Potatoes with Peruvian Huancaina Sauce is the first Peruvian dish I ever had the chance to taste. Let me tell you, I was in love at the first bite. There is something so yummy and delicious about potatoes topped with a creamy, spicy sauce which is exactly what you get with Papas a la Huancaina.
This dish is ready in less than 30 minutes thanks to a blender. Serve it up as a starter or appetizer in combination with another Peruvian meal such as Vegetarian Lomo Saltado or Vegetarian Tacu Tacu or it’s also perfect for a light lunch combined with salad or soup.
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The aji amarillo pepper
Peruvian huancaina sauce gets most of its flavor from the Aji Amarillo, a chili native to Peru. It has a lovely bright orange color which is what gives color to the sauce. On the Scoville Heat Scale this pepper gets 30,000 – 50,000 units and is considered to be moderately spicy. But the pepper also has a fruity flavor, similar to a berry.
This chili, which dates back to the Incas, isn’t the only one found in Peru, but it certainly is the most common chili used throughout the entire country. It is found in many popular Peruvian dishes.
You may get lucky and find these peppers fresh in a farmer’s market or Latin American specialty market in the US, though I suspect it may be rare and difficult to procure. You may more easily find dried aji amarillo chilies, but I don’t recommend using them for this sauce as the flavor is quite different.
So what substitute options are available? One option is using a prepared paste. The paste you are likely to find in your local Latin American specialty store and if not there, certainly it is available online, such as the one pictured on the here. . This brand is one I’ve used before and it has great flavor.
However, if you prefer to stick with using a fresh pepper, consider substituting the habanero pepper or Scotch Bonnet pepper. They have a similar fruity flavor profile BUT they are significantly hotter so you may want to use less. Also, be sure to scrape out the innards and seeds as that is where the heat lies in most peppers.
Cooking tips for Peruvian Huancaina Sauce
The traditional recipe for Potatoes with Peruvian Huancaina Sauce calls for queso fresco and evaporated milk. However, I wanted to create a dairy-free version I could enjoy. I do eat some cheese and yogurt but for the most part, I experience adverse effects when I eat dairy and prefer to exclude it as much as possible. Should you prefer to make a more traditional version you can substitute queso fresco for the tofu and use milk or evaporated milk in place of the plant-based milk. Queso fresco is available in many grocery stores in large cities today. But if you can’t find it, feta cheese is a possible substitute. However when using the feta, be sure to rinse the cheese a few times to remove the excessive tangy flavor.
Potatoes get a bad rap. But, I LOVE them! And today, thanks to Intuitive Eating, I can eat them guilt free when I am craving them rather than feeling like I am eating in a “bad” food. Yes, white potatoes are high in carbohydrates and they do have a high glycemic index number which means that eating them causes a higher spike in blood sugar than other foods. But, they are naturally low in calories and contain no fat, sodium or cholesterol, and also full of tons of nutrients including:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
For this dish, you can use any potato you want that will boil up easily. I prefer the papas amarillos (yellow potatoes) that are available here in Peru. They are similar to the Yukon Gold potatoes found in the US except they are a bit more fragile and break apart easily when boiled.
Other uses for Huancaina Sauce
You can whip up a batch of this sauce and use it in a variety of ways. Use it as a dipping sauce for french fries. It beats ketchup or mayo any day!
The sauce is also used here in Peru on pasta, risotto or any other dish that works well with a creamy, cheesy sauce. If you are looking to serve it up on your pasta tonight, leave out the crackers and toss the sauce with hot noodles or risotto just before serving. It’s a super delicious way to enjoy pasta!
Potatoes with Peruvian Huancaina Sauce
- 8 smallish yellow potatoes
- 7 oz aji amarillo peppers*
- 5 oz tofu can substitute queso fresco
- ¼ cup Canola oil
- 1/3 cup plus 1 T soy milk plain and unsweetened**
- ½ red onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 8-10 Soda crackers as needed to achieve desired thickness
- Salt and freshly ground pepper as needed.
- Kalamata olives
- 1 egg boiled (if desired)
- Boil or steam your potatoes with the skin on. When tender, remove and allow to cool. Use a paring knife to gently remove the skin of the potatoes.
- If you are using fresh chilies, slice them in half and remove the seeds and ribs out with a spoon. If you want a little bit of spice, you can leave some of the seeds and insides intact.
- While the potatoes are cooking, combine the peppers through the garlic in a blender. Begin to process until smooth. Add half of crackers and blend again. Add additional crackers as needed. You want it to be thick and creamy but still pourable.
- The dish is usually served room temperature or chilled. Slice potatoes and layout on a plate. Drizzle with sauce and garnish with kalamata olives and egg wedges, if desired.
*Substitute with 2/3 cup of aji amarillo pepper paste.
**Substitute with any plain, unsweetened plant-based milk or dairy milk if desired.
Did you make this recipe for Potatoes with Peruvian Huancaina Sauce? Did you enjoy the flavors? Tell me all about it the comments here on the blog! If you cook and post on Instagram, be sure to tag me @cookeatlivelove!
Here are some other recipes I think you may enjoy!