Vespa's recipes have appeared in "Midwest Living" and "Taste of Home." She belongs to Cook's Recipe Testers for "Cook's Illustrated."
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 the following information:
- Tips for making Peruvian ají sauce
- Recipe: Green Peruvian ají sauce
- Recipe: Yellow Peruvian ají sauce
- Ocopa sauce variation
- What huacatay is
Enjoy! Or as we say in Peru...¡Provecho!
Tips for Making Peruvian Ají Sauce
- 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 Aji Sauce
|Prep time||Ready in||Yields|
- 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)
- Pour 2 tablespoons of neutral-flavored vegetable oil into a medium skillet over medium heat.
- Sauté peppers, onion and garlic clove until softened, about 4 minutes.
- Pour into a blender container the sauteed vegetables, the remaining 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil, cilantro, salt, cheese and peanut butter (if using).
- Blend on high until thick and creamy, about one minute.
Yellow Peruvian Ají Sauce
Ají Marisol peppers (available as a paste in jars on Amazon) give this sauce its characteristic yellow color. In Peru, it is enjoyed with meat, chicken or french fries.
- 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
- Coarsely chop peppers, onion and garlic.
- Pour 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil into a medium skillet. Over medium heat, saute vegetables until soft.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can Peruvian Aji sauces be frozen?
Answer: I have never frozen the sauces. It’s possible they could separate when frozen. In Peruvian homes, sauces are eaten fresh. If you try it, please let me know how it turns out.
Question: Can Peruvian aji sauces be made with mayo?
Answer: I have seen recipes that add mayonnaise to Peruvian aji sauces. I have tasted them and although they are delicious, it is not authentic. In Peru, mayonnaise is never added to aji sauce.