How to make aji colorado


This is the stuff of legends, my friends.

I use this in just about everything I cook, from traditional Peruvian dishes to many of my wacky throw-together meals. Why? Because it makes everything taste that much better. Think of chipotle peppers. You know how they can transform a ho-hum thing into an omg-that’s-delicious thing? That’s what this is.

In Peru, they use ají panca, a dried red chile pepper to make ají colorado. It can be a little difficult to find in the U.S. unless you have a very well-stocked Latin American market by you. Fortunately, by the blessings of gods, I can score it just down the road from me at the local mercado. If you just can’t find it no matter where you look, you can buy it online here.

Or, you can do what my parents have done for years, and that is use dried California or New Mexico chiles instead of ají panca.



The flavors are fairly similar across the board, with California being the mildest and having a fruity, raisin-like taste, New Mexico having an earthier, richer flavor with a bit more spice, and ají panca with a combination of both California + New Mexico flavors with added heat. Now that I can get my hands on ají panca regularly, it’s typically my first choice when making ají colorado but really, the flavor difference with the other chiles is minimal and it won’t affect the recipe.

Speaking of which, here are a couple ideas to get you started on your enriched life as an ají colorado aficionado —

// Do you like birds? Here’s a yummy recipe for a Peruvian-style roast chicken.

// How about sausage? I mix ají colorado with lentils + kielbasa for this killer stick-to-your-ribs comfort meal.

// Empanadas! Make these and your friends will love you forever.

// One of the first things I learned to make: Chupe de camarones, a creamy, flavorful soup laden with shrimp, hard boiled eggs, corn on the cob + cheese.


Those should keep your tummy happy for a while.

Are you ready to begin your journey to eternal happiness?


Ají colorado

Makes about 14 tablespoons or 1 ice cube tray’s worth

1 – 2-3 ounce bag dried ají panca, California, or New Mexico dried chiles


Use kitchen shears to lop off the stems of the dried chiles and then cut all along the side, lengthwise, exposing the innards and discarding the seeds and membranes. Grab a large fry pan and set it over high heat. Toss the chiles onto the hot pan and toast until fragrant, pliable, and slightly charred, about 1-2 minutes, flipping on other side halfway in between. It might be a good idea to open up the window and turn on the exhaust fan because these can get sort of strong as they cook. Also, wash your hands thoroughly with warm soapy water immediately after handling the chiles.

Put the chiles into a large bowl and pour enough boiling water to submerge them. Let them reconstitute until they’re very soft, about 10 minutes.



Grab the chiles with tongs and put them in a blender. Add about 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of the water they were sitting in and blend together until a somewhat smooth paste forms. The consistency should be pourable. If it’s too chunky, add more water, one tablespoon at a time.

At this point you can either put all of it into a glass jar and refrigerate it, which should last you a couple weeks.

Or, you can do what I do and measure out tablespoon amounts, put them into ice cube trays, freeze them, and then dump them out into a bag to stash in the freezer for whenever you need just a bit. This works out especially well for me. You don’t even have to defrost it before adding it to your pot of cooking, you just toss it right in. Unless, you’re using it as a marinade, in which case you’d have to toss it in the micro for half a minute to soften slightly.

It’s as easy as that folks. Trust me when I say that adding  just a tablespoon of this stuff to your food will drastically enhance the flavor, making you the best cook in town.



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  • Island VittlesApril 19, 2012 - 10:15 am

    I’ll have to leave my little island to get any type of dried chiles…but I’m gonna give this a try! Love homemade condiments of any kind. 🙂 TheresaReplyCancel

  • fatpiginthemarketApril 19, 2012 - 2:45 pm

    I am so into this…so in! I need this and am going to make it this weekend. Oink!ReplyCancel

  • Fresh and FoodieApril 21, 2012 - 9:54 am

    That’s it?! How easy! And amazingly delicious, I’m sure.ReplyCancel

  • Outlander KitchenApril 29, 2012 - 3:57 pm

    Just made a batch with New Mexico chilis…what a gorgeous colour. Thanks, Steph!ReplyCancel

    • StephanieApril 29, 2012 - 5:21 pm

      Theresa, awesome! Let me know how it turns out when you add it to stuff. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • […] chili as desired (I used about 3 tablespoons of homemade New Mexico chili puree).  Cook over low heat, until thickened enough to coat the back of a […]ReplyCancel

  • fatpiginthemarketMay 10, 2012 - 9:35 pm

    I made the miracle paste! Used it in arroz con pollo in place of my normal chipotle dollop. Awesome! The black beans I made were a bit bland that night…guess what fixed them? Love this stuff. Good advice on opening the windows and firing up the exhaust fan.ReplyCancel

    • StephanieMay 14, 2012 - 3:25 pm

      Hey Jorie! I’m so thrilled you made it and it turned out well for you! I know, it’s strong isn’t it??ReplyCancel

  • Chicken Tacos | little white apronApril 27, 2013 - 7:32 pm

    […] the chicken a great smoky flavor I use a homemade New Mexico chili puree. You can get the recipe here. It’s really easy and adds a wonderful flavor to any mexican dish. I use it in lots of […]ReplyCancel

  • […] made the buns using my Everyday Bread Recipe, and I stirred some of this amazing Aji Colorado (so easy to make, and it adds flavour to everything!) into some mayo for the […]ReplyCancel

  • Roasted Tomato Salsa | little white apronSeptember 2, 2013 - 10:34 am

    […] addition of the aji colorado, a pureed chili paste, adds an earthy richness to the roasted tomatoes, garlic and onions. If you […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Tble aji colorado chile paste (see […]ReplyCancel

  • […] add more, but once you’ve gone too far it’s too late. Another option is to make the Aji Colorado sauce. This sauce is from my first LWA post, Chicken […]ReplyCancel

  • Margaret DennyJanuary 29, 2015 - 11:44 am

    Can you give a list of where to buy New Mexico peppers in Baton Rouge (south side, please near LSU if there is such a place). My neighborhood Walmart grocery had them once, but now they don’t (one of the many, many things I hate about Walmart). I don’t want to have to order on line and wait for them!ReplyCancel

  • dianaApril 19, 2017 - 4:44 pm

    Thanks a lot for your post, you’ve help me a lot!ReplyCancel

    • StephanieApril 19, 2017 - 5:45 pm

      You’re very welcome! Have you used the aji colorado in any dishes yet?ReplyCancel

  • ElviraNovember 17, 2017 - 12:43 pm

    I am Peruvian tooReplyCancel

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