Aji verde, often called Peruvian green sauce elsewhere, is wonderfully easy and flavorful. It gets it's color from cilantro and has a little kick from aji amarillo, a popular Peruvian chili. Fresh, flavorful, and perfect over roast chicken and so much more.
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Nearly all cuisines have a few ingredients that you pretty much always need to have in your pantry as they appear in a large number of recipes. Around most of the Mediterranean that includes olive oil and garlic. In Spain, you would also include paprika and in Greece, oregano.
For Peruvian cooking, one of the key ingredients is aji amarillo. Chili peppers come in many forms and many are native to (or adopted by) particular regions. Jalapeños and serrano peppers in Mexico and Scotch Bonnets in the Caribbean.
Aji amarillo: a Peruvian favorite
Peru has a few native chilis, but aji amarillo, a medium spicy yellow-orange pepper, and aji panca, a milder red pepper, are the most common. Aji amarillo in particular is becoming easier to find these days in specialist grocers and is also available online (this is the aji amarillo paste I get; affiliate link).
Aji amarillo is in a number of classic Peruvian dishes such as the sauce for tiradito, a sashimi-like dish, and mixed into the mashed potatoes in the layered dish causa rellena. It's also part of the sauce for aji de gallina, the popular chicken stew.
This Peruvian green sauce is another incredibly popular use for the pepper, adding a little kick to the tasty mix. The green color comes from a big bunch of cilantro in there while mayonnaise is the classic, creamy base.
Other than that, the ingredients can vary a little but there aren't typically many more. Usually a little cheese, lime for a fresh edge and garlic, but then often nothing more than a little salt.
Many recipes add some jalepeño or serrano which I debated on, since they aren't native Peruvian chilis. However I decided to add just a little serrano for an extra kick.
The one other ingredient in many versions include huacatauy, a native Peruvian herb that is similar to mint. While you won't get it fresh, you can buy huacatay paste online in jars. It adds a nice extra depth of flavor to this if you can get it, but also still delicious without.
Making the sauce is incredibly easy (in a modern kitchen at least) as you simply put everything in a food processor or blender and whizz it up. Traditionally, you'd finely chop the cilantro and use a pestle and mortar to help pound and mix the ingredients.
Uses for this sauce
This sauce is the traditional side to one of Peru's favorite dishes, pollo a la brasa (spit roasted chicken which you can make in the oven at home). However it's so delicious, you'll want to add it to much more.
Try it over grilled fish or lamb, with grilled or roasted vegetables. You can use it as a dip for fries and really any excuse you like.
Peruvian green sauce, aji verde, is packed with flavor and a fantastically easy all-round spicy-creamy sauce. Once you try it, you'll soon be working out what to try it with next.
Try these other tasty sauces:
- Chimichurri sauce (a classic South American sauce including herbs, chili and vinegar)
- Chermoula sauce (a North African blend of herbs, garlic and aromatic spices)
- Arugula pesto (rocket pesto, a tasty variation on the classic pesto Genovese)
- Plus get more Peruvian recipes in the South American recipes archives.
Aji verde - Peruvian green sauce
- ½ cup cilantro leaves 16g coriander leaves (some thin stems also fine)
- 1 scallion green onion - green part only
- 1 clove garlic small
- ½ green chili eg serrano
- ¼ cup mayonnaise 60ml
- ½ tbsp aji amarillo chili paste
- 1 tsp huacatay paste (if available - omit if not)
- ½ lime juice ie juice from ½ lime
- ⅛ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp queso fresco or cotija, can use parmesan/mild feta as alternative
- ½ tbsp olive oil or use another mild oil
- Remove cilantro leaves from the stems before measuring - some thinner stems are fine. Remove the white part from the scallion and any rough/dry end on the green part. Depending on your food processor/blender, I'd recommend roughly chopping the garlic, green chili and scallion stem before you make the sauce.
- Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. You can use straight away or store in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days, or longer.
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