My Life in Peru

An Expat Mom Shares Her Experiences with Peruvian Life, Travel and Food

Fish Eaten in Peru

Posted on | March 17, 2011 | 15 Comments

Chilean sea bass / Corvina al la Plancha

Image by powerplantop via Flickr

With it’s long coastline, it’s no surprise that seafood is so popular in Peru. The coastal communities especially have a long history of delicious fish and seafood dishes. There’s not only the well-known ceviche; there’s also all manner of soups, fried dishes, baked, broiled and  dishes with sauces.

There are also markets with a wide variety of delicious Pacific fish. But if you’re a gringo – how do you know which fish is which? Some of the names are different in Spanish. This list will help you know what to ask for.

Bacalao – cod, especially in its salted and  cured form.

Bonito – The bonito found here is usually the Eastern Pacific bonito. It lives in shallower waters near the coast, although more mature fish will move into deeper water offshore. It can be caught for yourself with a line. It’s a white fish, good for ceviches and escabeche.

Caballa – In English, this is a chub mackerel, sometimes known as the hardhead mackerel. It’s good for ceviches, escabeche and secos.

Cabrilla – This is another Pacific fish, the Peruvian rock sea bass. Lives in medium depths, and usually weighs over 2 kg (4 lbs).  It has tender flesh and requires a light cooking style – because of this, it’s a favorite in sudados.

Cachema – (Thanks, Michelle for the tip on this one!) This is a member of the sea trout family, called Peruvian weakfish in English. I didn’t know this one, it seems to be more popular in the northern coast of Peru.  It has delicate white flesh, good for frying and ceviche, and it’s also used in sudados and escabeche.

Chita – The Peruvian grunt – one of the most commonly caught and  eaten fish in coastal Peru since pre-Incan times. Many restaurants and street vendors offer “chita frita”, where the fish is gutted and fried whole, with the head included. It’s also commonly served baked and grilled, again, usually whole.

Cojinova – This is the Palm Ruff in English. It’s used in cebiches and tiraditos, fried and guisos or stews. Like the chita, the cojinova is a species that has been fished since pre-Incan days, although in recent days indiscriminate fishing has let to a reduction in numbers.

Corvina – This one has the same name in English and Spanish, but some places know it better as a drum or croaker. (Chilean sea bass has also been called corvina, but isn’t usually the fish found in Peru under that name.)  It’s found along the Pacific coast from northern Peru down to the south of Chile. Corvina is another favorite fish in Peru, and is eating whole or in fillets; fried or in ceviches. It’s considered the king of the Peruvian fish.

Lenguado – This is a flounder that’s found in the Pacific near the coast from Ecuador down to Chile. Flounder is a favorite fish for many, and is cooked just about every way you can cook a fish. It has a delicate, white flesh good for ceviches and for pan-frying.

Mero – The delicious grouper, a most popular fish in Peru and elsewhere. It has a firm, white flesh that’s great for frying, on the grill, in sudados or ceviches.

Pejerrey – In English this is known either as the pejerrey or the (Chilean) silverside. It’s a small fish, usually no more than 20 cm (7-8 inches). I have only had this fish as ceviche, and to be honest, it’s not my favorite. They’re also used fried in sandwiches with salsa criolla (zarza).

Tramboyo – This unattractive fish is a spotcheek blenny, although there are a variety of related species sold under the same name. It’s most often used in sudados, sopas and chupes.

Others –

  • Pez espada – Swordfish – well known to most N. Americans, great for the grill or baked in the oven.
  • Tilapia – probably one of the most common freshwater fish world wide, and is extensively farmed.  You’ll find it by the same name in Peru. Fried, steamed, baked – it’s all good!

This list is by no means complete – or perfect. There are fish called mero, for example, that are not grouper, because the name is used for different fish in Asia.  And as mentioned with corvina – a lot of times people will tell you it’s Chilean sea bass, simply because that is a popular fish and they want you to buy their fish.

But I’ve done my best to put the names used in Peru with their correct English names.

So, did I miss your favorite fish? Let me know!


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15 Responses to “Fish Eaten in Peru”

  1. Eunice
    March 17th, 2011 @ 10:22

    This is awesome! Thanks for the info. It will prove useful on my trip to Peru. :) Hopefully next year!
    Eunice´s last blog post ..Black and Blue and Purple

  2. Michelle
    March 17th, 2011 @ 11:30

    The two most common fishes in small towns in northern Peru are: caballa and cachema, which wasn’t mentioned here. Cachema is a white fish with quite a few bones, but a delicate texture. Good for ceviche and pescado frito.

  3. Kelly
    March 17th, 2011 @ 13:38

    We have to get together when you get here, Eunice!

    Michelle – thanks for the info, I’ll add it up top. :)

  4. Samantha Bangayan
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 21:24

    Although it’s not a coastal fish, I have to vouch for trucha (trout). =P There are a lot of trout farms in and around Huancayo, so all of our seafood is trout-based! =)
    Samantha Bangayan´s last blog post ..A Global Community in the Desert

  5. Kelly
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 21:42

    I love trout – it’s got such a specific flavor, you can definitely tell it from any other fish.

  6. Victor Manuel
    February 9th, 2012 @ 01:42

    You forgot the other regions of Peru. In the andes ( highlands ) they eat Trout ( trucha ), surubi and ishpi and in the rainforest ( the amazonian area) they eat river fish paiche, doncella, carachama and bagre.

  7. Kelly
    February 9th, 2012 @ 02:30

    Thanks for mentioning some of the fish from other regions – It’s not so much that I “forgot” them as it is that the post is specifically about the coast. 😉

  8. Jessica B.
    May 1st, 2012 @ 09:56

    Peru has a variety of fish. it doesn’t matter if you are going to the pacific side (costa), andes or the rain forest you will find many kind of delicious fish. Visit Peru to have that great experiance.

  9. LaurisB
    March 5th, 2013 @ 13:12

    Hey, Kelly! I just bought some fish in the market called “perico” – because the fish guy told me it is a good fish for grilling. He confirmed to me the name and the spelling, but I have no idea what it is, or might be called in English. Any ideas?
    LaurisB´s last blog post ..Hats & Bags

  10. LaurisB
    March 5th, 2013 @ 13:24

    MAYBE if just found the answer. According to some posts on Expat Peru, “Perico” is “Parrot Fish.” Some posters also claim it is Mahi Mahi. I wonder if that’s right. Will do more research.
    LaurisB´s last blog post ..Hats & Bags

  11. Kelly
    March 5th, 2013 @ 13:46

    as far as I know, in Peru, perico is used for mahi mahi. And if you look up “perico” en the Spanish version of wikipedia, it gives you the page for mahi mahi.

  12. Carola
    June 9th, 2013 @ 22:12

    Thanks for the info. I am peruvian and I always want to know what are the name in English of some peruvian fish..

  13. Linda
    August 13th, 2015 @ 22:59

    Alguien sabe el nombre del pescado TOYO en Estados Unidos? Me gusta el cebiche de TOYO sobretodo la leche de tigre del TOYO pero no se su nombre en inglés o como lo conocen en USA!! Agradeceré la información!

  14. Kelly
    November 4th, 2015 @ 14:17

    El toyo no es un cierto pescado – es un nombre usado para various tipos de pescados se llama “catshark” en ingles. Los mas paracidos que conozco en las EEUU son “catfish”.

  15. Jhon
    January 4th, 2016 @ 19:45

    Perico = Mahi Mahi
    El tiburon es comunmente llamado toyo , el toyo diamante que es el mas caro de todos es el tiburon blanco.

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    I got tired of life happening while I made other plans, so I quit my job and came to Peru. I live here with my Peruvian husband, two sons, three dogs and various other family members, depending on the weather.

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