Made from a mix of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cilantro, this zesty Colombian Aji is bursting with flavor. It only takes about 5 minutes to make in a blender and can be stored in the fridge for a few days. It's a fantastic condiment to grilled meats and seafood, works well as a salsa, and is great for dipping.
Ají Colombiano is a popular condiment or sauce (aka salsa) that is used for various purposes in Colombian cuisine. In our Colombian-American house, we absolutely must have a jar of Aji in the fridge for the majority of the summer when tomatoes are ripe (that and Pickled Red Onions). It's a stand-by during BBQ season, especially if Papa Salada (salty potatoes) is on the menu.
My husband and his family are from Bogota, Colombia, and his sisters taught me how to make Aji (along with Carne en Bistec (Colombian Steak with Tomatoes and Onions) and Arepas con Queso).
The exact variation of Aji can vary depending on the region of Colombia it is made in and the ingredients that are available. Essentially, Aji is a sauce made from finely chopping or blending aromatics such as tomatoes, peppers, and onions. It's usually spicy, but not always. The resulting sauce is a zesty and bright condiment that adds a punch of flavor and freshness to a variety of dishes.
So let's get to making it! You can jump around the article using the menu below, or you can just head right to the bottom for the complete recipe.
Ingredients Needed and Substitutions
Here is a brief overview of the ingredients needed for this recipe. The full recipe with quantities is listed below this text in the recipe card. If substitutions are available for this recipe, they'll be listed here. If you don't see a substitution you are looking for, please leave a comment below.
- tomatoes (don't use cherry tomatoes here; large tomatoes are best....preferably in season and flavorful)
- green onions (also known as scallions...this can be substituted with a red or yellow onion, too)
- jalapeno (use fresh, with or without the seeds or pickled jalapenos can also be used too...if you like acidic flavors then you'll love this aji with the pickled jalapenos)
- white vinegar (or another vinegar works well here, like red or white wine vinegar)
- cilantro (if you are a cilantro hater...this recipe might not be for you, but maybe check out this Basil Spinach Pesto instead?)
- coarse kosher salt (This recipe was tested using Diamond Crystal coarse kosher salt. If you use Morton's kosher salt or fine salt decrease by about half for volume, or use the same amount by weight.)
How to Make It
Traditionally, Aji is made by finely chopping all of the ingredients together. But this is very time-consuming. So for simplicity sake, use a blender or a food processor.
Add all the ingredients to a blender or food processor.
Pulse the aji ingredients until they are roughly chopped.
Kelli's Best Tips
This recipe is simple, and there is plenty of room for ingredient experimentation. Here are some notes to help you have success with your Aji:
- Cilantro stems are okay to use, since they hold a lot of flavor, as long as they are thin and delicate. If your cilantro has thick and tough stems, use only the delicate leaves.
- Pre-chop the ingredients: I know I know, it seems silly to pre-chop the veggies but I find they get a more even "blitz" in the blender compared to if you throw them in whole.
- Don't over-blend: This is not supposed to be a smooth sauce; in fact, quite the opposite. The aji should have even chunks of the ingredients, so just "pulse" the blender or food processor.
- Adjust the heat: To make it less spicy, remove the jalapeño seeds and membrane, use less of it, or try a milder type like serrano. I add half a seedless jalapeño or some pickled jalapeños for my kids to enjoy the flavor without too much spice.
Store the aji in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator. A mason jar works great!
Aji is one of those sauces that gets better with age. On days two and three, it's amazing. However, it doesn't keep indefinitely, as the vinegar starts to break down the ingredients. It is best consumed within 5-7 days.
Recipes to Pair with Aji
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This zesty Colombian Aji is bursting with flavor, made from a blend of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cilantro. It only takes about 5 minutes to make in a blender, and can be stored in the fridge for a few days. It's a fantastic condiment to grilled meats and seafood, works well as a salsa, and is great for dipping.
- 2 large tomatoes, core removed and roughly chopped
- 4 green onions, white and green parts, roughly chopped
- 1 jalapeno, seeded or not (see note about heat)
- ½ cup white vinegar
- 1 bunch cilantro, washed and de-stemmed
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt (or to taste)
- Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse about 10 times until all ingredients are chopped roughly the same size.
- Enjoy on everything.
This recipe was tested using Diamond Crystal coarse kosher salt. If you use Morton's kosher salt or fine salt decrease by about half for volume, or use the same amount by weight.
Cilantro stems are okay to use, since they hold a lot of flavor, as long as they are thin and delicate.
To adjust the heat level according to your taste, remove the seeds and membrane and limit the amount of pepper you use.
Store the aji in the refrigerator and consume it within 5-7 days.
Keywords: Colombian Aji