RecipesTraditional Food

Chef’s Sunday: Picarones, Peru’s Fragrant Answer to Donuts

Picarones are: an aroma of cinnamon and anise, soft and crisp at the same time. Tasting their syrup mixed with the texture of the picarón composes a symphony of flavors that starts an explosive crescendo on our palates. Just describing the famous picarones sounds like a poem that comes from the soul.This exquisite desert is traditional in Lima, Perú.

It has a golden color and intense scent that arrogantly and flirtatiously demands the attention of every person who runs into it, just like its name, picarón, suggests, whether it comes from a restaurant, fast food place, stores, or a simple street cart. It exemplifies part of the spirit of Lima.

This dish originated in the times of the Spanish Viceroyality of Peru. They say it was a kind of imitation of the Spanish “buñuelo”.

During the Inca Empire the Incas probably made fritters with sweet potatoes and squash, but with the conquest, these ingredients were combined with those brought by the Spanish such as wheat flour. In this way they obtained what we now have today.

The picarón is very similar to the famous donuts of the US but its flavor is different. I recommend you give yourself to adventure and try new foods wherever you are.

Picarones on The Table and Ready to Eat
Picarones on The Table and Ready to Eat



½ k (1 lb.) peeled sweet potato
½ k (1 lb.) peeled squash
½ k (1 lb) flour
3 tbls. dry active yeast.
2 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
2 tbls. anise
3 tbls. sugar
Dash of salt.
2 lightly beaten eggs
Oil, the quantity necessary for deep frying the picarones.


½ k (1 lb.) chancaca
1 cup of light brown sugar (azúcar rubio)
4 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 slices of orange peel
2 allspice grains
4 cups water


Bring to a boil abundant water in a pot with the cinnamon, cloves, and anise seed. Boil for ten minutes and pass through a sieve reserving the water. In this water cook the sieve both the squash and the sweet potato. Save about two cups of the cooking water. Let cool.

In a mixing bowl, add the yeast to the warm, reserved cooking liquid along with the sugar. Let rest for fifteen minutes.

Add the mash of squash and sweet potato to a big bowl . Add the salt and then mix in the yeast water and the eggs. Beat the mixture manually until it is fully mixed. Add the flour by turning it into the squash and sweet potato mixture then mix vigorously until a soft and elastic dough forms that does not stick to your fingers. Place a humid cloth over the bowl and let rise for one hour until it has doubled in size.

Heat abundant oil in a large fry pan. Take portions of the dough with your fingers you have dampened in salted water, forming a hole in the center like a ring, and let them drop into the hot oil. Let them brown until golden and then turn.

To make the syrup you cut the chancaca in pieces and add the sugar, cloves, cinnamon, orange peel, allspice, and water. Bring to a boil until it reaches the syrup stage (200°F – 110°C). This takes around 20-25 minutes. Pass the syrup through a sieve and serve it on the picarones.

The serving size is three picarones per person on a plate drizzled with syrup.

This recipe makes 8-10 servings.

Translater’s Note.  Chancaca is an unrefined sugar common in the Andes, although similar forms are found throughout Latin America.  Its flavor is irreplaceable.  However, if you can go to a Mexican or Latin store you can ask for piloncillo, a Mexican version, which will work for this recipe.  Muscovado sugar also works.

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