12 Popular Peruvian Christmas Foods
Peruvian food is incredibly tasty and has recently become very trendy at an international trendy, but what does Peruvian Christmas food look like?
One surprising little fact is that Peruvians celebrate Christmas on December 24th, hosting Christmas dinners quite late into the night. They start celebrating close to midnight and the festivities go on until the early Christmas morning day.
Here we take you on a journey of the 12 most popular Peruvian Christmas dishes.
1. Stuffed Turkey
The trademark of Peruvian cuisine is the juiciness of its dishes. To ensure the Christmas turkey is moist, a special mixture is prepared and injected directly into the meatiest parts.
This calls for the juice of 4 oranges, a spoonful of salt, and a glass of pisco. This is done at least 24 hours before cooking so the flavors have time to infuse.
Ají panca (Peruvian yellow chili pepper) and sillao (soy sauce) and other ingredients are used as a marinade and the stuffing can include pecans, raisins, mincemeat, etc.
2. Honey-braised Pork
Although stuffed turkey is one of the most popular Peruvian Christmas foods, for some it is dull and time-consuming. An alternative is honey-braised pork, particularly popular for the people of Lima. The capital city’s Chinatown offers an array of delicacies seasoned with local and foreign ingredients.
Capón Street is the center of Chinatown and offers plenty of options during this holiday. Asian braised pork is soft, with a crunchy exterior and a caramel taste. It has an intense, glossy reddish color due to being cooked with hoisin sauce, Peruvian wine, rosemary, garlic, and oranges.
3. Roasted Hen (from Loreto)
Hen is a very popular meat in the rainforest parts of Peru. The local communities may lack the array of commodities found in the large cities, but they never run short of natural ingredients!
Deep inside the rainforest, families own little chacras (i.e. small farms) and cultivate and grow most of their own food.
The signature ingredient of this Peruvian Christmas food is mishquina, a mixture of condiments that is representative of the local cuisine in this part of the country.
Mishquina combines guisador (turmeric), garlic, cumin, pepper, sachaculantro (or cilantro habanero), and whatever other aromatic herbs they have at hand. This paste infuses flavor into any meat and gives it a yellowish or golden tone.
Once the hen is covered with mishquina and macerates, it’s parboiled in water and then roasted. The result? Incredibly tender, juicy, and tasty meat.
4. Fish and 6-ingredient salad (from Arequipa)
Unfortunately, this traditional Christmas meal is not as popular anymore. It used to be the main attraction back in the day (a couple of decades ago), but it has been replaced by way more mainstream dishes, such as turkey.
A large well-seasoned fish would be cooked in the oven or an open grill and served alongside fried meat (or malaya dorada, as it’s called in Arequipa).
The salad, made with local ingredients, includes garlic, beetroots, butter beans, avocado, onions, carrots, and llicha (an herb that grows on farms producing corn and alfalfa).
5. Cuy Chactado
Although it is not the most popular Peruvian Christmas dish, it is one of the most emblematic.
Cuy, or guinea pig, is mainly eaten in the Peruvian sierra, but people on the coast and rainforest also enjoy it. It’s common for some families in the Andes, mostly outside urban zones, to raise their own animals.
It’s vital to have fresh meat to prepare cuy chactado for Christmas. The meat is fried in batter to achieve that distinctive crispy and copper-colored exterior. First, it has to be rubbed with a mix of mashed garlic, pepper, cumin, and salt. Then, it’s left to rest for at least an hour to absorb the flavors.
Once it is well seasoned, it’s dipped in flour and goes in a pan full of oil.
Another indispensable side dish on any Peruvian table for Christmas dinner is applesauce.
It is very easy to prepare as you simply throw peeled, chopped apples into a pot with add lemon juice, cinnamon, cloves, lemon zest, water, and honey to taste, and let it all boil. Don’t forget to remove the cloves before blending the apples!
7. Garden Vegetable Rice
Rice and potatoes are two elements that go together in Peruvian gastronomy. Garden vegetable rice trumps potatoes at Christmas, and accompanies any dish really well.
It is colorful, moist, and nutritious. One bonus is that the children love it too since it’s visually appealing. To prepare it, all you do is sauté onions, garlic, bacon, and palillo (seasoning stick). Then, add carrots, peas, corn, homemade tomato paste, parsley, and chicken broth. After it has boiled, add the rice, salt, and pepper, and let it all cook.
8. Sweet Potato Purée
This country produces over 5 thousand varieties of sweet potato, but the purple one remains a favorite.
It’s used in ceviche, adobo, and other traditional dishes. Its floury texture is key to preparing the best sweet potato purée, which often serves as a side dish for stuffed turkey.
9. Christmas Rice
Christmas rice is an overwhelming amalgam of flavors that leverage your cooking game. It’s a must-have dish for a traditional Peruvian Christmas dinner.
To prepare this classic recipe, you can toss in basically anything you have in the fridge. From bacon and hot dogs to almonds and apricots, the result is irresistible.
10. White Christmas Salad
White Christmas salad is a fresh and substantial side dish with just the right touch of sweet and salt. It’s composed of ham cut into medium-sized cubes, white potatoes, carrots, peas, parsley, canned peaches, canned pineapples, and mayonnaise. Some variations include corkscrew pasta.
11. Empanadas de Globo (from Lambayeque)
Empanadas de globo are a very traditional type of empanada, popular in Lambayeque and other parts of the North. Although street vendors sell them all year round, they are most popular during the Christmas season.
Lambayeque is a windy city and this empanada is representative of the weather – it is filled with air! But the lack of stuffing is not a disappointment because the extremely crunchy dough is worth it. Its crispness makes up for everything else. And you can eat a bunch of them in one go!
12. Picarones with Cheese and Cane Honey
Picarones with cheese and cane honey may sound like a mismatch, but this is an alternative to Peruvian chocolatada. Chocolatada is a snack, often replacing breakfast, that involves panetón and homemade hot cocoa.
For those living in rural areas panetón is not the number one option. They prefer their Peruvian Christmas celebration accompanied with homemade picarones, white cheese, and cane honey. In Bagua, a city in the rainforest region, people prepare picarones (fried dough) with sweet potato flour.
Try out any of these iconic Peruvian Christmas foods! Some recipes use native ingredients, but others can be created with local alternatives. So, make your shopping list and locate your closest Peruvian market to stock up on the basics to create any of these quintessential dishes! Leave your comfort zone for a noteworthy Christmas dinner full of new and delectable flavors.
Related: Most Popular Peruvian Desserts