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Episode 311: South American Smoke

Aji Amarillo Sauce


Aji Amarillo Sauce

Recipe Notes

  • Yield: Makes about 1 1/2 cups


  • 5 fresh, frozen, or dried ajis amarillos, or ¾ cup aji amarillo paste (you need ¾ cup chile puree in all; see Note)
  • 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 2 ounces queso fresco or feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons chopped huacatay, or 1 tablespoon each finely chopped flatleaf parsley and spearmint or peppermint
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or to taste
  • Coarse salt (sea or kosher) and freshly ground black pepper

Recipe Steps

Step 1: If using frozen chiles, let thaw at room temperature. If using dried chiles, soak in water to cover for 2 hours, then drain.

Step 2: Stem the chiles and if a milder sauce is desired, remove the seeds. Place the chiles, peanut butter, cheese, and water in a blender and puree until smooth. Blend in the huacatay, running the blender in short bursts.

Step 3: Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the chile-peanut butter puree and cook, stirring often, until thick, creamy, and richly flavored, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat as needed–the sauce should gently simmer, not boil.

Step 4: Add 1 tablespoon lime juice, or to taste, and salt: the mixture should be highly seasoned and spicy hot. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe Tips

Note: If you can’t find aji Amarillo, substitute 1 grilled, peeled, cored, seeded, and diced yellow bell pepper, plus ½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

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Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke is a production of Maryland Public Television, Barbacoa, Inc., and Resolution Pictures. © 2017 Barbacoa, Inc.