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Mar 27, 2024



The Inca Empire, which dominated a huge territory stretching from Pasto in Colombia to Maule River in Chile, was not only a notable civilization known for its architectural wonder and advanced agricultural practices, but also for its rich and diverse culinary traditions. Inca meals were deeply rooted in the land, reflecting the creativity and ingenuity of a people who had succeeded in the challenging yet productive Andean region.

Additionally, our exceptional national cuisine is rooted in these traditional dishes, which are prepared using Asian and European techniques to create a variety of delectable meals. These dishes can be enjoyed on any trip to Peru.

Explore the fascinating aspects of Peruvian cuisine now!

Inca staple foods

Potatoes and tubers

According to Archaeologists, potatoes were central to several Andean cultures in southern Peru, such as Cusco and Puno. They have found evidence of potato cultivation dating back 8000 years in the border regions of Peru and Bolivia, making it one of the first crops to contribute to human development in South America.

Due to the consumption of potatoes throughout the Andes, the Inca people and other contemporary cultures began cultivating hundreds of potato varieties, each with unique colors, shapes, and flavors. These varieties ranged from the huayro to the starchy kulli. In addition, the Inca people boiled, baked, or freeze-dried their potatoes (known as chuño and moraya) for long-term preservation, ensuring a steady supply of this crucial staple.

Moreover, other tubers such as oca, mashua, and ulluco, which are relatives of the potato, were also widely cultivated and incorporated into the Inca meals. They provided a rich source of carbohydrates and essential vitamins throughout the Inca territory.

With over 3,500 varieties, Peru is considered a potato paradise!


Corn (maize) is the crop that connects the entire American continent, owing to this vegetable is cultivated in the USA, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, and Peru. By the way, in Peru, the Incas were able to modify the natural composition of corn to make the corn grains bigger by acclimatizing it to different altitudes and conditions and one of those ancient laboratories is Moray Maras, which is located among the sacred valley of the Incas.

As a result of ancient agricultural techniques, there are now over 150 varieties of corn in Peru. Each variety is used for eating, preparing drinks, feeding animals, and making offerings to Mother Earth. During the Catholic Holy Week, the city of Cusco is even allowed to enjoy sweet and delicious pastries made from corn.

Grains and Legumes

In addition to potatoes and corn, the Incas relied on a variety of grains and legumes to sustain their empire. Quinoa, a high protein and nutritious food, was used as a dietary staple, as were various types of beans such as tarwi or sacha inchi, which provided essential proteins and fiber.

If you get a Lares trek, you will witness these plantations!

Animal Meat

Although the Inca meals were mainly plant-based, animal proteins were also important, especially for the nobility and ceremonial events. Guinea pigs (cuy), which were domesticated and raised for their meat, were considered a delicacy in Inca cuisine.

However, the Incas did not always eat fresh meat. Instead, they would dry it by wrapping it with flakes of salt from Maras. Llama, alpaca, deer and fish meat were dried to make jerky, which could be stored for long periods of time without spoiling.

Fruits and veggies

Native fruits such as lucuma, chirimoya, and aguaymanto were highly valued for their distinctive flavors and nutritional benefits. Vegetables like tomatoes, squash, and peppers contributed brightening colors and good flavors to Inca meals.

Were you aware that tomatoes originated in Peru?


When someone gets the rainbow mountain hike, it is noticeable that local people consume a lot of Chicha to maintain their energy levels while working. Chicha de jora, a fermented corn beer, is still the most popular and ceremonial beverage in Peru. It has been consumed during religious rituals, celebrations, and even used as a form of currency in farming lands and during manual labor.

Other beverages from Inca times included herbal teas and infusions made from native plants such as muña and coca leaves. By the way, these herbal teas are often consumed during inca trail or Salkantay trek for their medicinal properties against altitude sickness. While the Incas also used hallucinogenic drinks such as ayahuasca and wachuma as part of their ritual practices to treat mental illness.

Cooking Methods and Techniques

The Inca people used traditional cooking methods such as the pachamanca and Huatia, which involved slow-cooking meats, potatoes, and other ingredients using hot stones. These methods imparted a smoky, earthy flavor to the food.

Additionally, grinding and fermenting were important techniques in Inca cuisine, used to make flours, beverages like chicha, and preserves. Furthermore, drying and preserving were essential skills for the Incas, enabling them to store and transport food over long distances. This ensured a consistent food supply, even during times of scarcity.

Influence on Modern Peruvian Cuisine

The culinary traditions of the Inca, although deeply rooted in ancient practices, were not static. They evolved and fused with Spanish and other cultural influences, such as Chinese and French, after the arrival of these populations in the 16th century. This gave rise to the rich and diverse Peruvian cuisine we know today.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Inca and regional cuisine, with chefs and food lovers rediscovering and highlighting the unique flavors and ingredients of this ancient gastronomy.

Each dish and ingredient, from the simple potato to the ceremonial chicha, held deep cultural and spiritual significance, reflecting the Inca’s deep connection to the land and their ancestors. By understanding and preserving these ancient traditions, we not only celebrate the diversity of global foodways but also gain insight into the incredible achievements and cultural legacy of one of the world’s most advanced ancient civilizations. Click here to discover Peru with us!

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