Are you wondering what the fuss is all about with these greasy, deformed donuts? Or are they onion rings? Actually, this traditional sweet is quite a unique, local specialty from Peru. Picarones, as they are known in Spanish, are fried dough rings, crispy on the outside and a little fluffy on the inside. Compared to American donuts, the Peruvian pastry is less dense. It is pretty much obligatory to enjoy Picarones together with Chancaca, a homemade syrup made from raw unrefined cane sugar.
But what makes Picarones so special and distinct? It is the incorporation of local ingredients! In contrast to Spanish buñuelos, the fried rings are not just made from flour and eggs only. The base of the dough consists of macre and sweet potatoes. Macre is a giant squash with yellow, greenish flesh. It is native to Peru and finds use in several dishes of the country’s traditional cuisine.
If you want to taste the sweet deliciousness, don’t try looking for Picarones at restaurants. They were created on the street and this is where you can still find them today. Vendors sell them out of their mobile stalls right next to cold Chicha Morada and Papas Rellenas.
Picarones, a cheap substitute for Spanish buñuelos
When the Spanish conquistadores arrived to Peru during the colonial Viceroyalty, they brought with them the buñuelo. Although the taste of the Spanish pastry immediately appealed to Peruvians, it was simply too expensive to make. Most normal people could not afford the foreign ingredients introduced to the Andean country by the Spanish. For that reason, cooks started replacing the original ingredients of the buñuelo with local vegetables that were abundant in Peru. Basically out of necessity, they created the popular Picarones as we know them today.
At the beginning of their triumphant procession through the country, priests would offer the fried rings together with other traditional foods during religious processions such as Señor de los Milagros in Lima. With growing popularity, they became available all year round, whether on special occasions or just any regular day. Today, Picarones are one of the most popular sweets in Peru. In fact, Peruvians love them so much that there are entire celebrations dedicated to the round pastry.
Step up your dessert game with our simple and authentic recipe:
Nothing here yet – do you know of anything similar from other countries? Let us know!
Photos by APEGA Sociedad Peruana