Ají (sauce)

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Ají sauce
Salsa de ají verde (green salsa de ají) in a market in the city of Huaraz, Peru.
Place of originAndes
Region or stateLatin America
Main ingredientsAjí peppers
Ingredients generally usedWater, oil, garlic, cilantro, salt
VariationsAjí chileno, ají negro, ají amarillo, ajílimojili, ají rocoto

Ají is a spicy sauce that contains ají peppers, oil, tomatoes, cilantro (coriander), garlic, onions, and water. It is served as a condiment to complement main dishes, most oftentimes in Latin American cuisines, and prepared by blending its ingredients using a food processor or blender. Although ají sauce recipes can vary from person to person, there are generally country-specific and region-specific varieties.


Ají is a spicy sauce made from ají peppers that is usually served to accompany other dishes in a variety of Latin American cuisines.[1] Its most basic ingredients include ají peppers, water, oil, garlic, cilantro, and salt.[2][3] Ingredients are usually blended together using a blender or food processor.[4]

Ají has been prepared in Andean countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru since at least the time of the Incas, who called it uchu.[5][6] It is usually added to other foods such as anticuchos, chugchucaras, soup, chorizo, or empanadas.[7][8][9]

In Colombia and Ecuador, food is traditionally milder, so ají can be added to almost any dish to add flavor and spice.[10] Recipes vary dramatically from person to person and from region to region, depending on preference.[11]

The core ingredient of ají sauce, ají peppers (Capsicum baccatum), was originally grown in South America.[12] While these peppers have a Scoville Heat Unit of 30,000 - 50,000, depending on the variety of pepper and preparation technique, the spice level of ají sauce is variable.[12]



In Chile there is a popular hot sauce known as ají chileno that uses the peppers.[13] Chileans also make a salsa called pebre using the peppers combined with tomatoes, cilantro, onions, oil, and vinegar which is typically eaten with bread.[14]


In Ecuador, ají sauce is prepared using one of the over 30 ají pepper varieties available in the country.[4] These ají peppers vary in spice level and this, combined with the amount of water used to dilute the sauce, can create variation in the level of spice between sauces.[4] Some regions are also known for their addition of fruits, in addition to the basic ingredients, which leads to further variety of the sauce within the country.[4]

North West Amazonia[edit]

A variety of ají sauce called ají negro (also called Ommaï, Kígai, Do-Hmepa, Ualako) is made by the indigenous peoples of the North West Amazonia.[15] This variety is prepared using the juice of bitter manioc.[15]


Peru is known for a variety of ají sauce called ají amarillo sauce.[16] This variety uses ají amarillo and is notable for its yellow color. Ají amarillo is used widely across Peru as an addition to sauces.[16] The spice level of ají amarillo is comparable to serrano peppers registering at 15,000 on Scoville Heat Unit Scale, although sometimes registering at 30,000 to 50,000 SHU.[16][4] Oftentimes this variety of ají sauce is mixed with mayonnaise, crema, or sour cream to accompany potatoes, sandwiches, meat, and ceviche.[16][2]

Puerto Rico[edit]

Puerto Rico has a variety of ají sauce called ajilimojili.[17] This variety uses aji dulce peppers and is notable for its green color.[17]

United States[edit]

In the United States, several pre-prepared varieties of ají sauce, including aji rocoto hot sauce and aji amarillo sauce, can be purchased in Latin American markets or specialty food stores.[1][18] The pepper required for some varieties of ají sauce, including that of the Peruvian ají amarillo sauce, is not grown commercially in the United States.[4]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mautone, Gianna. "A Vegan Taste of ECUADOR." Vegetarian Journal, vol. 32, no. 3, 2013, pp. 6-8. ProQuest.
  2. ^ a b Erin (August 26, 2022). "Easy Aji Amarillo Sauce". Platings + Pairings. Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  3. ^ "Peruvian Quinoa Shrimp Chicharrones with Green Aji Sauce". Oldways. Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Adventures in cooking with the rare aji amarillo". The Takeout. October 22, 2020. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
  5. ^ "Culinary History of Peru". Cultural Expeditions, Inc. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved July 21, 2008.
  6. ^ Villacorta, Manuel; Shaw, Jamie (2013). Peruvian Power Foods: 18 Superfoods, 101 Recipes, and Anti-aging Secrets from the Amazon to the Andes. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc. pp. 98–103. ISBN 978-0-7573-1722-4.
  7. ^ Matsuhisa, Nobuyuki (2001). Nobu: The Cookbook. Tokyo: Kodansha International. p. 79. ISBN 978-4-7700-2533-3.
  8. ^ McCausland-Gallo, Patricia (2004) [2001]. Secrets of Colombian Cooking. New York: Hippocrene Books. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-7818-1025-8.
  9. ^ Kijac, Maria Baez (2003). The South American Table: The Flavor and Soul of Authentic Home Cooking from Patagonia to Rio de Janeiro, with 450 Recipes. Boston, MA: Harvard Common Press. p. 263. ISBN 978-1-55832-249-3.
  10. ^ Hippo!, Orange (May 16, 2023). The Little Book of Hot Sauce: A passionate salute to the world's fiery condiment. Welbeck Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-83861-148-4.
  11. ^ Perlman, Dan (October 3, 2016). Eat Salt. Lulu.com. ISBN 978-1-365-43500-3.
  12. ^ a b IFOTC (December 12, 2019). "Eat Ecuador - The Sauce on Every Table in Ecuador - AJI SAUCE". Itchy Feet on the Cheap. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
  13. ^ "Ají Chileno JB". ChinChile. Retrieved February 4, 2024.
  14. ^ Redmond, Kari (April 20, 2023). "5 Foods You Need To Try In Chile To Eat Like A Local — Plus Where To Find Them". TravelAwaits. Retrieved February 4, 2024.
  15. ^ a b "Ají negro - Arca del Gusto". Fondazione Slow Food (in Italian). Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  16. ^ a b c d Peru, Kosmos. "Aji Amarillo sauce the delight of Peru". Kosmos Peru. Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  17. ^ a b "Celebrate Traditional Puerto Rican Fare." Tampa Bay Times, Jul 31, 2019, pp. 3. ProQuest.
  18. ^ "New Dressing, Sauces & Spreads." Prepared Foods, 2019. ProQuest.

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