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Peruvian Tuna Causa (Mashed Potato Layered with Tuna)

by Lorena

Peruvian Tuna Causa (Causa de Atún in Spanish) is a Peruvian cuisine classic. It’s a delicious dish that’s made quite easily and it feeds lots of people. To some extent, you can equate it to a casserole dish of sorts. The base of this popular dish mainly has Peruvian yellow potato and ají amarillo (yellow chilli) paste.

Peruvian Tuna Causa

What is causa

A Peruvian Causa or Causa limeña (from Lima) is a Peruvian dish made of layers of mashed potato and filled with chicken, tuna or other more modern alternatives. It really lends itself to different fillings! The ingredients for Peruvian causa rellena are mainly Peruvian yellow potatoes and ají amarillo paste (Peruvian yellow chilli). It’s the yellow chillies that bring a delicious and complex flavour to the dish, yet it’s not spicy. For the mashed potatoes we also add a bit of oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. The filling to the Peruvian Tuna Causa is canned tuna, red onion and mayonnaise that lays on a layer of sliced avocado. In other recipes, you could see that they also layer hard-boiled eggs and sliced tomatoes. Every household does it differently and I think there’s beauty in that!

What’s the origin of the Causa?

According to the historian Rodolfo Tafur, the word “causa” comes from the quechua word kausay/kawsay. This word means “life” in Quechua. The dish called kausay consisted of sliced boiled potatoes with sliced ají amarillo, both typical Andean crops. After that, during colonial times, the story becomes blurry because there are different versions of how that became the traditional Peruvian recipe we know today or at least a closer version of it. Another name for the Causa is “Causa Limeña” which means Causa from Lima. It’s one of the main dishes in Peruvian Food and the Tuna Causa is certainly one of the most commonly made at local houses. 

Ingredients for Peruvian Tuna Causa

For the potato layer

  • Peruvian yellow potato or Yukon gold potatoes about 60% of this dish is mashed potatoes. That means that the potatoes we use are really important. In Perú we have thousands of types of potatoes and we use the yellow potatoes for our Tuna Causa. This helps with the colour and the texture is also drier, making it helpful when assembling. If you can’t find Peruvian yellow potatoes where you live, you can use Yukon gold potatoes instead. If you only have access to Russett potatoes, then those need to be oven-baked rather than boiled. I left the details in the recipe. The potatoes are then mashed using a potato ricer (this is my absolute favourite) and mixed with the rest of the ingredients for this layer.
  • Ají amarillo / Yellow chilli: The other key ingredient in this recipe is the ají amarillo paste or yellow chili paste. The nice thing about these chili peppers is not that they’re spicy but how amazingly flavourful they are. Homemade aji amarillo paste isn’t spicy at all which is why I prefer to make it myself. However, you might not find fresh Peruvian chillies where you live, and if so, you can buy the paste ready-made. Mind you that paste is very spicy because they blend the chillies with seeds and all. 
  • Vegetable oil: The potato mixture also has vegetable oil. This helps with the texture and really adds to the silkiness. We don’t traditionally use olive oil often in this classic Peruvian dish but you can use it if you like. Just bear in mind that it will change the flavour.
  • Lime Juice: A bit of lime juice really brings out the flavour from the aji amarillo.

For the other layers

  • Red onion: The most classic version of a Peruvian Tuna Causa has raw diced onion in the filling. However, I am just not able to digest raw onion so I prefer to sautée it first. You can choose your own adventure here :).
  • Canned tuna: The tuna mixture is made using canned tuna. It’s a tuna salad really!
  • Mayonnaise: A bit of mayonnaise brings the tuna salad together and gives it such a texture that it’s easy to spread.
  • Sliced avocado: Avocados are very popular in Perú and used in many dishes. Here we layer avocado slices in between the tuna and potato layers.

How to assemble the Peruvian Tuna Causa

Once you have all the components for the Peruvian Tuna Causa ready, it’s time to assemble it. You can go the fancy way and assemble each serving using a ring mold. However, if you want to go with the household version we use in Perú, you need a loaf pan. Line it with either baking paper or plastic wrap. I prefer to go the baking paper route. Then, you’re going to layer half of the potato mix as a potato base. On top of that goes a layer of tuna. Always flatten the layers as you go so that you have an air-free unmolding later. On top of that add the sliced avocado (don’t forget to season them with salt and pepper) and finish with a last layer of mashed potatoes. You need to refrigerate it for at least 2 hours before removing it from the pan. Once you do, you can garnish it with hard boiled eggs, olives and parsley leaves like me. The Causa is a main dish on its own or it can also be served as an appetizer, so no sides are needed.

Peruvian Tuna Causa

Peruvian Causa de Atún Recipe

Peruvian causa de atún is a Peruvian household classic. It's made quite easily and it feeds lots of people. The base mainly has Peruvian yellow potato and ají amarillo (yellow chilli) paste.
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Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Starter
Cuisine: peruvian
Keyword: aji amarillo, causa, chicken, chilli, pollo, potato
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 6 people in a 21x13cm / 8x4in pan
Author: Lorena Salinas from Cravings Journal


For the yellow chilli paste*

  • 250 g Peruvian yellow chilli fresh or frozen

For the potato base

  • 500 g Peruvian yellow potato or Yukon gold potatoes or russet potatoes
  • 2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 90 g yellow chilli paste from above
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the tuna layer

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ red onion finely diced
  • 2 small tuna cans (5oz) drained
  • 100 g mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the avocado

  • 1 avocado sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To garnish

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Olives
  • Parsley leaves


Yellow chilli paste

  • Cut off the head of the chillies and cut them in half lengthwise.
  • Using a small knife, remove the seeds and veins.
  • Place a pot with cold water and boil for 10-15min or until you can easily peel the skin off. You should be able to rub the skin at a corner and it should easily peel by pulling.
  • Remove the chillies from the water, peel and blend. If your blender needs a bit of liquid, add a drizzle of vegetable oil, just the minimum amount to help your blender.
  • Reserve what you need for the recipe and you can freeze the rest for up to 6 months.

For the potato base

  • If you're using Peruvian yellow potatoes (ideal) or Yukon Gold then peel them and remove the eyes. Cook in salted cold water over medium heat. Don't let it go on to a rolling boil or the outside will disintegrate before the centre cooks. We take them out once you can easily pierce them with a knife. Don't let them overcook or they will start to disintegrate.
    If you're using another type of potato such as Russet, cook it in the oven with the skin on at 200°C/400°F for 1 hour – 1.5 hours or until really tender. We do it this way so the final product is as dry as the yellow potato.
  • Pass the potato through a potato ricer while it's still hot (it gets tough when it's cold!).
  • Add all the other ingredients and mix until homogeneous. Taste and adjust the salt level if necessary.

For the tuna layer

  • Preheat a small pan to medium heat. Add the oil and onion and sauté it until it becomes translucent. This is optional, a more classic preparation would be to add the onion raw.
  • Mix the tuna, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and onion.


  • Line a 21x13cm/8x4in pan with cling film or baking paper. You can also use individual rings.
  • Flatten half of the potato mix on the base.
  • Then, make a layer with the tuna and flatten it.
  • On top, layer the avocados and season with salt and pepper.
  • Finish with another layer of potato. Cover in cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours if you're going to unmould it onto a plate.
  • Garnish on top however you like. I used hard-boiled eggs, olives and parsley leaves.


*You can replace this with the store-bought version (usually easily found online) and the difference is that store-bought is spicy but the homemade version is not.
Tried this recipe?Mention @CravingsJournal or tag #RecipeCJ!

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