Peruvian Aji Amarillo

Before these get pureed with the cheeses, here’s a bowlful of fresh Aji Amarillo, seed saved, along with some cores, in case more heat was needed. (It was fine without adding the cores.) The top one is the same pepper, second from the right, in the above picture. This is a few days later.

The seed gets rubbed( gloves on) with some dish soap and rinsed off before draining and drying. That bowl made about 3 cups of finished sauce. Again, no time to blanch and peel!


More sauce recipes. I made the first one this evening.

Here’s mine. Not blended. Not sure I want to.

Blended it.

The next one has lots of Aji Amarillo info, but my peppers aren’t “6-10 times hotter than jalapeños”, as they describe. I guess it depends on the jalapeños. That’s why I don’t buy jalapeños.

This next one has hard boiled eggs IN the sauce. It says sixty servings from 1/2 cup of aji amarillo!

A green one, with jalapeños. I’m added some serrano chili to mine, as I like my sauce spicer. But I would hate to miss the aji flavor.

Here’s the plant today.

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Shrinkrap, those recipes are definitely NOT Peruvian! Those are what appear to be American recipes. Mayo? Catsup? I had a lot of Aji sauce in various parts of Peru and these other ingredients were not in the sauce. Sliced, boiled egg might be covered with the sauce. Catsup is absurd as it’d add sugar and competing flavors.

It might taste good, but it is not Peruvian.

Aside from just the pureed Aji (Aji paste), the various sauces called “Huancaina” are more simple. These are the primary sauces served in Peru. I can hear my son, who grew up in Peru and is a bit of a minimalist/traditionalist, shriek in horror at the notion of adding mayo or catsup! Often, if the sauce is too runny, saltines may be added to thicken. Garlic, and or onion may appear. Queso Fresco is commonly listed as a substitute to a similar Peruvian fresh cheese. I’ve seen small amounts of feta added to the queso fresco to approximate the slightly stronger flavor of the Peruvian cheese.

Gaston Acurio wrote an excellent cookbook: “Peru the Cookbook”. That’s worth getting if you love Peruvian cuisine. He mentions two, different Huancaina sauces:
Huancaina a la Antigua-Old-fashioned and Huancaina Actual-Huancaina sauce. Here are some of his recipes, with some notes added from experience:

Aji peppers seeded, cored 13 oz. (375g)
vegetable oil 1/3 cup (75ml)
queso fresco 7 oz. (200g)
evaporated milk 14 fl. oz. (410 ml)
Saltine crackers about 1
salt 1 1/2 teaspoon

Since the Aji can be more or less hot and vary in moisture content, I don’t add the milk. Fresh Aji are moist enough and it’s optional. In Peru, some folks use a batan,. Try getting one of those shipped! A blender or processor works fine.

I also don’t add salt. To my taste, the cheeses add enough. This sauce freezes very well, whereas the following can get funkier in the freezer as garlic and onions don’t age well frozen for longer periods.

Huancaina Actual
Vegetable oil 1/4 cup (75 ml)
Aji amarillo 9 oz. (250g)
Red onion, 1/4 *Peruvian red onions are typically milder than the ones found in the US. Use less or maybe a sweet onion instead. Also onions vary a lot in size. I’d figure about 2-3 Tablespoons, finely chopped, would be plenty.
Garlic 2 Cloves * again, adjust for size.
Evaporated milk 1 3/4 cup (400 ml) *Don’t add it all! Might be too runny. Add towards the end of blending/processing.
Queso Fresco 4 1/2 oz. (130g)
Saltine Crackers about 4

The most common basic Aji “Aji Amarillo Licuado” is just peppers blended with a little oil.

Another recipe for Pasta de Aji Amarillo, Yellow Chili Paste, cooks the seeded chiles. For 2 1/2 lbs (1 kg) peppers:
“Place the chiles in a pan with enough cold water to cover and bring to a boil, then remove from heat and drain. Repeat the process 3 time, changing the water each time.”
Then, the Aji is blended with just a Tablespoon (15 ml) of oil.

When folks talk about the Scoville or heat level in peppers, it is based on the whole fruit/pod, core, seeds and all. Most of the heat in Aji is in the core. I save a few de-seeded cores to add at the end if the sauces are too mild. For parties, I keep the sauce milder.

Contrary to popular myth, Peruvian ceviche dishes don’t usually contain Aji Amarillo, but I have seen it once in awhile. More commonly, Aji Limo* is used, a fiery C. chinense which is commonly red, very shiny and lacks the “goaty” aromas one finds in Habaneros and Scotch bonnets. Rocoto is also frequently used. My first encounter with Rocoto (C. pubescens) was in Lima, a half served in ceviche. As soon as I popped that into my mouth, thinking it was a pimiento, my brother in law said “Este es Rocoto!” That’s a Rocoto! About then, my mouth lit up.

  • As mentioned above, Aji Limo is NOT Lemon Drop or C. baccatum ( a yellow, smaller, hotter relative of Aji Amarillo). Wm. Woys Weaver wrote an incorrect article that resulted in great confusion by misnaming Lemon Drop as Aji Limo. The web is now full of errors regarding this.
    This is Aji Limo, red form:

Back to Aji amarillo: I am curious how cooking or blanching effects the flavor. The fresh, uncooked puree is so good, it’d be a shame to lose some of the fruitiness. Guess that’s why I haven’t done it yet. Maybe if a mother load comes in, it’ll get me to experiment more. Speaking of which: I had to find a small, forked tree and cut it into a support “Y” for one of the plants bending under the weight of peppers! It was pulling the 3+ inch diameter bamboo stakes over. Hadn’t seen that before.


That was SO helpful! Thank you. FWIW, I didn’t have catsup, and another recipe
suggested tomato paste, so that’s what we we used, and my daughter loathes mayo, so that was a hard sell, but we did end up really enjoying the sauce.

Shrinkrap, you’re welcome! Tomato paste sounds better. I don’t know if it’s my age, but it seems catsup has become too sweet. I’m looking to make my own catsup, just to lower the sugar…yuck! Enjoying the sauce is what it’s all about. Glad it turned out well.

Here’s the branch supporting the mother load of peppers. most peppers are hidden behind foliage:

I set up a small space heater inside the tent today, since frost is possible. Man, if there isn’t a major haul on Aji, I’ll be really bummed out!

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Beautiful! Good luck! Earlier this year I made “plum catsup”, but didn’t remember in time to try it.

I just finished some experiments with blanching, peeling, tasting Aji Amarillo in side by side comparisons with the raw peppers. This is what I found; all started with fresh Aji:

Blanched, peeled
It took 10 minutes in a covered saucepan to get whole Aji to loosen skins. I avoided halving the peppers prior to boiling, figuring it would dilute too much flavor. This is one method a Peruvian lady uses, the mother of a neighbor.
•Makes a smoother product without the skin
•Very easy to halve, then scrape out the core and seeds
•Color is still good.
•Flavor good, but very much changed

•Adds time and the peppers are a pain to peel, especially ones which are not straight or wrinkled
•The fresh, citirc flavor associated with this pepper vanishes. The flavor has more of a roasted, cooked pepper taste with a more vegetal note.

I tried boiling times from 3–10 minutes. Shorter cook times resulted in better flavor but skin tightly-held and near impossible to peel.

The takeaway for me is it’s much easier to just core, de-seed the raw peppers and use them. I don’t mind the minor texture of the skin and the flavor of the raw peppers is better, more characteristic of the variety. Cooking renders the flavor much more similar to other types of peppers, which is OK for certain recipes, but for Huancaina sauce, I strongly prefer the raw peppers. Maybe that’s. why Gaston Acurio’s recipes above do not include cooking, peeling. To fully appreciate the flavor and how different it is compared to other peppers, use them raw. It’s also way easier!

One of my goals is to freeze dry raw, fresh Aji (cored, de-seeded). Since it freezes so well, it should freeze dry beautifully. Once freeze dried, I can powder the brittle peppers and reduce the skin to dust, if desired, to create a product which will be smooth upon rehydrating. This should make an instant Aji paste with the flavor of fresh Aji. Sealed with oxygen absorbers, it should retain quality at room temperature for 10+ years. It’ll be awhile before there are enough peppers to warrant a freeze drier load. Until then, it’s uncertain.

That was great! Thank You! I think I’m going to try some raw. I have one ripe 9ne on the plant, and its pretty convoluted for easy peeling. I wonder if freezing raw ones would soften them enough to remove the skin with a food mill.

So far, of all the methods I’ve tried, the best (non-freeze drier) method is to core, de-seed the raw peppers and cut them in half or thirds, crosswise. Add a little Feta and 2-4x as much Queso Fresco, all to taste, plus a little dribble of oil, e.g. peanut oil, neutral flavored oil. A blender or a Vitamix does a much better job at pureeing, than a food processor. Today, I used the Vitamix, low speed & plunger to get stuff going. Then, gradually ran the low speed to max and let it grind everything together for a bit. I switched it to “Hi” for about ten seconds and cut it off.

The sauce came out very creamy with really no noticeable skin bits or grittiness. There was no need to add liquid or crackers. I bet the pepper juice got emulsified with the oil and dairy. So, it largely depends on how you grind the peppers. The Peruvian grinding stone ground up skins to nothing, but a strong blender or Vitamix can do the same. In the hierarchy of best>worst: Vitamix>Blender>Food Processor. Of course, if you like your sauce with more texture, reverse the order!

Shrinkrap, the freeze>food mill is an interesting idea! It might make juice after freezing and thawing, but it might work if the skins stay in the food mill. You would not want to refreeze again, since each time you do that, there’s more water separation. I don’t know; it could be a good idea. One of us should try it! After freezing and thawing, those saltines mentioned in some recipes might help thicken it.

For simple Aji paste, I put the raw, cored, chopped Aji in the Vitamix with a dribble of oil and let it rip. A blender also can work and is the most common tool used in Peru. That puree gets frozen in jars with a little air space and a tight seal. Half-pint mason jars work well. I bet one could put a thin top layer of oil in the jars, before freezing, to cap the puree and prevent freezer burn or oxidation.

Again, onion or garlic can be added, but do not survive well frozen for long periods. You can add these right before serving or for short-term freezing. Myself, I prefer simple, where the peppers really stand out as the dominant flavor.

Okay, thanks!

“For simple Aji paste, I put the raw, cored, chopped Aji in the Vitamix with a dribble of oil and let it rip”

That’s what I’m doing, but maybe into ice cube trays.

So I ate one straight of the plant, not a particularly symmetrical pepper, and the blossom end , no seeds, was fruity and sweet! Another bite, with seeds and placenta/membrane was decidedly hot! Interesting.

Yes, almost all the capsaicin is in the veins and core, which is why it’s not just delicious, but versatile. You can make it so mild, it’s suitable for “young children and cowards”, medium or blazing. That’s why I keep a few of the cores outside the blender, in case it’s too mild. Generally, by leaving a generous amount of the “veins”, the septa, a good level of heat, for my tastes, is present. A small number of de-seeded cores might get added, after tasting, but not always.

Shrinkrap, if you have a vacuum sealer, you can vacuum seal those frozen “pepper ice cubes” so they’ll keep much longer. Jars are handy because it’s quick to take them out of the freezer for a few minutes and dig out what you need with a fork or stout knife, then return the jar to the freezer. I can’t tell you how many Smucker’s All Natural Peanut Butter jars are in the freezers! Some have blanched pureed basil with oil, Huancaina sauce, Aji puree, Thai pepper oils, etc. There’s no way moisture gets out or in, and products can’t give off or absorb other odors. Ball even makes these cute, 4 oz. jars, which are great for potent condiments.

Less plastic waste with jars, although I do use mylar and plastic when it’s the best choice. Mylar bags get washed and reused; vacuum-seal bags are also often reused, both getting smaller with each use.

I’m wondering if a mix of blanched and raw Aji make the best condiments. After the above comparisons, there were a bunch of raw and blanched peppers which went into the Huancaina, which really came out great. The ratio was about 1/3 blanched + 2/3 raw. I left the cut, blanched peppers uncovered in the fridge for some hours, which dried them out a little. This last batch had perfect texture and rich flavor, the bright of raw and mellow of cooked. A side by side comparison is needed.

That sounds handy! I actually have THREE vacuum sealers, one that seals re-usable “Ziploc” bags. I have been putting individual peppers in the freezer one by one, but there are quite a few coming along now. Decisions, decisions!

Finally, enough Aji were put together for a full freeze drier load!

There was even one left over. The seeds kept for sharing and replanting look larger and more viable than the early seeds which matured in warm-hot weather. Took a while to core and de-seed these. Most were cut so they’d lie flatter against the trays and freeze dry faster. Several cores, minus seeds, were added for a bit more zip.

I sure hope the final product (powdered) will rehydrate into a fresh-tasting Aji paste. There’s a lot of orange starting to show in the Aji tent and the freezer doesn’t have much room.

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Wow👀 That looks amazing! And the freeze dried powder is an amazing idea! Have you seen this before? I have tried both dried and freeze dried shallots, and the difference was interesting, although I don’t remember the specifics.

Here’s my plants (rocotillo and aji amarillo). in my greenhouse. There is also a scotch bonnet.

None of the peppers are full sized, let alone orange. I wonder what the chances are of getting many of these to ripen. It’s about 70 in there during the day time right now.

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Shrinkrap, I bet there’s a good chance your Aji will ripen. Aji like cooler temperatures than many chilies. They are just S…l…o…w. What they don’t like is 88-95 degrees F. Also, even if it’s 70 degrees, the leaf temperature is warmer, due to the infrared rays of sunlight.

I’ve never heard of freeze dried Aji Amarillo. This is an experiment. I have freeze dried some “Seasoning Peppers” with great success. As long as the texture isn’t a big deal, and flavor is the target, I’m pretty sure freeze drying will work. But, it won’t be known until it’s tried, and then… it’s too late!

Freeze dried peppers or tomatoes are similar to frozen and thawed; they turn to mush. However, tomato powder, from freeze dried, is essentially raw tomato juice when rehydrated, it has the flavor of fresh tomatoes. One can make a thick, cooked sauce in very little time, since you can control the water content. Pepper powder, rehydrated become a fresh-tasting puree, at least in things I’ve tried, so far. The big difference with freeze dried vs, frozen is: weight is greatly reduced; the finished product is shelf-stable for 10-20 years; there’s no defrost time; freezer burn is eliminated; flavor and color is retained for many more years.

In many preservations, such as mushrooms, freeze drying is not the best option. Regular dehydrating allows umami flavors to develop in shiitake mushrooms, one reason why dried shiitake are more popular than fresh mushrooms, in China. Many dried peppers are excellent. In this case, the hope is to capture the citrusy, “grapefruity” aromatics which get lost in dried Aji Amarillo products, a.k.a “Aji Mirasol”.

Since experimentation with blanching revealed aromatics were lost, due to heat, maybe freeze drying can capture, retain these flavors. A freeze drier does use some heat to vaporize ice crystals, “sublimation”, where ice goes from solid to vapor without forming water. This happens under a vacuum. Typically, the shelves are programmed to warm to around 125 degrees F (52 C). I reset the shelf maximum temperature to 95 F (35 C) in an effort to keep volatile flavor components locked in the peppers.

Will it work? I have no idea! It should work. There’s only one way to know: do it.

There is a good side to failure: 1. learning 2. I’ll be mailing peppers to a lot of people, since I can’t handle the incoming volume.

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Today, I powdered the freeze dried Aji and the little bit of hot pepper dust escaping the Vitamix (dry blade) was VERY irritating to the sinuses, eyes. I could even detect a bit of hotness on my lips! Next time, mask-up.

The powdering reduced the freeze drier load to under two cups! Color and fragrance were excellent.

It was not quite a fine powder, which is fine.

About a tablespoon (15 ml) was rehydrated and took around 4 teaspoonfuls (20 ml) of water to form a bright orange-red paste. It reconstituted into a hot, sweet, flavorful Aji paste which is about as close to fresh as I’ve had, outside of pureeing fresh peppers. Super space efficient, stores for long periods, doesn’t weigh much, great flavor. I’m very happy with the results.

Now, if only the current high winds don’t destroy the Aji tent or knock out electricity, more of this unique powder can be generated.

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Har har. I see what you did there!

"a bright orange-red paste. It reconstituted into a hot, sweet, flavorful Aji paste which is about as close to fresh as I’ve had, outside of pureeing fresh peppers. Super space efficient, "


I can probably figure out, …(In October you wrote “I set up a small space heater inside the tent today, since frost is possible” and "Nights have ben around 40 F (4.4C), which is a bit too cool for maturation. I’ll stick a small space heater in the tent and bump the temperature up to around 55-60 F (13–16 C). The forecast does call for a mild warming trend.)…but can you describe your space heater and your tent situation? What kind of frost cloth , and what is the temperature difference between outside and inside?

The tent is a mini greenhouse, covered with 6 mil (heavy weight) greenhouse plastic film. It’s more or less clear and, like most greenhouse films, has ultraviolet inhibitors so the sun doesn’t destroy it for quite a few years.

I’m not sure what the inside temperature is right now, but outdoors, its 27 degrees F (-3C). This is the coldest morning, so far. Outside, the plants would now be dead. Hopefully, the electric space heater is keeping the interior above freezing. The electric heater is positioned in the middle of the 26 foot long row, blowing perpendicular to the row. Its fan isn’t strong enough to put at either end and reach the far side.

Because the heater is blowing perpendicular to the row, I made a curved, V-shaped deflector to channel the warm fan air in two directions. I’ll try to take a picture of the setup.

Condensation builds up inside when the tent is closed up and droplets fall randomly, off the cold plastic. I used some foil to make a “hat/rain shield” on top of the heater, to keep water off. The other precaution was to remove all leaves and weeds, dry grass, etc. from around the heater; it’s sitting on bare soil so it won’t start a fire.

My brother, an electrician, wired a couple “GFI” electrical outlets on opposite sides of the house, years ago. Ground Fault Interrupt outlets have those little pop-out buttons and shut the flow of electricity off if there’s an electrical short circuit. Most bathrooms have them. The heater is plugged into a very thick extension cord, which runs to one of the house’s outdoor GFI outlets.

The metal, conduit hoops (also called “EMT” Electrical or Extruded Metal Tubing), pictured near the top of this thread, were originally made to support bird netting over tall blueberry bushes. By fall, the hoops are not needed there, so I pulled them up, made them taller by adding vertical conduit. The greenhouse plastic is attached to the frame with plastic clips, made for that purpose. Again, I’ll try to get a picture posted.

Though it sounds complicated, the whole thing went together in under two hours, since I keep EMT, greenhouse plastic and clips on hand for many uses, such as a humidity tent for shiitake mushrooms. I have several sizes of hoop benders, from Johnny’s seeds, and use them for all kinds of things. One can make a hoop out of straight EMT in a couple minutes.

Years ago, before hoop benders were available, I made similar structures out of bamboo, the big kind, 2-3 inch diameter. The vertical poles were put in the ground, and I took some green, 3+ inch thick bamboo and split it to make flat, bendable “ribbons”. Those were tied onto the vertical poles to make hoops. Those worked great, but only last a year.

Curiosity got the best of me and I had to go outside and check on things. Yep, 27 degrees and everything outdoors is frozen, heavy frost blanketing the garden. However, the Aji tent interior is well above freezing. From the outside I can see there’s no frost on the plastic and little drops of water are on the inside, so it’s above freezing and the plants should be happy. Once the sun hits the tent, I’ll unplug the heater and eventually open up the ends so it doesn’t get too hot in there. Whew! I was worried that little heater wouldn’t be enough; that’s a big tent.

I should put a min/max recording thermometer in there. At some point, the heater won’t be strong enough. I doubt it’ll keep things above freezing when it’s 8 degrees F outside. A min/max thermometer could help in knowing the limits.

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Thank you for your detailed response. I understood the first five paragraphs the first time I read them. My fault, not yours. I’m going to read the rest a few more times.

ETA I get it !

And I have a few min-max thermometers, but I am not yet using them in ernest.

Here is what I used for a greenhouse until this spring. PVC pipe and various connectors. I have a lot left over and don’t know if I should save it.

My daughter says I ( like Elaine on Seinfeld), use too many exclamation points, so I am limiting them!

Shrinkrap, you know as soon as you get rid of something you’ll find a need for it! Too many exclamation points? Maybe for formal papers!!! The Spanish put an exclamation point at the beginning and end of a sentence which uses them, two per sentence. Well, you now know another way to pester your daughter!!! looks like mowed grass !!!. What a gyp; I type in a dozen ! and the software only lets me add three.

Here are some images, taken inside and outside the tent:
An outside view, showing the space heater inside. The tent ends were open when this picture was taken, and the heater was off. Outdoor air was 50 F (10C), inside, with solar heat, was 83 F (28C).

An end view inside the 7 1/2 foot (2.3 meters) tent. You can’t see all the way down, as the taller, bushier plants block the view.

The space heater is halfway down the row, to help spread the heat. But, it’s not the best heater-fan direction. So, viewed from above, here’s a quick, home made heat deflector, made from aluminum flashing:

The tin foil cap on the heater is to keep water from dripping on it.

Ripening Aji!

Here are the snap clamps which hold the plastic onto the bent EMT, pipe:

I read somewhere that I should have put some sort of tape over the metal, before clamping plastic on, maybe to reduce heat?

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold