It might look sweet and innocuous and you could be tempted to take a bite out of this Peruvian pepper, but be warned. It packs a punch. Eye-watering is a word I’d use to describe it, especially if you’re not used to hot food.
According to the PepperScale website, which measures this kind of thing, the rocoto is considered “medium heat”, bordering on extra hot. The heat level gets up to Habanero or Scotch Bonnet for some variations. It’s a lot hotter than a Jalapeño, for example.
These little tomato-shaped peppers are thick and juicy. This makes them the perfect pepper to stuff with beef, garlic, hard-boiled eggs, raisins, and cheese. It’s a combination that might look odd on paper, but tastes divine (and did I mention hot?) in the mouth.
Rocoto Relleno is what we call a classic and is originally from the beautiful city of Arequipa. Juicy peppers filled with seasoned meat, egg and vegetables, along with cheese (queso fresco) are baked with a covering of milk sauce to create a taste sensation. In this recipe, we’ve also added peanuts and black olives for an even more flavorsome version of this classic Peruvian dish.
In Peru, and elsewhere, most notably Bolivia, rocotos are used in soups, stews, and hot sauces.
Rocoto is sometimes considered a substitute for red bell pepper, but it’s worth keeping in mind that bell peppers are sweet, with just a mild peppery heat. Rocoto is on a different level completely. Use with care. One way to reduce the heat is to soak the peppers in water (and even vinegar).
This is a rich, savory dish that really needs to be experienced. It’s hard to give an accurate representation of the taste but just know that it’s very popular in Peru, and much-loved around the world by people fortunate enough to have tried it. If you find yourself with some leftover ground beef, you could make the Peruvian rice-covered beef dish called arroz tapado.
Try it and let us know what you think!
Rocoto Relleno – Peruvian Stuffed Peppers
- 8 large red rocoto peppers
- 12 cups water
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons vinegar
- 3 medium cloves
- 3 bay leaves
For the filling
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 200 g. ground beef
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 50 g. ground peanuts
- 50 g. raisin
- 1/4 cup black olives seeded
- 1 medium boiled egg
- 4 slices fresh cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce
- 1 medium egg
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1 pinch salt and pepper
- Make sure to wear a pair of gloves and goggles – fresh rocoto peppers are very spicy. Place the peppers, one by one, on the cutting board, and with a sharp knife, remove the top of the pepper and the seeds and veins. Rinse under running water and set aside.
- Put four cups of water in a medium saucepan on high heat. When it starts to boil, add a tablespoon of sugar, a teaspoon of salt, a clove, a bay leaf, and a tablespoon of vinegar. Place the rocotos in the pot, cook for three minutes. Turn off the stove, drain the water, and drain. Repeat this procedure two more times. The purpose of this is to eliminate the excess of natural spice. Be very careful not to overcook them. Set them aside while you prepare the filling.
- Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F.
- Next, In a pan add three tablespoons of oil, when it is very hot, add the finely chopped onion and crushed garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion turns transparent.
- Then add the ground beef, stirring little by little until the meat loses its deep pink color. Add the cumin, paprika, raisins, and ground peanuts. Stir and turn off the stove.
- Arrange the rocotos inside a baking tray, and with the help of a spoon fill half the pepper with meat stew. Add olive and a piece of hard-boiled egg. Complete the filling with meat. Press with the spoon so that there is no air or spaces without filling inside the pepper. Finally, cover with a piece of fresh cheese, and close with its “lid”.
- In a bowl, beat the egg with the milk and a pinch of salt. Pour this mixture over the rocotos. And take them to the oven. Cook them for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Serve with potato cake.