Food experts Rosemary and Claire of Authentic Food Quest share their favourite Cusco restaurants where you can eat like a local and enjoy an authentic Peruvian dining experience.
Cusco is considered the second gastronomy city in Peru after Lima, and has the best cuisine in the Peruvian Andes. Unsurprisingly, Machu Picchu and the Inca ruins get all the attention. We believe, however, that eating at local Cusco restaurants and tasting the local food is the best way to experience the culture.
Peruvian cuisine is recognized internationally for having the most delicious food in the world. In fact, for 6 years in row, Peru has been named the “World’s Leading Culinary Destination.”
In Cusco, the local cuisine is influenced by the geography of the Andes Mountains. You’ll find a variety of native potatoes, corn, quinoa and unique herbs. The meats include guinea pig, alpaca, pork cracklings, among others.
On your travels to Cusco, here the top five authentic restaurants to eat like a local.
#1 – Mercado San Pedro for Caldo de Gallina
Mercado San Pedro or San Pedro Market is the most important market in Cusco. This is the perfect place to discover the local cuisine, interesting fruits, vegetables and ingredients of the local Peruvian Andean diet.
Visiting San Pedro Market throws you immediately into the local scene. It is unlike any clean and sanitized American or European market. The noise, chaos, scents, colors and smells can be overwhelming. Look for the gastronomy section, crowded with hundred of locals eating lunch.
Cozy up with the locals and get in line for the local Cusqueña soup speciality. This soup, known as Caldo de Gallina, consists of a rich broth, huge chunks of boiled chicken, onions, carrots, spices, ginger and noodles. Made fresh in front of you, you don’t want to skip this speciality in Cusco.
Mercado San Pedro
Address: Cascaparo, Cusco
Hours: Open everyday, 6:00 am – 8:00 pm
Tip: Go for lunch and don’t be afraid to eat amongst the locals
#2 – La Cusqueñita for Chiriuchu
Chiriuchu is Cusco’s Iconic Festive Dish
The true origins of the Chiriuchu dish date back to the Inca Empire. Villages from the nearby villages would come to Cusco with their food specialties and participate in religious processions. Today, Chiriuchu is a festive dish prepared in the month of June, during the celebration of Corpus Christi.
Chiriuchu means cold spicy in the Quechua language. The dish combines several specialities from Peru’s coast, highlands and the Amazon jungle. Find ingredients like seaweed, fish roes, guinea pig, charqui (jerky), potatoes, corn cakes, cheese and rocoto. Everything is piled on top of each other and served with hot peppers at the very top.
Outside of the month of June, the best place to try this festive dish is at a traditional restaurant. We recommend La Cusqueñita, a pikanteria (traditional restaurant serving meat) in Cusco. This rustic restaurant, popular with locals, specializes in traditional dishes from the region.
Address: Ave Tullumayo No. 227, Wanchaq, Cusco
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm & 6:30 pm- 11:00 pm; Sundays, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
Tip: Order the local Chicha beer to go along with your meal
#3: Cuyeria Sabor Moqueguano for Guinea Pig
Believe it or not, this is a popular Peruvian delicacy.
Many travelers to Cusco will either be revolted by, or eager to try Cuy (COOee) or guinea pig, a unique delicacy from the Andes region.
For the majority of people in the world, guinea pigs are first and foremost pets. However, in Peru, the history of eating guinea pig goes back centuries to the Inca Empire. Ancient Peruvians supplemented their diet with this high protein, low fat meat.
In Cusco, you’ll find many restaurants who keep cuy on their menu for shock value and to satisfy the curiosity of adventurous travelers. Skip these restaurants and head out to Cuyeria Sabor Moqueguano, a local Cusco restaurant that specializes in this delicacy.
Located in a residential area, hidden in between homes, is where you’ll find this local gem. They make only one dish, Cuy prepared either al horno (baked) or chactado (fried). Go for the traditional Cuy chactado.
The decor is simple, wood tables and big bulky wood chairs. The restaurant is popular with locals and don’t be surprised to find families with young children sucking at Cuy bones.
The Cuy is presented whole, which means, with the head, feet and teeth.
After you get past the presentation, your first bite will be crunchy. When you get underneath the well seasoned skin, there is not much meat. The bones are thin and brittle and best eaten with your hands.
Eating Cuy is an experience and a slice of Andean culture. Savor it at this local restaurant and trace its history back centuries.
Cuyeria Sabor Moqueguano
Address: 28 de Julio, Tercer Paradero, Cusco
Hours: Open everyday, 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
Tip: Go on Sunday for lunch, but not too late as the restaurant runs out of cuy
#4: Los Toldos Chicken
Celebrated Peruvian Style Roast Chicken
Pollo a la Brasa is not just any rotisserie chicken. It is Peruvian style roast chicken. This “finger lickin good” chicken is so popular in Peru, it even has its own holiday. On the third Sunday in July, Peru celebrates “Día del Pollo a la Brasa” (Pollo a la Brasa Day) .
Los Toldos Chicken restaurant in Cusco is arguably the best pollerias ( restaurant specializing in this dish) in town. Just a short jaunt from the main Plaza de Armas square, you’ll find this cozy and comfortable restaurant.
Settle in and be prepared to bite into well seasoned and really delicious chicken. The chicken is served with papa fritas (fries) made with flavorful Peruvian potatoes. You’ll find a salad bar to load up on fresh vegetables of the highest quality.
Eat like the locals and dig into the chicken with your fingers for the best bites.
On your travels to Cusco, don’t miss one of the country’s most popular dishes.
Los Toldos Chicken
Address: Calle Almagro 171, Cusco
Hours: Open everyday from 12:15 pm to 11:00 pm
Tip: Have a Pisco Sour, the national drink of Peru
#5: Chicha – by Gastón Acurio
Andean Gastronomy by Peru’s most celebrated chef.
From Peru’s most celebrated chef, Gastón Acurio, comes Chicha, the restaurant named after a traditional Peruvian corn-based drink. If you want to try the country’s top chefs’ take on regional Andean food, this is the restaurant for you.
Located within walking distance of Plaza de Armas, Chicha occupies the second floor of a centuries-old whitewashed house with blue painted balconies. Enjoy the view and activity below overlooking Plaza Regocijo.
The menu consists of classic Peruvian fare like ceviche, causa, a typical starter made with Peruvian potatoes and more. Must eat Cusco staples include rocoto relleno, alpaca, pork cracklings and other regional delights.
If you don’t get to dine at Gastón Acurio’s flagship restaurant in Lima, Astrid & Gastón, this is a chance to eat local cuisine with a high-end spin.
Address: Plaza Regocijo 261, 2do piso, Cusco
Hours: Open everyday, 12:00 pm – 11:30 pm
Tip: Make reservations ahead
About the author
Rosemary and Claire are co-founders of Authentic Food Quest. They aim to inspire travelers to connect to the culture and people through local food. Through food, they believe, travelers can have a deeper and richer connection to a destination.
As authors, they have just published their second book, available on Amazon, Authentic Food Quest Peru: A Guide To Eat Your Way Authentically Through Lima & Cusco. Follow their adventures and get the best tips on where to find authentic food.
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