Salsa de Aji Picante: Colombian Hot Pepper Salsa

Salsa de Aji Picante

The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Refrigerate: 60 mins
Total: 80 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Yield: 2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
124 Calories
9g Fat
10g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 124
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 9g 12%
Saturated Fat 1g 6%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 716mg 31%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 4%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 31mg 156%
Calcium 34mg 3%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 366mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

In South American cuisine, aji is the name for both a variety of chili peppers and fresh salsa made with the peppers. This Colombian recipe is known as salsa de aji picante, and it features a single habanero pepper, making it pretty spicy. 

Beyond the pepper, the main ingredients in this vibrant salsa are tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. The flavor is similar to another classic Colombia salsa called hogaothough this is a no-cook recipe that comes together in minutes. Letting it rest in the fridge for an hour or more allows the flavors to marry and deepen.

The fresh salsa recipe begins by making a pepper juice that is tossed with the chopped ingredients. Vinegar and lime offer a nice tang that complements the hot pepper. It's best to start small with the salt and sugar, then add a bit more if needed to the finished salsa to suit your taste.

The finished salsa is a delicious complement to grilled meats and can be used to spice up any dish where you would normally add salsa. It also makes a great dipping sauce for fried plantains, arepas (South American corn cakes), or tortilla chips.

"This quickly became a new favorite salsa recipe. Considering it includes a habanero, it wasn’t too spicy, though it would be fabulous with jalapeños or a mix of peppers, too. The flavor is well-balanced and it was extremely simple to prepare." —Colleen Graham

Salsa de Aji Picante/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 habanero pepper, seeded and minced

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1/4 cup vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar

  • 3 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 6 medium green onions, coarsely chopped

  • 1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make salsa de aji picante

    The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram

  2. Place the habanero pepper in a food processor or blender with the water, vinegar, lime juice, and 1 teaspoon each of the salt and sugar. Process until smooth.

    A blender with smooth mixture of habanero pepper, water, vinegar, lime juice, salt and sugar

    The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram

  3. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, green onions, and cilantro. Toss with the pepper liquid and olive oil until well combined.

    A bowl of tomatoes, onion, green onions, and cilantro tossed with pepper sauce

    The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram

  4. Season to taste with more salt, sugar, and black pepper.

    Adding salt and pepper to the salsa

    The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram

  5. Refrigerate the salsa in a covered container for at least 1 hour, or until ready to serve.

    A covered container of salsa

    The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram

Recipe Variations

  • Aji salsa can be as hot (picante) or as mild as you choose. The easiest way to adjust its heat is to choose a different pepper. For instance, a jalapeño will create a slightly milder salsa than the habanero. 
  • Distilled white vinegar is a good choice for this salsa, but you can also try it with apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar.

How to Store

Keep the fresh salsa refrigerated in an airtight container and it will last for up to one week. For longer storage, place it in a freezer-safe container for three or four months and thaw it in the fridge overnight.