If there was ever a competition for recipes made with leftover ingredients, tacu tacu peruano would probably make it into the top 5! Let us introduce you to the deliciousness that is tacu tacu: leftover rice and beans jazzed up with a mix of onion, garlic, spicy ají amarillo and herbs, topped with a fried egg, a fried plantain and accompanied with the Peruvian onion relish sarza criolla. No wonder even renowned British chef Jamie Oliver has lauded this quintessential Peruvian rice and beans recipe. Learn about its origins and many potential variations or scroll straight down to the recipe to get cooking!
What’s in tacu tacu?
Within Peruvian cuisine, there are many gastronomical sub-groups, usually classified according to the region of Peru they hail from. This dish is a prime example of what is known as cocina criolla, Creole cuisine, used to refer to dishes with influences from different parts of Peru. Cocina criolla often contains culinary traditions from other parts of the world.
The name tacu tacu is believed to be a form of the word takuy from the indigenous Andean language, Quechua, which means “to mix two things together”. But the original recipe bearing this name is completely different than the present-day tacu tacu, created by the inventive hands of African slaves. The recipe came about when these workers improvised ways of using leftover rice and beans. They transformed them into a tasty new dish by adding some ingredients to improve the flavor (enter the garlic, onion, and Peruvian spicy chilli ají amarillo) and lightly sautéeing everything in a skillet. The recipe has probably survived all those years because it offers a practical and tasty solution to revive two leftover staples of Peruvian cuisine – beans and rice – and doesn’t require additional ingredients.
Highly versatile & Incredibly Tasty
Another reason why tacu tacu is likely to have become so popular is the fact that it is incredibly versatile. The ingredients of the most basic version are rice and Peruvian canary beans (also known as mayocoba beans), seasoned with a few simple ingredients and accompanied by fried plantain. But it’s almost invariably served as tacu tacu montado, where the rice is topped with a fried egg, steak, fried fish, lomo saltado or even cabrito a la norteña.
If soaking and cooking beans sound too laborious, use canned beans. It’s also not a problem to change the type of bean used: canary beans aren’t available everywhere and they’re easily replaced by navy beans, or lentils, pinto beans or black beans. Plus, if you wanted to make your tacu tacu vegetarian and vegan, you’d just omit the egg and meat altogether and still be left with a really delicious dish. Surely you’re convinced by now that you have to give this recipe a try, so let’s get a move on and make some tasty tacu tacu!
Tacu Tacu Recipe
- 2 cups uncooked navy beans or 4 cups of precooked canned navy beans (or mayocoba beans if available)
- 1½ cups white rice
- ½ large red onion
- 1 large tomato
- 1 teaspoon parsley chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 ½ tablespoon garlic paste
- 2 teaspoons ají amarillo chili pepper paste
- 4 eggs
- 4 plantains
- 4 fried steaks optional
- 1 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Sarsa criolla relish (optional)
- 1 onion jullienned
- 1 small limo chili pepper finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon parsley finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Soak the raw beans for overnight, adding a tablespoon of salt. Change the water and boil until soft (cooking time here will depend on the type of bean and cooking pot used, usually 1 to 2 hours).
- Set soaked beans aside to cool.
- Finely chop the onion, tomato and parsley for the tacu tacu.
- Measure the ají amarillo chili pepper and garlic paste.
- Heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the onion and garlic. Sautée the ingredients for 2 minutes.
- Add the oregano
- Add tomato and ají amarillo chili pepper paste to sautée for another 3 minutes or until cooked.
- Turn off the heat, add the cooked beans, crushing them lightly, and mix well.
- Add the rice, mix well. Leave the mixture to sit for at least 15 minutes for the ingredients to soak into the rice well (this is very important in order to achieve the right texture!).
- Set aside the mixture, and for each individual serving, return about 2 cups of the mixture to a hot skillet with ½ a tablespoon of olive and lightly fry.
- Make sure the mixture achieves a compact texture as you can see in the photo.
- Prepare the sarsa criolla by mixing the jullienned red onion, finely chopped limo chili pepper, parsley, olive oil, lime juice and salt. Serve the tacu tacu, topped with a fried egg (or steak, chicken, fish fillet or any other topping of your choice), a fried plantain, and the sarsa criolla onion relish. Enjoy your wonderful tacu tacu!