Picarones are one of these Peruvian goodies that once tried there’s no way back. The deep fried picarones drizzled with a sweet and flavorful syrup are not only on the list of Peruvian “must eats”, but also absolutely delicious and addicting.
Often just referred to as a Peruvian kind of doughnut, they are actually quite different and so uniquely Peruvian.
When the Spaniards conquered the New World, they not only brought their structures and religions, customs and traditions with them, but also their food. As it sometimes was difficult or even impossible in colonial Peru to get all the ingredients for a special dish from back home, recipes had to be altered or refined with locally available substitutes. And as the cooking and baking was mostly done by locals or African slaves, the flavors and techniques mingled creating new and eventually typical Peruvian dishes.
This applies to picarones as well. It is assumed that picarones derived from the Spanish buñelos. By adding a local squash and sweet potatoes to the usual yeast dough and serving the fritters with a tasty syrup full of spices, African slaves created a sweet, flavorful and delicious treat that in no time went viral in colonial Lima. And as back then, picarones today are still sold by street vendors across the Peruvian capital (and countless restaurants) and continue to be extremely popular.
If you are far from Peru and craving this traditional Peruvian treat, just prepare it yourself at home. It really isn’t that difficult though time consuming and laborious. And please don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. Most of them you will have at home anyway or are easy to get in every supermarket; except for the “chancaca syrup” the original recipe asks for.
Chancaca syrup, a sweet sauce made of unrefined whole cane sugar, can usually be found in Latin American food shops, as well online. If you can’t find it, just substitute it with molasses, muscovado syrup or even good quality honey.
And once you taste your homemade, freshly fried, still warm and crispy picarones dipped into the sweet and flavorful syrup, you will know that all the time and effort you put into the preparation was worth every single minute.