Another Twist on Ecuadorian Hot Sauce

At almost every restaurant in the Sierra, we have found a condiment on every table, aji. The literal translation is simply, hot pepper, but aji is so much more. Every aji I’ve tasted has some ingredients in common: the tree tomato or tomate de arbol, red onion, hot peppers, a little salt, and a little oil. But every chef seems to offer their own twist.

I’ve already shared one recipe that was inspired by a chef at the Swiss Hotel, where we spent our first few weeks in country. This time, I’m going to share a recipe from the Chef at a small lodge tucked away behind Cotopaxi National Park, Los Mortiños. He has a secret ingredient that made his aji the best I have yet tasted in Ecuador.

Clockwise from the center: tree tomatoes, parsley, salt, vegetable oil, hot peppers, peanut butter, red onion.

Aji de Los Mortiños

2 tree tomatoes
2-3 hot peppers
1 red onion
1 tsp of natural peanut butter (or more to taste)
vegetable oil

Cook the tree tomatoes until the split. Remove the seeds and the skin; place the pulp in a blender or food processor.

Place the tree tomatoes in a pot of boiling water and cook until the skin splits. Remove from water and let cool. In the meantime, dice your red onion, place it in a sieve over a bowl. Pour boiling water over the top to soften the onion. Seed the hot peppers. Use some of the seeds for a hot aji and all of the seeds for a super spicy aji.

Seed the hot peppers unless you want this super spicy. Dice the red onion and place it in a sieve over a bowl.

Poor boiling water over the onion to soften it. This removes some of the harsh flavor you can sometimes get from a strong onion.

Place the pulp of the tree tomatoes, the hot peppers, the onion, the peanut butter, salt, vegetable oil, and 1\2 liter of water to a blender. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little water. It will thicken a little over time. Tree tomatoes seem to be high in pectin.

Mince parsley and then stir into the finished sauce.

Finished aji. This version is a tad on the red side because I didn’t seed the tomato de arbol. If you prefer a more orange/yellow version, make sure the seeds don’t get included!


2 thoughts on “Another Twist on Ecuadorian Hot Sauce

  1. Now this is something new. Is there another name for tree tomato? I’ve honestly never heard of it but as so many fruits never get past customs I am not surprised. Also, did not know about the boiled water technique. Very informative post.


    • I wrote about the tree tomato in the first recipe on Aji… There is a farm out in CA that’s attempting to grow them. Tomate de arbol are essential to many Ecuadorian dishes. We also drink the juice. Not sure why we don’t grow them in the US.

      I’ve also tried the boiled water trick with red onions that I want to fast pickle. Think I picked that up from the Moosewood Cookbook.


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