This delicious Peruvian Green Aji Sauce, also known as Aji Verde, has a fresh, vibrant, spicy flavor, and it’s the condiment typically found in plastic squeeze bottles on the table in any Peruvian restaurant in North America.
You’ll want to serve it everywhere. It’s super addictive; once you start eating it you won’t want to stop.
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Is this recipe authentic?
Yes. This is an authentic traditional Peruvian green sauce. The recipe originally came from a Peruvian woman that I had the pleasure of taking a cooking class from.
She was a wonderful sweet lady who wasn’t comfortable speaking English. Her daughter helped teach the class by translating for her mom.
The elder Peruvian woman was an old-fashioned cook who cooks with all her senses – sight, smell, taste, feel, and hearing. Add a pinch of this or a spoonful of that. Maybe pour in some water if she can hear that something is cooking too hot and fast.
She tastes the dish and adds two more spoonfuls of something else. Her dishes probably never come out the same way twice.
And, she says that everyone in Peru has their own version of aji sauce.
This is how she taught the class. By adding a pinch of this, or a dash of that. I’ve done my best to translate what she did in class for this green aji sauce recipe.
And I’ve done years of testing, batch after batch.
I first posted about the sauce and the Peruvian cooking class in 2011, but I never included the sauce recipe until now. It was definitely time for an update, with better pictures, more information, and a better user experience.
Season to taste
The nice thing about being able to make something in your own kitchen is that you can adjust the seasonings to your taste.
You can make it milder by taking the seeds and membranes out of the peppers. Make it spicier by adding in an extra pepper or two.
I’ve tried many variations to the recipe and it has turned out differently each time. I’ve made more than a few batches of this sauce.
I forgot to add any Serrano peppers one time. It was still great, just with a slightly different heat level.
The teacher forgot to bring the lettuce to class and made the sauce without it.
I’ve tried it without any cheese to lower the fat content. I think it was missing something without the salty cheese, but it’s still a do-able adjustment.
Add more cilantro? That’s fine too.
Aji Verde or Peruvian Green Sauce is made with aji amarillo, huacatay, cilantro, mayo, and cheese for that great spicy creamy combination.
There are a few ingredients that will be difficult to find at the local grocery store. I’ve been going to a local Mexican meat market that the Peruvian teacher told us about.
It really makes a difference if you get authentic ingredients rather than just “close” ones. Take the time to buy the Peruvian chiles rather than just using jalapenos. It’s worth the extra time and expense to find the right ingredients.
What is Aji?
The word “Aji” is what the Peruvians call these chile peppers.
The Peruvian hot pepper is a unique species of chile, containing several different breeds.
They come in different colors and have a distinctive, fruity flavor with a medium heat level. Peruvian Green Aji sauce is a great way to describe the sauce.
Our instructor used both Amarillo (yellow) & limo (red). You can make your own paste from whole chiles and store it in the freezer. Or, you can buy already made paste in a jar.
I have found that I like the Amarillo paste in a jar (which is just boiled, blended fresh aji amarillo peppers), and one frozen red chile that I have removed the membranes and seeds from.
Again, feel free to make this hotter by adding the seeds and membranes, or adding additional chiles.
The jar of paste keeps well in the fridge and can even be frozen for longer storage (just thaw slightly, scoop out the amount you need, then re-freeze).
Frozen chiles last a nice long time in the freezer.
This Peruvian herb is often called black mint, and is related to marigold and tarragon.
It tastes like a combination of mint and basil, or perhaps cilantro. It’s fresh and green.
I buy it frozen in a large bag. When I need to use some, I just pinch off a section.
The class I took, the instructor said to use 4 pieces of it in a batch of sauce. But, 4 pieces doesn’t really explain how much is actually there. So, I did a good approximation, and came up with about 1 teaspoon of frozen huacatay. And, again, if you want to use more or less, feel free.
I’m fortunate that I can find frozen huacatay at a local store. If you can’t find frozen, you may see huacatay paste. This herb is often made into a paste with some added salt and citric acid as preservatives.
I like that the frozen bagged huacatay doesn’t have anything added, and is therefore great in any recipe, including tea.
For the tea, take about 10 grams frozen huacatay and steep in a mug of about a cup or more of boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Strain out the huacatay and sip warm or cold.
In class, we were told to add some Denmark cheese to the sauce. And, we never could get more of a description of what that meant.
It was a white creamy salty cheese that the teacher described.
Queso fresco or feta cheese work best and are easy to find in more grocery stores.
Our instructor kept calling it American lettuce. What she meant was iceberg lettuce. Which makes me chuckle when I think about it.
You want a neutral-flavored oil for this sauce so that the other flavors shine. Use grapeseed, vegetable, corn, or safflower oil.
Don’t use olive oil, as it has a stronger flavor. Also, olive oil has a tendency to harden in the fridge, which will change the texture of the sauce.
Want to experience great Peruvian food for yourself?
In the meantime, there’s always the great Peruvian restaurants Inka Grill (the first place that I ever experienced green sauce), Nory’s Restaurant, Mr. Pollo, and Inka Mama’s.
If you aren’t in the OC, check Yelp for a list of other restaurants in your area.
I’ve asked these restaurants what’s in their green sauce? And most of them won’t answer, but you can get hints. Most will tell you there’s lettuce in there. Some will say chiles. Others won’t tell at all.
But one thing’s for sure, this sauce is always there and so good!
What to serve it on?
My first experience with it was as an appetizer on the table that they serve with bread. Grab some inexpensive French bread from the grocery store and smother the bread with green sauce.
If it gets too hot, smear some salted butter over the bread, then smear on the sauce!
This sauce is great over veggies, rice, chips, crackers. Serve over sweet potato fries.
Spoon it on nachos or tacos.
Spice up some grilled fish.
It’s fabulous in scrambled eggs. Break a few raw eggs into a bowl, lightly mix with a couple of spoonfuls of green sauce, and cook the scramble over medium heat. Wrap the hot scrambled green eggs up in a warm tortilla and you have breakfast Nirvana!
How to make
Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for all instructions and ingredient amounts.
You may want to wear gloves when handling the peppers to keep the capsicum off of your skin. Also, be sure to never touch your eyes when handling peppers, and always wash your hands well after handling peppers.
I like to char the red onion, garlic clove, and serrano in a dry skillet before adding them to the mix. You can skip this step if you want, but I like the flavor it adds.
Then, it’s simply adding everything to the blender and pureeing until smooth.
Place the softer, high-moisture foods in the blender jar first (liquids and sauces like mayo). Then add in the smaller veggies like the garlic, red onion, and chiles. Next up, the larger, more solid foods like the iceberg lettuce leaves. The heavier foods will help push down the smaller foods, and the liquid will help pull in the larger foods.
You may need to use a tamper to push the lettuce leaves down in the blender, or, tear the lettuce into smaller pieces before adding it to the blender.
Serve the sauce like a dipping sauce in a bowl. Or, use a funnel to pour it into a squeeze jar like they serve at the restaurants.
Keep it in a tightly covered jar in the fridge, or keep it in the squeeze bottle and cover the tip so it doesn’t crust over. It keeps for 5 to 7 days.
Start with the basic recipe, and adjust according to your taste.
Keep in mind that every household has a little different variation in Peru, and that you can add or subtract according to your tastes.
A few years ago, I couldn’t get enough spicy heat in my food, so I added 2 serrano chiles and left all the seeds and membranes in the sauce. Now, I like more mild foods, so I remove all the seeds and membranes, and only use 1 serrano.
If the sauce appears too thick, you can add more water. Or, leave it out entirely if you want it thicker.
No, I don’t recommend freezing the sauce. Freezing it will change the texture, and will make it separate.
Best to make this one fresh, and you can make it a day or two before you need it, which makes it great for serving at a party.
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Peruvian Green Aji Sauce
- High powered blender
- 1 serrano pepper cut in half lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed if desired
- ¼ cup red onion
- 1 large garlic clove
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons Amarillo aji paste
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
- pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon huacatay
- 3 leaves fresh mint
- ¼ cup queso fresco cheese
- 1 red limo pepper seeds and membranes removed if desired
- ½ cup cilantro
- ½ cup parsley
- 4 leaves iceberg lettuce
- Heat a dry skillet over medium high heat. Place the serrano chile pepper halves, red onion, and garlic clove in the hot skillet, and char about 4-5 minutes, flipping once.
- Place all ingredients in the blender in the order of the ingredients list (from most liquid to heaviest), and process until smooth.
- Use a funnel and pour the sauce in a squeeze jar, or just place in a bowl.
- Sauce and be made ahead and stored, tightly covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. Stir before serving.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations, and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary based on brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes, and more.