Have you started planning your Thanksgiving in Peru yet? Celebrating holidays as an expat may be challenging at times since you’re in a foreign country and away from family or friends. However, cooking your holiday favorites for Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t need to be difficult especially if you know where to find the ingredients you need to cook.
Many ingredients are easily found in Peru while there are others where you may need to consider a substitution. What ingredients will be available depends very much on where you live in Peru. If you live in Lima like me there is a lot more availability and access to special ingredients.
Here are some tips for locating your favorite ingredients for your Thanksgiving in Peru.
Finding a turkey here in Lima shouldn’t be a problem, but you may need to settle on a frozen one this time of year. Fresh turkey may be available at your local market, you will need to ask and be sure to order ahead of time. Fresh isn’t as readily available to buy until December for Christmas. However, most grocery stores carry frozen turkeys. If this is your first time buying a turkey here in Peru, be prepared to find the head and feet stuffed down in the cavity along with the other parts.
For your stuffing or dressing, you will likely need to make this dish from scratch as you won’t find Stove Top or any of the other handy brands of easy-to-make stuffing in the stores in Peru.
If you prefer cornbread stuffing over bread stuffing, finding regular cornmeal may be difficult, but you can easily substitute polenta for the cornmeal. Just be sure to select the regular polenta over the instant as a substitute as it has a better texture.
Making your favorite sweet potato and mashed potato recipe should be quite easy since Peru is home to over 3,500 varieties of potatoes. Simply roast or bake your sweet potatoes, remove the skin and mash for casseroles. Most stores carry a variety of each type of potatoes, but my preference for mashed potatoes are the papas amarillas (yellow potatoes).
I have yet to find fresh or canned cranberries here in Peru. My first Thanksgiving here, I skipped the cranberry sauce since I couldn’t find the fresh ones to make my favorite cranberry sauce. Since then I’ve made one using dried cranberries as a substitute and it works!!
Dried Cranberry Sauce
Bring all of the ingredients to a boil then reduce heat and allow to cook for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to cool. Leave it chunky or blend it with a hand blender or regular blender if you prefer a smoother, jelly like cranberry sauce. Store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve. The cranberry sauce will naturally gel up as it sits.
There are two options for locating pumpkin for your Thanksgiving in Peru. Stores don’t carry canned pumpkin however many of them do offer fresh pumpkins in October for Halloween. Buy one or two, roast them off and freeze the puree until you are ready to make your pumpkin pie.
If you didn’t think of this early enough and can’t find the traditional American pumpkin, use zapallo loche as a substitute. They are both in the same family and this squash has a similar texture and color. By the time you add in your sugar and spices, you won’t even know it’s not pumpkin.
Plan on making your own pie crust or using cookies to form the crust like this Pumpkin Pie with Fresh Ginger.
Finding spices here in Lima is often very hit or miss. Stores in the areas with larger expat populations may carry more spices and blends commonly found in the U.S. However, in other areas of Lima or outside of the capital it may be a bit more challenging.
Popular blends like poultry seasoning or pumpkin pie spice can easily be made since all the spices are usually in the grocery store in Peru. Some of the spices in the pumpkin pie spice blend, such as ground ginger and ground cloves, are harder to find and you may need to check several stores.
If searching for ingredients or cooking Thanksgiving seems too difficult there are some places in Lima that will help you with the cooking.
Papi Carne offers a family style Thanksgiving dinner November 27th – 30th . It’s recommended to reserve your space ahead of time as it’s a small restaurant. They also offer turkeys and Thanksgiving meals to take out as well.
Address: Jr. Leoncio Prado 601
Phone: 994 763 198
El Jefe is offering a Thanksgiving menu as takeout with smoked turkey and a selection of sides.
Address: Av 28 de Julio 487
Phone: (01) 6202859
Local bakeries may offer pumpkin pie and other desserts for the holiday as well. My personal favorite for pecan pie and pumpkin pie is Buda Bakes (Whatsapp 939 493 748). Her pecan pie is delicious!
Celebrating holidays as an expat can be part of the fun and adventure of living here in Peru. Not to mention sharing such an amazing U.S. holiday with new friends and family who haven’t ever celebrated Thanksgiving can be especially fun.
Other photos: Lyn Croyle