This delicious Peruvian Green Sauce is fresh, vibrant and fabulous, drizzled on anything from the grill. It's also great with potatoes, rice, veggies, etc.
I haven't shared this with you, but we've been on the road again. Well, not literally, but for the past few months I've been fascinated with Peruvian cuisine and have had lots of fun traveling (in a culinary sense) to this beautiful country on the western coast of South America - all while hanging out in my little North Carolina kitchen! And this Peruvian Green Sauce is one of the delicious results!
A very unique culinary culture
It started with an interesting article I read about Peru and it's unique culinary culture. The article pointed out that, although Peru is a South American country boasting a rich gastronomic history that dates back to the Incas and Spanish conquerers, it's also been greatly influenced by Asian cuisine.
Wait a minute, Asian? Yes Asian!
The Asian impact occurred back in the mid 19th century when huge waves of laborers from China and Japan were brought in to work the Peruvian cotton and sugar cane plantations. Despite these Far Eastern immigrants trying (quite fervently) to conserve their cultural identity, there was eventually a blending and fusion of cuisines.
Today you'll find wonderful dishes with indigenous Latin American ingredients like avocados , sweet potatoes, cumin, chili powder and coriander combined with classic Asian ingredients like ginger, soy and scallions. For me, this has been an amazing discovery of a new flavor profile that's bursting with bright, fresh flavor.
I'll be sharing several delicious Peruvian-inspired recipes over the next few weeks, starting today with this fabulous Peruvian Green Sauce, also known as Aji Verde. Peruvian restaurants have made this vibrant sauce popular here in the States and often serve it with spit-roasted or grilled chicken. It's made with garlic, lime juice, lots of fresh herbs, spicy peppers and a generous scoop of mayonnaise. Everything's pureed together in a blender or food processor. The result? Out of this world deliciousness!
An incredibly versatile sauce
Obsessed. Okay, I admit it, I've been drizzling it on everything - chicken, pork, steak, rice, etc. I've served it as a dipping sauce for shrimp, added a scoop to black beans to enhance their flavor, and even drizzled it over baked potatoes, as a flavorful alternative to sour cream. It keeps well for 5-7 days in the fridge, although I find it never lasts that long. As soon as the jar is empty, I'm ready to make another batch.
A secret ingredient
There are lots of recipes online for Peruvian Green Sauce, but I was inspired by one shared on Serious Eats. I added my own touches with fresh basil and ginger which create an additional layer of vibrant flavor. Most recipes for Peruvian Green Sauce call for Aji amarillo peppers, which are a yellow variety of chili peppers commonly grown in South America with a distinct flavor and medium heat. Aji amarillo peppers are difficult to find here in the United States but Aji Amarillo Paste (which is just boiled, blended fresh aji amarillo peppers) is readily available at Latin and Mexican markets as well as online.
I've made the sauce with and without the pepper paste and it definitely adds a touch of wonderful flavor, although it's not absolutely necessary. If you don't use the Aji Amarillo Paste, I'd recommend adding a little extra jalapeño. If you decide to order a jar, it keeps well in the fridge and can even be frozen for longer storage (just thaw slightly, scoop out the amount you need, then re-freeze).
Trust me, you want this beautiful, green sauce in your life. It's the perfect way to add a little pizzazz to your summer cooking. You'll love it drizzled over anything from the grill, and will find lots of other ways to use it. It's the perfect finishing touch on these Peruvian Grilled Chicken Skewers.
And when you serve this Peruvian Green Sauce, you get to take an exotic little trip without ever leaving home! Buen provecho! (means "bon appetit" in Spanish and is a common greeting at Peruvian tables.)
Café Tips for making this Peruvian Green Sauce
- Jalapeños are unbelievably variable in heat. I've had ones lately that haven't been any hotter than a bell pepper and then some that have a lot of heat. I suggest starting with ½ pepper. Save the seeds and inner ribs. Take a taste and if you need more heat after pureeing the ingredients, add the seeds and ribs and/or add the second jalapeño.
- Aji Amarillo paste can be found at Latin or Mexican markets or Aji Amarillo Paste. If you can’t find it and/or don’t want to order it, you can make this sauce with just the jalapeños. I would add a little bit more since you’ll be missing the heat from the Aji Amarillo paste.
- 1-2 medium fresh jalapeños seeds and ribs removed*, start out with ½ and add more, to taste
- 1 tablespoon Aji Amarillo paste see note above
- 1 ¼ cups fresh cilantro leaves and stems tightly packed (about 1 medium size bunch)
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves tightly packed
- 2 tablespoons grated cotija or parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 medium clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon sunflower or canola oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- kosher salt to taste
Combine all ingredients except mayonnaise in a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth paste forms.
Add mayonnaise and blend until homogenous.
Transfer to a jar with a tight fitting lid and season to taste with salt and pepper. Unused sauce can be stored in a covered container for up to 1 week