Anticuchos de carne are a delicious and easy meat kebab from Peru that are perfect to add to your grilling list. Easy to prepare, tender meat and with great flavor that you can spice up as suits!
Kebabs, kebobs, meat skewers – whatever you call them, “meat on a stick” is pretty common in many cultures. But Peru might be able to claim theirs as one of the oldest. Anticuchos have been around since the pre-Columbian era, originating in the Andes mountains.
Where does the name anticuchos come from?
Anticuchos comes from “anti” meaning ‘East’, as they originate in the Eastern part of the Andes, and “Cuchu” meaning ‘cut’ in Quechua, the local language in that part of Peru. These “Eastern-style cuts (of meat)” are now popular across Peru, and beyond.
While they have pre-Columbian origins, the ingredients evolved slightly once the Spanish came to the area. For example, they added garlic, an ingredient not previously available there. The Incan version tended to use llama, while later, other meats were used.
What kind of meat is typically used?
These days, the most common meat for anticuchos is beef heart – “anticuchos de corazon”. Lesser cuts like heart are perfect for these kebabs as the marinade helps break down any toughness. As a result, they are generally considered a cheap snack.
You will find other meats used, and since beef heart is less readily available in the US, I have opted to make “anticuchos de carne”, using beef. You can also use chicken, other meats or even vegetables.
What is in anticuchos marinade?
The marinade can vary, but typically includes at least vinegar, chili, garlic, oil and cumin. The chili is usually aji panca, a local Peruvian pepper that’s a medium heat with a slight smokiness, though not as much as chipotle. While it’s not available everywhere, you can probably find it in Latin markets or if not, it is available online (affiliate link).
Anticuchos are often served with a simple sauce made with aji amarillo, another popular Peruvian chili which is yellow in color. It is a bit spicier, so the chili-onion sauce is perfect to add a bit of heat to these skewers, if you would like to.
Without this on the side, despite the chili in the marinade they’re actually not particularly spicy (which is great for us with kids not really in to spice – yet at least).
When would you eat anticuchos?
These meat skewers are a firm favorite food all over Peru at pretty much any time of day. They are often enjoyed as a street food and are particularly popular during festivals such as Fiestas Patrias, Peruvian Independence Day at the end of July, and in the Andes, at Inti Raymi, the Incan celebration of the God Inti in June, which coincides with the summer solstice.
I was lucky enough to see the Inti Raymi festival when I visited Peru a number of years ago and it’s a wonderfully colorful and interesting experience. Definitely one to try to align a trip with, if you ever get the chance!
Looking for more meat skewers? Try these!
- Sosaties, South African kebabs with a curry-apricot marinade
- Chicken satay, typically served with peanut sauce
- Chimichurri marinated beef skewers
- Pinchos morunos, Spanish pork skewers with North-African flavors
Anticuchos de carne are a delicious meat skewer that are easy to prepare, with a tasty flavor and perfect for old and young. Enjoy them alone, with corn and potatoes as you might in Peru, or whatever sides you choose.
Anticuchos de carne
- 1 lb beef sirloin tips 450g, or other cut good for grilling
- 3 tbsp aji panca or other medium-heat chili paste
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp garlic minced/crushed
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 pinch salt
- Cut the beef into roughly 1 1/2 in cubes.
- Mix together the remaining ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and add the beef chunks. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least a few hours.
- When ready to grill, thread the beef cubes onto skewers. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat (you should be able to hold you hand a few inches from the grates for 4-6 seconds). Cook the kebabs until the beef is cooked through (slightly pink is fine), turning as needed to cook evenly.
I first shared the recipe for anticuchos de carne on Curious Cuisiniere, where I am a contributor.
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