If there’s a dish that I love with all my heart it’s Peruvian Ají de gallina. This recipe is the one that we had all the time at home back in Lima and it brings up so many memories. The flavours from the ají amarillo and panca chilli make it have such a delicious and intense flavour.
About my ají de gallina recipe
I’ve made this recipe so many times that I’m certain that I have changed a few things from my mom’s original recipe, but I wouldn’t know what exactly, lol. Still, the smell and taste bring me so many memories from when I lived in Lima. I use both ají amarillo and ají panca for this recipe, which makes it have a more orange colour than usual. My idea is to share this recipe with you so that you experiment with these flavours that have brought me so much joy. If you like Peruvian cuisine or you want to explore more, check out my Peruvian cuisine section.
How to make ají amarillo paste
For this ají de gallina you need ají amarillo paste, which is one of the base flavours for the dish. Ají amarillo is a yellow Peruvian chilli that isn’t overly spicy and is full of flavour. That’s why we use it for many of our preparations. It has a distinct flavour that is just so so delicious! To make ají amarillo paste I remove the top, cut it in half and remove the veins and seeds. After this, I boil it from cold water for about 15-20 minutes or until I can easily peel it with my hands.
Then I let them cool down, peel them by pulling on the skin and blend them with a minimum of oil just to help the blender do its job. The minimum for an ají amarillo paste is about 6 or else the blender won’t have much to blend. If you don’t live in Latin America, it’s likely that you will have to use store-bought ají amarillo paste. That one is good but it’s spicy. For this recipe, it won’t be suuuper spicy but it will be spicier than almost nothing with is usual for ají de gallina. If you live in the US, you can find ají amarillo paste on Amazon, and also on Amazon in the UK.
Freezing ají amarillo paste
The ají amarillo paste can be frozen and I recommend that you use a rectangular container lined with cling film. Then when it’s hard you can remove it from the container, remove the cling film and cut it up into cubes. These frozen cubes go back into a container or in bags to the freezer so you can easily take what you need. It lasts for up to 6 months. For a good ají de gallina, an ají amarillo paste made with love is the base. Don’t be tempted to add turmeric for colour, it really changes the flavour completely.
Ají panca paste
Ají panca is another type of chilli that we eat in Perú. It’s a chilli that’s sold dry. If you find it dry and you want to make your own ají panca paste, then soak the chillies overnight, remove the top and seeds and blend it with a bit of oil, just like ají amarillo. If you can’t get fresh ají panca, it’s fine. Store-bought paste or even powder is fine to use and it’s not spicy at all. For every tablespoon of ají panca paste, I use one teaspoon of powder. This paste can also be frozen for up to 6 months. Don’t skip this ingredient because it really takes this ají de gallina to a whole new level. Also, I sometimes add ají mirasol paste which makes the flavour even more intense. Ají mirasol is ají amarillo that has been dried.
How to make Peruvian ají de gallina
There are many steps to get the perfect Peruvian ají de gallina. Here I outline the process to get the creamiest and most delicious ají de gallina:
- The cooking of the chicken: First, you will poach the chicken along with celery, onion, carrot and bay leaves. Here we’re cooking the chicken but we’re also getting the stock that we’ll use later for the ají de gallina as well.
- The blended bread: To thicken the ají de gallina we use bread. The bread is soaked in the hot stock and then blended to have a smooth mix. In my house, we always toasted the bread before soaking it but it’s optional.
- The sofrito: The ají de gallina sofrito begins with oil and red onion. Then, once it’s slightly golden, you add the garlic and the chilli pastes and cook them for a couple of minutes.
- Patience: Once the sofrito is ready, add the blended bread and stir constantly until it thickens. Then, you add the evaporated milk and the shredded chicken and stir constantly once again until it thickens.
- The final touches: to finish the ají de gallina, we add parmesan cheese. When serving, we sprinkle with chopped pecans.
What to serve the ají de gallina with
One of the classic ají de gallina sides is peeled and boiled potatoes. It’s usually placed under the ají de gallina, you don’t see them in the dish. Next to it, a generous portion of garlic rice. On top, we finish it with chopped pecans. Also, it’s served with hard-boiled eggs and Alfonso olives. All of these flavours and textures make an incredible dish, making it my favourite Peruvian recipe.
Ají de Gallina (Peruvian Chilli Chicken)
For the chicken stock
- 1 large carrot chopped into medium pieces
- 1 large celery stalk chopped into medium pieces
- ½ large yellow onion chopped into medium pieces
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 chicken breasts
- 1 bone from chicken breasts
- 2 l water at room temperature
For the ají de gallina
- 5 slices of white bread without crust
- 1 L stock from above
- 1 tsp vegetable oil for cooking
- ½ red onion finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove finely grated, blended or minced
- 4 tbsp yellow chili paste
- 2 tbsp panca chili paste or 2 tsp ground panca
- 2 tbsp ají mirasol paste optional
- 230 ml evaporated milk
- 20 g freshly grated parmesan cheese
- cooked long-grain rice
- purple olives / Alfonso olives
- 1 boiled potato per person
- 1 1 hard-boiled egg per person
- 2-3 chopped pecans per person
For the chicken stock
- Place everything in a pot on medium-low heat and cook for 30 minutes from the time it breaks to a boil.
- Control that it doesn't simmer too hard or the chicken will turn tough.
- Remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat.
- Pass the stock through a sieve/colander and keep 1 litre/4 cups from it for the ají de gallina.
For the ají de gallina
- Toast the bread and cut it into cubes.
- Place the bread along with the stock in a blender and blend. The stock should be hot to soak the bread.
- Cook the onion in a pot with vegetable oil over medium heat until it goes translucent, soft and doesn't smell strong anymore.
- Add the garlic and cook for a minute.
- Add the chili pastes and wait for it to thicken. You will notice that the paste starts to separate from the oil.
- Add the bread and stock blend and simmer until the volume has reduced by half. Stir every once in a while because it tends to stick to the bottom.
- Add the chicken and evaporated milk and stir to thicken once again. Finish with the parmesan cheese and mix.
- Correct the level of salt and pepper and serve with rice, potatoes, olives, chopped pecans and hard-boiled eggs.