Welcome to Peru, home of llamas, Machu Picchu, the Inca Empire, and people who eat guinea pigs. The latter (and least worthy) claim to fame is exactly why I’ll be guiding you through this carnivorous realm, and keeping you well clear of alpaca burgers, ceviche classes and of course “Cuy” (possibly the least energy efficient meal on the planet). See below for your comprehensive survival guide to being vegan in Peru, and even if you’re veggie or omni, then there are still some incredible eateries listed for you to discover!
Cooking your own meals vs. Eating out
Cooking in is more possible than ever in Peru. We find cleaner facilities than in Bolivia, and the cost of supermarket food won’t break your bank like in Argentina. Funnily enough, we barely cooked for ourselves in Peru – this was only done in Lima (which ironically has some of the best restaurants in South America). Generally the supermarkets are a big step up in terms of quality when compared with Bolivia, and you can often even find a ‘free from’ section! But generally in Peru they’re big foodies, and that means where you will find a lot of steak and animal products, there will always be options for others.
In fact, get ready to see some high scorers on this list because Peru was fantastic for Vegans, with several vegan only chains and some unusual surprises.
The Inca Trail (with Llama Path) – 8/10
I can’t believe I’m not giving these guys 10 – this food was perhaps the best surprise of our travels so far. The porters at Llama Path work incredibly hard to accommodate tourists, it almost makes you feel guilty! They carry a huge amount of food across the Inca Trail, and they perfectly catered for our vegan diets. The food was very tasty, with a lot of care and attention to detail in all the dishes, they even baked a cake for us (somehow) right at the end! Sweet animals were carved out of fruit and veg and placed on top of the dishes on the final day, and vegan snacks such as popcorn were served as snacks after arriving at the campsite. I guess it’s not a 10 because the food tasted good, but not amazing, and there were a few upset stomachs – but it’s hard to pin that down to anything. I think it’s the best you will ever get considering you’re hiking at around 3700m. For more Inca Trail info, click here.
Green Point – 9.5/10
Then we found Green Point. Absolute Vegan heaven. Everything was completely vegan, nothing was even vegetarian so it was a total safe zone. What’s more the food was incredible, and super cheap. We’re talking 15 soles for a four course lunch, that’s £3.75. You’d begin with a buffet salad, then soup, then small main, and a teeny dessert – but believe me you were stuffed by the end every time. The evening menu was huge, and we even got a delicious breakfast one morning. Unrivalled in Cusco. Why not 10/10? They have two joints in Cusco, and we trekked to the other which ended up having bizarre opening hours. Secondly, the absolutely sumptuous cheeseboard seemed to result in an upset tummy, tried and tested twice (however I think it was actually worth it…).
Shaman Vegan Raw Restaurant – 4/10
We thought we’d give Green Point a day off, and headed for Shaman Raw as we’d heard good things. However, it was far more expensive and the food was just well below the quality of Green Point. They had a cosy place with blankets and crystals, and maybe we just got the wrong dishes, but sadly it just couldn’t compete.
Muchaway Churros Artesanales – 6/10
There was a cute little churros place coincidentally near the Llama Path office that we sheltered in during the rain. They did vegan churros with vegan topping options. They tasted pretty good, and we got to watch her make them – so that was cool.
Colca Canyon (Peru Andes) – 2/10
The food during the Colca trek was all round shoddy, not just for us vegans. The company was good enough in other respects, and our guide did do his best to help. However, the breakfast in freezing Chivay was seriously sub-par, with the restaurant not willing to give us more bread or coffee after a small 1st serving. After an exhausting walk, the veggie rice portion was just too small, and considering our 3am and 4am starts, we needed more fuel than that – we even had to pay for a cup of tea. The buffet at the end had some options, but it wasn’t clear what was what, and again heavily overpriced. I loved the trek and the views, but the food really wasn’t great (hence no photos…).
El Buda Profano – 10/10
I was going to give this place a 9, and then realised there was literally nothing I could fault them on. Vegan sushi, in Peru – can you possibly believe it? Immaculate presentation, made right next to you in a cosy and charming corner of Arequipa. The owner is a friendly chap originally from Vancouver and he is more than willing to chat to you about the sushi, the wine or just anything really. This place is zen, and the sushi flavours literally melt around your mouth, I’d recommend to anyone regardless of diet. This is a classic example of taking one thing, and absolutely mastering it.
Las Gringas – 7/10
An interesting one. Las Gringas was no doubt a cool place, they have gluten free options although we had t wait a very long time to get one, and one time they were out of stock. The pizzas can be veganised which is a great plus, and you’ll be choosing from some slightly bizarre pizza combos (we’re talking berries and bacon kind of thing). The end product was always pretty good, and you get to colour in a skull while you wait – bonus.
It’s also worth noting that above Las Gringas is a chocolate making shop where we took chocolate making lessons! It was a great activity to do, and we learnt lots about the history of chocolate, and got to take some home. Oh and I wouldn’t be mentioning it if they didn’t accommodate for vegans and have vegan choc!
Restaurant El Puente – 5/10
Here’s a really really cheap option for those on a tight budget. There are two across town, and one of them is a buffet style. We chose to wander west for this one (across the big river) and through a rather dodgy looking side of town. The food filled you up, and tasted a bit like cheap Chinese. However if noodles are your thing, and you have next to no money, El Puente has you covered.
Istambul – 5.5/10
Istambul was a dimly lit café diner, that resembled nearly nothing of the city it was named after. Instead we sat upstairs on some unusually shaped platforms and ordered from a relatively limited menu. Sadly the waitress got very confused and we received our wraps about 20 minutes apart, with varying degrees of humous. They were decent wraps, but it’s hard to go wrong with that. The best thing about this was watching the couple downstairs take selfies for 30 minutes straight.
Banana’s Adventure – 7/10
If you don’t end up at Banana’s in Huacachina, something’s gone wrong. It’s basically THE hostel, and offers great discounts on the dune activities. Since Huacachina is such a small place, we mainly ate at the hostel, as they offered vegan goodies. The quinoa burger is good enough, with a decent serving of chips, and you can even get waffles for breakfast – we were generally impressed.
La Casa De Bamboo – 5/10
To mix things up we crossed the road one night to La Casa de Bamboo. They offered vegan brownies, but sadly we never got there. Huge portions is only a benefit when the food tastes good, and unfortunately it was a little bland and watery for a thai curry. Safe to say we retreated back across the road to the hostel.
Kokopelli – 5.5/10
Time for a break from the pictures. Paracas was incredible, but not for vegan food. Sadly our taste buds had been spoilt in Cusco and Arequipa, and now it back to survival. There were still options, such is the way of a more defined ‘backpacker route’. In the hostel here, you can get a couple of fairly standard dishes (rice / smoothies / wraps) to keep you alive. Plus, it’s quite a nice hostel!
Fruzion – 6/10
Fruzion was to go-to place, and there wasn’t much else along the short strip near the beachfront. It offered a variety of burger based alternatives, like soy or wheat – and these were okay. I couldn’t help thinking that burgers everyday was getting a little tiresome. Fruzion also is a strange white building, with a slightly unfinished feel – much like the majority of Paracas.
Seafront Stalls – 3.5/10
Getting hounded by waiters on the seafront is the most off-putting thing when trying to choose a restaurant. Finally, in Paracas, bored of burgers, we gave in. Most of the stalls along the seafront look dirty, serve mostly fish and have loud televisions playing awful Peruvian gameshows (actually quite entertaining)… We settled on a rice dish and crossed our fingers for it being vegan. It actually seemed pretty good, but I wouldn’t recommend heading here often.
Some place in Chinatown (Downtown) – 5.5/10
A horrendous morning. Downtown Lima is bonkers, with horns and cars that (IMO) shadow La Paz. We set out to try and find a small Chinese vegetarian buffet, but soon realised we’d walked into a dodgy district – something that you must avoid here. After trying to be sold illegal passports, and general shifty looks, we hastily fled and ended up in manic Chinatown. Chinatown in Lima is NOT pleasant, only go if you’re seriously on the ball. After retreating into a standard Chinese restaurant, the food turned out okay, and made everything a little bit better (I also half-fixed my busted camera). But we were both too preoccupied to even think about photographing or taking much in about the food…
El Jardin de Jazmin (Miraflores) – 6.5/10
Miraflores was relief. With many vegan options about we hit up Jazmin for some hippie flavours. They served delicious potato and mushroom grills, and the menu was incredibly extensive. Sadly, they closed the kitchen rather early and we couldn’t get more orders in (since the portions were quite small). Definitely worth a visit though.
La Verde (Miraflores) – 8/10
Super nice café in the heart of Miraflores. Everything here was vegan, and beautifully made and presented. They had little games to keep you occupied, a great range of healthy drinks, and vegan desserts (ice cream!). The only thing that stopped us coming back often was the high price, and it really was quite high.
Random street van near Jam Box Café – 8/10
If you’re on a night out, and happen to be near the west of Kennedy Park, we found a street van selling an awesome range of cheap vegan junk food. This was a particular surprise after a few drinks, and also might have made it taste a little better…
Raw Café (Miraflores) – 8.5/10
Rather isolated at the far north of Miraflores, we stopped off here for lunch on the way to Huaca Pucllana. Not everything was raw and they had some fantastic dishes. Again, slightly on the pricey side, but the food was filling, healthy and yummy.
Germinando Vida (Barranco) – 3/10
Finally we hit up Barranco for the last couple of days of our three months. Barranco is a really nice district, with a lot of art, trendy shops and indeed vegan options. Sadly we were being careful with money and so didn’t want to spend too much on eating out. We jumped into Germinando Vida one afternoon, an inciting looking place. However, service was abysmally slow after ordering just a wrap, and the taste was underwhelming. I’m sure people will have had better experiences here, but ours sadly was not great. I’ve heard good things about Veggie Pizza in Barranco, and also some tasty burritos – so let us know what they’re like.
That rounds up three countries and three months in South America! Since we only visited the very north of Chile, it wasn’t worth it’s own post – plus it’s a great reason to head back there! My overarching conclusion is that it’s totally possible to be vegan across most of South America. The only times you may struggle are in extremely isolated scenarios, or on tours. Even in isolated places, farming often results in a lot of grains and potatoes, and we were continuously surprised by the hospitality of locals. So don’t worry if you’re thinking twice about this part of the world, just download Happy Cow and you’ll be fine!