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Peruvian Desserts

Peruvian cuisine is unique in that it reflects the country’s diverse immigrant influences, from Chinese and Japanese to Spanish, Italian, and West African. And while a visitor’s first stop might be a seaside restaurant for a taste of ceviche—arguably the star of Peruvian cuisine—Peruvian desserts are not to be brushed aside, either.

The intercontinental flair makes Peruvian desserts particularly interesting, combining regional ingredients like rice, wheat, and maize with local fruit and dairy. As a result, Peruvian desserts tend to be filling, and are consumed as midday snacks as often as after meals. And like other cuisines, they reflect the people’s early way of life and how they made do with what their native land had to offer.

Many Peruvian desserts are actually variations on Spanish cuisine. A popular example is alfajores, a honey-and-almond confection traditionally popular in almost all former Spanish colonies. In Peru, the original recipe is modified to suit the availability of ingredients: a typical alfajor contains key lime rind and powdered sugar, with a filling of molasses or a milk-and-sugar cream called manjar blanco. Turrones, similar to nougat, is tweaked in Peruvian kitchens by using anise and honey instead of rose water and almonds. This version is commonly known as Turrón de Doña Pepa.

A fruit called lùcuma also figures prominently in Peruvian desserts. Known as eggfruit in English because of its thick, yolk-like interior, it grows almost exclusively in the Andes region and is used as a natural sweetener. In Peru, it is made into juice, shakes, ice cream, and a powdered flavoring for candy and other snacks. Ice cream also comes in a number of native, exotic flavors, such as prickly pear (a kind of cactus), guaraná, and camu camu, a highly acidic fruit.

One dish that often catches the eye of foreigners is mazamorra morada. Its main ingredient is purple maize, a variety that grows only in Peru, which gives it its distinct color. Mazamorra is made by boiling the corn in water with cinnamon cloves. The purple-tainted water is often made into a drink called chicha morada by adding key lime, sugar, and chopped fruits.

For a quick snack, try some picarones—ring-shaped pumpkin fritters designed after the Spanish buñuelos, which were made instead with egg custard and lemon rind. Native picarones are sweetened with a type of raw cane sugar known as chancaca, which contrasts nicely with the pumpkin. They’re good warm or cold, but freshly made ones are the best as the flavor tends to fade when the fritters cool.

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