Last Modified

June 15, 2023 by Umair Shahid

Have you ever wondered if people in Peru eat guinea pigs? The small rodent, also known as the cuy, is a staple food for most Peruvians. It is served in many forms and can even be found on menus at upscale restaurants.

The origins of the culinary custom go back centuries. Archaeologists have discovered evidence that suggests ancient inhabitants of South America were eating cavies long before Spanish explorers arrived.

Today, it remains a popular dish throughout much of Peru. But while some embrace it as a traditional delicacy, others object to its consumption due to ethical considerations.

Let’s take a closer look at how Peru’s love affair with the humble cuy began and continue today.

Do They Eat Guinea Pigs in Peru

A Brief History of Guinea Pig Consumption In Peru

For centuries, the people of Peru have been consuming this small rodent as part of their traditional cuisine. It is a practice that dates back to pre-Incan civilizations and continues to be enjoyed today.

Guinea pig meat is known as cuy or cuyo in South America, and it has long been used as an important source of nutrition for many Peruvians living in rural areas. Guineas pigs may also be served during special occasions such as religious holidays or weddings.

They are usually cooked whole on a skewer over an open flame and served with potatoes, corn, chili peppers, onions, tomatoes, and other local ingredients.

The flavor reported by those who have tried it varies from person to person; some say it tastes like chicken while others claim it has more of a wild game taste reminiscent of rabbit or hare.

Regardless of its taste, guinea pig remains a popular dish among locals throughout much of Peru — especially in the Andean regions where they historically played an integral role in day-to-day life.

How Is The Guinea Pig Prepared For Eating?

In Peru, guinea pigs are eaten as part of a traditional diet. As far back as the 16th century, they were a major source of protein for the Incan civilization. It is not uncommon to find them in restaurants or on dinner tables today.

The preparation of the guinea pig for eating can be very simple or quite elaborate depending upon regional customs. Some regions cook it simply with potatoes until they are tender, while others simmer it with garlic, oregano, cumin, paprika, and bay leaves.

The skin needs to be removed before cooking due to its strong flavor and texture. Once prepared, typically served whole as either an entrée or side dish along with white rice or mashed potatoes.

This tasty delicacy is enjoyed by both locals and tourists alike who seek out unique cultural experiences when dining in Peru.

Traditional Peruvian Dishes Featuring Guinea Pig

Usually, cuy is cooked whole, either roasted, grilled, or fried. However, the most popular way to prepare it is by roasting it over an open flame on a spit called “asado de cuy”.

The process starts by cleaning the animal before rubbing it down with spices such as salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. The guinea pig is then skewered onto a stick and placed over hot coals until it turns golden brown.

Once done cooking, it is served alongside potatoes, white rice, and corn for added flavor. Local vegetables like onions or peppers may also be included depending upon preference.

Cuy has been part of Peruvian cuisine since pre-Inca times and remains popular today due to its savory taste and crunchy texture that pairs nicely with other dishes.

While not everyone enjoys eating this type of meat, those who do find that they enjoy its distinct flavor profile which offers a mix of sweet, salty, and smoky elements that come together perfectly when cooked right.

Ethical Considerations Regarding Guinea Pigs as Food

In Peru, guinea pig is an important part of the cuisine. It is a traditional food item that has been consumed since Incan times and it is still eaten today throughout the country.

Guinea pigs are widely available in markets and restaurants serve them as part of their menus. Eating guinea pigs is seen as a sign of respect for Peruvian culture and tradition by many people living there.

It has long been debated among animal rights activists whether eating guinea pigs is ethical considering their intelligence and ability to feel pain.

However, some maintain that eating guinea pigs in Peru is an integral part of their culture and traditions and should be respected.

From an economic standpoint, raising guinea pigs for meat also provides communities with additional sources of income, employment opportunities, and access to nutritious meals that may otherwise be out of reach.

This can help improve the quality of life for individuals living in poverty-stricken areas while helping preserve local cultures associated with this particular type of cuisine.

Ultimately, both sides have valid points worth considering before passing judgment on whether or not consuming guinea pigs is ethically sound.

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Health Benefits Of Eating Guinea Pig
Improved cardiovascular healthConsuming guinea pig meat can reduce levels of bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Reduced risk of certain cancersGuinea pig meat contains compounds that may help protect against some types of cancer cells from forming or developing into tumors.
Stronger bones and teethEating guinea pigs helps support healthy bone growth and development due to their high calcium content, which helps strengthen the bones and teeth.
Boosted immunity systemThe fatty acids found in guinea pig meat provide an extra boost to the immune system, making it stronger and more resilient to illnesses such as colds and flu viruses.

Eating guinea pigs also provides important vitamins like B12, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, iron, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and copper – all vital for good overall health and nutrition!

These nutrients offer many additional benefits such as

  •  Better metabolism function
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Enhanced mood
  •  Increased energy levels
  •  Reduced inflammation
  •   Fewer wrinkles
  •  Healthier skin
  • Lower blood pressure
  •  Decreased risk of stroke or heart attack
  •  Lowered stress levels
  •  Better mental clarity and concentration
  •   Improved digestion
  •   Strengthened bones and muscle

It is clear why Peruvians have enjoyed this delicacy since ancient times – it tastes great and contains essential vitamins and minerals!

The Popularity of Guinea Pig Consumption In Peru Today

The sight of a guinea pig may bring joy to some, but in Peru, it sparks an entirely different emotion. For centuries, furry rodents have been used as food by many Peruvians and are still a popular dish today.

To them, these animals were not just pets – they were essential for survival.

Imagining a large platter of roasted guinea pigs served up at a family dinner might be difficult for us to comprehend, but its importance is rooted deep within Peru’s culture and history.

It was once such a common source of protein that there wasn’t even a need to differentiate between “pet” or “food” guinea pigs – all belonged on the same cooking table.

This practice dates back over 5,000 years when Incan tribes first domesticated the animal, using them both as companions and sustenance.

Today, it remains an important part of their cuisine with special dishes like cuy chactado (deep-fried) being served throughout the country from street vendors to high-end restaurants alike.

World Wildlife Fund estimates that each year around 65 million guinea pigs are consumed across Peru alone!

Though much has changed since ancient times, one thing remains clear: no matter what form it takes; this delicacy continues to captivate the nation’s taste buds in ways unimaginable elsewhere in the world.

Economic Importance

The consumption of cuy helps farmers by creating demand for their livestock throughout the country. In addition, it creates job opportunities for chefs who specialize in preparing this traditional dish.

For a peasant farmer, the average monthly wage is thirty dollars. World Neighbors’ regional director, Lionel Vigil, reports they earn $130 per month now.

Their success depends on restaurants since they cannot obtain enough cuy. Local restaurants in Lima can purchase them for approximately $8 and high-end restaurants for approximately $13.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Cultural Implications Of Eating Guinea Pigs In Peru?

In Peru, the cultural implications of eating guinea pigs are significant. It is seen as a sign of respect for tradition and is often served at special occasions such as weddings and baptisms.

The meat itself is considered to be rich in nutrients that provide energy and strength, making it an ideal dish for Peruvian families.

Guinea pig is also thought to bring people together through its unique flavor and texture, creating meaningful memories amongst friends and family alike.

Are There Any Laws Or Regulations Regarding Guinea Pig Consumption In Peru?

In Peru, the consumption of guinea pigs is an ancient tradition and there are laws and regulations in place to govern it.

For example, only animals approved by the Ministry of Agriculture or the National Service of Agrarian Health (SENASA) can be used for human consumption; they must also meet certain size requirements.

Additionally, all guinea pig farms must comply with strict sanitary standards mandated by SENASA. These guidelines help ensure that Peruvians consume safe, healthy food.

Is There A Difference In Taste Between Wild And Domesticated Guinea Pigs?

“Taste is an elusive thing, and when it comes to guinea pigs the difference between wild and domesticated can be hard to pinpoint.

While both contain a distinct flavor that some would describe as ‘gamey’, those familiar with the taste say that wild guinea pig has a richer, more intense taste than its domestic counterpart.

The gaminess of both types of guinea pig often pairs well with bold flavors like garlic or chili pepper – making them a unique culinary experience!”


In Peru, guinea pigs have been used as a source of food for centuries. Despite this long-standing tradition, it is still met with some resistance from many people in the country due to cultural and religious beliefs.

While there are certain health risks associated with eating guinea pigs that should be taken into consideration, the unique taste of wild or domesticated guinea pig meat can make an interesting addition to any Peruvian dish.

Ultimately, each individual must decide whether they feel comfortable consuming guinea pigs based on their personal beliefs and values.


I am a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and have a keen interest in animal health care. Working as a veterinary content writer, I intend to stay with professional approach in producing quality content. I like research-based reading and currently seeking my veterinary profession. My hobbies are travelling to exotic places and observing nature to the fullest.

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