Spicy Peruvian Ají Sauces, Green and Yellow

Updated on March 31, 2016
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Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" & "Taste of Home" magazines. She belongs to "Cook's Recipe Testers" for Cooks Illustrated.

Green Peruvian aji sauce
Green Peruvian aji sauce | Source

Because we live in Peru, friends back home often ask us how to make Peruvian ají (chili) sauce. Spicy, addictive and a striking shade of green, this unique sauce or salsa is quick and easy to prepare. Traditionally served with rotisserie chicken and French fries, it is also delicious spooned over potatoes, fish or beef. Or serve this sauce as a dip with bread cubes, fresh veggies, or potato chips.

Recipes for the sauce vary from region to region, and depending on the hot peppers you choose it may also be yellow or orange in color. Two main ingredients in ají sauce are cilantro and hot chiles. In the United States, jalapeno peppers are easy to find and make a tasty sauce. In Peru, two common ingredients are the herb huacatay and the hot pepper ají amarillo (ají marisol). Authentic Peruvian ají sauce won't contain mayonnaise or lettuce.

Below you will find recipes for both green and yellow ají sauce, depending on the ingredients you have on hand. Try these sauces with Crispy Homemade French Fries or Sweet Potato Fries for a special treat.

Enjoy! Or as we say in Peru...¡Provecho!

Table of Contents

  • Tips for Making Peruvian Ají Sauce

  • Recipe: Green Peruvian Ají Sauce

  • Recipe: Yellow Peruvian Ají Sauce

  • Ocopa Sauce Variation

  • What is Huacatay?

Tips:

  • If serving the sauce over potatoes, you may want to thin it with a little milk, cream or vegetable oil. To thicken a sauce, Peruvian cooks add one or two saltine crackers or a piece of dry bread before blending.
  • You can substitute 1/3 cup drained cottage cheese for the feta cheese or queso fresco.
  • Increase salt if using cottage cheese or queso fresco.
  • Peruvian ají sauce can vary from mild to spicy depending on the peppers you choose. If you'd like more heat, don't remove the veins or seeds from the peppers.
  • Any hot pepper can be used in place of jalapenos. Feel free to experiment with hot peppers from your garden and tell us about it in the comments section.
  • The optional peanut butter adds depth without overpowering the sauce and is a typical ingredient in some regions of Peru. Try ají sauce first without peanut butter and then with it. We like it best with the peanut butter.
  • Serve with a tall glass of cool Peruvian Chicha Morada for an authentic experience.

Green Peruvian Ají Sauce

Green aji sauce and French fries
Green aji sauce and French fries | Source
3.7 stars from 29 ratings of Peruvian Ají Sauce
Prep time: 10 min
Ready in: 10 min
Yields: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium jalapeno peppers, seeds and veins removed
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup cilantro (leaves and stems), packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 3 ounces (80 grams) queso fresco, farmer's cheese or feta cheese (see tips above)
  • 2 teaspoons natural peanut butter (optional)

Saute veggies in oil.
Saute veggies in oil.
Add cilantro.
Add cilantro.
Add cheese and blend.
Add cheese and blend.

Instructions

  1. Pour 2 Tablespoons of neutral-flavored vegetable oil into a medium skillet over medium heat.
  2. Sauté peppers, onion and garlic clove until softened, about 4 minutes.
  3. Pour into a blender container the sauteed vegetables, the remaining 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil, cilantro, salt, cheese and peanut butter (if using).
  4. Blend on high until thick and creamy, about one minute.

Yellow Peruvian Ají Sauce

Yellow aji sauce and sweet potato fries
Yellow aji sauce and sweet potato fries | Source

Ají marisol peppers (available as paste in jars on Amazon) give this sauce its characteristic yellow color. In Peru it is enjoyed with meat, chicken, or french fries.

Aji amarillo makes yellow sauce
Aji amarillo makes yellow sauce | Source

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces (80 grams) queso fresco (fresh cheese), farmer's cheese or feta
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 4 ají peppers (seeds & veins removed) or 1/4 cup ají amarillo paste
  • 4 small sprigs huacatay or 1/2 teaspoon huacatay paste
  • 4 Tablespoons (15 mL) vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon raw peanuts
  • salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Coarsely chop peppers, onion and garlic.
  2. Pour 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil into a medium skillet. Over medium heat, saute vegetables until soft.
  3. Scrape vegetables into a blender container. Add the remaining ingredients (including the rest of the vegetable oil) and blend for several minutes, until thick and creamy.
  4. Drizzle over steamed potatoes or serve with fries, beef or chicken.

Ocopa Sauce Variation

Add another tablespoon of peanuts and thin the sauce slightly with milk or cream. Pour ocopa sauce over slices of steamed potato and serve as an appetizer or a side with Tallarín Verde (Green Noodles).

What Is Huacatay?

Huacatay or Peruvian black mint
Huacatay or Peruvian black mint | Source

Also called Peruvian black mint or Mexican marigold, huacatay is a South American marigold. The leaves add a pungent flavor and incomparable depth to soups, stews, sauces and meat marinades.

Huacatay is also used as a home remedy for anything from the common cold to stomach aches.

Look for huacatay, or black mint paste, on Amazon.com.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 3 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is the first time I've heard of aji and huacatay. I will have to look for a Peruvian restaurant and try this or make one from this recipe.

    • Spanish Food profile image

      Lena Durante 11 months ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      This sounds amazing. I can't wait to try it, both with and without the peanut butter.

    • The Ghostwriter profile image

      Peter Yexley 3 years ago from UK

      Very inspiring and on my list to try.

    • vespawoolf profile image
      Author

      vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

      Gmwilliams, I'm glad you're going to try Peruvian Aji sauce!

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Now, this is ONE recipe I am going to try. Muy delicioso!

    • vespawoolf profile image
      Author

      vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

      Riel Hishon, thanks for coming by!

    • profile image

      Riel Hishon 3 years ago

      Mmmm thank you! Looks delish!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Great choices here and I like the unique idea.

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      Rajan Jolly, this is a very popular recipe...hope you can try it sometime! Thanks for the votes and comment.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Looks wonderful and thanks for sharing these recipes.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      Marion Langley, this is such a delicious and versatile sauce. I hope you can try it sometime! Thanks for coming by.

    • marion langley profile image

      marion langley 4 years ago from The Study

      My husband and I are sauce people and this looks delish! Will try, Thanks for writing. :-)

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      GetitScene, Peruvian aji sauce is unique and so versatile. You can enjoy it with meat, potatoes or even bread. Enjoy and thanks for coming by!

    • GetitScene profile image

      Dale Anderson 4 years ago from The High Seas

      This really sounds delicious. It's going on the list of things to make.

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      platinumOwl4, I'm glad you enjoyed this article and learned something, too! Yes, Peruvian food is very addictive and especially this aji sauce. Thanks for coming by!

    • platinumOwl4 profile image

      platinumOwl4 4 years ago

      This Peruvian food is addictive. Plus I learned something about sweet potatoes that I never knew. great article, keep them coming.

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      cakedodds, thank you for paying me a visit! We love everything Peruvian and can't get enough of Peruvian food. I'm glad you're going to try these sauces--enjoy! Paired with French fries is our favorite. : )

    • profile image

      cakedodds 4 years ago

      Thank you so much for watching our "Mario's Peruvian" episode and leaving you're blog link- yes! I do cook and I love aji sauce and I'm going to try both of them!

      I want french fries and aji now! Thanks for the recipes...

      K.K.

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

      Thanks, I´ll use cilantro instead.

    • vespawoolf profile image
      Author

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      Claudia Tello, what nice things to say! I really appreciate your commendation, it means a lot to me. Huacatay is native to South America so you may not be able to find it in Mexico, but cilantro is a nice substitution and is often used here in Peruvian aji sauce. So it will still be authentic and delicious. : ) I hope you have a chance to make the sauce sometime!

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

      Both spicy Peruvian aji sauces look very appetizing. I would have never imagined I´d find queso fresco as one of their ingredients but now that I know what they are made of, I love the idea of having them with sweet potato fries AND adding the peanuts you suggest in the tips section. I am not sure if I could find huacatay in Mexico though, I don´t even recognize it!

      I am glad you are doing so well in HP, you´re really a role model for us recipe-hub writers.

    • vespawoolf profile image
      Author

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Beth37, what a nice compliment! I really appreciate it. This sauce is as common in Peru as ketchup in the U.S. No table is complete without it. I hope you can try it sometime! Thanks for coming by.

    • profile image

      Beth37 5 years ago

      Amazing, Im looking randomly thru recipes, see this one, it looks incredible and different, I click on it, and it's you... of course. You always have the most interesting and impressive dishes! :)

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Anna Evanswood, Peruvian aji sauce is so delicious and easy to make. I hope you try it sometime. Thanks for coming by!

    • Anna Evanswood profile image

      Anna Evanswood 5 years ago from Malaysia

      Mmm your hub has my tummy rumbling:) I want to make some:) thank you!

    • vespawoolf profile image
      Author

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      csgibson, I'm glad to know this sauce isn't only Peruvian. It really is delicious and so easy to make! Thanks for coming by.

    • csgibson profile image

      Craig Gibson 5 years ago from Traverse City Michigan

      Excellent sauce. I live in Colombia and we eat empanadas with this sauce all of the time. Thank you for the recipe.

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      MarieAlana, please let me know what you think of the aji sauce. In Peru, no meal is complete without it. Thank you for coming by!

    • MarieAlana1 profile image

      Marie Alana 5 years ago from Ohio

      I love spicy things to eat. Thanks! I will defintely try it. This might even be good with my Hot Mocha. Come and check it out!

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Peggy W, this sauce is really delicious and addictive. A Peruvian meal isn't complete without it! Thanks for the vote and share and all your support.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      What a great sounding sauce! We love all kinds of spicy and flavorful sauces, pestos and the like. While it might not be possible to find all of the same ingredients, we can always find jalapenos, cilantro, etc. in Texas. Thanks for giving us another fabulous sounding recipe. Up, useful and sharing!

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Tattuwurn, any bland white cheese would do. Most countries make some sort of "fresh" cheese that isn't aged. That would be ideal. I hope you enjoy it! Thanks so much for the vote and share!

    • profile image

      tattuwurn 5 years ago

      Hi Vespawoolf again... Thanks for giving me a link to this recipe. I also love spicy foods! I think most of the ingredients are available here as well.

      If I can't find feta cheese... I think any creamy white cheese would do? Thanks. Voted up, awesome and shared. :)

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Moonlake, it's surprising how much starch rinses off the sweet potatoes after soaking. That, of course, makes the fries even crispier which can be a challenge when frying sweet potatoes. Thank you for coming by.

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      DeborahNeyens, I envy your garden! How wonderful to have a fresh supply of peppers. Please tell me which varieties work best with this sauce if you find the time. Thank you!

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Sgbrown, I'm glad to know you have a blog! I'll check it out. Yes, I'd be happy if you share this recipe on your blog. Do you find your blog gets more or less traffic? I think it's a great theme, around the world recipes. Enjoy the aji sauce, it really is delicious and maybe your husband would like sweet potatoes cut into fries? You never know! Thank you for coming by.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      This sounds really good. I never thought about soaking the sweet potatoes first. Voted up.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 5 years ago from Iowa

      This looks great! I'm always on the lookout for different ways to use peppers, since I grow so many different varieties in my garden. I'm going to try this. The sweet potato fries look awesome, too!

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      This sounds delicious! I love trying new foods. I too, will have to use the cilantro, but I love it. I have wanted to try sweet potato fries for ever, but hubby doesn't like sweet potatoes. I am going to make some for just myself! Voting this up, useful, sharing and would like to share this on my "Around the World with Recipes" blog, if that would be allright with you. Have a wonderful day! :)

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      OldeCashmere, it's always nice to hear from you. Thank you for coming by!

    • profile image

      Olde Cashmere 5 years ago

      I really enjoy your recipes vespawoolf, they are always excellent. Voted up, awesome, and useful :)

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      LetitiaFT, it's always nice to hear from you. This sauce is also delicious made with any hot pepper and cilantro. I hope you have a chance to try it! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Wesley Meacham, I'm glad you enjoyed the recipe. Thanks so much for the vote, share and pin!

    • LetitiaFT profile image

      LetitiaFT 5 years ago from Paris via California

      Oh heavens, This I have to try. But where in Paris am I going to find aji and huacatay? I may just have to order them from your Amazon links. Thanks for including them!

    • Wesley Meacham profile image

      Wesley Meacham 5 years ago from Wuhan, China

      This is awesome. I've always loved sweet potato fries. Voting up and useful. Sharing and pinning.

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      I'm glad you found this recipe useful, alocsin. This is a very popular sauce in Peru and one of my favorites. Thanks so much for the comment, vote and share!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I love this sauce when encountered at Peruvian restaurants. But never thought I could make it. Thanks for the delicious recipe. Voting this Up and Useful. SHARED.

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Mama Kim 8, I'm glad you enjoyed the soaking tip. I've read that coating the fries before baking will make them crunchier, but because our oven doesn't get hot enough I haven't had much success with that method. Thanks for the vote, pin and comment!

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 5 years ago

      Sounds so yummy! I don't think I've ever had peruvian food before. I especially like your tip and explanation on soaking the sweet potatoes. I usually bake mine because I'm scared of frying in that much oil. Voted up and pinned!

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Om Paramapoonya, this sauce is still delicious with cilantro. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! It's always nice to hear from you.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

      Sounds delightful! Unfortunately, I'll have to make this with cilantro leaves instead of huacatay paste. I don't think I'll be able to find huacatay in any of my local supermarkets. So my Aji sauce probably won't taste as authentically Peruvian as it should be, but I'm sure it'll still be yummy. Thanks for sharing this!

    • vespawoolf profile image
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      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Glimmer Twin Fan, thanks for the comment and pin. Enjoy!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      This sounds and looks delicious! I'm going to have to try it. Pinned too!

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