Peruvian Aji Sauce with Aji Amarillo (Yellow Chiles)

aji amarillo

My first experience with Peruvian aji (chili) sauce was surprisingly in a NYC Chinese comfort food restaurant, Mooncake Foods started by Chinese-American owner that grew up in a Spanish Brooklyn neighborhood. They had a fantastic jalepeno based aji sauce served with many of their rice and Asian inspired meat dishes. Since then I’ve made my own jalepeno aji sauce (jalepeno, garlic, cilantro–which still tastes great) but have also learned that it’s not the same as aji sauce in Peru. The aji sauces in South American countries such as Peru uses aji amarillo, an indigenous variety that is typically yellow–but can be orange or green and more fruity and sweet in taste. However, it’s still a moderately hot chile registering 40-50K on the skoville scale compared with 8K of jalepeno. Here in the US, jalepenos are more common and cheap so most Peruvian restaurants use that instead. But after experiencing Mo-Chica Peruvian restaurant’s aji amarillo sauce, we could tell there was a succinct difference compared with the jalepeno based aji: it’s more sweet and fruity initially, with the heat more subtle and kicking in at the end. I knew it was imperative for me to make my own. The mission was on.

I’ve never seen fresh aji amarillo in supermarkets but know it exists among specialty suppliers to restaurants and chefs, so instead, I searched for canned and jarred aji amarillo. Scouring internet message boards such as Chowhound yielded no luck. Multiple stops at several small Mexican markets were also fruitless. Almost giving up, I came to the last place on my list to check, Food 4 Less, a low end Kroger based chain of grocery markets and “ay carambe!” there it was, aji amarillo jarred and canned under the Amazonas brand. At about $3.50 for a 20 oz. can, it wasn’t cheap…but was the hunt worth it? You bet! You can also buy canned/jar chiles online here but if you don’t feel like making your own, they also have premade aji amarillo sauce.

aji amarillo


Peruvian Aji Amarillo Sauce
( adapted from yanuq.com)
Printable Recipe

  • 20 oz. can or jar of aji amarillo (Amazonas brand found at Food 4 less and Jon’s in Los Angeles, or find it online.)
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 1 tbs vinegar or juice from 1/2 lime
  • Kosher salt

Wear some gloves for protection. First rinse and drain the aji. Split in half lengthwise and devein and remove seeds (you may keep some intact for more heat). Boil in small saucepan of water for about 10-15 minutes.

Drain and place peppers in food processor. Add the sugar and acid (I used lime) and pulse. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil as you puree it, emulsifying the mixture. Adjust seasoning, and make final adjustments with bit of kosher salt…it’s that simple. Does fresh aji amerillo sauce taste better…probably, but this was pretty darn good as well. Jalepeno based aji sauce includes cilantro and garlic. You can certainly add a clove of garlic as well to taste, but wanted to make pure aji amarillo.

aji sauce 

This is a great sauce for steak, chicken, seafood or basically any savory. There’s numerous uses for aji amarillo in Peruvian cuisine… including the fantastic Peruvian causa (potato and crab salad).
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22 Responses to “Peruvian Aji Sauce with Aji Amarillo (Yellow Chiles)”

  1. 1

    mariadela — June 29, 2009 @ 6:13 am

    Thank you soooooo much! I will make it soon! :)

    Mariadela

  2. 2

    yutjangsah — June 29, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

    these peppers are absolutely beautiful. i've never heard of them but they sound delish.

  3. 3

    Rose at The Bite Me Kitchen — June 29, 2009 @ 4:05 pm

    I had some of the best food in my life in Peru! I love aji sauce! Thanks for the recipe :)

  4. 4

    Cookin' Canuck — June 29, 2009 @ 4:17 pm

    What a beautiful color! This sauce looks amazing.

  5. 5

    Marc @ NoRecipes — June 30, 2009 @ 12:16 am

    Oooo Mooncake! I love that place. The color of this sauce looks amazing. Now I'm curious about this chili.

  6. 6

    Hummingbird Appetite — June 30, 2009 @ 2:06 am

    I've never seen aji amarillo before. Great find! I can relate to searching grocery store after grocery store for one thing.

  7. 7

    Anonymous — June 30, 2009 @ 2:25 am

    Food 4 Less Amazonas, eh? I've been looking near and far and high when I should have been looking low…excellent find! Thank you!

  8. 8

    Ravenous Couple — July 2, 2009 @ 3:57 pm

    Mariadela: Let us know how it goes!

    yutjangsah: these are indiginous to Peru and south america and supposedly one of the oldest cultivated plants there. Initial taste is quite fruity, but still hot!

    Rose: We hope you're able to find these and make it. We love Peruvian food as well.

    Cookin Canuck: Thank you!

    Marc: Mooncake was def. our regular to go place for good comfort food. The peruvian chicken places in NYC serve jalepneo based aji (at least from the ones we tried) but def. try to get your hands on these and create something great!

    Hummingbird: We've never had it before until trying all these new Latin American cuisine..it's great!

    Anonymous: Jons and Food 4 Less are really great markets! Theres lots more ethnic food here compared with your mainstream ones.

  9. 9

    Ann — July 7, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

    Wow this sounds picy and good, also love that colorful picture

  10. 10

    Ravenous Couple — July 13, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

    Anne: It's sweet and spicy! Definitely the most interesting chile pepper we've come across as most chilies are one or the other, but not both!

  11. 11

    Sala (Veggie Belly) — July 14, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

    this looks so bright and colorful! i've been looking for a good aji recipe, i cant wait to try this one!

  12. 12

    Ravenous Couple — August 6, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

    sala: let us know how it goes!

  13. 13

    Anonymous — March 26, 2010 @ 2:26 am

    how can i make my chili creamier?

  14. 14

    Ravenous Couple — March 28, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

    Anon: To make the sauce creamier, just add more oil when you blend it. The more oil you add, the more it emulsifies and thickens.

  15. 15

    Kassandra Zuanich — August 13, 2010 @ 9:51 pm

    THANK YOU! I will look at Food 4 Less today. I have been looking for this paste forever. I go to Peru every year so I always bring back some Aji packets but I seem to have run out!

    You should try making Aji de Gallina and papa la Huancaina, it's so easy and delicious -

  16. 16

    Anonymous — December 4, 2010 @ 2:37 am

    I've already been to three latin groery stores today hunting for this and was just about to throw in the towel and order it online, UNTIL I saw your post. . .about to go to Food For Less now and see if it is there! Keeping my fingers cross. . .

    Great site BTW!

  17. 17

    Mary — July 18, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

    If you can’t find these peppers in your local store try buying aji amarillo sauce online and have it delivered to your home. I have bought it at Amigofoods.com, they were great! Here’s the link
    http://www.amigofoods.com/ajiamcr75oz.html

  18. 18

    Catherine — January 10, 2012 @ 6:29 am

    I found frozen aji amarillo peppers in a latin grocery in Scranton PA….only $3.50 for a good sized bag….worth looking for! yum! Thank you for the authentic recipe, the first recipe I tried involved mayonaise and sour cream, then I found one with queso fresco that I hadn’t tried yet. really wanted authentic as I visited Peru .5 yrs ago and fell in love with this sauce (and ceviche !!!)

  19. 19

    Joni — March 1, 2012 @ 6:06 am

    Do you know what the plant is called? I am looking for seeds to try and grow the aji amarillo in the US. Any help appreciated!

    • The Ravenous Couple replied: — March 2nd, 2012 @ 2:19 am

      not sure, but if you look up aji amarillo, you may find whole frozen peppers that may have seeds

  20. 20

    Marissa — July 17, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

    I found the Amazonas jarred peppers in a Mexican market here in Utah, used your recipe, and it turned out fantastic! I used it in a quinoa recipe called Quinua Amarilla and it was delicious. Thank you so much, you were a huge help!

  21. 21

    Peter — February 17, 2013 @ 2:10 pm

    Thanks a lot. I was able to get some seeds while I was in Peru. Grown at home, processed today. This sauce is just awesome! All the tastes are going to appear one after the other. From the sour lime juice over the sweetness of the organic sugar to the soft spice of the aji.

    Greeting from Germany

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