My Life in Peru

An Expat Mom Shares Her Experiences with Peruvian Life, Travel and Food

Aji de Huacatay

Posted on | February 18, 2011 | No Comments

Side dish of peruvian peppers Aji.

Image via Wikipedia

Yay! It’s Friday – Hope everyone has some great plans for the weekend. We’re getting together with a group of friends to play football (soccer, not gridiron).  And hopefully, ceviche afterward.

I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s anticucho recipe that it should always be served with aji. There are two types that are pretty commonly used, a red one that looks kind of like a Mexican salsa and uses rocoto, and a second that has a greenish color to it – this is Aji de Huacatay.

I’m going to give the recipe for aji de huacatay today. If you’ve signed up for my weekly newsletter, you’ll already know what all the different Peruvian ajis are and how to make your own pastes – that’s handy information for cooking Peruvian foods!

Huacatay is an herb, related to marigolds, that grows wild in Peru. It has been used for centuries to add a very distinctive flavor to Peruvian cuisine.

From Wikipedia: Tagetes minuta, also known as Mexican Marigold, Mint Marigold, Wild Marigold, or Stinking Roger, is a tall upright marigold plant with small flowers, native to the southern half of South America. Ever since Spanish colonization, it has been introduced around the world including Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is used as a culinary herb in Peru, Ecuador, and parts of Chile and Bolivia, where it is called by the Quechua term huacatay. Huacatay paste is used to make the popular Peruvian potato dish called ocopa. Having both “green” and “yellow/orange” notes, the taste and odor of fresh Tagetes minuta is like a mixture of sweet basil, tarragon, mint and citrus.

Aji de Huacatay (sometimes called aji verde) is very common in the pollerias, served alongside pollo a la braza as well as being frequently served with anticuchos. Many restaurants leave a bowl or squeeze bottle out on the tables, and customers gloop it onto just about everything. It’s one of the few aji sauces I like, because it’s not too terribly spicy.


  • 1 cup of aji amarillo paste (use jarred, or make your own from roasted peppers for the best flavor!)
  • 4 tbsps of huacatay (That’s an affiliate link to buy it from Amazon, if you can’t find it fresh at a Latin market)
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend!  What could be easier?

There are lots of variations to this sauce, everyone who makes it at home has their own recipe to suit their own tastes, so feel free to take this and run with it. You might see a lot of recipes around the internet that include milk, cream, cheese and/or peanuts. That’s not aji de huacatay, it’s ocopa, which is served over potatoes like huancaina sauce.  While delicious, it isn’t the condiment served alongside meats, so don’t be confused!

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    I got tired of life happening while I made other plans, so I quit my job and came to Peru. I live here with my Peruvian husband, two sons, three dogs and various other family members, depending on the weather.

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