What Did the Incas Eat?

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Diet for the Incan people during the Incan civilization period between the 13th and 16th centuries was predominantly made up of roots and grains, such as potatoes, maize and oca, as well as meat from llamas, alpacas, guinea pigs and dried fish. For sauces and spices, the Incan people used an edible clay called pasa as well as chille peppers, which were an important ingredient in some Incan recipes.

Aside from potatoes and maize, the Incas also consumed other vegetables on a limited basis, such as a starchy root called ullucu as well as a starchy root with a sweet taste called Achira. Certain seaweed species also made their way into the Incas’ diet, and it was eaten fresh or dried for later consumption.

In terms of meat, the Guinea pig, known as Cuy for the Incas, was very popular among the general population, as they multiplied quickly and were easy to domesticate. Larger domesticated animals, like the llama, were eaten by the nobles and consumed before they were three years old. The Inca Emperor and his family had access to freshly-delivered fish from the coast of the Incan Empire as well as wild ducks.

Several types of fish and sea animals were also part of the diet for Incan people living on the coast, including bonito, sharks and penguins.