Aji amarillo, which translates as yellow chili, is actually an orange hot chili pepper used extensively in Peruvian cooking. It's a basic spice ingredient in sauces and soups, which in turn show up in a multitude of Peruvian dishes, and just about everything else Peruvians cook.
Americans are familiar with bell peppers, jalapenos, poblanos, anchos, and New Mexican chilies. But aji amarillo is relatively unknown in the United States. Get to know these chilies, which are native to South America and have a subtle but full-bodied flavor.
Aji amarillo chilies are not that easy to find in the United States, but if you want to buy them, look in Peruvian or Mexican markets or search online. They come fresh, canned, as a paste or dried.
How to Grow Aji Amarillos
It's easy to grow aji amarillo chilies—the seeds are available online, and the plants need the same growing conditions as other hot peppers—that is, hot summer weather.
Aji amarillo (Capsicum baccatum) thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 through 12. Germinate aji amarillo seeds inside near a window with bright sunlight or in a greenhouse until all threats of frost have passed in your location. Sow the tender plants about one-fourth inch deep in full sun; aji amarillo does best in a neutral soil but can tolerate weak alkaline soil. Give the plants moderate water throughout the growing season.
These plants can grow 5 feet tall. Each plant will bear about 40 chilies that first are green and slowly turn orange, and that's when they are ripe. Ripening takes about 120 days, so patience is a virtue in this case. You can use the chilies when they are ripe or dry them for later use.
You can grow these chilies in a planter on a deck or patio as long as space can accommodate the mature height of the plants and the location gets full sun.
Common Uses of Aji Amarillo Chilies
These chilies are a nearly ubiquitous ingredient in green and orange sauces made in Peru. Orange hot sauce is used in a wide range of dishes, including meat, fish, poultry and vegetables and also as a dip for french fries and chips. In other words, with just about everything. It's made with cheese, mayonnaise, and chilies or oil and chilies, depending on the recipe.
Aji amarillo chilies are also a main ingredient in the popular onion-chili relish, which is a combination of aji amarillo chilies, red onion, lime juice, and coriander or parsley.
Peruvian Recipes With Aji Amarillo
Papa a la Huancaina (Potatoes With Spicy Cheese Sauce)
Peruvian Stir-fried Beef - Lomo Saltado
Causa Rellena - Yellow Potatoes With Chicken