How to be vegan in Peru/South America – A simple guide

As I set out to travel around Peru my biggest concern without a doubt, was what I was going to eat. I was worrying about getting sick, finding vegan food, staying healthy and not turning to junk food. It is safe to say I was a bit of a worrier. Having been so strict with my diet for such an incredible amount of time I couldn’t even fathom how I was going to adapt. The funny thing is, we always adapt. Always. You know what they say, “Life begins are the end of your comfort zone”.

I wanted to write this post for anyone who is worrying about eating healthily and finding vegan food whilst in Peru.

Before May of this year I hadn’t eaten any food that I hadn’t cooked myself for over 4 years. This was due to having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome but nevertheless, traveling through Peru was going to be a huge test for me. I want to reassure anyone reading this that its okay to worry about this stuff but know that you will adapt both physically and mentally and that there are plenty of vegan options out there. I would still recommend to take care with what you are eating but from my experience the best thing you can do is chill, and learn to go with the flow more. Its likely the worrying is going to do more harm than the food anyway…

If you are reading this and you want to eat junk food then fair enough! There are tienda’s everywhere so you will always be stocked up. You can eat that crap to your hearts content!

This post is aimed mostly at backpackers who are going to be camping or staying in hostels but some of this information will apply to all travellers.

First things first, literally all but one (from what my Peruvian friend has told me) Peruvian dish is animal based. Even their Peruvian classic cocktail Pisco Sour has eggs in it! It seems the only Peruvian food that is vegan (apart from fruits) are Picarones which are a mix of deep fried squash and sweet potato. They look like a doughnut and are usually covered with syrup. They originate in Lima which is where I tried them and they are pretty damn good! So if you wanted to eat the local cuisine I am afraid it isn’t great news. But what is great news is your three new best friends which I am about to introduce you to (this is more for people who are moving around a lot but is also good for everyone). So please meet your new best friends:
  1. Bread
  2. Peanut butter
  3. Bananas

Peanut butter and Banana sandwiches have been my staple food throughout my travels in Ecuador and Peru. They aren’t the healthiest but they aren’t too unhealthy either! They are filling and give you great energy. You can also use jam instead of peanut butter. These foods are simple, easy and you know they are safe to eat so I really hope you like them! It is obviously going to be handy to have a knife. I would always recommend having at least a fork, a knife, and a spoon with you when traveling – you could even get one of those touristy devices that has all of them in one. On second thought definitely get one of those gimmicky touristy devices! They’re great!

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Picarones

 

If you are a fruitarian then it is going to be pretty simple for you. There is fruit everywhere. Especially bananas!In my opinion I would ideally stick to fruits like bananas, mangos etc as you have to peel the skin to eat them. This way there is less chance of getting sick but if you want to buy fruits like strawberries make sure to give them a real good wash. My friend ate them from the market and got sick. It didn’t look fun!

It is super handy to have some sort of flip knife on you. You may need it for mangos or you may need it for something much tougher like cutting the meat out of a coconut. Oh and make sure to try some of the local Peruvian fruit too like Lucuma, Camu Camu and Chirimoya (custard apple).

As for eating out at restaurants and cafes this all depends on where you are. Places like Miraflores (in Lima) or Cusco have plenty of restaurants that cater for vegans. If you end up in Miraflores check out ‘Sabor y Vida’. It is a vegetarian restaurant where you choose an entrée and a main at the door which are displayed in a glass cabinet. Two courses, a piece of bread and a drink for 13 soles! What a bargain! As for Cusco there are plenty of awesome places to eat. Look no further than Green Point. It can be a little pricey at 20-25 soles for a main but the food is top, top quality. They also do a set lunch menu. You get a salad which you make yourself at the salad bar, followed by a soup, then a choice of two mains and then a small desert. Oh, and you also get a drink of fresh juice. All this for 15 soles. Yes I did say 15 soles. It is a huge amount of delicious vegan food for an incredible price. If you are in Cusco you owe it to yourself to try their lunch! I think I ate there around 12 times in the couple of weeks I was in Cusco. Yes, it really is that good. Also make sure to try the grilled salad for 20 soles. It is magical. Oh, and try the chocolate cookies! They’re HUGE! They are vegan and only 2 soles! You think its too good to be true but its not!

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The Grilled Salad at Green Point in San Blas in Cusco

 

 

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Green Point’s famous chocolate cookie

 

Perhaps the cheapest option when traveling is eating at the local markets. In Cusco at the San Pedro market I had rice, beans, chips and some salad for 4.5 soles. I had 2 portions as I was starving but still, that is only 9 soles. Some people don’t want to eat at the market as they are afraid to get sick (that was me too) but sometimes you just have to go with it and have a little faith you will be okay. Some of the food may have been mixed with meat so you could end up with a little in your food that you will have to pick out. Yep, I know, that sounds awful doesn’t it? But once you have traveled a bit this won’t bother you too much. You gotta’ do what you gotta’ do right?

It can be harder to eat out in smaller towns but there are always options. I found that Chinese restaurants are a great place to find vegan food and they seem to be everywhere! Rice, vegetables and noodles. Yes please.

Lastly, the cheapest (apart from the markets) and most simple way to eat vegan is to cook your own food! Practically all the hostels I have stayed at have had a kitchen. They may not be the best kitchens in the world but you cancertainly get the job done. Just make sure you check wether the hostel has a kitchen before you book it. It is also likely hostels will offer you breakfast. The breakfast is usually bread and jam and some offer eggs too (obviously you won’t want these if you are vegan). If you plan on camping a lot I would certainly advise buying a small camping set that includes a pot, a pan and a gas stove – this means you can cook anywhere! Just a heads up, food usually takes longer to cook this way and it’ll take even longer at altitude!

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A meal I made with ingredients from the market

 

Wherever you are make sure to find the local markets. This is where you are going to get the cheapest ingredients! Plus,it is usually locally sourced and tastes delicious! Just make sure to give it a good wash before you use it. Also be aware of the vendors whowill definitely try and up the price especially if they can see you are a gringo! So make sure to haggle!I mean, don’t take the piss, they are trying to make a living but you will be able to tell if they are trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

So I wanted to make this as short & sweet as possible. If you have any questions, queries, or worries please don’t hesitate to contact me. Just drop a comment below or tweet me.

Have an awesome day and happy travels. May you find delicious and healthy vegan food wherever you go ❤️ 😀

Namaste.

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