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Peruvian cuisine, like its culture, is influenced by many other regions, including West Africa, Asia, Italy, and Spain.  Immigrants from these areas merged the flavors from their lands with native ingredients from Peru.  Peruvian food is packed with spice, flavor, and aroma.  While beans, potatoes, and corn are known as staples of Peruvian cuisine, herbs and spices are at the heart of what makes Peruvian food so tasty.  Below are five herbs and spices that you can use to add some Peruvian flair to your next diet friendly meal.  You can find the first two herbs at specialty and South American markets, while the others are probably already in your pantry.

Peruvian Black Mint: Huacatay, or Peruvian black mint, is a herb native to Peru.  It is most widely used in southern Peru.  The herb itself has a taste and odor that resembles the combination of basil, tarragon, mint, and lime.  It is used in marinades for meats and as a condiment alongside soups and stews.  Huacatay is commonly used in pachamanca (a style of cooking that involves cooking spicy meat and/or vegetables on hot stones).  Pachamanca is the Peruvian go-to method for cooking large quantities of meat, such as lamb, chicken, and pork.

Chincho: This herb is native to Peru and is also used in pachamanca.  Chincho has a flavor that is similar to huacatay but much less pungent.  Try using chincho in a marinade for your meat.

Oregano: Oregano is commonly associated with Mediterranean cooking but is also a major part of Peruvian cuisine.  Oregano is used in many Peruvian dishes and is traditionally served fresh versus via dried leaves.  Fresh oregano leaves are added to salads, soups, stews, and salsas.

Coriander: Believe it or not, coriander is the most common herb in Peruvian cuisine.  Even though coriander is not native to Peru, it is still a staple in Peruvian cooking.  The seeds are typically used as a spice, while the fresh leaves are used in chicken and vegetable dishes.

Basil: Basil is known as an Italian herb, but Basil was brought to Peru by the Chinese.  Thanks to Chinese immigrants and the merging of both cultures, basil became a major staple of Peruvian cooking.  Basil is used in almost every aspect of Peruvian cuisine, including soups and stews.

Peruvian cooking is full of flavor and aroma.  It also offers opportunity for some new twists to your tried and true healthy, diet friendly meals.  Happy cooking!

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