Salsa de Aji Amarillo or Peruvian Yellow Pepper Sauce by Martin at Chifa La Familia Feliz in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

One of the best dinners we had in Costa Rica was at a Chinese-Peruvian restaurant in the mountain town of LaFortuna. Chinese-Peruvian food (aka “chifa”) was fusion cuisine way before “fusion cuisine” was even a phrase, and was enthusiastically described by many folks we met across South America as a culinary highlight. The Peruvian Yellow Pepper is a beautiful yellow-orange chili pepper with a nice kick and a fresh and fruity flavor, and Peruvian cooks use it in almost everything. (I might try to grow it when we’re back in CA.)


  • 2 yellow Peruvian peppers (ají amarillos)* or 2 tbsp aji amarillo paste
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • ½ white or yellow onion, minced
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp unsalted roasted peanuts
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Prepare peppers: blanch in boiling water for 1 minute. Shock in ice water. When cool, peel. Cut open and separate seeds from flesh. Set aside both. 
  • Saute onions, garlic, ginger, peanuts, and turmeric in oil until onions are golden 
  • Add water and, if you like the sauce spicier, add some of the the pepper seeds (if using fresh peppers)
  • Bring to a boil, and simmer to reduce, and cool. 
  • Puree onion mixture with pepper. Add a little more water if the sauce is too thick. Add salt and pepper to taste.  
  • Drizzle sauce in stir-fry or use as a dipping sauce for grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, and/or hard boiled eggs. 

*Note on preparing the aji amarillo: As with all spicy chili peppers, handle with care! Consider wearing gloves, and be sure not to touch your eyes after cutting the peppers. Spicy peppers have a component called capsaicin which can irritate. If you can’t find aji amarillo (fresh or paste) or you could substitute jalapeño or serrano peppers, but obviously the sauce will be a different color with a slightly different flavor. 

Chef/Owner Martin and son – part of the happy family that the restaurant is named for
One of many delicious dishes with the aji amarillo sauce
If you go to see Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica, go here for dinner! Address: 702, Provincia de Alajuela, La Fortuna, Costa Rica

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