Aji amarillo is one of the most popular ingredients in Peruvian cooking, and gives the dishes a unique taste. Unlike many other countries dishes, where chillies can overpower the taste of the dish, aji amarillo is used to give a depth of flavour and bright, sunshine-yellow colour that’s oh-so-appealing in Peruvian cuisine.
Aji means chilli in Peruvian Spanish and amarillo means yellow. It’s pronounced ‘ah-hee ama-ree-yo’… easy when you know how!
Pastes, dried or fresh?
Chopped, fresh chillies, ground dry chillies and chilli pastes are all commonly used variations in Peru, although your more likely to find the latter versions in the UK. It’s certainly no poor relation though, you’ll find that the chilli pastes are highly common in Peru too for speed and convenience of storage, and taste just as good as the fresh chillies themselves. Through Viva Peru you can now buy aji amarillo paste in the UK too, but if you’d like to get hold of a different version then please contact us.
There are a variety of brands and types available, such as A La Cena, Golden and La Latina, selling the pastes in jars and squeezable pouches in any supermarket across the country. Ask any Peruvian what they key ingredients are in their cuisine, and you can bet that this ubiquitous ray of sunshine is high on the list!
What can I use it in?
As you’ve probably guessed by now, you can use it in a lot of things! Some of the main dishes include:
ceviche amarillo (yellow ceviche): a variation on the classic ceviche, this fresh fish dish has a rounded, sumptuous flavour and can even be served warm
aji de gallina (chicken curry): this rich, creamy dish balances the warmth of the aji amarillo yellow chillies with ground walnuts and is ever popular with travellers in Peru
causa rellena (layered potato salads): these beautiful, sculptural dishes are a breeze to make and look super impressive! Stuffed with meat, fish, or vegetables, they rely on the aji amarillo to give flavour and colour to the potatoes in the classic version
papa a la huancaina: a moreish potato dish often served as a starter or a side with a boiled egg and olive (normally one for some reason! Although as an olive lover, I would go wild and use more!). Another traveller classic and popular with vegetarians wanting to try some key Peruvian dishes. Huancaina sauce can also be used as a dipping sauce with chips or even nachos. When we used to run our pizzeria, we even served it up as a dip for the crusts and it went down a storm!
soups and stews: stirred in during cooking, the aji amarillo chile paste melts away to add warmth and colour to a variety of classic Peruvian soups such as parihuela. I personally love to add a dollop to more familiar creamy homemade soups such as Leek and Potato and Spiced Parsnip – perhaps being the first ever foray into Anglo-Peruvian fusion cuisine!!
Used aji amarillo in other exciting ways?
We’d love to hear about it if you have! Tweet us @vivaperuuk or leave a comment below to let us know 🙂 the first three responses with pics will have a free jar winging its way out to you!
Want to buy aji amarillo in the UK? Find it here!