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Ají criollo – Ecuadorian hot sauce

This is my easy go to recipe for a homemade Ecuadorian ají criollo,  an Ecuadorian hot sauce or spicy salsa made with hot peppers, cilantro, garlic, onion and lime.

Ecuadorian aji criollo hot sauce

Sometimes people assume that food from Latin American countries is the same in each country and while there are a lot of similarities, the cuisine and ingredients are not only very different in each country but also regionally in each country. The reason I mention this is because several times when I tell someone I from Ecuador, or just in general from South America, and we talk about food it is assumed that South American food is the same as Mexican food: “Oh, you guys must eat a lot of tacos, etc”. Well, in fact Mexican food (and I mean good Mexican food not crappy Tex-Mex fast food – I like Tex-Mex but with good quality ingredients) is just starting to be available widespread in Ecuador.

Simple aji hot sauce recipe

In the 90’s you could probably find Mexican restaurants in the main cities of Quito and Guayaquil – but not anywhere else. My mom grew up in New Mexico and really missed the food. When we we’re growing up she always made tortillas from scratch because it was impossible to buy them already made (now you can). Most of my Ecuadorian friends were introduced to enchiladas, burritos, and guacamole through my mom’s cooking. She always talked about all the varieties of hot peppers and chilies and the sauces you could make with each one. Now that I live in the US I can find the chilies she missed, but I can’t find my Ecuadorian hot peppers, however jalapeños, serranos and habaneros are good replacements.

Ecuadorian aji criollo recipe

Another assumption is that Ecuadorian food is spicy (from using hot peppers) and that is quite untrue. A lot of Ecuadorians don’t like their food too hot (but some of us do). So almost all restaurants will serve meals that aren’t very spicy, but almost always you will find – or can ask – a homemade ají hot sauce on the table, so that people can add it to their food is they are hot sauce lovers.

There are so many variations, some are mild and some very spicy. Some like this ají criollo is a simple fresh hot sauce or salsa and easy to make. It is very popular and a lot of typical dishes are served with it. Other popular ají sauces include the traditional tree tomato or tamarillo hot sauce, and on the coastal region there’s a hot salsa made with pickled peppers and vegetables.

I’ve mentioned this ají criollo in a few of the previous recipes I’ve posted, so I figured it was probably time to post the actual recipe. I prefer to consume it fresh, ideally the same day but can last up to 3 days. I use either jalapeno or serrano peppers to make this ají,  plus red fresno chilies. You can use any mix you want, based on how spicy you want it. Or if you want it, as my five year would say, super hot burn your mouth on fire, then go for the habaneros. Also if you are going for mild,  remove the membranes and seeds, leave them in completely or partially if you want it spicier.

If you want it very mild you can also use red Korean chilies, which give it more color without the added heat. I also like the flavor of the Peruvian yellow hot peppers that are sometimes available here, their flavor is much more similar to Ecuadorian ají común variety.

En español

Ecuadorian aji criollo recipe

Ecuadorian hot sauce recipe {Aji criollo}

Aji criollo is an Ecuadorian hot sauce made with hot peppers, cilantro, garlic, onion and lime
4.81 from 146 votes
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Course: Condiments, Salsa, Sauce
Cuisine: Ecuadorian, Latin
Keyword: Aji sauce, Ecuadorian aji sauce, Ecuadorian hot sauce, Spicy aji salsa
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 1 cup
Author: Layla Pujol


  • 4 ajies or hot peppers
  • ½ bunch of cilantro stems and leaves
  • ½ cup of water
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 lime or lemon, juiced
  • 3 tbs finely chopped white parts of scallions or spring onions can also use regular white onion
  • Salt to taste


  • Combine the hot peppers, cilantro, water, garlic cloves and lime juice in the blender or food processor and blend well.
    How to make Ecuadorian hot sauce
  • Add the chopped white onions or scallions and salt to taste.


You can also add a little bit of vinegar for an extra touch of acidity.

Aji criollo or Ecuadorian hot sauce

Aji criollo or Ecuadorian hot sauce recipe


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  1. Eager to make this recipe. Aji chilies are a mainstay in our garden and kitchen. I discovered Aji sauces in Machala a number of years ago – and keep a supply now. I raise three Aji varieties, Cito (really flavorful), Rojo and Crystal. Will be adding this sauce to big dishes of home-cooked beans this week.

  2. My husband is from Quito and I just discovered this recipe 2 weeks ago. I have made 3 batches already,he loves it! The peppers I use are 2 habaneros and 3 jalapeños.

  3. I’m American and my husband is from Ecuador. We’ve been married for 33 years and I taught myself early on how to make a lot of Ecuadorian food as I am a pretty good “taste and copy” cook. In fact, it’s Ecuadorian food that I can cook without following a recipe which I have to for American recipes lol. One of my favorite things is the Aji, but it is made with Arbol de tomate, hot peppers, shaved red onion, cilantro and lime juice. Yum, so good, especially with pork, but I like it on anything!

  4. I used habanero peppers, the result was fabulous. I see us using this on fish in the near future. The sauce had heat on the first pallet, but did not linger or overcome the mushroom cheese empanadas. The green color also livens up the plate. Me encanta.

  5. I don’t think I will ever buy salsa verde again! This is “Yum!” Thank you for sharing! I made mine with jalapeños so that it would not be as spicy. My son would like to try some with hotter peppers!

  6. I just found your blog and loved loved it!!! I tried the grilled Salmon with the avocado salsa and my hubby fell completely in love with it. I have a really hard time finding tasty things to cook and your blog has been so helpful.

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