Rocoto chili peppers (Capsicum pubescens) are native to Peru and were consumed by the Incas and other Andean cultures millennia ago. Rocoto peppers look a bit like a squashed tomato, but taste nothing like them. These red (and sometimes yellow) peppers are hot, registering a similar level of “heat” on the Scoville Scale as the habanero pepper. If that means nothing, just know that they are multiple times hotter than jalapeños. This pepper sauce is made with cheese and evaporated milk so you can expect a deliciously creamy texture. Add in garlic and onions, and you’ve got a savoury sensation.
Rocoto peppers are also full of goodness. Considered anti-inflammatory thanks to the high Vitamin A, C, and E content, these chilis are widely used in Peruvian cuisine and are considered emblematic of Peru.
Fresh peppers can be difficult to find outside of Peru, especially outside of major cities. But there are speciality vendors online and you can look for South American markets in your town where Peruvians and Bolivians might have the peppers for sale. Amazon stocks paste that you can use in a recipe but if you get the chance, try the fresh produce.
If you want an extra tangy aspect to the recipe, add the juice of a lime to the ingredients. Lime juice appears in so many Peruvian dishes but we’ve left it out in this rocoto sauce recipe. Feel free to add it back in as lime will take some of the sharp heat out of the pepper. It’s one of our favorite flavors and adds an extra dimension to an already flavorful sauce.
What does rocoto sauce go with?
The question should be what doesn’t it go with? This is a versatile accompaniment to chicken, potato fries, anticuchos, vegetables, jalea, and plenty of other dishes. Use it with snack foods and many street foods to give a bit of a spicy kick.
“Sweet” Peruvian Rocoto Pepper Sauce
- 5 ripe red rocoto peppers 300 g
- 1 liter water
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp oil
- ½ tbsp evaporated milk
- 100 g fresh white cheese
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 small serrano peppers
- 1 smal onion 50 g
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Wash the rocotos and remove any dirt. Do not cut the stem, the peppers must be cooked whole and sealed. Peppers that are open give off a gas that causes itchy throat when boiled.
- Place a liter of water in a small pot and add a teaspoon of salt. When the water begins to boil, add the chili peppers and cook covered for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Turn off the stove, remove the pot, and drain the water. Leave the peppers resting for a moment until they are cold and easy to handle.
- Note: for this step use gloves, a knife and a small spoon, and a mask if possible. Place the peppers one by one on the board. Cut transversely in two and with a spoon, gently scrape the surface of the pepper to remove the seeds and veins. Discard the seeds, the stem, and the veins. Put the pulp of the peppers in a bowl.
- When pepper pulp is clean, place the peppers (Rocoto and serrano) in the blender glass. Add the peeled and chopped onion, garlic, fresh cheese and finally the liquids (evaporated milk and oil). Season with salt and pepper. If you are not used to spice, you can add the seasoning with a toothpick.
- Beat in the blender at high speed for at least 5 minutes. The resulting mixture should be dark pink and homogeneous in appearance and texture.
- Pour the mixture into a clean, completely dry glass container. Keep in the fridge for up to 7 days.
Peruvian foodie. I’ve been writing about the food of Peru for over 10 years. Read more about the Eat Peru team here
What type of white cheese do you typically use.?
Go for Queso Fresco. You can find it in many supermarkets. They also stock it at Walmart and Target.
I’m growing rocoto’s in Oakland, CA and my plant is full of them!
Note you wrote “add the roasted” peppers, but they are still raw right?
Recipe is good, I was worried about the heat so I substituted 1 sweet pepper for 1 rocoto. I think next time I will add the lime juice, it needs a hit of acid.
Somehow that word ended up in the recipe. I removed it had a word with the quality control department (me!). Thanks for pointing that out. Adding lime sounds good. The flavor reminds me so much of Peru.
I only have ricoto paste. Any idea how much to substitute for the fresh ricotos?
We used 5 small roasted peppers, with seeds, veins, and stems. After cooking them in water, and removing the waste (skin, seeds, etc.), we obtained approximately 200 g. of rocoto pulp. But you must consider that, in the rocoto paste, the rocoto is dehydrated. So an equivalent measurement would be about 100 g. of rocoto paste or three tablespoons of rocoto paste.
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I love Peruvian food!
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What do you do with the serrano peppers? Do you put them in the blender whole?
Yes, add both pepper types to the blender as per step 5
What is the name of the white cheese?
That’s queso fresco.