A glossary of food-related terms

A glossary of food-related terms

This page can be extremely helpful when confronted with a Peruvian menu.


Meat or fish steeped in a mixture of vinegar and oil, mixed garlic and spice.

Aceituna Olives, cultivated in Southern Peru.

A red colourant and flavouring extracted from the seeds of a tree (Bixa orellana). It has a strong flavour which blends well with, in particular, salted foods.

Aderezar To season: aderezado = 'seasoned'

Chicken soup prepared with rice, potatoes, garlic and vegetables.


A scaly palm which yields a few fruit that are much-sought after inthe jungle where they are used to flavour drinks andice cream. Amazonian tribes also seek them out as a basic foodstuff.


Cane alcohol, used in the sierra to prepare cañazo, yonque o guarapo, all high-alcohol concoctions. Jungle people use it to extract alcaloids from fruits and roots, typically for use as a pick-me-up or plain aphrodisiac.


"To smoke", usually applied to dried meat. A tradition of the jungle, where meat spoils quickly.


Hot capsicum pepper, of course known in Mexico as "chili".There are very many variety, from the low-spice green limo to the hotter, red ricoto, which is often served stuffed, relleno. The red pipi de mono (monkey penis) is tiny, but notoriously the hottest in the country.


A creamy vegetable casserole, made with garlic, oil, onion, parsley and white cheese, often with potatoes and othert starchy roots in it. Warming comfort food.

Ajo Garlic.

A treacle-like liquid made from the fruit of the Algarrobo tree, an acacia dominant on the Northern coast where the desert recedes. It is used both as a medicine and as a sweetening, thickening agent in for example, Piso Sours. Similar to maple syrup.

Almíbar Sugar syrup

Anis liquor, Productionis focused on Arequipa, in the South of Perú.


A light dish comprising thin slickes of beef heart that have been marinated in oil, achiote and vinegar, and served skewered after being roasted on an open fire.

Apanado Bañar en pan rallado un trozo de alguna carne a freír.
Arrebozar Batter-fried.
Arroz Rice
Atún Tuna (nb "tuna" means "prickly pear cactus" in Peru. )
Azúcar blanca White sugar
Azúcar rubia Brown sugar.

Bread roll with ham, onion and lettuce, occasionally served hot. AKA "sandwich".

Caballa A very commonly served mdeium sized ocean fish (Scomber japonicus).
Caigua A highland wild fruit (Cyclanthera pedata) thatis added to other dishes to give them flavour.
Caldo Stock, usually meat, occasionally fish; but that is usually a soup. Caldo Bordalese is an agrochemical mix based on sulphur and copper.
Camarón Fresh water crayfish.
Camote Sweet potato, a native of Peru.
Canelones Pasta - same meaning as in Italian.
Cangrejo Crab.

Dried and ground potato - often achieved by freezing the tuber over winter - which is boiled up and seved with garlic and peanuts, chicken or ham. This is an ancient dish going back millennia.


Traditional upside-down cottage pie. Teh base is made of mashed yellow potato, garlic and lemon; the top (or filling, if it is rolled into a ball) can be pretty much anything: fish, chicken, shrimp. The wdely available causa limeña looks like a sweet dish, but isn't. They are often described as being relleno de - stuffed with - but this simply means "containing".

Cebolla China Large white onion.

Sun-dried salted meat from animals such as the alpaca or wild deer. It is eated uncooked or mixed with various guisos, particularly in the jungle, where it is called tacacho con cecina.


The signature dish of Peru: fish or shellfish that have been picked in lime juice and garlic are served cold with chopped shallots, hot peppers, parsley and boiled choclo maize or sweet potato.

Clavo de olor A flavourant made from unopened, dried carnation flowers, milled to a powder. Can also mean "clove", so beware with recipes.

A native species of fruit used for juices, said to have health-giving properties.

Coliflor Cauliflower
Comino Cumin
Coronta Corn cob
Costillar Pertaining to ribs, costillas. Spare ribs: costillas a la parilla
Cuajar Congeal, coagulate.
Culantro Corriander (cilantro in the US)
Curar Preserve by drying; also cure in the medical sense.
Cuy Guinea pig, the staple meat source ineh sierra. Tastes somewhat like chicken; looks like rat.
Chalona Sun-dried meat from the sierra, usually sheep or alpaca. Used as a flavourant inother idshes; also eaten raw.
Chancaca Treacle
Chanfainita Cow's lung.
Chapo Alcoholic drink from the jungle, made from bananas.
Charqui Llama or alpaca meat, sun dried and salted.
Chaufa Fried rice with meat, boiled eggs and other additions, plus onion and garlic.
Chicha morada Maize beer, often prepared using purple maize to give it a richer colour.
Chicha de jora As above, but with white maize.
Chicha de maíz

White maize beer to which clavo de olor has been added in the fermenation process.

Chicharrón Initially, pork fried in its own fat; but now aplied to anything fried, such as shellfish.
Chifa A Latinised form of Chinese cooking. Every coastal town in Peru has its Chifa restaurant.
Chinguirito A cebiche nade from dried salted fishknown as pez guitarra.
Chirimoya A native fruit (Annona cherimola) which looks like a deformed hand genade. Strawberry-like flavour, used in ice creams or eaten as a fruit. (AKA "Soursop" in the Caribbean).
Chirimpico Offal stew
Chocolate The jungle produces a reasonable amount of coca. It is fair to say that Peru has not entirely found out what to do with it. Belgian immigrants welcomed.
Choclo Sweetcorn, often eaten with cheese.
Choncholí Fried offal, often served with anticuchos
Chonta Palm hearts

Sausages containing preserved meat, of enormously variable size and flavour.


Mussels. often served as choros a la chalaca.

Chuño Naturally freeze dried potato, unmilled..
Chupe Quechua word for soup - onomatopoeic? - with a signaure dish of prawns as chupe de camarones.
Churrasco Steak.
Dorar To brown in the oven.
Embutido Fresh meat sausage ausage; also salchica
Empanada Pasties
Encurtido Pickled vegetables
Escabeche Marinated meat, usually beef or chicken, cooked as a stew.
Espesar Thickened
Estofado Stew
Exprimir Squeeze or press out a liquid. (Also medical, beware.)
Flan The universal caramel custard that is served across the Spanish-speaking world, for want of a tradition of sweet courses.
Fréjol Beans, existing in dozens of varieties. ("Frijol" in Mexico)
Fréjol colado Sweet course made from red beans, treacle and other ingredients.
Freír Fry (Fried = "frito" - eg papas frtias, fried potatoes.
Gelatina Gelatine.
Girasol Sunflower
Glasear Lightly grilld, or browned under the grill.
Granadilla Fruit (Pasiflora ligularis) with a unique taste, full of pulpy seeds. 'Passion fruit' in some countries.
Guanábana Fruit native to Perú (Anona muricata), much used as a stimulant as a result of its high caffeine content. Often encountered as a fruit juice.
Guayaba Another native fruit, used in juices and ice creams.
Guarapo Quechua term for a high alcohol mixture.
Guitarra Fish species (Rhinobatos rhinobatos) that is salted and dried to produce dishes of - shall we say. distinctive? - odour.
Harina Flour.
Hervir To boil; boiled - "hervido/a" or "sancochado/a".
Higos Figs, usually dried.
Hongos Fungi
Huacatay Quechua term for a native herb used to flavour food, particularly in the South
Humita Quechua term for something similar to a maize tamale, often wrapping a meat or cheese.
Jalea Shell fish and other marine ingredienct, fried up with onion and served with yuca.

Traditional jngle dish associated with the festival of St Peter and St Paul. Rice, meat and flavourings are wrapped in a bijao leaf and then boiled.


This is a root that has been imported from China, and is an ingredient in the national cuisine known as Chifa.

Kiwicha Quechua term for the plant Amaranthus caudatus, a dramatic annual shrub with hanging red seeds. Over a thousand varieties are known, and it was a staple over the millennia.
Langosta Lobster.
Langostino Prawn
Leche de Pantera Pather's milk: shellfish, onion and lime blended to a smooth liquid. Alleged properties similar to Western notion of oysters.
Leche de Tigre Tiger's milk: as above, but with fish; not alleged to be aphrodisiac.
Lechón Piglet
Lechuga Lettuce
Lenguado Excellent white-fleshed fish (Paralichthyes adspersus). It gives rise to a signature dish, lenguado a la chorrillana.
Licuar Liquidise
Lima The small sweet lime that underpins much Peruvian cooking
Limón Peruano As above.

Quechua name for a pumpkin-based stew, containing potatoes, sweet maize and white cheese. It is called locro de zapallo, when served with rice.

Lomo saltado

Classical Peruvian dish, consisting of strips of beef, tomatoes, onion and potato strir-fried together with garlic, soya and oyster sauce. Usually seved with fried potatoes or rice.

Lúcuma A native fresh-tasting fuit used chiefly in ice creams.

A native plant (Lepidium meyenii) which has a root that is rich in sterols and which is exported across the world as a rejuvenation agent. It is served in as many ways as a root can be prepared.

Macha A native mollusc, eaten cooked or sun dried.
Maíz Maize
Maíz Morado Anthrocyanin-laden maize, used in making purple maize beer
Manjar Blanco

Caramelised milk - a thick paste often placed between biscuits or cake, or used as a cooking ingredient.

Maní Peanuts - a purely South American term.
Manteca Pig fat, used in cooking
Mantequilla Butter
Maracuya Another passion flower, Pasiflora edulis. it is used as a flavouring agent and as a fruit.
Mazapán Marzipan
Mazamorra A jam made with flour as the thickening agent.
Melaza Molasses
Menestras Generic for legumes in Peru, and not the use in Spain.
Merengue Meringue
Miel Honey
Miga de pan Th ewhite inner parts of bread, used in making sauces.
Mirasol Not "sun flower", but an open-headed garlic of great strength.
Mondongo Offal stew
Mote Roasted maize grains, served salted and playing the same role as peanuts.
Nabo Turnip; or occasionally huge radishes
Nata Cream; also crema.
Natilla A milk-sugar-egg confection.
Nuez moscada Nutmeg, much used on Pisco sours. Means other things in other countries - literally, "nutty nut".
Oca A native tuber that has been consumed in the sierra since humans arrived. It has a sweetish taste.
Olluco A sweetish yellow potato variety used with specifc dishes, such as olluquito con charqui.
Orejón Dried apricots or peaches - lit. 'big ears'
Ostión Oyster
Pacay The guava or Inga edulis has a sharp, unique falvour in a fruit somewhat like a fig.
Pallar Mixed cooked vegetables
Palta The avocado/ aguacate Persea americana.
Panca Maize leaves, often used to contain food that is to be steamed
Panquéque Pancake, soemtimes used shredded as a cooking ingredient in their own right
Papa Quechua term for the potato Solanum tuberosum). Note female gender: el Papa is the Pope.
Papa a la Huancaína Boiled potatoes with a cheese white sauce .
Papa rellena Similar to above, but with meat.
Papa Huayro An earthy-smelling potato with a purple skin and a yellow interior.
Papa amarilla Yellow potatoes from the central Andes that come in many varieties: tumbay, huagalinaNow enjoying substantial exports as the "Peruvian Golden Potato.
Papa seca Potato flour
Parrilla Grill, often over fire wood
Parillada/ Pollada Grilled, usually chicken - fast food pollo a la parilla is a universal of every town
Pastel Cake (Bizcocho = sponge cakse; also cross eyed.)
Pejerrey Another commonly-used fish, served frequently in ceviches. There is a fresh water version in Lake Titicaca that grows to great size..
Pepa Generic term for the seed in a fruit , "stone"
Pepian A stew dating from the Incas, made tih cuy (guinea pig) sweet maize, onion and garlic.
Perejil Large leaf parsley
Pimienta Pepper
Piña Peruvian term for the pineapple
Pisco A brandy distilled on the coast and once sold from the port of Pisco. It comes in many forms, and is used primarily as the base for the Pisco Sour
Plátano Banana
Pollo a la brasa Grilled chicken, mass produce on rotating spits.
Poro Shallot
Presas Chunks of cooked meat.
Pudín Stale bread, eggs and milk steamed until set.
Queque Sponge cake ("Cakee")
Queso Cheese
Quesillo Cottage cheese, aka queso fresco.
Quinua Chenopodium quinoa is cultivated for its seeds. Its use dates back millennia.
Relleno Lit. Stuffed, but usually really meaning "accompanying", or cooked in "the presence of".
Rocoto A particularly strong garlic, grown around Arequipa. In resoect f the entry above, the regional signature dish is rocoto relleno which, garlic being what it is, can hardly be stuffed in the literal sense!
Salsa Sauce
Salchica Sausage - see also embutido, butifarra and chorizo
Sarsa criolla Onion and tomato cut in strips, steeped with yellow garlic, oil and vinegar. Served as a free-standing sauce with most meat dishes
Sancochado Boiled with salt water.
Seco de Chabelo

Traditional dish made from boiled green bananas with cecina, onions, tomatoesand maize beer.

Sopa Soup
Sudado Steamed
Tacu Tacu

Chifa dish, boiled rice and beans pounded together with onion and fried; served with meat or with a fried egg.


Very similar ingredients to Tacu Tacu, but wetter and broken up.

Tamales Flat maize bread, usually served rolled around a cooked mixture containing meat or cheese. The ancient American ancestor of the burger.
Tamarindo Tamarind, used in Chifa cooking.
Tiradito A wettter version of ceviche that omits the onion, usually cuts the fish very thinh and is served on a cream sauce base. Signature dish is tiradito en salsa de rocoto.
Tocino Bacon
Tomate Tomato - myriad varieties in this, the source of all tomatoes.
Tortilla Omelette
Tumbo Another passion fruit from the jungle, also known as purocksha, tacso, tintin, trompos, tumbo del monte, poro poro o curaba. As the many names suggest, it dates from anceint times and is cultivated in the many, isolated jungle-facing valleys of the Andes.
Tuna The fruit of the Opuntia cactus, which is also the source of cochineal. A frequent source of error amongst English speaking visitors who order it expecting fish. It can cause lasting and vastly firm constipation.
Vainita Green field bean: Phaseolus vulgaris.
Yuca Manioc root, commonly sereved with ceviche.
Zapallo Quechua word for squash - also "calabash", which are simply hard skinned gourds. You may see them for sale, covered with neat brown and black drawings. Edible varieties - and there are many, for Cucurbitaceae have their centre of radiation in Peru - are auyama, ayote, chiverre.