Looking for a new salad for your meal prep during the week? Add this amazing Peruvian chopped salad recipe, solterito arequipeño to your line up and you won’t be disappointed. It’s packed full of fresh, crisp veggies and topped with a marinade that packs a punch of the spiciest Peruvian aji, the rocoto pepper. Plus it’s easy to transform it from a side dish salad to a main meal by adding some additional protein like quinoa or more beans!
The origin of Solterito arequipeño
Solterito arepequiño, “little bachelor” is a Peruvian chopped salad recipe from Peru’s second largest city, Arequipa. The city is located south of Lima and it takes about an 1 ½ hours by plane to reach it. Most frequently tourists travel through Arequipa before setting out to trek or visit Colca Canyon. The city is surrounded by three volcanoes, making the skyline quite picturesque.
The city and surrounding area is well known for its picanterias, which started as family-run restaurants in the countryside serving up home-cooked favorites. Today, picanterias are less common and many in the city are more modern restaurants serving up traditional flavors and meals that are quite often spicy like much of the food In Peru.
Solterito arequipeño can be made with whatever veggies are on hand which is why there are so many different variations of how to make it, but most commonly this peruvian chopped salad recipe includes choclo (Peruvian corn), fava beans and queso fresco. In addition, it does typically feature the rocoto pepper, the super hot Peruvian aji.
The fava bean
I had about zero experience with fava beans until I traveled and eventually moved to Peru. Before 2016 my only concept of fava beans was from the famous quote from the movie/book “Silence of the Lambs”…
“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti”Hannibal Lecter, Silence of the Lambs
Here in Peru, fava beans are a staple ingredient (lucky me) and fava beans are always available fresh in the markets and stores which means now I am able to cook with them more often.
Fava beans are also known as broad beans, habas verde and other names depending on where they are being used, but most commonly in the US they are called fava beans. As a member of the pea and bean family, Fabaceae they have much in common with other members but also some unique differences as well.
Their flavor is delicate and they don’t require tons of cooking time to soften, though the work to get to the edible part may be off-putting for some home cooks. The texture is not as grainy as other beans and is often eaten more firm than other beans especially when eaten fresh. When fava beans are cooked fresh, they are a brilliant bright green color.
Finding fava beans in the US
Fava beans are difficult to find in the United States. And your best bet is likely to be a local farmer’s market or maybe a large market such as Whole Foods. I’ve seen them in the US occasionally during their season which is late summer or early fall. In particular, I know I saw them from time to time when living in New York but prior to that point, I don’t recall them ever appearing at my local market.
I suspect they are less common in the US for two primary reasons.
First, their growing climate isn’t well suited to what is found in the US. The beans require a cool summer season to grow and in North America they are commonly grown in Canada. In the US small crops are grown in Minnesota, lake states and the northern part of California.
Second, they require quite a bit of work to cook when fresh. Cooking fresh fava beans requires first shelling the beans from the pods. Once all the beans are shelled, you cook the beans and cool them quickly in cold water. At this point you have to remove the outer skin from each bean which isn’t difficult but a tad bit tedious.
In my opinion, the work is well worth it because they have a lovely delicate flavor and brilliant color. Because of their flavor, color and texture I think they shine best in salads like this Peruvian chopped salad recipe or other preparations that don’t require much further cooking. They are good cooked in soups but they get softer and lose their brilliant green color.
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Ingredients and alternatives in making solterito arequipeño
Some of the ingredients to make solterito may be difficult to locate outside of Peru but don’t worry, I’ve got ya’ covered!!
Replacing the fava beans
If you are super lucky to have or find fava beans in your area, I highly recommend using them to make this Peruvian chopped salad recipe. They add so much color to the salad and their delicate flavor blends well with the rest of the veggies and the simple vinaigrette.
But, if you can’t find them don’t worry you can still make a great tasting Peruvian chopped salad. The best substitution for the fava beans is to use fresh green peas (or frozen) you get a similar color and texture from green peas with only a bit of a different flavor so it still works in my opinion. Another option, which I haven’t tried yet is to use lima beans as they are more similar in shape to the fava bean and have a mild flavor.
What about the aji?
The rocoto aji is the hottest of the three most popular Peruvian ajis. It is similar in appearance to a small red bell pepper and if you don’t know the difference (like me) it’s easy to mistakenly grab these ajis in a Peruvian grocery store thinking they are bell peppers and wonder later why my food is so dang spicy.
Using the paste instead of the fresh aji is an easy exchange and I decided to write and test the recipe for solterito arequipeño with the paste instead of diced peppers to make sure it would work here in this recipe. You can pick up the paste at a local Latin market or order it from Amazon.
The level of heat in this aji has a wide Scoville range, 30,000-100,000 units so be sure to add your paste in small increments to your Peruvian chopped salad recipe so that it’s the appropriate heat level for you and your family.
Choclo, Peru’s giant corn
Another one of the common ingredients in Solterito arequipeño is the Peruvian corn called choclo. It is VERY different from American corn in several ways.
- It’s white instead of yellow.
- Choclo isn’t sweet at all.
- The size of the kernels is 2-3 times the size of corn in the US.
- The texture is chewier.
There’s no easy answer here for a substitute when making this Peruvian chopped salad recipe because it’s just THAT different. If you have a large Latin market near you (I did in NYC), you may be able to find it in the frozen section but if not you will either need to leave it out and maybe add another ingredient to replace it such as cooked potatoes or hearts of palm.
Solterito, Peruvian chopped salad
- 1 pound fresh fava beans about 1 cup shelled
- 2 roma tomatoes diced
- ½ cup kalamata olives sliced in half
- 7 oz queso fresco
- 1 cup red onion diced
- 1 choclo cooked and cooled
- 2 T chopped parsley
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup white vinegar
- 1-2 tsp rocoto aji paste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a pot of water half full to a boil. Place the shelled fava beans in water with a bit of salt. Allow them to cook for about 1-2 minutes. Drain off hot water and then submerge in ice cold water.
- Cut cheese into cubes and set aside.
- Combine all the vegetables and cheese into a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Add the olive oil, vinegar, rocoto paste plus salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately.
Did you make this Peruvian chopped salad recipe? I want to know about your experience. Were you able to find fava beans? If not, what did you use instead? You can leave me a comment here on the blog or send me a message with the chat feature in the bottom right part of your screen.
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