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What Are Picarones?

By T. Carrier
Updated Feb 29, 2024
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Picarones are a type of doughnut-like food: batches of fried dough formed into rings. These snacks are a fixture of Peruvian cuisine, where they are homemade or often served in small markets. Sweet potatoes and pumpkins are frequently used additives, as are molasses-based syrups placed on top of the snack.

Although they come in many variations, one characteristic of most picarones is their combination spicy and sweet taste. This unique blend derives from many of the common ingredients found in picarone recipes. Sweet additives can include sugar, brown sugar, and molasses. Contributions such as oranges, cinnamon, and lime can add a tangy zest to the desserts. Pumpkin is another common ingredient.

The creation of picarones typically requires three steps. A mashed food paste, or a puree, is typically created from the dish's main component. For picarones, these star ingredients are usually sweet potatoes, which are sweet-tasting vegetables, and different forms of squash such as pumpkins. The puree is usually created by boiling these substances until they are soft and then pressing and mashing them until they are pasty.

Puree mixes must then be combined with a dough mixture. Components like yeast, sugar, and eggs are used to make the dough. When the dough and puree are combined, they must be allowed to rise.

The doughnut shape of picarones are created by hand. Pieces of dough are formed into rings. They are then placed in a frying apparatus until they are cooked. Final textures may range from soft and thin to somewhat rigid.

Sweet syrupy toppings are the final well-known aspect of picarones. Traditional picarone syrup is made with chancaca, a type of molasses. Spices and juices such as orange juice or lime juice can also be combined and then heated to a syrup consistency. The syrup is typically drizzled over the hot finished product.

These desserts gained prominence in the cooking styles of Peru. This region's cuisine is a mixture of Japanese, Chinese, and Spanish influences, combined with the inclusion of native ingredients like the sweet potato. Citizens of the region desired a tasty fried snack that was inexpensive to make in comparison to costly cream-filled options like buneulos. Thus, during the colonial era, the picarone was first created and introduced into Peruvian cuisine. Over time, it became a popular companion to another Peruvian staple: the meat-based anticuchos.

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