Jugo de frutas peruanos, or Peruvian fruit juice, is more like a delicious freshly made smoothie than its North American counterpart.
Right now it’s mid-winter in Peru, but that doesn’t keep it from getting hot! When my best friend Colina and I travelled to Peru a few weeks ago, it was in the mid 70s and sunny. At an altitude of more than 11,000 feet while exploring in Cusco, it felt even warmer.
My favorite way to stay cool was to do as the the locals do: sipping on a jugo de frutas.
Jugo de frutas peruanos are more than just the average fruit juice you can find in the United States. It’s a creamy concoction of exotic fruits, often sweetened with honey and made creamier with milk. The best part is it’s typically made when you order, so it’s very fresh.
You can find jugo de frutas in some restaurants, but it’s more often found on the street or in a mercado (market).
In Cusco, we got jugo de frutas in al Mercado San Pedro. It’s next to the train station and only about a ten minute walk from the main historic square, Plaza de Armas.
Like many mercados latinoamericanos, San Pedro in Cusco is a semi-open air market that sells everything from pigs hooves to bedazzled party skirts, and of course jugo de frutas.
Once inside the market, you’ll find a whole section of female juicemakers young and old alike, lining both sides of an aisle dedicated solely to the blending of these delicious concoctions.
Colina and I decided to order from two different ladies who sat side by side at individual booths.
I ordered a tried and true jugo de piña, but it was unlike any pineapple juice I’ve ever had. I watched as my juicemaker put a quarter pineapple into a large blender and then added a large splash of milk. She asked me in Spanish if I wanted to make it sweet. “Claro” I said, and we shared a smile as she added a generous amount of honey before blending it together. After a minute, she poured the contents into an old fashioned fountain shop glass that reminded me of drinking root beer floats as a kid. It was refreshing!
Colina ordered jugo de lucuma. We had had lucuma flavored cookies while on our trek to Machu Picchu and fell in love with their naturally sweet and earthy flavor. We wanted to find out what lucuma tasted like on its own and were surprised that it still tasted like cookies! The jugo de lucuma was also made with milk, but no additional sweetener was added. The flavor was unlike any fruit I’ve had — it kind of reminded me of sweet maple syrup with an undertone of sweet potato pie.
It was warm outside, but cool inside the shade of the mercado. We sat on bar stools in front of the fruit juice stands sipping our drinks. Locals surrounded us also staying cool in the market with their freshly made juices. It was fun to see what they ordered: mango, banana, pomelo, and more.
After we finished the drinks, our juice ladies topped us off with free seconds! I was surprised by their generosity because it was only 3 peruvian soles, or about $1.00 each to begin with. The drinks were an incredible deal even without the seconds.
I highly recommend jugo de frutas; it was a very satisfying and refreshing experience.
Tip for making jugo de lucuma at home: Now that I’m back home in perpetually warm LA, my mouth waters at the thought of the refreshing jugo de lucuma I had in Cusco. Fresh lucuma is practically impossible to find in the United States, but I recently found this this recipe for a fresh fruit alternative to jugo de lucuma and I can’t wait to try it.
— Laura Rowley