There are thousands of types of chilies and peppers around the world, but only a few of them leave a special mark on the people who taste them and become an emblem for a whole country, this is what happens with ají amarillo.
If you want to find out what makes this Peruvian pepper so special and exactly how can you consume it and use it in your recipes keep reading!
What is ají amarillo?
Ají amarillo is also known as ají escabeche, ají verde or ají cuzqueño. This pepper is from the family of Capsicum Baccatum cultivated all around the coastal and northern regions of Peru. Ají amarillo is widely exported from Peru to countries like USA, Italy, Spain and even Japan. Peruvian immigration has increased those numbers greatly.
Ají amarillo has been grown since 6,500 B.C in the department of Áncash. Being such a prevalent ingredient through time, ají amarillo is actually considered the most important type of ají in Peruvian gastronomy, and one of the most popular ingredients used.
Ají amarillo can be 4 to 6 inches long, with certain subtypes like ají pacae or ají inca (grown in the southern Peruvian coast) reaching nearly 8 ½ to 10 inches long and considerably wider. Ají amarillo has thick, juicy, meaty insides with lots of seeds and veins inside. In spite of its name (which literally means “yellow” in spanish), this type of pepper is actually bright orange when ripe. In its early stages it has a greenish tone. Ají amarillo looks very similar to jalapeño peppers in shape and color, but they tend to grow a little longer and wider.
Properties and flavor of ají amarillo
This special and popular ají has very meaty and juicy flesh with a fruity taste. It is also particularly aromatic. Even though some people say the spice is reduced when taking out the seeds and veins, ají amarillo ranks from 30,000 to 50,000 in the Scoville scale; competing with other peppers such as Cayenne pepper and Tabasco chillies.
But this pepper is more than just great taste. Some of the many properties of aji pepper are to soothe pains thanks to the great amounts of flavonoids, antibacterial action, improves acne-prone skin thanks to its vitamin A, burns fats naturally and even helps fight bad cholesterol.
How can you find ají amarillo
One of the coolest things about ají amarillo is that it can be enjoyed in several different presentations and keep its delicious taste and spice. The most common ways in which you can find ají amarillo is fresh, frozen and in pastes or powders. The fresh version of course is harder to get, specially outside Peru. The frozen peppers can be found in more places, although it loses quality and texture when being defrosted and cooked.
The most popular way to consume this pepper is in the form of ají amarillo paste or powder, this means the pepper is dried out (in this state it’s called ají mirasol) and then minced and grinded until a light powder or paste is formed.
As we mentioned before, ají amarillo is one of the most used peppers in Peruvian gastronomy, being the star of several delicious recipes. And the fact that you can use it easily in paste or powder form makes ají amarillo perfect to create sauces, creams, reductions and even broths.
Some popular recipes that include this pepper are risotto amarillo (which consists of making the risotto and replacing the traditional ingredients with this ají sauce) , anticuchos (peppers, onions, beef and chicken pieces grilled on a stick) dipped in ají sauce, Peruvian tiraditos and of course the traditional Peruvian ceviche (check the full recipe here). If you want to explore some of the best dishes that use ají amarillo click here.
As you can see, ají amarillo plays an important role in Peruvian gastronomy, being a part of every kitchen in the country and every traditional recipe. If you just got to know all about this popular bright pepper and you’re dying to taste its spice and flavor, you can get ají amarillo paste and powder here and start learning traditional recipes or why not? Experiment with this exotic ingredient and create new and delicious meals.