How to Eat Guinea Pig at Pachapapa, Cusco, Peru

On my recent trip to Peru, I was determined to try cuy (guinea pig), a local delicacy.  But not just anywhere.  I wanted the best, so I went to Pachapapa – considered one of the finest restaurants in Cusco.

LocationPlazoleta de San Blas 120, Cusco, PeruPachapapa is in the artsy San Blas neighborhood, directly in front of the San Blas Cathedral in Cusco.  It’s just a few minutes’ walk from the Plaza de Armas – the historic colonial center of the city. 

Menu:  Pachapapa has a diverse and delicious menu of traditional Peruvian cuisine and a list of unique specialty drinks.  They also serve pizza and calzones.

Thoughts:  Peru is famous for its Andean dishes made with guinea pig and alpaca. Peru is famous for its Andean dishes made with guinea pig and alpaca. My friend, Alison, is a vegetarian but agreed to accompany me on my quest for cuy.  During the previous week in Peru’s Sacred Valley with AdventureSmith Explorations, I’d had opportunities to sample small bites of guinea pig, but I passed them up – I was holding out for the whole experience, i.e. the entire rodent, served up on a platter.

We walked to Pachapapa from our hotel near Cusco’s historic center, purportedly the best restaurant for Peruvian food.  Passing through the exterior door, you’re immediately enveloped in a cozy, rustic open-air courtyard, with river rock flooring and wooden picnic-style tables and benches shaded by individual canopies. At the back is an open grill and hearth.  It was a chilly night, so we chose a large table near one of the outside heaters.

“To stay at this large table, you may be joined by other customers,” warned our waiter.  “Or, you can choose a smaller table in the center of the restaurant.”

We decided to take our chances with other diners.  Why not?

I investigated the menu and immediately realized my folly….a whole oven-roasted cuy has a prep time of one hour!  I talked Alison into waiting by plying us both with their $10 specialty drinks for the duration.  I had a delicious beverage called Q’ori Wayra – vodka, fresh passionfruit juice, triple sec liquor, and lime juice, served in a martini glass.

A family of three came and sat with us.  Much to our surprise, they were Americans – the only other Americans we’d seen during our entire trip to Peru.  They were very friendly and we chatted amicably, exchanging stories of our adventures in Peru while waiting for my much-anticipated entrée.

Finally, my meal came, and I was not disappointed.  The presentation was superb!  The cuy had a delicious spicy, crispy skin, with a savory, slightly gamey meat underneath.

Even though guinea pig is a small animal, a whole one was too much for me.  Alison wasn’t interested, but I shared my dish with our dinner partners, who were curious to try such a bizarre dish.

Here are some of Pachapapa’s entrées:

  • cuy horniado con hucatay y ají panca (whole guinea pig  roasted with the Peruvian herb huacatay and hot yellow pepper)
  • anticuchas de alpaca (skewers of tender alpaca heart marinated in local spices)
  • seco de cordero (slow cooked lamb stewed in beer and herbs)
  • adobo de chancho (tangy pork stew)
  • pachamanca (a stew with different meats slow roasted underground with native potatoes and aromatic herbs)

Price Range: Main courses range from $10 to $22 for the whole guinea pig.

Author BioPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer, founder of the award-winning baby boomer travel blog Luggage and Lipstick, and the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone.” Patti has over 150 bylines in 40 online and print publications, including The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, International Living Magazine, Travel Girl Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal.

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18 Comments Add yours

  1. noel says:

    Well I love the presentation and crispy looking skin, is there a lot of meat on that and does it taste like chicken or more gamey as you mentioned?

    1. Patti Morrow says:

      Noel — it did not taste like chicken. Much more pungent.

  2. Carol Colbornc says:

    I wonder how guinea pig tastes??? How different is it from the standard pork? I googled it and it is mostly used as pets. So I have the same reaction as those places where dog meat is used as a delicacy. Am I in the wrong track here?

    1. Patti Morrow says:

      It doesn’t taste like pork. Americans and Europeans regard guinea pigs as pets (ditto for dog, even more so in my opinion), but South American and Asian cultures raise those and other animals as food. It does seem weird to us.

  3. Oh, my, Patti! That photo! Gulp! I consider myself an adventurous eater, but I’m afraid this is one dish i wouldn’t want to try… I also didn’t realize they eat alpaca. I guess it’s no different in many ways than us eating deer or cows but was still a bit surprising! I’d love to go to Peru, however…

    1. Patti Morrow says:

      So true. Different countries/cultures have their own way of looking at specific animals, e.g. food or pets.

  4. Doreen Pendgracs says:

    Well, I think I’d need several Q’ori Wayra’s before I could eat a whole guinea pig! I tried a guinea pig dish while we were in Quito and didn’t fancy it too much. But I do always like to try the local specialties because sometimes, you can be very wonderfully surprised!

    1. Patti Morrow says:

      I’m with you, Doreen! As long as it’s not still alive, I’ll usually try it!

  5. I did see guinea pig on the menu in Bolivia but didn’t try it as mostly the presentation turned me off ( it was on a stick) and the idea of eating a rodent. Your photo hasn’t inspired me to change my mind although if I were lost in the Andes I might be tempted. lol

  6. jane says:

    uh…nope.! 🙂 We were in Peru and tried some alpaca but I don’t like to eat anything that comes ‘whole’ to the plate! You’re a braver woman than I to eat guinea pig!

    1. Patti Morrow says:

      I do like to try and have the whole experience when traveling!

  7. Did it taste like chicken?
    My sister still owes me a guinea pig dinner from our trip many years ago to Cusco. We both were too altitude sick to consider it at the time.

    1. Patti Morrow says:

      It definitely did NOT taste like chicken. More gamy and greasy. Probably more like rabbit I’m told, although I’ve never tried it. The altitude can be terrible — sorry it affected you and you weren’t able to try it.

  8. I don’t think I could do it. I had guinea pigs as a child, my kids had them and I had them myself again just a few years ago. Too many loving memories of my little friends to eat their cousins.

    1. Patti Morrow says:

      That’s how most Americans and Europeans feel. They are raised to eat in Peru, however.

    2. Patti Morrow says:

      That’s how most Americans and Europeans feel. They are raised to eat in Peru, however.

  9. Glad I got to watch with enjoyment as you carefully downed the entire guinea pig. You were a woman on a mission, there was no leaving Peru without that last meal!

    1. Patti Morrow says:

      You were a trooper! Getting a vegetarian to film the episode was asking a lot! Thank you!

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