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Best Aji Amarillo Paste Substitute

We’ve got you covered if you’re looking for the best substitute for aji amarillo paste for your Peruvian feast. Continue reading to know more about this elusive chili and its closest alternatives. 

Did you know that aji amarillo is an essential ingredient in Peruvian cuisine? The paste from aji amarillo is a foundation for many Latin American recipes. But you won’t easily find this pepper in your local grocery store.

mortar bowl filled with orange amarillo paste

What Is Aji Amarillo?

Aji Amarillo is a type of chili pepper commonly found in South America. It was first domesticated in Peru and has been in use since the time of the Incas. It’s one of Peruvian cuisine’s “holy trinity” of spices.

The aji amarillo pepper got its name from its appearance. In Spanish, “Amarillo” means “yellow,” while “aji” means chili. Locals also call this chili “yellow aji.”

These chili pepper can grow up to five inches long. Even though the pods initially start as yellow, they become red-orange when they mature. This chili pepper’s skin is smooth and has slight wrinkles.

Aji Amarillo chilies have a heat level of 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville heat units (SHU). Its hotness is comparable to chipotle, serrano, and poblano peppers. A single aji amarillo pepper is at least ten times hotter than a jalapeno pepper. 

They have a sweet taste and earthy undertone, like bell peppers. But you’ll also get fruity, citrusy notes. This makes amarillo peppers suitable for spicy and savory dishes.

Aji Amarillo peppers come in many forms. You can get them fresh and dried. But you’ll have better luck finding frozen aji amarillo and aji amarillo paste in grocery stores. 

What Is Aji Amarillo Paste?

Aji amarillo paste is a saturated and flavored version of the aji pepper. Amarillo paste is often used to make aji amarillo sauce or flavor other dishes. Cream, mayo, and tomatoes are usually paired with aji amarillo paste.

You can find commercial aji amarillo paste in many grocery stores. But you can also make your own at home with fresh Amarillo peppers. It’s simple and quick to make. Plus, you can make large batches and store them in the fridge.

To make aji amarillo paste, you will need ripe Amarillo peppers. Grind the aji pepper using a blender or food processor. We recommend adding olive oil to extract the juices.

Feel free to add spices or seasonings to your paste. The traditional recipe calls for garlic, red onions, salt, and pepper. Keep mixing until you get a thick aji amarillo paste.

You can use it to flavor recipes like papa a la huancaina, a spicy potato and cheese dish. Another example is to use aji amarillo paste for causa rellena con pollo. This Peruvian dish consists of chicken, avocados, and mashed potatoes.

How To Choose a Substitute for Aji Amarillo Paste

Aji amarillo paste is a key ingredient in Peruvian cuisine, so it’s easy to find this condiment there. It may not be the case outside South America, though. In this case, you’ll need to rely on a good aji amarillo paste substitute. 

There are countless chili peppers that have the same heat level and tangy notes of aji amarillo. In fact, even citrus fruits like lemons and limes can replace amarillo peppers. But you may want to balance the tanginess with some heat. 

Best Aji Amarillo Paste Substitutes

When making aji amarillo paste, it’s best to use aji amarillo peppers. But what if you don’t have any? Luckily, there are many chili peppers that you can use to make an aji amarillo paste substitute. Here are our top picks:

1. Chipotle Peppers

The best aji amarillo substitute is chipotle peppers. These chilies are basically dried and smoked jalapeno peppers. They have a smoky, earthy, and subtly sweet flavor. They’re an excellent ingredient to chili paste, marinades, and dry rubs. 

2. Roasted Poblano Peppers

Poblano pepper also makes an excellent aji amarillo substitute. At 2,000 Scoville heat units, they have a subtle heat perfect for spicing up recipes. These peppers are best known for their sweet, savory, and firm pods. You can serve poblano peppers roasted or stuffed with meat, onions, and cheese.

3. Dried or Frozen Aji Amarillo Chiles

If you can’t get your hands on fresh aji amarillo peppers to create a paste, you can use frozen ones. After all, frozen aji amarillo peppers will have the same flavor profile and heat level. Follow the same recipe as you would aji amarillo to recreate the popular Peruvian paste. 

4. Sumac Paste

Sumac paste is a culinary paste often used in Middle Eastern recipes. You can also use it as an alternative for aji amarillo paste. Sumac paste has a tangy flavor that’s comparable to lemons. You can use this paste to flavor curries, pastries, or marinades.

5. Turmeric Paste

Turmeric paste comes from turmeric root, which is part of the ginger family. Although not spicy, it has intense earthy, musky, and bitter flavors. You can use this as an aji amarillo paste substitute, especially if you want to imitate the color. Turmeric paste is the main ingredient in Indian curry recipes.

6. Paprika

Paprika is a type of spice commonly seen in pantries. It has a bright red color and a mild, peppery flavor. Although made from dried red peppers, it doesn’t leave a fiery taste. But you can substitute it for Amarillo paste in spicy dips and sauces. 

7. Carrot Powder

Carrot powder may not seem like a conventional choice, but you can also use it for amarillo paste. Fresh carrots have a subtle yet sweet flavor. Adding carrot powder can infuse your dish with this sweetness and give it a yellow tinge. 

8. Lime Powder

If you’re after the citrusy flavors of aji amarillo paste, feel free to use lime powder instead. True to its name, lime powder is just a pulverized version of limes. You can use this to add a zesty tang to any recipe.

9. Onion Paste

Aji amarillo paste is traditionally made with onions, so onion paste will do in some recipes. It has a strong, earthy yet bitter taste that’s perfect for pickles, chutneys, or pasta recipes. Onion paste is also available in powder or dried form.

10. Jalapeño Pepper

Jalapeño peppers are one of the most popular Mexican chile peppers. They have mild heat with only 8,500 heat units. But they make refreshing and slightly spicy chili pastes. They are sweet, crunchy, and usually used in cheese and meat recipes. Raw jalapeños also make excellent snacks. 

11. Bishop’s Crown Pepper

Bishop’s crown pepper is traditionally grown in South America. It’s known for its interesting shape and fruity flavor. You can sprinkle slices of this pepper into salads or puree them to recreate amarillo paste.

12. Fresno Pepper

Fresno pepper is a chili pepper widely grown in California. Although commonly mistaken for jalapeños, these peppers turn red or orange when ripe. They are versatile peppers that go well in chili pastes, dips, salsas, or ceviche recipes.

13. Aleppo Pepper

Aleppo pepper is a mild pepper from Libya that can substitute yellow aji. Aside from its mild spiciness, this pepper is also known for its fruity taste. Locals describe the flavor as raisin-like. This chili is excellent in dry rubs and meat marinades.

14. Cheongyang Pepper

Cheonhyang pepper is a type of chili pepper from South Korea. It has a moderate heat and sweet taste, perfect for making chili paste. You can use this for Amarillo-based recipes or flavoring to kimchis and broths.

15. Piquante Pepper

Piquante pepper is a mild chili pepper from South Africa. Although it doesn’t pack much heat, it’s notable for its sweet flavors. It’s a common ingredient in African cuisine and is often used as a sweetener in soups.

16. Criolla Sella

Criolla Sella peppers are best known for their citrusy and sweet flavors. These chile peppers have been growing in the Bolivian Andes since ancient times. Locals compare the taste to mangoes and oranges. That said, they’re perfect for creating an aji amarillo paste substitute. 

17. Guntur Sannam

Guntur Sannam is an Indian chili pepper notable for its thick pod. Like bell peppers, these chilies have a sweet flavor and crunchy skin. You can serve them stuffed, roasted, or pounded into a paste. They have moderate heat at 40,000 Scoville heat units.

18. Aji Limon

Aji limon is another Peruvian chili pepper. Like the yellow aji, these peppers start out green and turn yellow when ripe. They have mild heat at 30,000 Scoville heat units. Aji limon paste is one of the best aji amarillo paste substitutes.

19. Habanero Pepper

Habanero peppers are the hottest edible chile peppers. A single habanero pepper can reach up to 350,000 heat units on the Scoville scale. 

Habanero peppers are insanely spicy but have a sweet and fruity flavor. Since this chile is so spicy, it’s easy to overlook the habanero pepper’s unique taste. If you’re using it as a substitute for aji amarillo paste, only use one habanero pepper at a time. Always use gloves when handling habanero pepper.

20. Serrano Pepper

Serrano peppers are an excellent aji amarillo substitute. They have green pods growing at two inches long and are often mistaken for jalapeño peppers. Serrano peppers have milder heat, with only 23,000 Scoville heat units. 

The serrano pepper is flavorful. It has an earthy yet fruity taste similar to Amarillo peppers. Serrano pepper also comes in green, orange, and red colors.

Serrano pepper is often used in Mexican cuisine. It’s excellent in salsas and sauces or as spicy toppings. Serrano pepper is also available in dried and paste varieties.

21. Scotch Bonnet Pepper

Aside from habaneros, scotch bonnet peppers are one of the hottest peppers on this list. They are at the top of the Scoville scale with one scotch bonnet pepper at 350,000 heat units. Scotch bonnet peppers, also known as the Caribbean red pepper, are abundant in Africa. 

A scotch bonnet pepper can vary in color. But their taste is very similar to Amarillo pepper. Scotch bonnet pepper has fruity, citrusy, and sweet flavors. It may not seem evident since it’s incredibly spicy. You can add scotch bonnet pepper to any Amarillo-based dish.

22. Manzano Pepper

Manzano chile, also known as Manzano pepper, is another worthy amarillo paste substitute. These peppers have a spicy level of 30,000 Scoville heat units. These chile peppers look like apples, hence the name. 

Manzano pepper has fruity and citrusy flavors. It’s often eaten raw or added to spicy vinegar. You can also use it to flavor spicy chocolate desserts. 

Famous Recipes That Use Aji Amarillo Paste 

The aji amarillo pepper is a common ingredient in many Peruvian dishes. It’s also the main spice in aji de gallina, a spicy chicken dish with yellow cream sauce. 

Another popular dish is apple chili. Amarillo peppers add a layer of sweetness and spiciness to the recipe. Use aji amarillo paste in mashed potatoes with cheesy sauce for comfort food.


Aji amarillo peppers are Peruvian chile peppers known for their bright yellow pods. These chile peppers are moderately spicy with an earthy, citrusy, and fruity flavor. They are available fresh, dried, or frozen in most grocery stores. But you can also buy aji amarillo paste and powder.

The best aji amarillo paste substitute is serrano pepper paste. But you can also use other common chili peppers like jalapenos or chipotle peppers.

More Ingredient Substitutes

Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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