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With its cobblestone streets, narrow hidden alleyways, bustling Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Perú reminded us a bit of our time spent in Europe last year. Sure the lack of respect for pedestrians and constant deafening car horns serve as a reminder that you’re in South America, but walk around and it’s easy to find quiet pockets amid the noise.
Given the variety of growing regions – from altiplano, to coastal and rainforest, coupled with influence from countries the world around, Perú is known for its gastronomy and touted as having the best cuisine in South America. Like La Paz, Cusco is nestled in a lush and fertile valley near the rainforest – in a central growing location for both tropical, temperate, and high attitude foods. From bananas, papayas, and mangoes to apples, pears, and grapes – there is a bounty of delicious vegan food to be had in Cusco.
As a bonus for those of us who travel with our pups, every single restaurant on this list permitted Sora inside. By far, Perú has been the most dog-friendly country in South America.
As Cusco is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South America, and arguably the world, the city is teeming with plenty of vegan restaurants. Mainly located in the more hippie San Blas neighborhood, vegans won’t go hungry in Cusco.
The first and only 100% vegan restaurant in Cusco, Green Point aims to “change the common perspective of vegan food and show that it can be exciting, delicious and healthy.” Each of the two locations (both shown in map above) – one near Plaza San Blas and the newest at Plaza San Fransisco features a small store that sells vegan delights like olive bread, coconut oil, fantastic desserts like cookies and chocolate truffles, vegan cheese, and some of the best kombucha we’ve ever had (just be careful opening the bottle, it is very explosive!).
Both locations are pet-friendly and the San Fransisco location has a large garden in the back that’s perfect for your furry friend. Airy, bright, and filled with plants, the garden was a quiet spot in the middle of the city center where a local group played traditional Peruvian music. The San Blas location is set back on a narrow street just off the square. And it fills up fast, to head there on an off-hour for quicker seating.
The menu of the day is a steal for S/12 (about $4USD) and includes a salad buffet, drink, soup, choice from two main courses, and a dessert. We visited both locations several times for both lunch and dinner and the menu of the day was different each time, despite our frequent visits. The smoothies, blended to creamy perfection, satisfied this smoothie queen and the pisco sour was one of the best I’ve had in Peru. We stopped at the store most days to indulge in a chocolate truffle, you know, just because we were in the neighborhood…
Picking from the dinner menu was difficult – everything looked amazing and because it was all vegan, we could eat. it all. Dave and I shared the vegan (!!) cheese plate, served on a massive slab of wood with fruits and delicious jams, the restaurant’s famed olive bread, and three different types of vegan cheese. We also each ordered the vegetable korma, which arrived filled with vegetables and a creamy sauce topped with cashew yogurt. Despite our filled bellies, we couldn’t pass on dessert, mainly because Green Point serves vegan tiramisu. Vegan. Tiramisu. I couldn’t pass on one of my favorite rare-to-find-vegan desserts, and it didn’t disappoint.
For the price, quality of food, and attentive service, Green Point offers a spectacular dining experience that proves healthy, vegan food need not break the bank.
Tip: Green Point also offers cooking vegan classes and workshops offering instruction in Peruvian , International Cuisine, Gluten-Free, and Raw Vegan Food.
Cost: $ – $$ (menu of the day vs a la carte)
Hours: 8:00 to 16:00 Monday to Saturday (San Fransisco); 8:00 to 22:00 Every day (San Blas)
Tucked away in the corner of the calm Mercado San Blas, Govinda Lila offers a fantastic set vegan lunch menu for a screaming good deal. For S/7 (that’s about $2USD), the darling Lila serves a hearty Peruvian lunch of soup followed by a plate consisting of delights such as barley stews, fresh salads, stuffed peppers, and brown rice. She even served an eggplant milanese that I enjoyed (and I can’t stand eggplant). The food was so simple, and de-licious. Lila’s soups are just about the greatest soups we have ever had the pleasure of consuming. The menu changes every day and each time we went (which was many), we ate something unique.
Mama Lila is a delight and loves dogs. She has four of her own and on each visit, she brought Sora rice and plenty of pets and love.
Hours: Mon – Sat 12:00- 16:00 PM
Just around the corner from Plaza de Armas, sits Greens Organic, one of nine restaurants under the Cusco Restaurants helm, where everything on the menu ranges from 80% to 100% organic. The restaurant manages a farm in Lamay, just outside of nearby Pisac where the majority of produce used at the restaurant is grown. Other produce, like citrus, is purchased from small farmers from the region.
Now it its 12th year, Greens Organic has something to offer everyone, with a wide range of healthy foods for both vegans, gluten-free eaters, and omnivores alike. We shared the olive bruschetta and each went for the African curry, piled high with vegetables over couscous in a creamy coconut milk sauce. The mango ravioli we had for dessert was refreshing and, topped with beautiful flowers, almost too beautiful to eat. As per usual, Dave and I each opted for a smoothie – a mango passionfruit concoction for me and a strawberry starfruit passionfruit for Dave. His could have probably used the sweetener he elected not to include.
The restaurant strives to operate as sustainably as possible and recycles and composts everything. The straws are reusable and the lights hovering above the bar are made from used plastic bottles. Greens strives minimal amounts of refined sugar, and typically incorporates panela (a type of coconut sugar).
A bit on the pricer side (for Cusco), Greens Organic is the perfect spot for a nice lunch or dinner. The staff is warm and attentive and the range of international food makes choosing a plate tough.
Tip: Request to sit on the balcony, a romantic spot with just one table that overlooks the Plaza de Armas
Dog-friendly: Call ahead and ask if the balcony is available, where you can bring your dog
Hours: Mon – Sun 8:00 to 22:00
4. Granja Heidi
Granja Heidi offers something for everyone. The German owner, Karl is well-versed in veganism and went through the entire menu with us to point out what could and could not be served vegan (there were plenty of options to choose from). With an emphasis on local products, Granja Heidi serves traditional Peruvian dishes made healthy. The set lunch changes every day and includes an amuse bouche, soup, main dish, option from three drinks, and dessert for S/28.
The restaurant has two levels, and we sat in the dog-friendly garden on the main level. With plants and flowers all around, it was like sitting in a garden. A simple quinoa salad arrived as our amuse bouche and it was just delightfully fresh and light, a perfect way to start the meal. Our friend Flavia joined us, so we each chose one of the three drinks (happy tea, chica morada, or lemonade) – all of which were delicious. We choose the stuffed potato as our main and it was satisfying without being too filling. The local fruit salad dessert offered a gentle sweetness to end the meal.
Cost: $$-$$$ (set menu vs a la carte)
Dog-friendly: Yes, on the ground level
Hours: Mon – Fri from 8:30 to 19:00; Sat from 8:30 to 16:00
5. El Encuentro
A vegetarian restaurant with many vegan options (and the stray tuna offering as well), El Encuentro has two locations, both just a few blocks off of the Plaza de Armas in opposite directions. The large menu offers a variety of veggie burgers, salads, veganized traditional Peruvian dishes, and international favorites like falafel and hummus. Or you can opt for the menu of the day, which includes soup, tea, and a main dish for S/6 during lunch hour.
The cozy dining room is small, with dim lighting. The owner hosts local and traveling musicians seemingly each night, adding a nice complement to the atmosphere. The service is a bit slow and dishes arrive at different times, but that’s not all that uncommon for parts of South America. Just be patient and enjoy your company and your meal.
Hours: Mon – Sat 8:30 to 21:00
Let’s first talk about the juices. I ordered the mango, passionfruit, ginger juice (and you should, too). A few minutes later, Hans, the owner (who, despite his German name is indeed Peruvian and will prove it by showing you his ID card!) plunked a massive glass in front of me, filled to the brim with my orange elixir. This glass would put Oktoberfest steins to shame. Prasada is a simple [lunch] cafe that offers a range of veggie burgers, tacos, falafel, soups, sandwiches, and salads for a great price.
We visited both locations (the Vegan Temple on Choqechaka is completely vegan, while the other is vegetarian with plenty of vegan choices) and delighted in the offerings. The Pura Vida burger, topped with guacamole, bright pineapple chutney, and caramelized onions, while the Chacarera, overflowing with chimichurri spicy aji, and caramelized onions won us over so much so that we both ordered it on our next visit. We returned to try dinner and Gina, the co-owner brought out a beautiful green salad containing all of the colors of the rainbow and carrot and potato “meatballs” smothered in a curry sauce. Don’t skip the sweet potato fries and patacones from the Vegan Temple.
Prasada provides mandalas and colored pencils to doodle while you wait for your food. I took on my introvert while dining with a large group at the Vegan Temple location and got deep into my selected mandala, remembering how much fun coloring is.
Both locations not only allow dogs, but when I inquired, Hans, Gina’s husband, said “we welcome all beings into our restaurant.” That is our kind of place. Prasada is a great option for an inexpensive, healthy meal.
Cost: $$ (assuming you order both a smoothie/juice and a main dish)
Hours: 10:00 to 21:00 Mon-Fri, 10:00-16:00 Sat-Sun
The walls of the hallway in Shaman Vegan Restaurant are lined with magazine clippings promoting veganism and vegetarianism and animals rights. Colorful fabric drapes the entire ceiling in the dining room and large salt blocks serve as table centerpieces. We arrived about 10 minutes before opening, but when our hostess opened the door and saw Sora, she welcomed us with enthusiasm, delighted to see our four-legged-friend.
Shaman offers a vegan lunch menu which includes a drink, bread, salad, soup, and a choice of two main dishes (which you can choose to mix half and half) for S/14. When our server told us that the salad of the day was a caprese salad with cashew cheese, we were sold. The cheese looked exactly like mozzarella, and though tasted completely different, the essence of the salad remained. The sauces that accompanied the bread – a hummus, spicy aji, and carrot sesame -were fabulous. The dishes were empty by the end of our meal.
We opted for the mix of the two mains – a chickpea stew and a vegan lasagna featuring almond milk cheese. Both were great, but the lasagna was the star. Don’t tell the cheese eaters about the milk swap, and they would never know the difference.
Cost: $-$$ (menu of the day vs a la carte)
Dog-friendly: Yes, if your dog is well-behaved
Hours: Mon – Sat 12:00 to 21:00, Sun 16:00 – 20:00
7. The Mamis
Mami, Cholita, whatever you want to call them, they set up their carts on seemingly nearly every corner and sell a variety of incredible beverages. For breakfast, get a Quinoa con Manzana – basically cooked apples with cinnamon and quinoa for a protein-packed porridge/drink. Sometimes they’ll even have soy milk on hand if you care to add a bit of creaminess to the drink. All for S/1 – less than $1USD.
Chicha, chicha everywhere! Chica is a fermented drink made from purple corn and it is delicious. There are different varieties and you can spot them by finding the women standing behind bubbling buckets of foamy, bubbling pink and purple juices. Bring your own vessel to avoid the plastic take-away cups and straws.
Freshly squeezed juice is sold everywhere. Peru has some of the best mandarins and oranges we’ve ever had and the juice from the citrus is available anywhere walking down the street. Juice shops and stands in the mercados offer practically any type of juice you could want for a fraction of the exorbitant price we would pay at home. And it’s all made right in front of your eyes. They usually include sugar, so if you want it without, be sure to make the request.
Tip: There is always a second helping of beverage that comes with your purchase. When you finish your first round, just head back to the cart and ask for your refill by saying “yápame, Mami.”
I hadn’t planned on including restaurants outside of Cusco, but we found a gem that I wanted to include.
A member of the worldwide Loving Hut chain, we were beyond delighted to discover a location in Puno. The owners are delightful and stored my bike in their pantry one afternoon when we had to make a repair and they welcomed Sora and brought her a bowl of brown rice with some of the VEGAN DOG FOOD they sold in their small shop.
The menu of the day has a few items that change daily, but most are staples like fried rice, saltada (Peruvian stir fry) with various vegetables, and other vegan takes on Peruvian dishes. All come with a tea, salad bar, soup, and dessert is just S/2 more – and you should opt for one of the many treats they have to offer.
Cost: $-$$ (menu of the day vs a la carte)
Dog-friendly: Yes, in the back patio
Hours: Mon – Sat 8:00 – 21:00
On the go? Download this guide as a pdf so you can take it along while you’re out exploring Cusco!