Peruvian Vegan Cuisine

Peruvian cuisine has got to be one of the most diverse cuisines in the world. Combine pre-Incan and Incan influences with Spanish, African, French, Chinese (especially from the Canton region), Japanese, and Italian ingredients and cooking techniques, and you can see what we mean! A Peruvian food expert once said that, before you try to understand Peruvian cuisine, you should note that there are more than 2,000 different types of soups in coastal Peru alone and at least 250 traditional desserts!

Of course, cuisine varies depending where you are in Peru. Coastal cuisine is traditionally based on fish from the Pacific Ocean, while the dishes in the Andes are based on corn, hundreds of varieties of potatoes, grains, and root vegetables. Jungle cuisine is based on fruits and plants readily available in the Peruvian rainforest. Lima, the country's capital, has access to ingredients from all over the world and offers traditional dishes combined with many other cuisines.


Let's take a quick tour of some of the ingredients you can find in Peruvian cuisine:

  • Aguaje is the fruit of a tall tropical palm found in the Amazon jungle. Aguaje grows as small clusters of red fruit, and it can be served at meals or mashed to use as an ingredient. It can be the base for purées, locally made fruit ice cream (instead of dairy ice cream), and beverages.
  • Lucuma looks like a round avocado. This tropical fruit is pale green on the outside and yellow-orange on the inside. Lucuma can be dried and ground into flour that can be used for breads and pastries or to thicken drinks and beverages. We have even seen a type of ice cream based on lucuma flour.
  • A cousin to lemon grass, luisa grass is found in the Andes. In addition to its use in flavoring food, luisa grass is brewed as a tea.
  • Maca root is a tuber that has been a staple in Peru for thousands of years. It is said to contain essential fatty acids and minerals, including zinc and protein. It can be boiled or baked like a potato, and it can serve as the basis for a thick soup or stew.
  • Rocoto is a Peruvian pepper that resembles a red, yellow, or green bell pepper, but it is very hot! If you are attempting to prepare a recipe that calls for rocoto, you could substitute fresh jalapeƱos.
  • Quabranta are Peruvian wine grapes, a hybrid grown from European stock. They are hearty and resemble muscatel or muscat grapes. Quabranta can be eaten fresh, pressed for juice, or processed into wine and vinegar.
  • Quinoa is known around the world nowadays, but it is said to have originated with the Incas. Quinoa figures large as a staple ingredient in some parts of Peru and is served at all meals. Its flour can be used to create smooth hot cereals, to thicken sauces, or to make a base for hearty hot beverages.


Some food people have called Peruvian street food one of the best-kept food secrets in the world. You may be able to find Peruvian street food on carts in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland, to name a few places. Here are some options to look for:

  • Lomo saltado is a combination of rice, vegetables, and - yes - French fries. This dish is usually served with sautéed meat but is fine vegetarian-style.
  • A tallarin saltado is a sautéed spaghetti and vegetable dish. Again, it is usually served with meat, but it is flavorful and filling without it.
  • Chaufa is Peruvian fried rice, sometimes including potato as one of the ingredients.
  • Yucca fries, roasted corn kernels (like spicy, hot corn nuts), and purple potato salad are other Peruvian dishes that translate well from the Andes to your table!


(Serves 6)

This protein- and fiber-rich dish can be served at almost any meal! This 'bouquet' of grains and vegetables can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.

  • 6 cups vegetable stock or broth
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 1/4 cup amaranth
  • 1 cup corn kernels, preferably freshly cut from the cob
  • 3 cups diced fresh yellow squash
  • 1/2 cup finely peeled and chopped Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 Tablespoon Red Star nutritional yeast

Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a large pot.

While waiting for the stock to boil, rinse and drain the quinoa and amaranth. Add the quinoa and amaranth to the boiling stock and bring to a fast second boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add corn. Stir and allow to simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until the grains are soft.

Add remaining ingredients and allow to simmer until the squash and potatoes are soft, which may take 15-40 minutes. Serve hot.

Total calories per serving: 137 Fat: 2 grams
Carbohydrates: 25 grams Protein: 5 grams
Sodium: 150 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams


(Serves 4)

Serve this recipe as a hot, thick breakfast beverage, as part of a hot dessert, or over sliced fruit or sorbet.

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • Water to cover quinoa
  • 4 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 Tablespoon arrowroot
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sugar to taste (Use your favorite vegan variety.)

Rinse the quinoa and place it in a medium-sized pot. Cover with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and add the orange juice. Stir and simmer until quinoa is soft, approximately 20- 40 minutes. Slowly whisk in the arrowroot until desired thickness is reached. Stir in the vanilla and remove from heat. Taste the quinoa and stir in a small amount of sugar. Continue to taste and add sugar until the desired level of sweetness is achieved.

You can serve this dish as is, or purée it in a blender or a food processor for a smoother texture. Serve hot.

Total calories per serving: 239 Fat: 2 grams
Carbohydrates: 50 grams Protein: 6 grams
Sodium: 9 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams


(Serves 6-8)

This creamy, spicy stew makes a wonderful entrée on its own or can be served over steamed rice, quinoa, or amaranth.

  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup finely diced onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh chili (You choose the heat!)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 cups peeled and large-diced hard winter squash, such as acorn, butternut, or banana squash
  • 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen green peas
  • 2 cups peeled and large-diced boiling potatoes
  • 1 cup corn kernels (Fresh corn is best, but thawed frozen will work.)
  • 1/2 cup soft silken tofu
  • 1/2 cup vegan cream cheese
  • 2 teaspoons white pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced green olives
  • 5 cups hot cooked rice

Heat a large pot and add the vegetable oil. Sauté onions until tender, approximately 4 minutes. Add garlic, chilies, and oregano, and sauté and stir for 3 minutes. Add squash, peas, potatoes, and corn. Cover pot and allow stew to simmer until squash and potatoes are soft, approximately 1 hour.

Stir in the tofu, cream cheese, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the cream cheese is melted and flavors are blended. Cover and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour stew into a large serving bowl and garnish with olives. Serve over steamed rice.

Total calories per serving: 421 Fat: 12 grams
Carbohydrates: 71 grams Protein: 10 grams
Sodium: 299 milligrams Fiber: 8 grams


(Makes 6 empanadas)

Empanadas are filled pastries that are usually deep-fried in fat, but this recipe creates a baked version. Make a double batch, bake, cool, and freeze until needed.

  • 1 pound fresh yucca
  • Water to cover yucca
  • 1/4 cup melted nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tablespoons vegan sour cream
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup grated vegan mozzarella or other melting vegan cheese
  • Vegetable oil spray

Peel and chop the yucca and place in a medium-sized pot. Cover with 3 inches of water, bring to a boil, and cook until yucca is tender, approximately 15 minutes.

Remove yucca from heat, reserving the cooking water. Put yucca in a bowl or a food processor and mash until smooth. Mix in the margarine, flour, sour cream, and baking powder, and combine. You want a dough that you can work with easily. If the dough is too dry and does not stick together, slowly add some of the reserved cooking water.

Divide the mixture into two balls. On a clean surface, roll out one ball to approximately a 1-inch thickness. Cut into 3-inch circles. Place a small amount of vegan cheese in the center of each circle and fold each circle in half to make a pocket. Seal by pressing the ends together with your fingers and then marking with a fork (like a pie crust). Continue with the second dough ball.

Spray a non-stick baking sheet with vegetable oil. Place the empanadas on the baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place baking sheet in the oven and allow to bake until the dough is golden and the filling is hot, approximately 15 minutes.

Note: If you would like to fry a batch of empanadas, heat 2 cups of vegetable oil in a large pot and fry empanadas at least 3 minutes until they are golden. Drain on a towel and serve hot. Obviously, this version will be higher in fat than the baked version.

Total calories per serving: 275 Fat: 14 grams
Carbohydrates: 36 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 379 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams


(Serves 6-8)

This is one style of Peruvian 'fried' rice. It works best with leftover cooked rice.

  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 1/2 cup cooked and crumbled vegan bacon
  • 1 cup finely diced red bell peppers or drained canned pimentos
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup toasted peanuts or soy nuts
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce or Bragg's Liquid Aminos
  • 3 cups cooked and cooled white or brown rice

Heat a large skillet and spray with vegetable oil. Add the vegan bacon and red peppers. Cook and stir until the red peppers are soft, approximately 3 minutes. Add the cilantro, corn, nuts, and soy sauce. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add in rice and mix well to combine. Cook for approximately 5-15 minutes until rice is heated, mixing constantly. Serve hot.

Total calories per serving: 227 Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 31 grams Protein: 9 grams
Sodium: 233 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams


(Serves 6-8)

Serve this dish as a dessert on its own, or use it to fill empanadas for breakfast or a sweet snack. Also, it can be used to fill pie shells and baked as a pie.

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, not peeled
  • Water to cover sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup orange juice concentrate
  • 1/2 cup sugar (Use your favorite vegan variety.)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cook for at least 15 minutes until potatoes are forktender. Remove the potatoes from heat, drain, and peel. Mash them or use a food processor until you achieve a smooth purée.

Place purée in a medium pot. Add orange juice concentrate, sugar, and zest. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. (This could take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.) Allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Place purée in a serving bowl, garnish with cinnamon, and serve.

Total calories per serving: 214 Fat: <1 gram
Carbohydrates: 52 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 84 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams


(Serves 6-8)

Serve this dish in a large bowl for dessert or breakfast, and watch everyone dig in! It can be prepared the day before and reheated.

  • 2 pounds peeled yucca
  • 4 cups vanilla soymilk
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 cup vanilla soy yogurt
  • A small amount of arrowroot or cornstarch, if needed
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

Steam or boil the yucca (as you would potatoes) until they are soft and then drain.

Purée the yucca and soymilk together in a blender or a food processor. Pour mixture into a medium-sized pot, add maple syrup and cinnamon sticks, and bring to a fast boil, stirring. Lower heat to a simmer.

Continue to stir and cook for 5-15 minutes until the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature (70 degrees).

Place mixture back on stove, bring to a simmer, and stir in soy yogurt. Cook and stir for 5-15 minutes until the mixture is thickened. If a thicker consistency is desired, add a small amount of arrowroot or cornstarch.

When thickened, place mixture into a serving bowl, garnish with ground cinnamon, and serve.

Total calories per serving: 415 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 88 grams Protein: 7 grams
Sodium: 91 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams