What Food Did the Incas Eat?


Quick Answer

The Incas were primarily vegetarians who subsisted primarily off of root vegetables. The different altitudes and temperatures throughout the Inca territories caused regional differences in diet. Meat came from llamas and alpacas, while the very poor ate guinea pigs. More recently, quinoa, a staple of the Incas' diet, has been named a superfood, along with pichuberries, amaranth and purple potatoes.

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Full Answer

In the lower altitudes, maize was very important, used not only as a food source but also as a status crop for ceremonies and rituals. Root vegetables like potatoes, squashes and sweet potatoes can survive the sub-zero temperatures that some areas of the Inca Empire reached, making them an ideal staple food for the entire region.

The Inca Empire maintained storehouses as protection against famine and changes in food production as well as to feed government personnel. Storehouses contained enough food to feed the population for three to seven years and were sometimes used to feed nearby communities. The Incas freeze-dried meat and vegetables by exposing them to the elements.

The Incas ate popcorn, which was an ideal way to preserve and store maize and other grains. Other common root vegetables that they ate are oca, known today as New Zealand yams, and chuños, rehydrated freeze-dried potatoes.

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