Aji Dulce: Everything About Them

The aji dulce pepper is one of many different kinds of aji peppers, and is most often found in Caribbean dishes. It’s native to this region, more specifically Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.

The classification of this pepper is Capsicum chinense, a variety native to the Yucatan Peninsula of Central America and the Caribbean islands. The name ‘aji dulce’ translates to ‘sweet pepper’.

Aji dulce peppers are known for their fruity flavor profile and their mild to hot heat. They’re very easy to grow, which is why they’re so common in Caribbean cuisines.

The following is all you need to know about the aji dulce pepper, including its appearance, flavor, its Scoville Heat Units, its cultivation process, and which dishes they’re most commonly used in.

What Does The Aji Dulce Pepper Look Like?

Small pods of bright colors, aji dulce peppers most resemble habanero peppers, but pack nowhere near as much heat. They’re initially green, before maturing to a bright orange, yellow, or red.

They usually have smooth, glossy skin, but some are more wrinkly. Their shape can vary; some are round, and some are oblong.

They tend to grow to between two to seven centimeters across, and between two to ten centimeters in length.

How Hot Are Aji Dulce Peppers?

Aji dulce peppers tend to be very mild, with the odd exception. Their average heat is between 0 to 1,000 Scoville Heat Units. This is similar to the Cubanelle pepper.

For context, the jalapeno pepper Scoville rating is as high as 5,000 Scoville Heat Units, and the hottest peppers go far higher than that. Aji dulce peppers are best known for their sweet flavor profile, rather than their heat.

What Do Aji Dulce Peppers Taste Like?

Aji dulce peppers taste sweet and fruity, with hints of smoky. This pleasant flavor profile combined with their mild heat makes them very popular, particularly in Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban dishes.

Their fruity flavors lend well to sofrito, a Latin American and Caribbean puree that’s a common secret ingredient in those regions.

How To Grow Aji Dulce Peppers

The cultivation process for aji dulce peppers is quite simple. They need to be grown in a warm location with full sun, either in a conservatory or a greenhouse.

They should be planted between 15 to 20 inches apart, and the optimum temperature for their soil will be between 65 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 degrees. The aji dulce pepper takes between 10 to 21 days to germinate.

Aji dulce peppers tend to grow to between 12 inches to 18 inches in height, and 18 inches to 24 inches in diameter. Their fruits tend to be 1.5 inches.

Aji Dulce: Everything About Them

If you’re looking to grow aji dulce peppers, follow this step by step guide.

First, you should mix equal parts compost, potting soil, sphagnum moss, and perlite. Add this mixture to a 12 inch pot until it’s three quarters full. Ensure the pot has good drainage prior to adding the mixture.

You should be starting the seeds two months before the start of the planting season.

Sow the seeds on the surface before covering them with just a sprinkling of soil. Keep them at a south facing window, covered with plastic. Mist the soil regularly in order to maintain its moisture.

Next, plant your seedlings in time so you’ll be putting them out after the last frost. Plant them in the center of the pot, before covering their roots with soil. Water regularly. You may also need to add more soil.

Your potted pepper should be placed in full sun, and you should place a small tomato cage (between two to three inches in height) over the pot. This will support the plant during the growing process. Water daily, but only when the soil needs moisture.

Cooking With Aji Dulce Peppers

Best suited for roasting, sautéing, and stewing, aji dulce peppers are most often chopped to be used in sofrito. Sofrito is a sauce made with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro.

Aji dulce peppers are also often used to flavor sautéed vegetables, meat dishes, summer salads, soups, stews, bean dishes, and rice, as well as to flavor various sauces, paprika, herbal vinegar, and mild salsa.

They tend to pair best with green lentils, potatoes, olives, beans, and rice, as well as the following herbs: oregano, cilantro, rosemary, and parsley. Meats that go best with aji dulce peppers include beef, poultry, and pork.

When stored in a paper bag in your fridge, aji dulce peppers should keep for up to one week.

Aji Dulce Pepper Substitutes

If you don’t have any aji dulce peppers on hand and you can’t source any locally, you’ll get similar results using any sweet, mild chili pepper.

All that you’ll be missing by using the common orange or red bell pepper are the smoky hints present in the aji dulce pepper’s profile. Sweet peppers are usually easy to find in grocery stores.

Another substitute for aji dulce peppers are other types of aji peppers- but just be sure they’re not too hot for your personal preference.

Other Types Of Aji Peppers

There are a wide range of other aji peppers. The aji amarillo (which translates to ‘yellow chile’ or ‘aji yellow’), also known as the aji escabeche, is most commonly both grown and eaten in Peru.

It tends to be very hot, averaging between 40,000 to 50,000 Scoville Heat Units, and its flavor is pungent.

The aji pineapple is an attractive yellow baccatum pepper, which grows elongated fruits. They taste distinctly like pineapples, and make for great hot sauces.

Conclusion

The aji dulce pepper is very popular in the Caribbean, and for good reason.

With their fruity flavor profile and mild heat, they make for a great ingredient in an abundance of different recipes, such as Sancocho, Puerto Rican Arroz con Pollo, Picadillo, and Ropa Vieja.

Aji dulce peppers can be easily found online, so if you’re eager to grow your own it’s just a few simple steps away.

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