From the mar (sea) to the selva (jungle) and sierra (highlands), Peru’s geographic and cultural diversity is best represented in its food.
Considered one of the best culinary destinations in the world, Peruvian restaurants are now permanent fixtures on the World’s and Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants lists. While you really cannot go wrong with any Peruvian dish, here are a few suggestions on how and where to get the taste buds going.
What to Try
- Ceviche or tiradito
- Pulpo a la parrilla
- Peruvian dulces
- Pisco sour or chilcano
- Inca Kola
- Chicha morada
- Artesanal (craft) beer
Ceviche or tiradito
These popular lunchtime dishes are prepared by “cooking” raw fish in lime juice. Never eaten after midday, ceviche is usually accompanied by kernels of choclo (corn), raw red onion julienne and camote (sweet potato). Ceviche’s lesser-known cousin, tiradito, is prepared in the same fashion but with fish sashimi, a tribute to the dish’s Japanese influences.
Pulpo a la parrilla
Another beloved lunchtime dish, pulpo a la parrilla is octopus lightly boiled, dipped in a mixture of seasoned oil, fat or butter and grilled to a crispy outer but tender inner. Which restaurant makes the best pulpo will depend on who you ask, but all the well-known lunch spots will serve an excellently grilled octopus.
In addition to being a general term used for anything fried, chicharrón is also the name of a popular sandwich. Made with fried pork and sweet potato, a mildly spicy red onion salsa (salsa criolla) and a freshly baked white roll, any decent sanguchería in Lima will have chicharrón on the menu.
One of the best examples of the Peruvian-Japanese culinary fusion known as Nikkei, acevichado is maki sushi filled with panko-breaded shrimp and avocado, topped with thinly sliced catch of the day and bathed in a creamy, eponymously named sauce.
Peruse the fruit in any grocer, market or street vendor and you may be surprised at how little you recognize. This is because Peru is home to a variety of exotic highland and jungle fruits, some of which never see markets outside South America. While in Lima, try a tart aguaymanto pisco sour or sweet lúcuma dessert. Conozca tu Camu Camu has more on Peru’s wide variety of exotic fruits.
Peruvians, like most South Americans, are known for their sweet tooth. While this may not make your dentist happy, it does mean that there is no lack of sweets from which to indulge. Tejas and chocotejas, picarones, suspiro de limeño and mazamorra morada are among the more authentically Peruvian desserts. A Fool’s Guide to Food in Lima has more on Peruvian sweets.
Pisco sour or chilcano
The pisco sour is to Peru what the caipirinha is to Brazil. Made with Peruvian pisco, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, egg white and topped with Angostura bitters, this national drink packs a serious punch. Less recognized, but no less potent, is the chilcano. Also made with Peruvian pisco, the chilcano is a refreshing cocktail of lime juice, ginger ale, bitters and pisco.
The other national drink, Inca Kola was created in the early 1900s by British immigrant José Robinson Lindley. The neon-colored soda is an icon in Peru and is sold from kiosks to fine-dining establishments across the country.
Almost as ubiquitous as Inca Kola, chicha morada is a juice of purple corn, pineapple, cinnamon, clove and sugar; sometimes mixed with beetroot and other spices. The velvety, dark purple drink is full of antioxidants, although its high sugar content may seem to indicate otherwise. Adding a bit of water to an overly sweet cup can help to bring out the more subtle flavors.
Artesanal (craft) beer
Cervezas artesanales (craft beers) in Lima are damn good, and a market that started with only a couple of cerveceros in 2012 has now expanded to include over 100 microbreweries today. Beers run the gauntlet ranging from quinoa brews and capsicum IPAs to rich porters and red lagers. Artesanal es Mejor has more on the craft beer revolution in Peru.
Where to eat
Where to dine in Lima is constantly evolving with restaurants, cafes, bars and sangucherías opening and closing almost weekly. Lima is the kind of city where you need to know where to go and consulting the list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, websites like Restorando and apps like Degusta are good starting points for gathering your culinary bearings. Food blogging has yet to take hold in Lima but Living in Peru publishes restaurant reviews and other current articles on Peruvian gastronomy.
Food tours and cooking classes are great introductions to Peruvian cuisine while simultaneously learning of the country’s history and customs. Among the most popular food tours are Lima te Llena, The Lima Gourmet Company, Lima Tasty Tours and The Food Walking Tour. The SkyKitchen in Miraflores offers a variety of Peruvian cooking classes – including vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian-friendly courses – fruit tastings and market tours. If Spanish lessons are on the docket, Peruwayna School in Miraflores is an excellent Spanish school, particularly for beginners, and organizes weekly activities for students of all ages including cooking classes.
While no list of restaurant recommendations in Lima is all inclusive or exhaustive, below are some tips and tried and true favorites to help navigate through the abundance. Buen provecho!
Breakfast and Brunch
Breakfast in Lima is a simple affair. A roll of bread, hot cup of Quaker or sweet café con leche (coffee with milk) is typically sufficient. For a more elaborate morning meal El Pan de La Chola on Avenida Mariscal La Mar is a popular bakery for breakfast, lunch and freelancers at all hours. (Its newer sister restaurant La Chola Dossa in San Isidro is also known for their freshly baked breads and craft beer flights.) Favorites at El Pan de La Chola include tostados (a board of toasted bread with olive oil and avocado), pressed sandwiches and handmade extractos (blended vegetable juices). On weekends, arrive before the 10am rush if you hope to get a table and keep an eye out when you leave. Avenida La Mar is dotted with other bakeries, restaurants and cevicherías including Gastón Acurio’s La Mar Cebichería.
Also in Miraflores, Homemade whips up “American-style” pancake and waffle dishes – in addition to English muffins, poached eggs and a selection of delectable cookies and cakes – while Pan Atelier is known for its variety of fresh, campesino (peasant) breads. For gluten-free options, grab a loaf from the popular La Panetteria. Located just north of Barranco’s Parque Municipal this trendy neighborhood bakery has some of the best bread (and sandwiches, and desserts) in town.
Sangucherías are an institution in Lima specializing in, you guessed it, sandwiches! Chicharrón (fried pork), lechón (roasted pork), jamón del país (roasted, boiled ham), pollo (shredded or grilled chicken) and pavo (roasted turkey) are the foundation. La Lucha and El Chinito are the popular picks with multiple locations throughout Lima. The Borderless Project weighs in with their favorite sangucherías in Lima, as does the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio with its top 10 places for chicharrón (in Spanish).
Lunch-only (and cevicherías)
Lunch is the most important meal of the day in Lima, which is why you will find restaurants dedicated solely to this sacred meal. Cevicherías tend to fall into this category and in Miraflores El Rincón de Bigote, Punto Azul and El Verídico de Fidel are among the most frequented. Avenida Mariscal La Mar is also lined with a number of cevicherías including one of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, Gastón Acurio’s La Mar Cebichería.
A few blocks away, Rafael Osterling’s El Mercado serves expertly grilled pulpo a la parrilla and light, crunchy jaleas in an indoor-outdoor space. A meal there may be one of the best you have in Peru. Make a booking if you intend to lunch around 1:00pm, or get there when the restaurant opens at 12:30pm for a walk-in table.
Another option is to forego restaurants entirely for a stool at a lunch counter in one of the local markets. Most will offer a menú – a quick, three-course prix fixe menu for a few USD. Peruvians know where to go so follow the crowds when picking a place. If more ceviche is what you crave, Señora Rosita at the back of Mercado No. 2 de Surquillo prepares a deliciously fresh ceviche while you wait. Living in Peru has more on all things ceviche with their list of best cevicherías in Lima.
In Barranco, café, eco-bar and organic shop Las Vecinas serves organic, plant-based dishes. Nearby La Bodega Verde caters to vegetarians and omnivores with smoothies, extracts and bites from locally sourced produce. In Miraflores, El AlmaZen crafts gourmet vegetarian meals in a charming Miraflorina home. Around the corner its sister restaurant La Verde Bio-Factoría prepares vegan delights in a cozy bakery and organic shop.
Nikkei cuisine is a Peruvian-Japanese fusion and the easiest place to try Nikkei-style sushi is at the popular chain Edo Sushi Bar. Magma Sushi Lounge is another frequented, Nikkei sushi bar in Miraflores as is KO Asian Kitchen in Larcomar. For a fine-dining Nikkei experience book a table at Osaka in San Isidro or splurge for the tasting menu at Maido. The restaurant, tucked away off a small street in Miraflores, is currently ranked No. 7 among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
The other culinary love child, Chifa is Peruvian-Chinese fusion. Chifa restaurants are everywhere in Lima with family-style portions (read: large portions) as the norm. Gastón Acurio’s Madam Tusan in Miraflores and Chifa Tita in San Isidro are considered among the gourmet options of the lot. Living in Peru has more recommendations on Lima’s Chifas: Hidden Treasures.
Even in the land of seafood you can still find a place or two specializing in a tender slab of beef. Ranked among Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, Osso Carnicería & Salumería began as small butcher shop in the district of La Molina. The original butcher shop with an adjoining restaurant is still in La Molina, but for those wanting to avoid the long drive there is also an Osso in San Isidro.
In Miraflores, Carnal Prime Steakhouse is the Peruvian takes on a New York steakhouse. A steak at Carnal does not come cheap but it is considered one of the best in town.
The heavy hitters
Whatever you’ve read, it’s all true. Gastón Acurio is the chef who put Peruvian cuisine on the map and Astrid & Gastón is his signature World’s Best restaurant. Splurge on a dinner in the 300-year old mansion (if your budget allows).
If Gastón is the celebrity older brother, Rafael Osterling is the equally talented sibling you want to take out for a beer. His eponymous fine-dining restaurant, Rafael, is ranked among the best in Latin America and is known for its contemporary art collection as well as its modern Peruvian dishes. Book early as tables are at a premium.
Currently ranked the sixth best restaurant in the world, Central is a sensory journey of Peruvian ecology through food. The tasting at Central is quite the experience. Be sure to plan ahead as reservations are only taken certain months a year.
… And a few more suggestions
If not already overwhelmed by dining options, here are a few more to put on the list.
Isolina. With traditional Criollo dishes typically found in the kitchens of abuelas (grandmothers), Isolina has virtually no bad reviews. The modern Peruvian tavern in Barranco is known for its offal and seafood and is ranked among Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Jerónimo. Fun, sophisticated and unpretentious, Jerónimo has been among the “must eat” Limeño restaurants since it opened in late 2016. The menu includes a variety of flavorful dishes ranging from ceviche to short ribs and reinterpreted Thai, while the bar mixes up some of the best cocktails in town.
Lima 27. This trendy restaurant is around the corner from Astrid & Gastón and has a part lounge, part outdoor garden feel. The food is beautifully presented and the food illustrations on the menu are a nice touch.
Amor Amar. Another indoor-outdoor space, this romantic restaurant is skillfully hidden on a small side street in Barranco. The seafood dishes are particularly decadent, as are the cocktails.
La 73 Paradero Gourmet. A Barranco neighborhood favorite, La 73 is popular for its Chinese-inspired décor, outdoor string lights and cocktail menu.
La Picantería. The Surquillo cevichería previously ranked among Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants and is famous for its deliciously spicy Arequipeña rocoto relleno (stuffed peppers).
Last updated June 2018.