L'atelier Café Concept is an awesome coffee shop in Cusco with awesome views of the San Blas neighborhood

12 Awesome Cusco Food Experiences You Need to Try in Peru

The country of Peru is known for its delicious and rich gastronomy with cities like Lima and Arequipa paving the way in modern cuisine. However, don’t overlook Cuzco, the Cusco food scene is growing and starting to make a name for itself.

In Cusco, there are tons of typical restaurants alongside fun and creative fusion restaurants showcasing Peruvian cuisine. In addition to the delicious restaurants, Cusco is home to bustling markets and delicious street food.

Find plenty of opportunities to have hands-on food experiences with everything from Cusco food tours, and cooking classes, to pub crawls.

Eating in Cusco doesn’t have to be expensive and one of the best ways to sample the Peruvian cuisine is by ordering a menu del day.

Here are some of the best Cusco food experiences to try when visiting the Imperial City of Cuzco.

Table of Contents

1 | Take a Cusco Food Tour

One of the best ways to learn about authentic Peruvian cuisine is to book a food tour in Cusco. While Lima is more known as the food capital of Peru, the Cusco food scene is worth exploring.

Many of the Cusco food tours include a visit to the local markets and dive deep into the history of Cusco’s gastronomy. Almost all the Cusco food tours include stops or pass by some of the top Cusco attractions.

➜ This popular Walking Food Tour includes a variety of typical regional cuisine from street vendors to restaurants.

➜ This Group Culinary Tour stops at a few Cusco restaurants and provides food and drink pairings alongside stops at street vendors.

2 | Stroll Through the Best Cusco Markets

San pedro Market, fresh juice, where to eat in cusco, cusco markets
Do sample the fresh juices in the San Pedro Market

In Peru, the market is so much more than a place to simply buy food and produce. Markets play an important role in everyday life and help to connect people within the community. Each neighborhood in Cusco has its own marketplace hub.

Vendors in Peruvian markets are often called a casera (female)/casero (male). In theory, the seller would want to keep you as a regular customer, so they would “throw in something a little extra.” with a purchase. For example, if buying fresh fruit, the casera may give you a few extra bananas or oranges, free of charge, to encourage you to seek them out for future purchases.

The Best Cusco Markets

San Blas market is a great place to have a budget-friendly breakfast in Cusco
Start the morning at the San Blas Market with a fresh juice and breakfast sandwich

One of the best Cusco markets is the San Pedro Market. This market is a hub for Cuzco and is a popular stop for tourists. This huge marketplace in Cusco sells everything from souvenirs, artisan chocolate, local produce, specialty ingredients, fresh seafood, meat, and more.

The San Pedro Market is also a fantastic place to sample traditional Peruvian cuisine and is home to a handful of food stalls. The food stalls in the Mercado San Pedro serve everything from ceviche to steak. The San Pedro Market Cusco is the perfect place to eat a hearty meal for a more than fair price.

The bohemian neighborhood of San Blas also boasts a traditional Cusco market and is a top place to see in Cusco. The San Blas Market is a popular place to grab freshly squeezed juice and a breakfast sandwich.

For a totally local experience, try the Huancaro Market. This market sees few tourists and is located near where the collectivos depart for the hidden-gem Inca ruins of Maukallacta.

Another big market is Wanchaq Market, which is another local market in Cusco.

Popular Cusco Market Tours

As the Cusco markets are extremely lively and one of the best ways to see local life in Cusco, many tours are based around the marketplace.

Cusco Food Walking Tour & Central Market focuses on the Cusco markets and includes samples of authentic Peruvian cuisine.

➜ Many Cusco Market tours include a cooking class and is a fun hands-on way to dive into the Cusco food scene.

3 | Sample All Types of Peruvian Cuisine

Cusco boasts a very rich culinary scene. There are many typical Peruvian dishes found throughout the entire country. Each region may have “its unique way” of preparing typical dishes, but a majority of these dishes are consistent throughout Peru.

Cusco is located in the high Andes mountains so a majority of the food is hearty and rich in proteins. In every market, quinoa and corn are abundant. Of course, Peru is home to over 4,000 potato varietals, with a majority of them taking root in the Andes Mountains.

Many of the best dishes in Cusco are accompanied by a hearty portion of quinoa, corn, or potatoes.

What to Eat in Cusco – Typical Peruvian Dishes

There are some of the most famous dishes to eat in Cusco.

✔ Chifa

Lomo Saltado with beef, peppers, onions, french fries, and rice is a staple cuisine in Peru
Lomo Saltado

Peru was deeply influenced by Chinese immigrants, which ended up playing a major role in Peruvian cuisine. The fusion of Chinese and Peruvian cuisines is called Chifa. Even in the Cusco markets, there are entire specialty food stalls dedicated solely to Chinese produce, products, and plant medicines.

Three of the most popular Chifa dishes in Peru are Chaufa, Tallarin, and Lomo Saltado. Chaufa is a hearty fried rice dish. Tallarin is a delicious noodle stir-fry with noodles and a brown sauce. Lomo Saltado is a simple beef stir-fry with peppers and onions, a soy-based sauce, and is served with french fries.

These three Chifa dishes are so popular that they have gone “mainstream” and can be found at many Cusco restaurants serving Peruvian Restaurants. If looking to sample Chifa in Cusco, you won’t necessarily have to dine at a designated Chifa Restaurant. Many Chifa dishes are served as staple Peruvian cuisine at the markets.

✔ Cusco Cuy

Gualaceo Market, Ecuador villages, typical food in Ecuador, roasted cuy, guinea pig, open coal
Cuy in Ecuador is grilled over a comal whereas the Cuy in Peru is cooked in different styles depending on the region

Cuy is one of Peru’s most famous dishes. Cuy is the Quechua name for guinea pigs.

Cuy is served throughout South America, especially in Ecuador and Peru. In Ecuador, the cuy is usually roasted over a grill on a spit, like in Gualaceo Ecuador. One of the more unique places in Peru to sample cuy is in Arequipa, where it is traditionally cooked between hot stones.

In Cusco, the cuy is usually prepared and baked in the oven. When looking to sample local cuy, you’ll want to look for a place serving “cuy al horno.” This is the guinea pig in the oven.

Cuy is considered quite a delicacy and is oftentimes served for celebratory events like weddings and other milestones.

Cuy is found on many menus in Cusco, but one of the most popular places to try this local dish is in the village of Saylla. This village is on the way to the overlooked Cusco South Valley and is well connected to Cusco by public bus. Saylla has many traditional restaurants found along the main street.

✔ Ceviche

ceviche in Peru is commonly served with sweet potato

Ceviche, or raw fish marinated in citrus, is another staple in Peruvian cuisine. Lima is the place in Peru to eat fresh ceviche, but Cusco also boasts yummy ceviche restaurants. In Cusco, the ceviche is more commonly made from river trout than fresh fish from the Ocean.

Ceviche in Peru is served alongside a few slices of cooked sweet potato. It’s topped with raw onion, cilantro, slivers of spicy peppers, and cancha, or toasted corn kernels.

Ceviche in Cusco is so popular that it can be found in high-end restaurants, in the marketplace, and even sold as a popular Cusco street food.

✔ Leche de Tigre

Leche de Tigre literally translates to Tiger milk, but it’s not what you think it is! Leche de Tigre is the citrus-based marinade used to “cook” the ceviche. The marinade is typically made from the juice of citrus, onions, chiles, the natural juices of the fish, and other seasonings.

Leche de Tigre is popular in Peru as many believe it to be the “ultimate hangover cure” and as a bonus, it claims to be an aphrodisiac.

✔ Trucha

Lunch Menu in Peru, Trucha, salad, rice, beans, plate, what to eat in Peru
Trucha menu del dia

Trucha is the local trout found in the rivers, streams, and lakes in the Andes Mountains. Many of the typical lunch restaurants will serve up grilled trucha on their daily menu. The daily Pisac market is one of the best places to eat fresh trout.

4 | Eat at a Top-Rated Cusco Restaurant

The Cusco food scene is definitely becoming more mainstream. There are tons of awesome Cusco restaurants that serve delicious plates of food for a budget price. Eating at a popular Cusco restaurant is one of the easiest things to add to your Cusco itinerary.

If looking to dine in a top-rated restaurant serving typical Peruvian cuisine, here are three of the most popular Cusco restaurants.

Pachapapa is arguably one of the best restaurants in Cusco. Pachapapa serves typical dishes, pizzas, and more in the hip San Blas neighborhood.

Organika Restaurant takes a “farm to table” approach to all their menu items. Fresh and delicious food with friendly service makes Organika a popular restaurant in Cusco.

Morena Peruvian Kitchen is located right off the Cusco Plaza de Armas and serves dishes from all across the country. Find everything from alpaca to seafood served in an artistic way.

5 | Take a Cooking Class in Cusco

A Cusco cooking class is the perfect way to better understand the complexity of Peruvian cuisine. A majority of the cooking classes include a trip to one of the Cusco markets like San Pedro Market or San Blas.

➜ Join this top-rated Market Tour & Traditional Peruvian Cooking Class in Cusco

Peruvian Cooking Class and Local Market in Cusco stops at the San Pedro Market and can be done as a lunch or dinner class

➜ This awesome Peruvian Cooking Class, Cocktails, Market Tour in Cusco includes main dishes, a cocktail, and dessert!

➜ Short on time? Join this Short Peruvian Cooking Class – by Pete

6 | Eat all the Cusco Street Food

Cusco Plaza de Armas with the two iconic churches and colonial buildings
Wander the streets in Cusco to find some of the best street food in Cusco

Cusco has incredible street food! Some of the best handmade meals in Cusco come from the streets or are sold on public buses. One of my most memorable meals came from a mama who hopped on a bus and dished out a meal in a matter of minutes.

Cusco street food is most definitely made with love. The best thing is that the Cusco street food is quick, easy, and super budget-friendly. Most of the street food in Cusco only costs a few soles.

Always take caution before eating street food. I lived in Cusco for over a year and never got sick, but there are always risks with consuming street food.

➜ This Cusco food tour focuses on all the best places to eat street food in Cusco

What to Eat in Cusco – Street Food Cusco

✔ Tamales can be savory or sweet and are made from corn. Typically, Peruvian tamales are smaller than tamales found in other places, like the tamales in Oaxaca Mexico for example.

✔ Papa a la Huancaina is one of my favorite dishes that can be found on the streets if you’re lucky! The dish is boiled potatoes covered in a spicy yellow sauce. It’s typically served with a hard-boiled egg and olives. Yum!

✔ Chocolo con Queso is a delicious treat that is simple. It is a portion of the giant corn in Peru (chocolo) and served with a slab of salty Andean cheese (queso).

✔ Salchipapas are french fries topped with hot dog pieces and covered with condiments like ketchup, mustard, or mayonnaise (or all of them).

✔ Ceviche… believe it or not, ceviche is a typical Cusco street food served from a cart. Be mindful of the temperature if eating ceviche from the street vendors.

7 | Enjoy a Cozy Cusco Cafe

Beluatty cafe coffeeshop outside the historic center of Cusco
Beluatty is a small coffee shop outside the center that roasts their own beans

Cusco has a really awesome cafe and coffee shop scene, many coffee shops even roast their own beans. A majority of these coffee shops are a little more modern, so the prices are typically a little higher for Cusco.

Don’t forget that the Cusco markets also sell delicious coffee, hot chocolates, and more for those on a budget.

Top-Rated Cusco Coffeeshops

These were my favorite coffeeshops in Cusco

L’atelier Café Concept is an awesome Cusco coffee shop that overlooks the San Blas neighborhood. A must-visit in Cusco.

Three Monkeys Coffee Company roasts its own beans and serves up delicious specialty coffees.

Café D’wasi Peruvian Coffee showcases coffee found all over Peru and is a coffee connoisseur’s dream.

Beluatty Cafe is away from the historic center of Cusco but is truly a special coffee shop that roasts its beans.

8 | Savor a Cusco Lunch “Menu del Dia”

Papas Rellenas, rice, tomato, plate, authentic food of Peru
Cusco foodie must: Order a menu del dia

Menu del dias are coursed menus that typically are served over lunchtime and can be found throughout Mexico, Latin America, and almost all of South America.

In Cusco, a majority of restaurants offer a daily lunch menu that usually includes a starter like soup, a main course, and a drink (usually a tea). Sometimes a dessert is included, but it depends on each restaurant. The menu offerings rotate day by day.

In Cusco, the price of a menu del dia usually ranges from 4 – 10 soles! Menus can be offered at dinnertime, but the price usually goes up.

There are also plenty of Cusco restaurants that offer delicious menu del dia options in the historic city center. All of the Cusco markets are typical places to find a yummy menu del dia.

The best way to find a place to eat a menu del dia is to follow your nose and the crowd. Many locals eat menus, so the best restaurants are usually filled with locals.

As a rule of thumb, a majority of the most authentic places to find a menu del dia in Cusco are away from main tourist attractions, like the Plaza de Armas. Generally, the farther you move away from the plaza, the more budget-friendly the prices and menu are.

For me, my favorites places to snag a menu del dia was at the Cusco markets. There are endless food stalls serving typical Peruvian cuisine, ceviche, quinoa soup, fresh fish, and more.

9 | Day Trip from Cusco to the Wednesday Urubamba Market

In the Sacred Valley of the Incas, just north of Cusco, find the overlooked village of Urubamba. The centrally located village of Urubamba hosts one of the most authentic Peru markets. The Sacred Valley is worth visiting and is one of the easiest day trips from Cusco.

The market days are Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, with vendors coming from the entire Sacred Valley and the mountain communities. Wednesday is the largest market day and also hosts the weekly livestock market.

Vendors come and set up makeshift stalls to sell produce, potatoes, fresh cheese, flowers, home goods supplies, clothing, and anything you could possibly think of. The Sacred Valley is an incredibly fertile region that produces massive pumpkins, diverse fruits, honey, herbs, and gorgeous flowers. The area is home to a wide range of livestock, so find fresh cheese, yogurt, eggs, and more.

The main market is a food haven with food stands serving up typical Peruvian cuisine from cuy to fresh trout. These massive plates of traditional Peruvian dishes can be enjoyed on makeshift tables, so grab a plastic stool and savor a delightful home-cooked meal. The Urubamba market is an excellent place to people-watch all while eating authentic and budget-friendly food. If craving to witness the local way of life, the Urubamba market is a must.

The Urubamba market is the most authentic market in the Sacred Valley. There are popular artisan markets in nearby Pisac and down the road in Ollantaytambo. In Chinchero there is also an artisan market.

However, the Urubamba market is more focused on ingredients and food.

This Cusco and Sacred Valley itinerary is a great place to start planning a trip to Peru.

10 | Eat at a Quinta

Quintas are family-run restaurants that serve up typical dishes of the Cusco region. A Quinta will always have huge portions of local cuisine that rotates daily.

Quintas are found only in the Cusco region. These types of restaurants are found in other regions of Peru, but these establishments go by different names. For example, this style of restaurant in Arequipa is referred to as a Picantería, and in Lima, they are called a Huarique.

Keep in mind, these establishments are usually only open for lunch. A Quinta is usually budget-friendly and a popular place to eat for locals.

The most famous Quinta in Cusco is Quinta Eulalia. This local joint has been serving food for over 80 years, since 1941! The menu is oftentimes found on a chalkboard. Eat at a table decorated with a green and white tablecloth. On a sunny day, enjoy the outdoor terrace.

11 | Sample Chicha

menu del dias are typically served with chicha morada to drink
Chicha Morada is a non-fermented version of the popular drink served typically served with the menu del dia

Chicha is a fermented corn drink that is found throughout Peru. In the Cusco and Sacred Valley, the most common chicha is Chicha de Jora. This specific chicha is made from the Andean maize of Jora. However, in the Sacred Valley, it’s possible to see many varieties of chicha, including varietals that add Quinoa, strawberries, or carrots.

In Peru, there is a popular non-alcoholic version of chicha which is Chicha Morada. This version of chicha is made by boiling purple corn with pineapple and other flavors. Chicha Morada is oftentimes the iconic purple drink served with the menu del dia.

Chicha is considered to be an ancient drink and originates all the way back to the Inca Empire. Some say Chicha may even predate the Incas. Back in the day, this drink was consumed in daily life and during ceremonies.

Urubamba Chicharia, things to do in Urubamba Peru, red flag Sacred Valley, toilet, road
Red flags hanging outside the buildings indicate it is a local Chicheria

Chicha can be found in many small villages in the Sacred Valley. Oftentimes many locals sell it from reusable containers from their homes. Chicherias are typical places to drink chicha. It’s possible to find a local Chicheria by the red flag hanging above the door.

12 | Experience the Cusco Nightlife

Cusco is the base to visit Machu Picchu, so the city offers lots of unique culinary tours. One of the more unique ways to experience Cusco is to see it at night.

There are plenty of diverse ways to experience the Cusco nightlife. Cusco is home to microbreweries, wine bars, and bars. Tecsecocha Street is a lively street with bars, clubs, and late-night eateries, and is one of the best places to experience the nightlife in Cusco.

Remember that Cusco sits at a high elevation of 11,152 ft, so always be cautious if consuming alcohol. Typically the altitude and mix of alcohol can impair and affect people more quickly and severely than at sea level.

Cusco Plaza de Armas at nighttime with full moon
Cusco is completely different at night than during the day

Food Tours in Cusco at Night

Cusco by Night: Planetarium Cusco, Dinner, and Pisco Sour is a must for those interested in the Incas fascination with the stars

Cusco by Night: Walking tour, Pisco Sour Lesson, Dinner focuses around the national cocktail of Peru, the Pisco Sour

Cusco Pub Crawl – Bar Tour Cusco is a small group tour that visits a few bars and night clubs in Cusco

Conclusion | The Best Cusco Food Experiences

In short, this Cusco food guide contains some of the best food experiences to try in Cusco.

While visiting Cusco don’t miss a chance to stroll through the bustling local markets, join a food tour, or sample some of the most authentic Peruvian dishes. Cusco is filled with so much history and the food is the perfect opportunity to delve deeper into the culture.

Make sure to spend some time in the beautiful Sacred Valley, much of the fresh produce comes from these fertile lands.

While Cusco is far less known as a food destination in Peru than Arequipa or Lima, it is still definitely a great place to eat in Peru!

Did you try any of these Cusco food experiences? What did you think of Peruvian cuisine in general? Let me know in the comments below!

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