Do you love all things chili? Do you live for the kick of a spicy dish and take pleasure in that fire-like tickle in the back of your throat? Well, if you haven’t heard of Aji chili peppers, get ready to fall in love all over again.
We’re here to talk you through everything you need to know about the Aji chili pepper.
So, if you’re looking for a new pepper to get those eyes watering and those pain receptors tingling, you’ve come to the right place. So put down the jalapenos and turn up the heat units; let’s take a closer look at Aji chili peppers.
Types Of Aji Chili Peppers
Aji chili peppers are popular in Peru and are used in various dishes. They’re most commonly used as a condiment in dishes that feature garlic and red onion.
There’s more than one type of Peruvian Aji pepper. Their plants all harvest beautifully, too, so you can expect each one to burst at the seams with beautiful chili peppers for your dishes. So let’s explore the most popular Aji peppers.
Aji Cristal Peppers
These chili peppers pack a punch. They’re small (up to four inches long), spicy, and native to Chile. These chili peppers can vary in taste depending on their growing stage.
If you want to grow these yourself, they’re low maintenance and yield prolific harvests. You can expect a crunchy texture and citrusy aroma from these peppers.
Scoville Scale: 30,000 SHU
These chili peppers are rare and arguably one of the hottest of the Capsicum Baccatum peppers.
The Aji Cito works great as a dried powder, flakes, or in their natural chili form. They’re easy to grow and can yield plenty of spicy chilis with the right amount of light.
The average Aji Cito is around 5cm long and 1cm wide, and they have crunchy, medium-thin flesh. However, if you can’t handle the spice, these probably aren’t for you.
Scoville Scale: 100,000 SHU
These super-hot chilis from Peru grow between 2-3 inches long, and they vary in color. Depending on their growing phase, these chilis may be red, orange, yellow, white, or purple. The Aji Limo is popular in salsa and fish dishes in Peruvian cooking.
When cooked, you can expect a mouth-watering citrusy flavor from the Limo. These may not be as spicy as the Aji Cito, but they still pack a punch.
Scoville Scale: 30,000 – 50,000 SHU
This Peruvian red pepper is usually dark red, relatively mild in taste, and can be described as smoky and fruit.
You’ll usually find these peppers in dried form or prepared into a paste. These chilis measure between 3-5 inches long and boast thick, crunchy flesh.
If you prefer milder chilis, the Aji Panca can make an excellent addition to many dishes, especially Mexican cuisine.
Scoville Scale: 100-500 SHU
Aji Dulce Peppers
These small, colorful peppers appear in brightly colored pods and resemble the traditional Habanero. This variety of peppers is usually found in Latin America or the Caribbean, and they’re a staple in many dishes.
The Aji Dulce can be described as highly aromatic, and their flavor is unusual for chilis, working a subtle blend of coriander and black pepper.
Scoville Scale: 1000-5000 SHU
This variety of Aji was developed in Finland over a period of five years. These peppers are sweet and mild on the outside, with a slightly hotter center. The Aji Fantasy is bright yellow and has an unusual shape.
This pepper sports a rounded top with a pinched center. Its flavor can be described as mild and citrusy, and it works great when eaten raw or cooked.
Scoville Scale: 5000 – 10,000 SHU
Aji Norteño (Northern Aji)
The Aji Norteño (or Northern Aji) is a moderately hot Peruvian pepper that’s native to its northern coastal valleys. These Aji’s have a large, thick flesh with large pods, and they grow tall and ripen to a beautiful red color.
When planted in a pot, the Northern Aji can grow up to two meters high and can mature to red, yellow, or orange colors. Their flavor is fruity and sweet with no bitterness.
Scoville Scale: 30,000 – 50,000 SHU
These yellow baccatum peppers grow between 2-3 inches long, and they start off green and ripen to a vibrant yellow color. The Aji Pineapple is a rare pepper. However, it’s easy to grow and makes a versatile addition to many dishes.
Their name comes from their vibrant and distinct taste, fruity, with a subtle hint of pineapple. However, it still packs a hot punch, so don’t expect anything mild from this one. So if you’re looking for a pepper to compliment your hot sauce, this is the one!
Scoville Scale: 20,000 – 30,000 SHU
Despite having similar names, the Aji Habanero isn’t related to the habaneros, and it’s definitely not as hot. The Aji Habanero shares the name due to its similar appearance and its smoky and fruity flavor.
The Aji Habanero is easy to grow and tastes great fresh. They’re most popular when they’ve matured to yellow, but you can also eat Aji Habaneros when they’re green (at around 70 days).
Scoville Scale: 5,000 – 10,000 SHU
Can You Buy Aji Chili Pepper Seeds?
If you want to grow your own, you can buy seeds for almost any of the Aji chili peppers listed in this article.
As we’ve seen, there are many varieties of the Aji chili pepper, and each one requires different growing conditions. Check with your seed supplier for more information.
Although growing guidelines may differ, here are a few common rules to follow when growing chili peppers:
- Slow Growth: Most chili peppers start growing slowly. It’s best to keep them indoors for a maximum of 12 weeks before transferring them outdoors.
- Warm Soil: Peppers grow best in warm soil. For best results, keep the ambient temperature above 50F (10C).
- Fertilization: Like most plants, peppers can be susceptible to damage from insects such as aphids. Fertilize your peppers regularly, and use an insecticide spray to keep the bugs at bay.
- Grow Close Together: Contrary to popular belief, peppers grow best when they have neighbors to lean on for support. Plant your peppers between 18 to 36 inches apart. By placing your peppers closer together, you’re encouraging them to support each other. However, they will require more nutrients to produce fruitful yields.
- Picking Times: Most peppers take between 75 to 90 days to mature. When your peppers approach ripeness, allow the soil to dry out between each water. To produce peppers with the most heat, always harvest your peppers at peak ripeness.
How Hot Are Aji Peppers?
There are many varieties of Aji pepper, and there’s a level of heat for every palette.
Aji peppers can range from 500 to 100,000 Scoville Heat Units (just take a look at the Aji Cito!). Whether you have a soft palette or prefer something hotter, there’s an Aji pepper to suit every taste and many kinds of cuisine.
Varieties of the Aji pepper have become popular choices for chili pepper fanatics worldwide. They’re also popular with growers – most Aji chili peppers are low maintenance and are great for beginner growers.
Whether you want to grow them, eat them raw, or dry them, Aji peppers are versatile and humble. Mild or spicy, colorful or oddly shaped, there’s something for every kind of chili fanatic.
If you struggle to stomach the spice – don’t worry! Except for the Aji Cito, most chili peppers fall on the lower end of the Scoville scale. So, don’t expect anything as powerful as the Carolina Reaper… your taste buds are in safe hands!