Food & DrinksRecipesTraditional Food

Cuzco’s Favorite Food of this Season: Papa Helada

With this season’s frosts, hunger awakens in the people of Cuzco for one of their most delicious and favorite foods, the papa helada con queso, frozen potatoes with cheese. It makes a tasty plate which people throng to eat during these days.

Making papa helada is very easy and has been done from time immemorial here. People freeze the potatoes in the higher parts of the city, where hard frost regularly falls, such as Sacsayhuaman, Qorao, and others. The process for freezing the potatoes takes approximately three days. People lay fresh potatoes out in a single layer on dry straw for the whole night so it freezes with the night frosts.

From early in the morning in all the city’s markets, the freshly frozen and thawing potatoes are the main hero of sales. Caseras (vendors) lay out the papas heladas on colorful cloth before the clients who throng to take them home.

Cuzco has a wide variety of different types of potatoes for sale in its markets. Each has its own particular taste, texture, and uses. As Cuzqueños we always say without doubt that for this famous seasonal dish we use two varieties of potatoes . One is the compis potato and the other is the Peruanita. These are special for being very fluffy, soft, and filled with good flavor.

Frozen Potatoes and Straw (Photo: Wayra)
Frozen Potatoes and Straw (Photo: Wayra)

The potatoes are taken home, peeled and then heated through with fresh cheese on top, or in slices placed through their middle.

It is a shame that this delicious dish is not offered in the popular tourist restaurants. As a result of the absence, tourists ten to miss out on one of the favorite delights of Cuzco. Not only does the dish taste good, it has lots of culture and tradition behind it. However, if you wish to try it, all you have to do is go to the markets and you will find vendors who are selling the papas heladas freshly cooked with cheese. They sell it from large pots covered with colorful cloths to keep the food warm.

The papa helada can be eaten as a small snack. It has an unbelievable flavor in the fusion of potato and cheese. Often the caseras will add a small salad of sliced lettuce dressed with lime juice. Other people prefer something more substantial and serve the papas heladas with grilled meat and gravy or a steak or roast.

Closeup of Frozen Potatoes with Cheese (Photo: Wayra)
Closeup of Frozen Potatoes with Cheese (Photo: Wayra)

Recipe: Papas Heladas con Queso


1/2 kilo compis or Peruanita potatoes
150 grams of cheese
salt to flavor


Peel the freshly frozen and thawing potatoes and squeeze them to eliminate as much liquid from them as you can. Steam cook them until they are almost completely cooked, before placing strips of cheese on top of them or slices in their middle. You can cover the potatoes in a layer of cheese and then wait until the cheese melts.


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