Kwanzaa Culinarians

Recipes and Food Stories from the African Diaspora

Afro-Peruvians: Proud of their Roots



African people were brought to Peru as slaves by the Spanish conquistadors, and little did anyone know how strongly they were going to influence our country through the years. One of the most important religious festivities was born thanks to an Angolan slave, who painted a dark skin Christ in a wall, in the XVII century. Today, the faith in El Señor de los Milagros, or Lord of Miracles, is stronger than ever, and people from every social class in Peru is devoted to the sacred image.

They say that necessity is the mother of creativity. And, this could not be more accurate when we speak about the Afro-Peruvian community. They were extremely poor, working at the big haciendas, but despite their situation they tried to rescue all the bits and ends discarded from the kitchen, and created the most scrumptious dishes, so good in fact, that they resisted the test of time and are not only popular nowadays, but actually part of the daily Peruvian diet.

Tacu Tacu Foto

Tacu Tacu Foto

Anticuchos, carapulcra, cau cau, tacu tacu, duck in many forms, pork, etc. This goes all the way to desserts and pastries too. Picarones (squash, sweet potato, and anise seed donuts), are a good example of this, as is the famous Turrón de Doña Pepa, created by a black lady who was very ill, and promised the Lord of Miracles that if she was healed miraculously of her disease, she would create a sweet in His honor (Recipe follows).

Not only has this community enhanced our gastronomy, making it richer, practical, and immensely more interesting; it has also given us a beautiful, multi-layered music heritage that every Peruvian is proud of. Peru Negro (Black Peru) is a dancing group that has presented Afro-Peruvian dances all over the world. These dances are sexy, festive, joyous, and so graceful that they put every audience on its feet. The cajon is another great addition by the African-Peruvians to our music. This is an exotic kind of drum created to give a booming and characteristic sound to Afro-Peruvian music, and legend says it was, again, the fruit of the African slaves’ creativity, who used wooden boxes to play as drums. Famous musicians around the world have adopted the cajon and are making music with it, Spanish Flamenco being the most clear example where the cajon is now a key instrument. It’s funny, many Spaniards now swear that this music box was created for Flamenco, by Flamenco musicians, when it was actually the famous guitar player, Paco de Lucia, who fell in love with this instrument in Peru, an introduced it to his national music.



This incredibly creative community is full of big names in sports, and two of the most beautiful Miss Peru are Afro-Peruvian. Businessmen, actors, writers, journalists, beauty queens… all are working together to build a better image and living conditions for their community that even though it’s small in comparison to other groups, has an very strong influence in our country and culture.

Turron de Doña Pepa

Turron de Doña Pepa

Turron de Doña Pepa

Ingredients for the Dough
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon anise seeds
1/2 teaspoon achiote powder
Pinch of salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cake flour
1 cup vegetable shortening, very cold and cut in pieces
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted and ground
Candy sprinkles

Ingredients for the Syrup
2 pieces of molasses
2 quinces
Rind of 1 orange
6 cloves
2 cups water

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Put anise seeds and achiote in a cup and pour boiling water over them. Put in the fridge until very cold.
3. In the working bowl of a food processor, pulse five or six times until everything looks like coarse oatmeal: flour, salt, shortening, and sesame seeds. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the water, tablespoon-by-tablespoon, mixing with a fork, until the dough holds together without being crumbly.
4. Divide in small portions (I used an ice cream scoop to have all the pieces the same size.)
5. Take a small portion of the dough and roll over a floured table, to form a long cylinder, like one finger thick and 10 inches long. Repeat with all the dough. Put the sticks in a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly golden.
6. Meanwhile, prepare the syrup: Chop the molasses and pour in a saucepan with the fruit, cinnamon, and cloves. Add water and bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and continue cooking, undisturbed, until it is thick and syrupy. Strain and let cool.
7. To Assemble: Cover a baking sheet with parchment. Take a quarter of the pastry sticks and put them in horizontal way, one next to the other. Cover with syrup. Make another layer of pastry sticks, now in vertical way, and again cover with syrup. Repeat with the rest of the sticks and syrup.
8. Pour syrup all over the turron, sprinkle with candies, and voilà! Your turron de doña Pepa is ready to go!

Morena Escardo is the author of the food blog, Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

About Bren Herrera

Bren has been cooking Latin and fusion cuisine for 18 years, and professionally for 8, having developed a passion for entertaining at an early age. Cooking for friends and family has always fascinated her and brings her much joy. In 2008 she launched her critically acclaimed food blog, Flanboyant Eats™. The blog’s popularity has landed her TV gigs appearing with Emeril Lagasse, a private stodge and demo with Chef of the Century, Joel Robuchon and continues to do TV having recently appeared on CNN Español, reaching over 30 million viewers. Bren is a full-time private chef, food and travel writer, having written food columns for LATINA Magazine, Dean & DeLuca, Cuisine Noir and has been published in various print publications covering culinary trends, restaurant reviews, global cuisine and excursions. She’s been featured in Black Enterprise, The Washington Post, Daily Candy, The AJC and other notable publications.

One comment on “Afro-Peruvians: Proud of their Roots

  1. Pingback: Kwanzaa 2011 – Principle #5: Nia | The Culinary Scoop

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on December 30, 2011 by in 2011, Nia, Recipe and tagged , , , , , , , .

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Learn more about Kwanzaa

The word "Kwanzaa" comes from the phrase, "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first-fruits." Kwanzaa's extra "a" evolved as a result of a particular history of the Organization Us. It was clone as an expression of African values in order to inspire the creativity of our children. In the early days of Us, there were seven children who each wanted to represent a letter of Kwanzaa. Since kwanza (first) has only six letters, we added an extra "a" to make it seven, thus creating "Kwanzaa." To learn more about Kwanzaa, visit the Official Kwanzaa Website.

%d bloggers like this: