in their own right.

These are the essential dishes to try on your next trip to Lima.

01 of 10

Ceviche Carretillero

peruvian seafood fish
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You can’t say you’ve traveled to Lima unless you’ve dug into a fresh ceviche from the Peruvian capital. A classic ceviche consists of cubed pieces of raw white fish marinated in the juice of numerous limónes (a Peruvian citrus that looks like a lime but taste like a lemon) along with thinly sliced red onion, Peru’s beloved spicy ají amarillo pepper, salt, pepper and a splash of fish broth. 

To take it up a notch, order a ceviche carretillero, the classic fish dish paired with fried calamari—the perfect accompaniment to soak up the divine juices of a fresh ceviche. Order it from popular hole-in-the-walls like Al Toke Pez in Surquillo or Canta Rana in Barranco.

02 of 10

Lomo Saltado

EXOTIC FOOD BREAKFAST
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Juicy strips of sirloin beef are stir-fried over high heat along with slices of tomato, bell pepper and onion to create the traditional lomo saltado. Served atop thick-cut potato wedges and a scoop of rice, this is hands down one of the most popular dishes in Peru. Considering the wok-based technique and soy sauce marinade, this stir fry is believed to have originated from Chinese immigrants who arrived in Peru in the early 1800s. 

Alternatively, this smokey dish can be elaborated with chicken or portobellos in place of red meat. The classic red meat saltado at El Bodegón in Miraflores is exceptional.

03 of 10

Pan con Chicharrón

pan con chicharron, peruvian pork sandwich
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Keep it simple: that’s often the secret to some of Peru’s most popular dishes that just happen to highlight a few main ingredients and forgo tendencies of haute-cuisine. Pan con chicharrón is a sandwich of fried pork belly, sweet potato slices and salsa criolla (a mix of onions, aji­ amarillo chilies, lime juice and a scattering of cilantro leaves), all stuffed between a pan frances (French roll). 

Traditionally eaten for breakfast or after a late night of bar-hopping, pan con chicharrón can be found at anytime of day from El Chinito (Barranco and Central Lima), La Lucha (Miraflores) or Antigua Taberna Queirolo (Pueblo Libre).

04 of 10

Picarones

Picarones
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Can you imagine a (comparatively) healthy yet delectable donut? Small street carts in Lima make this unfathomable foodie dream a reality by serving up picarones. The dough of the typical treat consists of boiled sweet potatoes and a Peruvian squash called macre, mashed together with flour, sugar and yeast. After rising, the dough is formed into rings that are then dropped into sizzling hot vegetable oil. To top off the donuts, a generous amount of chancaca (raw sugar) syrup is drizzled on top, covering your fingers in an unavoidable sticky sweetness. 

Find these carts in Miraflores’ Parque Kennedy during the afternoon or in any anticucho restaurant. 

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05 of 10

Causa Limeña

Peruvian cuisine: Causa rellena whith seafood
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With over 4,000 potato varieties found throughout Peru, it’s no surprise that national chefs have gotten creative with the humble tuber. Causa consists of layers of smooth yellow potato mashed with ají amarillo chili pepper and stacked with either shredded chicken or tuna, then topped with avocado slices. Depending on who you ask, the concept of the dish dates as far back as the Incas—who referred to potatoes as “kausaq,” meaning "giver of life" in the indigenous Quechua language—or, more recently, to the Pacific War in 1879, when a group of innovative women discovered a cheap and transportable way to serve potatoes. 

For a light lunch or dinner featuring causa, head to Amankaya in Surquillo or Mi Barrunto in La Victoria.

06 of 10

Nikkei

Peruvian tiradito with tuna salsa and avocado.
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Many of Peru’s best dishes are in fact fusion, as origins can be traced back to immigrants who came to Peru over a century ago. Nikkei is a distinct cultural amalgamation of Peruvian ingredients prepared using Japanese techniques. This fusion has even gained global status, with restaurants in the U.S. touting nikkei menus—however nothing can match the dishes hand crafted by Japanese-Peruvians in Lima (of which there are some 90,000). Nikkei consists of varied dishes, all depending on the chef, but an undeniable staple is tiradito: fresh fish thinly sliced sashimi-style and dressed in a spicy sauce. 

Splash out at Maido, voted Latin America’s Best Restaurant, or cozy up at Shizen Barra Nikkei, both in Miraflores.

07 of 10

Arroz Chaufa

Peruvian food
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Peruvian fried rice, known locally as arroz chaufa or simply chaufa, is perhaps the most simple yet emblematic dish of chifa (the fusion of Chinese and Peruvian cuisine). Rice, eggs, soy sauce, ginger, scallions and a protein of choice (typically chicken or pork) come together to create a Sunday-staple in Lima. Delicious in its own right, chaufa most commonly serves as a bed for (or accompaniment to) practically any other chifa plate, be it pollo enrollado (pounded chicken rolled and fried) or lomo saltado (stir-fried beef). 

Since the first Chinese-Peruvian fusion restaurant opened in the early 1900s, chifas have become incredibly prevalent in Lima neighborhoods, but some of the best chaufa is served at Chifa Mi Amigo or Chifa Titi, both in San Isidro.

08 of 10

Anticuchos

traditional peruvian anticuchos
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A late night must in Peru’s capital, anticuchos may sound off-putting when a local tells you that they are in fact skewered cow’s heart—but never say never when it comes to a tender-as-ever meat kebab hot off the grill. The concept  originates from pre-Columbian times, though llama hearts have since been replaced by the cow variety. Marinated in vinegar and spices, the cuts of meat are typically grilled street-side as the sun begins to set, though the Lima staple has migrated to sit-down restaurants over the years where they are commonly followed by a serving of fresh picarones for dessert. 

Satisfy your carnivorous craving at legendary spots Puro Corazón in San Miguel or at Grimanesa Vargas in Miraflores.

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Papa a la Huancaína

Pope to La Huancaina
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Walking the streets of Lima at lunchtime, travelers will undoubtedly come across menús: three-course lunches that are not only cheap but a great showcase of classic Peruvian dishes. Whether written on a chalkboard or a small piece of notebook paper, papa a la huancaína will likely appear as an option for the entrada (the small first plate). Boiled potatoes are sliced and doused in a creamy sauce called huancaína (taken from its place of origin, Huancayo, in central Peru) that tickles the taste buds with a subtle spice from Peru’s favorite pepper, ají amarillo.

For many first-time visitors to Peru, papa a la huancaína is the gateway to becoming addicted to the creamy Peruvian condiment that is also served atop noodles or as a dipping sauce for grilled meat. Try it out at any local menú joint or at restaurants serving traditional criollo food such as Panchita in Miraflores.

10 of 10

Ají de Gallina

MEXICAN AND PERUVIAN CUISINE. Aji de gallina. Chicken aji de gallina with olives egg and rice on clay plate. Tipical peruvian and mexican dish
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If there ever was a star dish of Peruvian soul food, this would be it. Shredded chicken bathed in a creamy sauce with a pinch of heat, ají de gallina warms the soul and belly, as the hearty dish is served with, what else, white rice and potatoes. This legendary dish trickled down from Spanish origins to Inca consumption and, later on, to viceroyalty in Lima where it would transform from a thick soup of sweet caramel-like flavor to the savory stew many continue to fall in love with today. 

Traditionally made with a batán, it’s optimal to try ají de gallina at an old-school criollo restaurant such as El Rincon que no Conoces (Lince) or a contemporary spot that pays respects to culinary traditions like Isolina Taberna Peruana (Barranco).

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