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What’s Saltado in English?

Saltado is a popular Peruvian stir-fry dish that is loaded with flavor. It typically consists of beef, onions, tomatoes, French fries, and rice. While the name literally translates to “jumped” or “sautéed” in Spanish, the dish is much more complex than just a simple stir-fry.

What are the Origins of Saltado?

Saltado originated in Peru, where it was created by Chinese immigrants who settled in the country in the late 1800s. Chinese-Peruvian cuisine blends traditional Cantonese cooking techniques with local Peruvian ingredients like ají peppers, cilantro, and lime. This cultural fusion resulted in dishes like lomo saltado that are uniquely Peruvian despite their Chinese influence.

The exact origins of the dish are disputed, but most accounts credit Chinese cooks working in Peruvian restaurants and homes for inventing saltado in the early 20th century. They likely adapted traditional Cantonese beef stir-fries by incorporating local flavors and ingredients like salsa criolla, a fresh onion and tomato salsa.

What are the Main Ingredients in Saltado?

While recipes can vary, saltado typically contains the following core ingredients:

  • Beef – Thinly sliced sirloin or ribeye steak is most common.
  • Onions – Thinly sliced red, yellow, or white onions.
  • Tomatoes – Diced ripe tomatoes.
  • French fries – Thick-cut French fries are added towards the end.
  • Rice – Steamed white rice is served alongside.
  • Salsa criolla – A fresh salsa made with onions, tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro, and ají peppers.
  • Soy sauce – For seasoning the beef.
  • Vegetable oil – For stir-frying.
  • Cilantro – Chopped fresh cilantro leaves.

The beef is first quickly stir-fried and then simmered in the salsa criolla to absorb the flavors. French fries are added in the last few minutes of cooking so they become lightly crispy. The dish is served over a bed of rice and garnished with extra onions and cilantro.

What Does Saltado Taste Like?

Saltado is bursting with complex savory flavors. Here are the main tastes and textures you can expect in each bite:

  • Beef – The thinly sliced steak is full of rich, meaty flavor from the quick sear.
  • Onions – Mild sweetness with a bit of crispness.
  • Tomatoes – Bright, fresh acidity.
  • French fries – Starchy and crispy.
  • Rice – Fluffy, mild canvas to soak up flavors.
  • Salsa criolla – Fresh onion and tomato balanced by lime juice and ají heat.
  • Soy sauce – Deep savory umami notes.
  • Cilantro – Bright, refreshing herbal flavor.

When combined, these ingredients create a salty, sweet, sour, and spicy medley of textures and flavors. The sliced steak takes on the acidic tomato and onion flavors along with rich notes from the soy sauce. Crisp French fries provide texture contrast to the tender beef and fluffy rice. It’s a complex and well-balanced dish full of robust Peruvian flavors.

What Type of Chile Peppers are Used in Saltado?

Two main types of chile peppers are used to provide spicy heat and flavor in saltado:

Chile Pepper Description
Ají amarillo A popular yellow Peruvian chile with floral, fruity notes and medium heat.
Ají limo A very spicy limo Peruvian chile with bold fruity flavor.

These chiles are most often used to make the salsa criolla or crema that is either served with saltado or used to marinate the beef. Ají amarillo provides vibrant flavor while ají limo brings intense spicy heat. Using a combination creates a complex balance of heat and fruity chile flavors.

What Sides and Garnishes Go with Saltado?

Saltado is usually served as a complete meal, but some optional sides and garnishes can enhance the experience:

  • Salsa criolla – Extra of the fresh onion-tomato salsa adds a crunchy, flavorful topping.
  • Fried rice – Peruvian-style fried rice is a common substitution for steamed white rice.
  • Cancha corn – Roasted Peruvian corn nuts add textural contrast.
  • Fried sweet plantains – Savory-sweet balance from caramelized fried plantains.
  • Fresh lime wedges – Bright acidity and flavor enhancement from fresh lime juice.

These sides complement the rich flavors of the stir-fry, adding sweetness, crunch, and fresh brightness to round out the meal.

How is Saltado Traditionally Eaten in Peru?

Here are some details on traditional saltado eating customs in Peru:

  • It is served family-style – Large portions are served on plates to share.
  • Eaten casually – It is considered casual, everyday fare rather than fine dining.
  • Typically for lunch – The lighter meal is more commonly eaten midday instead of dinner.
  • Served with rice – Steamed white rice is almost always on the side to absorb flavors.
  • Garnished simply – Onions, tomatoes, cilantro add freshness and color.
  • Ají sauce offered – Bottled ají pepper sauces are provided as condiments.
  • Eaten with a spoon – Forks are not always provided, so spoons scoop up the rice and stir-fry.

The communal, casual nature of the meal reflects the cultural importance of family and shared mealtimes in Peruvian culture. While popular at restaurants, saltado is most often enjoyed in home kitchens as part of family dinners and celebrations.

What is a Common Variation – Lomo Saltado?

Lomo saltado is the most popular and classic version of saltado made with beef. Lomo refers to the tenderloin cut of beef used in the dish. While saltado can be made with chicken, seafood, or vegetables, lomo saltado remains the standard:

  • Uses filet mignon or sirloin – The high-quality tender cuts result in soft, flavorful beef..
  • Marinated in soy sauce – Soy sauce acts as a quick marinade, seasoning the beef.
  • Served with fries – Crisp, thick-cut fries soak up stir-fry flavors.
  • Onion and tomato focused – Bright, fresh flavors shine in traditional lomo saltado.
  • Spicy from ají – Ají amarillo, limo, or pepper sauce provide moderate heat.

Peruvian restaurants abroad will often list lomo saltado specifically on menus to denote the traditional beef stir-fry dish.

What is the Difference Between Saltado and Lomo Saltado?

While often used interchangeably, there are some minor differences between generic saltado and lomo saltado:

Saltado Lomo Saltado
Can use any protein or veggie Specifically uses beef tenderloin
Ingredients can vary Follows more traditional Peruvian recipe
Generic name for stir-fry dishes Refers to classic Peruvian saltado
Translates to “jumped” or “sautéed” Includes “lomo” to specify beef tenderloin

So while lomo saltado follows a specific traditional recipe, plain saltado is a more generic term that can be applied flexibly to different stir-fried preparations.

What Types of Protein Can Be Used for Saltado?

While beef is traditional, saltado can also be made with different types of protein. Common protein options include:

  • Chicken – Boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs.
  • Shrimp – Shelled, deveined shrimp of any size.
  • Calamari – Tender rings and tentacles.
  • Fish – Firm white fish like cod, halibut, or sole.
  • Pork – Boneless pork chops or tenderloin.
  • Tofu – Firm or extra-firm tofu, dried before cooking.

The proteins are all prepared the same way – quickly seared and then simmered in the salsa criolla sauce before mixing in the French fries. The stir-fry technique allows for many different protein options beyond just beef.

Are There Vegetarian/Vegan Versions?

Vegetarians and vegans absolutely can enjoy saltado thanks to plant-based ingredient swaps:

  • Use vegetable broth instead of beef broth for sautéing.
  • Swap in extra-firm tofu, seitan, or soy curl “beef” for the steak.
  • Add more vegetables like zucchini, peas, carrots or potatoes.
  • Use vegetable or olive oil instead of lard for frying.
  • Garnish with avocado or guacamole for added creaminess.
  • Choose fried yuca or cassava root over French fries.

With so many vegetables already in a traditional recipe, it adapts very well to meatless variations. The flavors of the salsa criolla, rice, andFrench fries still shine through.

What are Some Saltado Recipe Variations?

While the basic ingredients stay consistent, saltado recipes can vary in their seasonings, sides, and garnishes. Here are just some of the possible ways to put a new spin on saltado:

Ingredient Variations Recipe Tweaks
– Use red, yellow, or white onions – Add a dash of red wine vinegar
– Swap in potato or sweet potato fries – Use chicken or beef broth for extra flavor
– Add bell peppers for crunch – Fry the onions before sautéing the protein
– Mix in creamy avocado or peas – Simmer in broth longer for extra tender protein
– Garnish with queso fresco – Swap in brown or cauliflower rice

Playing with different ingredients and cooking methods allows endless opportunities for customization while still staying true to the classic Peruvian stir-fry technique.

What are Some Common Mistakes When Making Saltado?

It’s easy to mess up small details in saltado that make a big difference. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

  • Not slicing the onions thinly – Onions should be razor thin for texture.
  • Overcooking the beef – It should only cook for 1-2 minutes to stay tender.
  • Using starchy potatoes – Stick to thick-cut French fries, not russets.
  • Skipping the salsa criolla – This salsa adds essential Peruvian flavor.
  • Not letting the fries soak up sauce – Fries need to simmer for a few minutes.
  • Using cheap soy sauce – Splurge on a quality sauce for better flavor.
  • Forgetting the lime juice – A squeeze of lime brightens all the flavors.
  • Leaving out the ají pepper – Mild heat is essential in authentic saltado.

Paying attention to the little details separates an average attempt at saltado from an incredible authentic-tasting version.


Saltado is a complex, mouthwatering dish that offers a taste of Peruvian culture and cuisine. The stir-fry preparation blends Chinese cooking techniques with robust South American flavors like ají chiles, fresh salsa criolla, tender beef, and crisp fries. While lomo saltado remains the most popular choice, the possibilities are endless for putting your own creative spin on this traditional recipe. With its well-balanced medley of sweet, salty, spicy, and savory flavors, saltado is a dish that satisfies all the senses and leaves you hungry for more.