What are Aji Colorado?
The aji colorado may not be the first aji pepper that comes to mind when thinking of Peruvian chilies, but there’s a lot to love here, from their strong, yet eatable heat (20,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units) to their deliciously sweet flavor. Its thin walls make this pepper a terrific option for drying, but you’ll grab it fresh too to enjoy the sweet, near fruity flavor.
Aji Colorado fast facts
- Scoville heat units (SHU): 20,000 – 30,000 SHU
- Median heat: 25,000 SHU
- Origin: Peru
- Capsicum species: Baccatum
- Jalapeño reference scale: 3 to 12 times hotter
- Use: Culinary
- Size: Up to 5 inches long, pendant-shaped
- Flavor: Fruity, Sweet
How hot is the Aji Colorado?
The aji colorado sits in a sweet spot for spicy food fans – more than a jalapeño in heat, but not quite to the levels of cayenne pepper. With a Scoville heat range of 20,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units (SHU), its typically three to twelve times hotter than a jalapeño pepper (2,500 – 8,000 SHU). It’s more in line with an upper-level serrano pepper (10,000 – 23,000 SHU), but with a little more pop. This is well below the most popular Peruvian pepper- the aji amarillo (30,000 – 50,000 SHU), but quite a jump from the also beloved aji panca (a very mild 1,000 – 1,500 SHU).
What does the aji colorado look like and taste like?
It’s a long, pendant shaped pepper growing to five inches in length, often curved and slightly wrinkled. Its shape is sort of like a pumped-up cayenne pepper, and it follows the same coloration pattern as it matures too – from green to orangish-red. A photo of them dried is below.
In terms of taste, like other aji chilies, the aji colorado doesn’t disappoint. Peruvian peppers are well known for being terrific culinary chilies – typically strong, but eatable, spiciness paired with a ton of flavor. The aji colorado has a tasty sweetness to it that verges on fruity.
How can you use them?
The aji colorado has thin walls, which make this chili pepper a very good option for drying. When dried, it’s simple to crumble the chili into soups and stews to add some extra heat (and a hint of sweetness) to a dish. They are also the perfect chili for making traditional Peruvian meals and the popular aji colorado sauce – a Peruvian staple. If you prefer a milder alternative, aji panca is also a good choice for the sauce.
But, this hot pepper is so tasty, you’ll reach for it fresh too. It’s perfect chopped up for salsas – or lightly grill this pepper and have it as a side (especially for those that like things a little extra spicy).
Where can you buy Aji Colorado peppers?
You may need to hunt around. You can find aji peppers in specialty stores, but its more common to find chilies labeled “New Mexican” or “Californian”, which may be of one of many types, from Anaheim peppers to pasillas (and including the colorado).
You can buy both the dried version of this chili and aji colorado seeds online (Amazon). There are plenty of options for using dried aji colorado in the kitchen, so starting there is likely your best bet. Though, keep an eye out for it fresh – it’s quite tasty and perfect with Peruvian cuisine.