You can probably name sauces from across the world, whether it’s mole from Mexico, pesto from Italy or aioli from France. But, what about Ecuadorian food? That’s why I have to introduce you to aji criollo.
It’s a super zesty and refreshing green sauce similar to salsa verde. It has a subtle heat that is balanced out with acid from red wine vinegar and lime juice. With its freshness, I find it works amazingly with anything grilled and charred.
What’s In Aji Criollo?
You might think a sauce from a far-flung country is going to be complex with a list of ingredients you’ve never heard of… Fortunately, aji criollo requires a handful of fairly basic ingredients.
- 1 Large Bunch of Coriander: Coriander forms the herby base to aji criollo. You’ll want a lot of it so grab a large handful. It will wilt slightly in the dressing.
- 3 Spring or Salad Onions: Any form of onions works well in aji criollo. I tend to use the large bulbous salad onions.
- 1 Lime: You only need the juice of a lime, but this will give your aji criollo that iconic zesty tang.
- 1 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar: Red wine vinegar will further add to the acidic undertones in the dressing.
- 1 Green Chilli: You can adjust the level of spice for your tastes but I tend to use a whole deseeded chilli when I make this.
- 4 tbsp Olive Oil: Of course, you’ll need some sort of oil to make your dressing and olive oil tends to be my go-to option.
Substitutes and Tweaks
I use green chilli when making aji criollo as it matches the green colour. But red chilli or dried chilli would work.
Acid is an essential part of aji criollo but you could swap the lime juice for lemon juice, yuzu juice or orange juice.
If you love things garlicky, then add raw garlic cloves to the blender when you blitz up the main ingredients.
Give your aji criollo a slightly nutty flavour and creaminess by adding a handful of roasted cashews or pinenuts.
How to Make Aji Criollo
Step 1: Slice the spring or salad onions, discard the green tops, and then deseed and slice the chilli. You’re going to be popping these in a blender, so you don’t need to chop them up too finely.
Step 2: Pop the coriander (with the stems), onions and green chilli into a blender or food processor and blitz until it forms a fine paste.
Step 3: Mix vinegar, lime juice and olive oil to create your dressing. The 3 liquids need to come together into an emulsion. You’ll find that a whisk or a fork will work best for doing this.
Step 4: Once you’ve made your dressing, tip the contents of the blender into the dressing and stir to fully combine. Check the seasoning and adjust accordingly with a pinch of salt or a twist of black pepper.