Aji Picante: The Spicy Colombian Empanada Sauce

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Aji picante is a flavorful, refreshing, and delicious sauce that adds a tangy kick of spiciness to any dish. This classic Colombian empanada sauce recipe is similar to a Colombian pico de gallo, a chunky sauce with many fresh ingredients like cilantro, parsley, lime juice, green onion, tomatoes, lime juice, olive oil, and vinegar.

aji picante empanada sauce on empanada

Why Aji Picante Works

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Aji Picante is a hot sauce that provides a multi-dimensional taste experience. This sauce offers more than heat; it has a rich and complex flavor profile. You can taste the tangy freshness of lime juice and vinegar and the earthy depth of cilantro and parsley.

Combining these ingredients makes it the perfect sauce for savory dishes like empanadas. The sauce’s acidity brings a perfect balance of brightness and freshness to a dish.

Versatility

Aji Picante is a highly versatile sauce that complements a variety of dishes, from grilled meats to fish and salads. It’s perfect on avocado toast, fish tacos, and your favorite roasted vegetables.

Aji Pepper in Aji Picante

Aji Picante, a chunky hot sauce, gets its unique flavor from the Aji pepper, originally from South America. This pepper is known for its fruity tones, fiery orange-red color, and intense heat, making it stand out from other hot sauces that use different kinds of peppers.

However, you can make this recipe with your favorite chili peppers. For example, I also added jalapeño pepper to the recipe.


What Sets This Colombian Aji Picante Apart?

The texture is different from other hot sauces.

Unlike other hot sauces that are completely smooth, like Cholula hot sauce or Tabasco, this Colombian sauce, like chimichurri or pico de gallo, is typically chopped by hand or in a food processor to a slightly chunky consistency, making it uniquely delicious.

Not just spicy-it’s herbal.

This recipe is abundant in green, earthy flavors. if you’re a fan of herbs like cilantro and parsley, you’re among the many who love this sauce.

When the herbs are marinated in the vinegar and lime mixture, the acidity breaks the greens down, and the greens tame the acidic ingredients to make a balanced and bright empanada sauce.

Dip or pour it on your empanada.

This is the best empanada dipping sauce because it’s perfect for dipping your empanada into a small bowl of this spicy Colombian sauce.

You can also pour it on your empanada. First, cut the empanada in half and pour the aji on the empanada, or grab a spoon and smother a healthy portion of this ultimate empanada sauce on top.

aji picante sauce with ingredients listed including habanero, campari tomatoes, cilantro, parsley, green onions, jalapeno, vinegar, lime juice, water, and olive oil.

Ingredients

  • Cilantro, tender stems and leaves
  • Parsley, tender stems, and leaves
  • Green Onions, diced
  • Campari Tomatoes (or any sweet tomato) deseeded, peeled, and finely diced
  • Habañero Pepper, deseeded and finely diced
  • Jalapeño Pepper
  • White Vinegar
  • Water
  • Lime Juice
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

Note: See detailed quantities on the recipe card below.

Listed ingredients aji picante

Ingredient Substitutions and Variations:

  • Aji Pepper use jalapeños or habañero peppers instead. I included 1 tbsp of a deseeded jalapeño in this recipe and one whole habañero.
  • Lime Juice, if you prefer lemons, lemon juice also works in this recipe.
  • Campari Tomatoes are small, sweet, and less acidic. Swap these for a vine-ripened tomato available in your local supermarket.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil You can also use a mild oil like avocado oil in this recipe.
  • Green Onions substitute them with scallions which also work well in this recipe.
One whole habañero pepper
Habañero pepper

A Variety of Empanada Dipping Sauces to Try With Any Empanada


  • Ground Beef Empanadas
  • Chicken Empanadas
  • Cheese Empanadas
  • Vegetarian Empanadas

Other Ways to Enjoy Aji Picante

Add it to your favorite hummus!

Aji Picante in Hummus on charcuterie board
Aji Picante in Hummus

Tips For the Best and Easiest Aji Picante

Allow the aji picante sauce to marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving. Store it in a glass jar, either an air-tight container or any glass jar with a lid.

At first, the combination will seem incredibly acidic, but once the ingredients marinate in the sauce and the tomatoes and greens break down, the acidity will gradually decrease.

Shortcut: use a food processor to chop all of your ingredients. A food processor will save you time, especially when making large batches for a large gathering.

Use Fresh Ingredients like fresh lime juice rather than prepackaged lime juice for the best results. You may save time with a big batch of prepackaged lime juice, but that will greatly impact flavor.

aji in a jar with cilantro, freshly cut lime and sliced jalapeños.
Empanada dipping sauce in a glass jar

Is Aji Picante Mild or Spicy?

The spiciness level can be adjusted based on your personal preference. If you prefer a milder sauce, reduce the chili pepper added to your recipe. If you prefer a spicier sauce, add more chili pepper. This recipe is mild-medium heat.

Can I Store This Empanada Sauce in the Freezer?

Aji picante empanada dipping sauce in a jar and ingredients

This sauce can be stored in the freezer for up to six weeks. Use a silicone ice cube tray or air-tight container to save it in the freezer for longer.

aji picante empanada sauce on empanada

Aji Picante A Spicy Colombian Empanada Sauce

Olga Muñoz
Perfectly spicy empanada dipping sauce.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Sauce
Cuisine Colombian
Servings 20 Servings
Calories 12.8 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 Medium-Sized Bowl
  • 1 Cutting Board
  • 1 Chef Knife
  • 1 Food Processor (optional)

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup Cilantro, leaves and tender stems
  • 1/2 cup Parsley, leaves, and tender stems
  • 4 Green Onions
  • 4 Small Campari Tomatoes (or 2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup White Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Filtered Water
  • 1 whole Lime, juiced
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/8 tsp Salt Adjust based on preference.

Chili Peppers

  • 1 tbsp Jalapeño Pepper
  • 1 whole Habañero Pepper

Instructions
 

  • Prep Ingredients
    Clean, rinse and destem the cilantro and parsley. Keep the leaves and tender stems in a fine mesh strainer.
    Deseed and peel the tomatoes.
    Deseed the peppers.
    Chopped cilantro and chef knife on cutting board
  • Step One
    In a food processor, chop the jalapeño pepper and habañero with the water. Set aside in a small bowl, and mix with the vinegar, salt and lime juice.
    Jalapeno and vinegar in food processor
  • Step Two
    Finely dice the tomatoes and them to the vinegar mix.
    Finely chop the parsley, cilantro, and green onions, add them to the bowl, and mix. Add the olive oil last, and mix the sauce well.
    Empanada sauce aji picante in a small white bowl
  • Step Three
    Transfer the sauce to a glass, jar, or air-tight container and allow the mixture to sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.
    Enjoy!
    aji in a jar with cilantro, freshly cut lime and sliced jalapeños.

Notes

Tip: Transfer the sauce to a glass, jar, or air-tight container and allow the mixture to sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.
Shortcut: chop all of the ingredients using a food processor. Aji picante is a chunky sauce. Therefore, a rough chop works well. 
At first, the combination will seem incredibly acidic, but once the ingredients marinate in the sauce and the tomatoes and greens break down, the acidity will gradually decrease.

Nutrition

Calories: 12.8kcal
Keyword aji picante, Empanada dipping sauce, empanada sauce
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5 from 1 vote

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