Aji Amarillo
Whole and cut Chilis [Peruvian yellow chili; C. baccatum var. pendulum]

This chili is most commonly associated with Peru but is also used in Bolivia. The baccatum species originated in Peru and/or Bolivia and still dominates the Andes region today. The name means "Chili Yellow". It ripens to a bright orange. Some sources say they turn yellow ("amarillo") when cooked, but they actually stay pretty orange. This is a moderately hot variety (H4) and grows to 3 to 6 inches long. In Peru they are used mostly fresh, but in Bolivia they are dried and ground. A number of products are made from this chili, see below.

The photo specimens were from my own plants, grown from seeds of a dried aji amarillo imported from South America. The largest of the photo specimens was 6 inches long and 7/8 inch diameter. Hotness seems rather uneven, but is toward the mild side. I have purchased frozen Aji Amarillos that were from a shorter fatter cultivar, than the ones I used seeds from.

The seeds I planted sprouted well, but the plants didn't do all that well their first year here in Southern California. They produced only a few chilis which ripened very slowly and unevenly. The second year they produced a pretty good yield. Their third year they produced almost nothing, but by then I had learned that many chili plants need to be cut back drastically after harvest. I cut these way back, and now, in their fourth year, they are flowering well and starting to set fruit.

More on South American Chili Peppers.

Sauce and Paste Aji Amarillo Paste:   This product (to the right in photo) is widely available here in Los Angeles, in 8 ounce jars. Nearly every specialty market serving a significant Latino community (and our Latino communities around here are significant - even the Republicans are starting to notice) carries this product. It is suitable for use as a substitute for fresh chilis in most recipes. Ingred: Yellow chili, Salt, Citric Acid (and potassium sorbate (E202) in some brands). It should be refrigerated after opening.

Aji Amarillo Sauce:   This bottled sauce (left in photo) is basically the same as the paste, but cut with vinegar. Oddly, I haven't found it here in Los Angeles yet, but I've ordered it from Amigo Foods in Florida. It has a very good fruity flavor, like an habanera sauce without all that hotness. It's so mild I can drink it, but if you're from the Frozen North, maybe you wouldn't want to. Ingred: yellow chili, vinegar, salt, xanthan gum (thickener).

Whole orange chilis Aji Amarillo, Frozen:   The photo specimens, bought frozen from a latino market in Los Angeles, were 4-1/2 inches long by 1.4 inches diameter, a shorter, plumper cultivar than the dried ones shown above. They were a suitable substitute for fresh ones in any cooked recipe.

Dried whole chilis Aji Mirisol:   These are dried Aji Amarillo. The photo specimens, purchased from Catalina's Market in Los Angeles, were typically 4.3 inches long by 1.15 inches across. Seeds from one of these were planted to produce the photo specimens at the top of the page.

Aji Mirisol Paste Aji Mirisol Paste:   This paste is much less common than the Aji Amarillo Paste, but is available on-line. It is called for by some Peruvian recipes. It is made from dried Mirasol chilis. Naturally, it is of medium heat, just a little less than the Aji Amarillo paste. Ing: Mirasol hot pepper, water, salt, citric acid, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate.

Chili Powder Aji Amarillo Powder:   In Peru, Aji Amarillo are usually used fresh, but the dried chili powder is much used in Bolivia. Many recipes for Peruvian dishes do call for the powder, presuming you can't get the fresh chilis or paste. I haven't found this product here in Los Angeles, despite the huge spice and chili displays in the stores. The dried Mirasol pods are, however, easily available, so I just grind a few of those in my spice grinder.

Jar of whole chilis Aji Amarillo, Canned:   Available in both cans and jars, this product is pretty much the same as the paste, but not ground up. These can be used as a substitute for fresh chilis in any recipe where they will be cooked, but you need more texture than with paste - or they can be used in salads. These are available in some stores here in Los Angeles, or can be ordered on the Internet (compare prices). Ingred: yellow chili, water, salt, citric acid. Refrigerate after opening.

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