Peruvian stuffed peppers is a dish which is the pride and joy of Arequipa, the white city, Peru’s second largest behind Lima. Locally known as Rocoto Relleno, it makes a hearty meal when served with scalloped potatoes. Eating it is like being transported to Arequipa for the duration of your meal!
No ground meat or rice used here. The filling includes diced pork and beef, hard-boiled eggs, salad onion and peanuts, all deliciously flavored with various spices. The signature piece of queso fresco (fresh white cheese) tops the filling. With the “lid” of the pepper protecting the filling inside, it is then baked in the oven to deliver a satisfying meal, full of flavor.
We discovered this dish at a cooking school we attended in Arequipa. It is always a pleasure to attend a cooking school and we were not going to miss the opportunity to make Rocoto Rellena.
The Peruvian Cooking Experience at Casa de Avila
When traveling we often attend cooking schools to not only widen our knowledge and obtain some insider tips but also because it is just good fun. And cooking schools, when on overseas trips are often (ok always) cheaper than where we live.
The Peruvian Cooking Experience is held at the Casa de Avila, a hotel conveniently located only four blocks away from the magnificent main square of Arequipa (Plaza de Armas), considered the second most beautiful square in Latin America. It was also the hotel where we stayed while in Arequipa.
The cooking school is “open air” (it is covered though) and held in the hotel’s courtyard away from the main road. It is a very pleasant outlook. On our session there were 7 people, the class is open to anyone not just hotel guests. In addition to the cooking school, there were options to:
- Tour the local market, where you buy the ingredients; and
- Pisco Sour class, where you make and then enjoy the national drink of Peru (and Chile).
Cost of the cooking class was 60 soles ($18) per head. And the optional extras were both 15 soles ($4). Unless it is happy hour, it costs you more than that to buy a Pisco Sour at a bar!
We highly recommend all options. The market visit was fascinating and you will see some unusual sights and ingredients! The market tour starts at 10am. The cooking class starts at 11am. The Pisco Sour class is mid-afternoon, whenever you finish lunch.
The cooking class was well organized. Methods were well explained and demonstrated by the class leader. You work in teams to create three dishes. We made a salad as well as the Peruvian Stuffed Peppers and Scalloped Potatoes.
It takes the better part of 2 to 3 hours to prepare all of the meals, cook and then to sit down together and enjoy the fruits of your labor. It was a fun day and there was time to talk with your fellow chefs. I thought it was well-paced and no one was made to feel out of place.
We even had a friendly visit from the hotel tortoise during preparations!
The Peruvian stuffed peppers and scalloped potatoes are designed to be eaten together and this is the traditional pairing in Arequipa. It was a deeply satisfying meal, quite rich. For me the take-aways were:
- how much better stuffed peppers are when you use diced meat rather than ground meat;
- how good they were with the addition of peanuts, hard boiled eggs and the cheese; and
- how delightful the spicing and flavoring was.
If you are going to Arequipa, I would highly recommend the Peruvian Cooking Experience.
This was not the first time we have enjoyed a cooking class. We also enjoyed a fabulous experience at two cooking classes in Vietnam.
Peruvian Stuffed Peppers
So without further ado, here is our version of Peruvian stuffed peppers. Note in respect to the Peruvian Cooking Experience, this is my interpretation of their recipe. I have changed out some of the ingredients.
In addition to the peanuts and hard boiled eggs, another unusual ingredient is the evaporated milk, an ingredient Peruvians adore! Note that between the Peruvian stuffed peppers and the Scalloped Potatoes, you will use one can of evaporated milk.
Don’t be concerned if you can’t source queso fresco. As you can see from the photograph, I used normal cheddar cheese. You could also try feta.
If you are looking for more information about Peruvian food and travel, then you might also enjoy:
- The Best of Books, Cookbooks and Movies about Peru
- How to Make a Pisco Sour and What You Need to Know about Pisco
- Secrets of the Sacred Valley
- Peruvian Ceviche How to Make This Classic at Home
- In the Footsteps of the Incas: The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
- Peru’s Most Popular Dish How to Make Lomo Saltado
- Do You Know What Makes Lake Titicaca So Special?
- The Best Peruvian Scalloped Potatoes Recipe Ever
- An Introduction to the Highlights of Amazing Arequipa
Other Stuffed Vegetable Recipes
In addition to these authentic Peruvian stuffed peppers, we feature some other stuffed vegetable recipes on Compass and Fork. They’re a great way to increase any child’s vegetable intake. As well, what great winter warmer comfort foods they make.
In Eastern Europe, authentic cabbage rolls are everywhere. Our version showcases Bulgarian cuisine.
The combination of eggplant and lamb mince is perfect in these Turkish Stuffed Eggplants. Once you have cooked them, you will keep returning to this great Turkish recipe, a good one for a dinner party.
Looking for an appetizer? Try these baked stuffed zucchini flowers (or squash blossoms)? A great dish to impress your family and friends.