Peruvian Street Food: Picarones or Squash Sweet Potato Fritters

Dare I say these are the Peruvian version of funnel cake? That would be foodie blasphemy worthy of a spanking. Now you are wondering if I did that on purpose.

Typical picaronera feeding the masses

A picaronera was the nice lady who stood behind a food stand making these fritters. She would be at almost all school events and holidays frying these fresh for all of us.

Around the corner from our home, another picaronera stood feeding a never ending line of addicts craving her homey delicacies.

My mother and father would gather family and friends and drive to a barbecue type restaurant, my guess was 60 miles out of town, specializing in and only in these picarones.

These were something to be revered as the process was not simple and required planning. With the heat, one did not want to deep fry.

Peru’s Independence Day is coming up: July 28th. Being close to the 4th, I decided that a celebration would not be appropriate without a gentle melange of cultures.

After all, I consider the 4th of July to be about life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. And nothing makes me happier than a reminiscing of the things past. After many years of struggle, I have learned to embraced my diverse background, especially when it comes to food.



  • 1 lb sweet potatoes peeled and cubed
  • 1 lb yellow or butternut squash, cubed
  • 4 whole anise seeds
  • 2 tablespoons whole cloves
  • 3 sticks of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoons whole allspice
  • 4 tablespoons active dry yeast (4 packets)
  • 4 teaspoons white sugar
  • 1/4 cup of Pisco (Peruvian brandy) or any other
  • 2 tablespoons golden flax seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups of flour

The subtlety of spiced flavors comes from high quality ingredients.

Anise, cinnamon, cloves and allspice provide a subtle undertone for picarones

Fill a large pot with water and add the anise, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Let boil for 5 minutes to allow the heat to draw as much of the essence of the spices as possible.

Water will turn slightly dark and aromatic after boiling

Since the sweet potatoes take longer to cook, first at them and boil for 10 minutes.

Adding the sweet potatoes first allows both main ingredients to be ready at the same time

Add the squash and boil for 20 more minutes.

Adding the squash after 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to avoid injury

Remove using a slotted spoon and reserve the cooking liquid.

When they are ready, both will be tender and fall apart when forked

When cool enough to handle, pass through a ricer or sieve to create a smooth consistency free of fibers, chunks, or any piece of spice that may have escaped or broken off.

Passing through a potato ricer creates a perfect consistency. It may be a little watery and that is ok.

Let the mixture cool. You will only use 1 1/2 cups of the squash potato mixture. You may have a little left over.

Combine the yeast, white sugar and 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid, making sure that is lukewarm and between 100 to 115 degrees. Lower temperatures will not activate the yeast and higher ones will kill it. Let sit for 15 minutes to ferment. The mixture will be foamy.

While the yeast is proofing, soak the flaxseeds in 6 tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid for 5 minutes. Blend to create a foamy consistency, which becomes the binding agent replacing the eggs. This adds also a nice nutty flavor.

Add the flax seed mixture to the squash, sweet potatoes and mix with the Pisco and salt.

While the yeast is proofing, mix the pisco, flax seed eggs and salt

Blend with the yeast using the dough hook on a mixer. Then add one cup of flour at a time, finishing by mixing for 5 minutes until it becomes shiny, elastic and sticky.

Shiny and elastic, this dough is ready to relax and grow

Let it rest for a couple of hours until doubled in size.

Finished dough after resting for a couple of hours

While resting you can make the syrup.

Give the dough a quick mix, it will deflate somewhat and thats ok. Prepare a bowl with salted water to form and fry the picarones.

Heat your oil to 375 degrees. Using wet hands, form a thin ring and lay it gently on the cooking oil. The mixture will be very stick and the process is tricky. If you end up with doughnut holes, thats ok, although picarones should really be rings. Once you lay them on the oil, use the back of a wooden spoon to spin them around to give them their desired shape. You must do this at once and quickly, as the dough cooks very fast.

Using the back of a wooden spoon, spin them quickly to give them their characteristic shape

Cook for about 90 seconds on each side, until beautifully golden brown.

Both sides should be a gorgeous golden brown

Traditionally, picarones are threaded on a wooden spoon and allow to drip over the cooking vessel.

Allowing picarones to drain into the cooking vessel

Pile on a plate.

Pile on a plate for a dramatic presentation

Drizzle with syrup and serve with some more as dipping sauce.

Delightfully light and airy, these are incredibly delicious

View from top?

View form top. These fly off the table

Chancaca Syrup:

  • 1 cup muscovado light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • Rind of one orange
  • Rind of one lime
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 2 cups of water

Muscovado is the closest type of sugar to chancaca, a raw form easily found in South America.

Up close and personal muscovado sugar has light caramel and butterscotch notes

Add all ingredients in a pot.

Place all ingredients in a pot

Add the water, boil, and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes. As it cools, it should resemble a little thinner version of maple syrup. Strain through a sieve to remove any impurities.

Straining the syrup to remove any impurities

Beautifully dark, gorgeous and filled with mysterious flavors.

Perfectly balanced between smokey spices and refreshing citrus flavors

This dish is so fabulous, I don’t even giggle at chancaca. Otherwise, I would.

Buen provecho! Bon appetite.

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A southern favorite: Deviled Eggs sans the eggs
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  • Joel Luks

    Peruvian Street Food: Picarones or Squash Sweet Potato Fritters #vegan

  • Joel Luks

    @pedalbypedal here you go…let me know what you think :)

  • Pingback: Bend me over Sweet Potato Fries with Sassy Ketchup | Vegan Good Eats

  • Fiesta Restaurants

    Peruvian Street Food: Picarones or Squash Sweet Potato Fritters

  • Joel Luks

    @careyredtiger @dancehunter this is SO from my childhood. The squash sweet potato donuts/ fritters :)

  • Elisabeth Weiszman

    I’m so glad I found you on Foodbuzz. I love these sweet potato fritters, they’re so tantallizing, and your-step-by-step photos of them are superb. In fact, browing through all your other recipes and photos of them makes me want to hang around and marvel at all the others too.
    Thanks for sharing…I will return, soon!
    You’ll find me at

  • Maija Haavisto

    From what I’ve let vegan cookbook author Bryanna Clark Grogan tell me, Peruvian food is very interesting. This recipe definitely reinforces that idea. Have to try it some time.

    P.S. Slight error: the spices in your pictures aren’t anise but star anise. The two are similar in taste, but different. “Whole anise seeds” are very small and I believe quite difficult to find (it’s usually sold ground).

    Maija Haavisto of Vegventures

  • Pingback: Sweet Potato Recipe Round Up « Your Vegan Girlfriend

  • AnnaMarie

    Peruvian Street Food: Picarones or Squash Sweet Potato Fritters – (via @joel_luks) #vegangoodeats #vegan

About this site is a compilation of my favorite recipes and experiences. Erasing the stereotype that we eat rabbit food, I hope that the site inspires you to live a cruelty-free life. There is enough to live peacefully and indulgently.

About Joel Luks

Intellectually curious arts advocate. Design junkie & blogger. Creative nutty vegan chef loving all ethnic foods in a quest to ensure vegan food is seen as delicious, varied, and yes, sometimes, indulgent. Classical flutist & sucker for rhythmic music.

I work for, a Houston-based lifestyle digital magazine, where I report on food, arts, society and city life, produce videos and curate an events guide.

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