Volunteering in Peru as a Vegetarian/Vegan

A Globalteer Intern's guide to volunteering abroad as a Vegetarian in Peru

I’m a vegetarian intern here in the Globalteer office in Peru. Before coming here I thought, surely there’ll be plenty of vegetarian options, perhaps not vegan but veggies and rice must be easy to find. Most of the time it’s not too difficult, but there are a few tips and pieces of advice I would have liked to have known before getting here!

Peruvian food mainly consists of rice, potatoes, corn, quinoa and meat (either beef, chicken or cuy - guinea pig). However, there are also many traditional types of foods which are vegetarian! Here are just a few examples:

  • Quinoa soup (also vegan)
  • Papas a la Huancaina
  • Papa rellena 
  • Rocoto relleno
  • Avocado relleno
  • Tamales/ Humitas
  • Arroz con huevo
  • Tequeños

If none of these options are available, you can ask the waiter/waitress if they have any vegetarian options: ‘¿tiene alguna opción vegeteriana?’ (Do you have any vegetarian options?). Most of the time, dishes such as arroz con huevo, an omelette (that comes with rice, potatoes and vegetables) or a dish containing salad will be available. This is usually the case at local restaurants. However, if you’re dining out at a restaurant which is more catered towards tourists you will be able to ask for the meat to be substituted for more vegetables or sometimes there is even a tofu option!

When going out for meals in local restaurants, it’s important to ask if the dish has no meat. Sometimes food advertised as just ‘chaufa con verduras’ (fried rice with vegetables) will still have meat mixed in the rice and so can be risky. You can use these phrases to ask whether a meal contains meat: ‘¿este plato contiene carne?’ (Does this dish contain meat?) or ‘¿es sin carne?’ (is it without meat?).

Peruvian Chaufa"
Peruvian food"

Volunteering in Peru as a Vegan

Being vegan in Peru is a little more tricky as many of the staples without meat contain either egg or cheese. In this case I think eating at specifically vegan restaurants or cooking with other volunteers and interns at the volunteer house is the best way to go. In supermarkets such as Orion or La Canasta you will find a wide range of vegetables (including a lot of very interesting types of corn and potatoes!) to make some exciting vegan food at home. 

I often like cooking with lentils and beans at home so that I make sure I’m getting a good amount of protein. However this can be difficult if you don’t think about it in advance; in supermarkets these types of foods are sold dried, this means that if you’re planning on making lentil soup it’s best to let your lentils soak for a few hours or even overnight. Potatoes also take a very long time to boil due to the high altitude in Cusco!

Fruit and veg market"
Vegetarian Peruvian food"

Eating at restaurants

If you don’t feel like cooking at home, there are also lots of great restaurants you can go to with vegetarian or vegan options. Here are some of my favourites in Cusco (V=vegetarian, VG=vegan):

crepe from La boheme

Here are some other vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Cusco that you might like to try!

Nachos and guacamole"

There are plenty of ways to try exciting new foods in Peru whilst also being vegetarian / vegan. Sometimes you just need some help to know where to find it! I hope this guide is useful so that your culinary experience here in Peru is just as enjoyable as any other part of your stay!