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Chicha morada. The joy of purple corn juice.

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The first time this Guide tasted chicha morada was on the trek to Choquequirao. There was a big jug of deep purple juice sitting on the table in the lodge at Chiquisca. I figured it was instant grape juice but when I took a sip, there was nothing grapey about it at all. It tasted… purple. But from them on, for the rest of my time in Cusco, I took every opportunity to drink more of it. So what is chicha morada?

It’s purple corn juice.

Sketch of a big steel pot with purple inside and dripping out over the rim. A purple cob of corn sits beside it.
Look for the big steel pot of chicha morada simmering away on a burner in the back of Cusco restaurants.

How do you get juice out of corn?

A cob of corn is not a lime or an orange. We can’t just squeeze it or juice it. in fact, chicha morada isn’t even made with fresh purple corn. It’s made with the dried, rock-hard cobs of purple corn. They’re boiled in water, along with a secret recipe of pineapple rinds, cinnamon, other spices, lime juice, cane sugar, and joy.

It’s common to get homemade chicha morada when you order take-out meal combos at restaurants in Cusco. Not the touristy restaurants, but just your average, local, delicious neighborhood restaurant. There were two roast chicken restaurants near my place in San Blas and in the back of the kitchen, you could see a big steel pot on the stove with purple juice dribbling out around the rim of the pot. When I ordered a combo, it came with a bag of their very own chicha morada. 

In Lima, in grocery stores, I saw chicha morada bottled. In Cusco, I’m sure it’s possible to get chicha morada in some grocery stores, but I didn’t see it. You can get homemade chicha and chicha morada on the streets, so no need to buy the factory-made stuff.

A glass carafe of deep purple chicha morada, with purple corn, limes, and cinnamon sitting on the table beside it, and Peru's tourism logo visible in the back. Copyright Shuttersstock
Getting the balance of flavors right in chicha morada is an art, because you can taste all of them but none of them become so overpowering that you can easily identify them. Chicha morada just tastes refreshingly purple.

What's the difference between chicha and chicha morada?

When you’re out on the Inka Trail, if you’re keeping up with your porters (train in advance of your Inka Trail hike so you can), then you’ll notice many stop to drink chicha at stations along the trail. 

Chicha is made from yellow corn. The drink is yellow. It’s also fermented, so it has a tiny amount of alcohol. 

Chicha morada is NOT fermented. It does not have any alcohol. And it’s purple. You can’t mix them up. 

Some restaurants, like my favorite restaurant in Cusco, LOCAL, do mix chicha morada with alcohol. After a hike, I’d often get dropped off by the guides in Plaza de Armas, and on my hike home up the hills of San Blas, I’d first stop at LOCAL for a big post-hike meal and their Chicha Punk cocktail. 

If you’re missing chicha morada, you can grab some of the bottled “chicha morada beverage” at a convenience store outside of Cusco. But when you’re in Cusco, get the delicious made-from-scratch chicha morada. On the right is the Chicha Punk cocktail at LOCAL, with the tell-tale frothiness of homemade chicha morada on top. 

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2 thoughts on “Chicha morada. The joy of purple corn juice.”

  1. Pingback: Menu at LOCAL, Cusco • The Mindful Field Guide

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