What is Pachamanca? Is it tasty?

Terra Explorer
September 3, 2021

This is Terra Explorer’s definite guide to what is Pachamanca. We answered the most googled questions about this scrumptious Peruvian dish: An ode to ancient indigenous cuisine that you must try on your next tailor-made luxury travel.

What is Pachamanca?

Too bothered with scrolling through throngs of text? Here it is: Pachamanca is a celebratory dish made in a sort of ephemeral ground oven, cooked with scorching hot stones—previously heated over a fireplace. 

It features meat (be it lamb, beef, pork, chicken, llama, or guinea pig), veggies (potatoes, sweet potatoes, fava beans, and corn), and some kind of corn cakes called humitas

What does Pachamanca taste like?

rural communities

It has a barbecue-like flavor, with earth somehow making its way into your palate. Actual dirt does not come in contact with the ingredients. Just like charcoal impregnates food with a smoky flavor when grilling, the earth does, too. Who would have thought? 

As with all food tour in Peru, a multitude of herbs, spices, and ajíes (chili peppers) appear as both seasoning and dipping sauces to heighten the flavors of the many proteins and starches in this dish.

Related: A dinner with Ani Vellutino in the Sacred Valley

Where can I eat Pachamanca?

Some have tried to recreate Pachamanca within the realms of a kitchen. Unfortunately, it is not the same—so don’t get carried away by too-convenient restaurant offerings. 

Instead, set yourself for a rightful gastronomic adventure via community-based tourism. Rural communities have the real deal. Someone acquainted with high culinary ways (meaning a chef) will make the experience even more delicious, as they often do. Rural communities, plus Peruvian chefs, plus an empty stomach is the way to go. 

We have the perfect villa nestled within the peaks of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. There, along with a team of generations-back countryside locals, and chefs, we cook the most exquisite Pachamanca. You have to book this to square this away from your what to do in the Sacred Valley list.

How is Pachamanca cooked?

pachamanca

Made in a sort of ephemeral ground oven? Ehm, confusing. Let’s go step by step. Shall we? First, a hole big enough to be filled with all the goodies you want to cook—plus lots and lots of rocks—is dug into the ground. 

Then, a bonfire is set within that pit to heat the stones for hours on end. Don’t try this at home! Some rocks might break or leak chemicals you don’t want on your food—leave this to the seasoned Peruvian cooks. 

Once the stones are scalding hot, they put both the stones and the firewood away, leaving the burning charcoal intact. Right after, all the potatoes are evenly placed on top of it, then more stones, then all previously-seasoned meats, corn cakes, then stones again, then more meat, then more stones, and so on until there is no meat nor stones left. 

After that, giant leaves are carefully placed to prevent the heat from escaping. Fava beans and similar veggies go between these frond layers. Subsequently, they cover it all with damp linens to finally seal it all with dirt, therefore making a mound-like oven. 

All we’ve just mentioned is done in a matter of seconds. It is a choreographed dance, so to speak, as numerous people take part in the arrangement of all the eatables before the stones turn cold. 

To see how this cooking endeavor invokes an obligatory sense of community: Amazing! It just makes sense for Pachamanca to be a banquet to commemorate the harvesting season.

Related: 5 Must go restaurants in Peru

best food cusco

Is Pachamanca the same as Pachamama?

If you don’t want to come across as a complete gringo, you must learn the difference between these two words. Pachamama is a deity that can be associated with nature. In Quechua—the language of the IncasPacha means earth, while mama means mother. 

Since ancient times, peoples in the Andes have had deep gratitude for Mother Earth, being that it provides them with food, animals, construction materials, you name it. Pachamanca is the dish: Pacha means earth, manca means pot. 

Back in 2015, the Peruvian Government declared the first Sunday of February as the Day of Pachamanca. It also acquired the status of National Heritage—meaning it’s a big deal and people want to preserve this tradition which (according to some historians) dates back to 6000 b.C.

peruvian cooks

Now that you know about Pachamanca, one of the best food in Cusco, are you ready to visit this amazing place? In Terra Explorer, we have several itineraries for you, get in touch with us, and we will help you design the trip of your dreams!

portada blog terra

Related news

Previous Post

Letter from the founders

Next Post

24 hour trip to Cusco? This how your day must look like