Peruvian ingredients

Because of the biodiversity Peru has an endless range of fruit, vegetables, roots, tubers, potatoes, chillies and so on. In the indigenous Quechua language, nature of Mother earth is known as Pachamama. Going back to the ancient Inca, Pachamama is the fertility goddess, who is respected for all the richness she gives to the people. Find out more about the richness of Peruvians mother earth.

Top 6 of Peruvian chillies

Cultivated for around 7,000 years, in Peru, chilli is called ‘ají’. In 1609, the Spanish-Peruvian Inca Garcilaso de la Vega wrote in his “Comentarios Reales de los Incas” that Peruvians had a long tradition and obsession of putting “uchu” (hot sauce) on almost everything they ate. Although Peru had a lot of gold, the ajíes were perceived as the real gold by the Incas. Without having eaten ají, their warriors were not strong enough to hunt or fight. Ají is very rich in vitalmins A, B and C, and contains high levels of capsaicin. The capsaicin increases energy and it releases endorphins. There are about 350 varieties used in the national cuisine, used fresh, dried or pickled . They grown in the Amazon of the Andes. Ajies are the foundation of the Peruvian cuisine, a Peruvian eats approximately consumes 4 kilos chillies per year. These are the most used in Peru:

  1. Ají amarillo – this is the king of the Peruvian chillies and my favourite in the world as it is spicy, fruity, colourful and creamy at the same time. It is the most commonly used chilli in Peru and the most important ingredient in Peruvian cooking. The pepper starts off green maturing to a yellowish-orange.
  2. Ají limo – this is a small hot pepper in different shapes that comes in yellow, green, orange, red and purple. It is very hot! There is one thing that unites all the limos, and that is ceviche.
  3. Ají mirasol – this is sun-dried ají Amarillo, which is very fruity but hardly spicy. This chilli is used in soups, stews, sauces.
  4. Ají panca - This chilli is not very hot, yet is highly flavoured. It has a smoky, fruity sweetness that makes it perfect in a marinade for meat, rice dishes, soups and sauces. It is used fresh, dried, grounded or as a paste. It has a dark-red colour but turns to a dark chocolate colour after it has been dried in the sun.
  5. Rocoto – do not mistake this one with red pepper (paprika) as it is very spicy. This one is used for ceviches but also dishes from the highlands around Arequipa.
  6. Aji charapita - this rare aphrodisiac only grows in the northern jungle. It has a fruity taste and is eaten dried, preserved or pickled. It is hot hot hot and eaten fresh it burns a hole in your tongue. This is the most expensive chilli in the world, about €25,000 per kilo.

Top 3 of Peruvian corn

There are about 50 varieties of corn in Peru, in all the colours of the rainbow. The green husks of the corn are used to wrap tamales or fresh corn cakes Most used corns are:

  1. Choclo – this is the giant white corn, mostly used sliced for ceviche, stews soup, tamales and corn cakes. The big kernels are milky, taste less sweet and have a different structure than the yellow corn we know.  I just love them!
  2. Maiz chulpe– these dried corn kernels become ‘canchita’ when toasted in oil until gold. With salt, canchita is served in bars and restaurants as a nibble, and it is one of the basic ingredients to garnish ceviche. 
  3. Maiz morada – this dark purple corn is used for lemonade, desserts, sweets and cocktails, and it tastes like sweet berry.


Top 3 of Peruvian herbs

Culantro: this cousin of cilantro has a similar aroma and flavor, but comes from a different plant. It is one of the basic herbs of the Peruvian kitchen. Culantro has a stronger flavor than cilantro and is therefore used in smaller amounts and is added while cooking instead of cilantro afterwards..

Credits Ashley Nicole DeLeon

Huacatay: this Marigold leaves are called "Black Mint" with a strong flavor. The herbs are mainly used to make a paste that is used a lot in warm dishes. The herb also is used in tea for medical benefits.

Coca: the leave is chewed or used for 'mate de coca' tea for medical benefits. The taste is very bitter, but when hiking it is wise to drink the mate against height disease. It is a very healthy tea and does no harm.

Credits Janneke Nijmeijer

Top 4 of Peruvian potatoes

Potatoes are native to Peru, where over 2,600 varieties can be found. They come in all shapes, colours and textures. In Lima, there even is the globally renowned potato research institute:

  1. Yellow potato – this ‘papa amarillo’ is my favourite. It has a fantastic yellow colour and is very creamy.
  2. Sweet potato – this ‘camote’ is one of the oldest vegetables known to man, and they are considered as ‘superfood’. The camote is used in ceviche because it is delicious, healthy, and it balances the heat of the chilli.
  3. Carapulcra - these are crystallised potatoes. You soaked them before using them for cooking.
  4. Chuño - these are freeze-dried potatoes on warm days and freezing nights, then they are crushed to remove the liquids inside. They are used as flour or in warm dishes.

Top 8 of Peruvian superfoods

These are foods that are rich in nutrients such as antooxidants, mostly plant-based but also some fish and dairy, that are thought to be nutritionally dense and thus good for one's health. Many of these powerful foods actually originated in Peru and are part of the average Peruvian diet over centuries. So the Peruvian cuisine is not only very popular, but it is also healthy. Here’s a look at some of the healthiest and most popular Peruvian superfoodand what they can do for you:

Quinoa: this has been consumed for literally thousands upon thousands of years, by the ancient Incas, who considered quinoa more valuable than gold as it boosted the stamina of their warriors. Quinoa is a grain which contains a lot of vitamins and minerals and it contains more protein than any other grain.. It is very versatile as it can be eaten cooked or roasted. There are more than 3,000 varieties, but we only use 1%.

Kiwicha: also known as baby quinoa also or amaranth. This small seed arde rich in fiber and contain a lot of B vitamins and minerals. It can be eaten cooked or roasted.

Camu Camu: this is a cherry-like fruit as big as a lime. it contains 60 times more natural vitamin C than oranges.

Lucuma: this fruit is a combination of manage with avocado with a hint of caramel. It contains beta-carotene, calcium and is highly anti-inflammatory. It mostly is eaten in juices, ice-cream and pies. The ice-cream is my favorite by far our.

Maca: this is a tuber that looks like a potato. It enhances the libido, the energy level and physical strength. It helps to prevent headaches, to balance hormone levels and to regulate blood glucose levels. Moreover, the root is full of vitamines and minerals. The root is generally consumed in powder form.

Maiz morada: this purple corn is rich in powerful antioxidants, used to treat diabetes. It also help to strengthen blood vessels and boost. circulation. This corn is eaten in deserts, lemonades, cocktails or sweets.

Yacon: this root has a similar structure as a potato. The taste is sweet and it can be eaten raw. It contains a lot vitamines and minerals and contains a natural compound that prevents the body to absorb sugar sources and reduces the amount of glucose produced in the liver. Yacon is eaten raw, roasted, cooked and steamed.

Cacao: this bean, looking like a coffee bean is one of the most nutrient-dense in the world. It contains a lot of antioxidants and a mood-enhancing compound, the so called ‘bliss molecule’ as it can create feelings of happiness and euphoria.

Top 4 of Peruvian tubers and roots

Olluco: this tuber, also called 'ulluco' comes in various sharp colors and shapes. The leave also is edible and similar to spinach. To people living in the Andes this tuber still is an important source of protein, carbon, oxygen and various vitamins. It is been eaten in warm dishes, but also fried or raw.

Oca: this is the second most widely cultivated tuber after potato. Just like the olluco it comes in various sharp colors and shapes, there are around 50 types of oca. . It is used in warm dishes, baked, roasted, raw, and sometimes even sun-dried to sweeten. It originally had the reputation as a poor man’s tuber.

Mashua: this tuber comes in white, yellow, red or purple. It is not widely commercialized, although it is known as a very healthy plant. Because it is used in traditional medicine to regulate libido (the Incas reportedly used it to dampen sexual desire in campaigning armies), men are reluctant to eat it.

Yuca/cassava: yuca actually is the tuberous root of the cassava plant. The yuca can be white and yellow from the inside, but white has a better structure and is more yummy. You can eat them cooked or fried, In Peru we eat them on the side. It has a nutty flavour and tapioca is the a starch extracted fro the yuca. .