Aji Amarillo

Peru has a large variety of aji (hot peppers), which vary in color, size, shape and flavor. They have been used in Peru for several thousand years, since Pre-Incan times, and every region has its own type.

My family and I love to cook with aji – it always brings a special flavor to my dishes and immediately takes me back to when I was growing up in Peru. I remember my mom cooking most of her dishes with aji amarillo and aji mirasol not to mention her favorites Rocoto and Aji Limo, which are mostly used in ceviche. I’ll be posting on many different types of aji in this blog since they are intrinsic to Peruvian cooking.

My favorite is aji amarillo, long and thin peppers, about 3-5 inches in length. Don’t be fooled by the name – amarillo means yellow in Spanish – because ripe aji amarillo are bright orange and unripe ones are yellow. The seeds inside will make a dish very spicy so just remove them to lower the heat level. The aroma and its fruity, somewhat sweet flavor add to the spiciness, making it unique from other hot peppers.

I use aji amarillo in dishes such Papa a la Huancaina, potatoes with a yellow creamy sauce, Causa, a cold potato dish colored and flavored with yellow aji, Papa a la Diabla, a warm potato dish with a creamy aji sauce, and as a garnish on Escabeche, pickled fish. Another common use is as a side dipping sauce that can accompany any meal.

In addition to flavor, aji Amarillo has health benefits as well due to its high levels of capsaicin, a natural ingredient in hot peppers located in the pepper’s ribs, which is good for pain relief, as a digestion aid and in fighting inflammation.

A good place to buy aji is from Amazon.com.

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