In Peru, there’s one thing that goes well with chicken, fried yuca (yuquitas fritas), and potatoes. That’s Ají Amarillo sauce. The sauce (or paste) is made from the Peruvian yellow chili pepper, a key ingredient in ceviche, seco de carne, papa a la huancaína, causa rellena, and huancaína macaroni. Ají Amarillo (sweet yellow chili pepper) is one of the most important ingredients in Peruvian cooking. It has a unique, fresh, and fruity flavour that is pleasant even to people unaccustomed to spicy ingredients. It’s the most popular pepper in Peru and there’s no way to avoid it if you eat the local food. Not that you’d want to miss out on this delicious sauce and a central ingredient in so many dishes from this region.
The word on the street is that Aji Amarillo originated somewhere in the region of the Peruvian Andes, where the Inca lived for thousands of years. The yellow pepper that we eat now is the domesticated version of the wild fiery pepper that grew naturally in this part of the world.
According to Wikipedia, the aji amarillo pepper gets a score of 50,000 on the Scoville scale, a scale created to measure the strength (i.e. heat) or pungency of chilli peppers. That puts it somewhere in the “mild” zone when you compare it to certain peppers that have a score of over 3,000,000.
And don’t worry if the “yellow” peppers you buy are actually orange. This is the color of the mature yellow chili pepper from this region.
You can buy the aji amarillo paste in jars in any Latino market but not every city has one. Order on Amazon if you can’t find anything nearby or online. But the best way to savor this tangy, spicy sauce from Peru is to make it yourself. Or failing that, get on a plane to Peru and enjoy the spicy sauces of the world’s best culinary destinations.
Don’t forget that if you live in a country with a favorable climate, the Aji Amarillo plant is hardy and will produce a lot of peppers. The benefit of growing your own, apart from the cost savings, is the knowledge that they are grown naturally and are fresh from your own garden, not flown halfway around the world.
Added Bonus: these peppers contain antioxidants and flavanoids that promote good health. They are also packed with vitamin C. So what are you waiting for? Get cooking! Add a splash of lime juice for more flavor and healthy goodness.
Ají Amarillo Sauce Recipe
- ½ cup ají amarillo (50 g)
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 eggs
- 3 cups water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp mustard
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a small pot, add 3 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of salt and when it starts to boil, add the eggs and cook them for 10 minutes. Drain the hot water, and let them stand. When they are cold, remove the eggshell.
- For this step, you must wear gloves and mask because the ají amarillo is very spicy and tend to be irritating. First, cut the stem of the ají amarillo, discard them and then cut the ají amarillo in a transversal way. Remove the seeds with the help of a teaspoon, never with your fingers. Discard the seeds.
- Put the ají amarillo in water for a few minutes to lose excess spicy gas. Then, in a small pan, add the oil, garlic, ají amarillo and the whole bay leaf, stir them for a few minutes. When they are golden, remove them from the heat, and let them stand. Remove the bay leaf.
- In the blender, add roasted ají amarillo, eggs, mustard, vinegar, and milk cream. Blend a few minutes until you get a homogeneous mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste, beat a few more seconds.
- This sauce can be used as a dip or as a side dish of meats. Store the sauce in a clean, dry glass container inside the refrigerator.
Peruvian foodie. I’ve been writing about the food of Peru for over 10 years. Read more about the Eat Peru team here
Hello would I buy yellow bell pepper or a yellow chili pepper for this recipe? Many Thanks!
You definitely want the yellow chilli pepper for this recipe. Ají Amarillo.
Any tips on how to adjust recipe if I only have aji amarillo paste and not fresh peppers?
Hello Kyle- I have the same question. It is hard to find fresh aji peppers in my area and would like to use the paste. I am going to go ahead and try it and wait for an answer. I will also respond after I make it to let you know if it turned out or not.
I have a LOT of aji amarillo in my garden. This recipe looks simple and intriguing, but 60 servings is a LOT. How long is it stable in the refrigerator?
I made the sauce a couple days ago and loved it!!
How long will it stay good in the fridge?
Glad you liked it.
3 days max in the fridge. But you can freeze it to use later.
I grow Peruvian Cajamarca Chili Peppers. I’m going to try your recipe, but will use Cajamarcas instead of the AJÍ AMARILLO. Will let everyone know how it turns out. Thanks 🌶
I didn’t have fresh Amarillo so I used 50g of the paste (about 3.5 tbsp) and followed the rest of the recipe however found the flavor of the egg to be overpowering.
Looks tasty! But would this work to use dried and rehydrated peppers? Have never seen these peppers fresh.
I would like to substitute Aji Cito peppers? How would that work?
My Aji Amarillo plant keeps on growing, very tall but spuces. What could be the cause?
Can someone enlighten me, please.
Nilza. what you described indicates your soil is high in nitrogen and low in other trace minerals. when your plants are 2 to 3 feet tall, if they haven’t put out blooms, sprinkle Bone meal (start with about 3-4 table spoons each) around each plant and gently work into top 1″ of soil or water in. you should see blooms put out in a week or less.
I lived in Peru for 2 years and I love this sauce. Someone gifted me a bag of frozen whole aji amarillo. I am going to try making this sauce with those. Any suggestions how to adjust recipe. I assume the frozen aji will be more watery and milder than fresh so I may cut back the other liquid ingredients a bit then taste.
Thanks for the earlier tip about freezing. I definitely will do that.
Very good sauce, however i wish it was a bit richer and thicker, the flavor was there but it tasted sort of diluted. Next time i will add more peppers and garlic, and reduce the vinegar.
I will try this sauce but I am not sure this is the right one I am searching for. We have had empanadas at a Cuban-Peruvian restaurant in our town (new and delicious restaurant). I would like to make the dipping sauce they serve with these. It looks like the Aji Amarillo Sauce but does not have a fruity taste at all.
Did you ever find the sauce you were looking for? I’m curious to try it!