For over 7000 years, Ajis, Peruvian chili peppers, are cultivated in the country and today are an essential part of the local cuisine. From the around 300 varieties of chili peppers grown in Peru, the Aji Amarillo surely is one of the most commonly used and probably even the most important ingredient in Peruvian cooking.
Also known as aji verde or aji escabeche, aji amarillo isn’t actually yellow as the name suggests. The fruits start off green and then mature into a bright orange; only when processed the thick-fleshed chili pepper loses a bit of its deep color and then is yellowish orange.
How does Aji Amarillo taste?
Aji Amarillo has a really unique flavor. It hasn’t got the overwhelming harshness and sharpness of so many other chilis out there; it has a more subtle, delicious and pleasant, almost homey flavor. It tastes like a sunny Peruvian summer day with an edge, fruity and sweet with a medium to hot heat level.
In Peruvian cooking Aji Amarillo complements numerous typical Peruvian dishes such as the famous Papas a la Huancaina, Aji de Gallina, Causa Limeña, Lomo Saltado and many, many more, giving them their characteristic, inimitable Peruvian flavor.
Where to buy Aji Amarillo?
While in Peru fresh Aji Amarillo, Aji Amarillo paste, whole dried Aji Amarillo called Aji Mirasol and Aji Amarillo spice is sold everywhere from market to bodega to supermarket, finding it abroad can be challenging. Usually Latin American food stores sell it, mostly frozen, canned, as paste (which is just boiled, blended fresh aji amarillo) or dried, so do many Latin American and the big international online retailer. And if you are really lucky you might even find it fresh.
What’s a good substitute for Peruvian Aji Amarillo?
Honestly, when you are looking for the real Peruvian distinctive flavor and the perfect combination of fruity aromas and heat there aren’t any substitutes for Aji Amarillo.
Substituting fresh for frozen, canned, paste or dried or vice versa of course isn’t a big deal, you still will get the essence of what Peruvian Aji Amarillo is all about.
If you can’t get your hands on any type of Aji Amarillo, but are willing to compromise you could try habanero or scotch bonnet chili which both have nice fruity flavors, but are way hotter. Another option might be ripe Hungarian wax peppers that have a similar grassy, but not so fruity flavor and a quite close heat level. Nevertheless, the special Peruvian flavor will be missing from you dish.
Health benefits of Aji Amarillo
Aji Amarillo has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, pain reducing, and anti-diabetic properties. It is high in antioxidants and flavonoids including ß-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and kryptoxanthin. Due to its thermogenic properties Aji Amarillo boosts metabolism, supports weight loss and helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels. It as well is amazingly high in vitamin C and improves performance.