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Tamarillo or tree tomato aji hot sauce {Ecuadorian ají de tomate de árbol}

Recipe for Ecuadorian ají de tomate de árbol, a mild hot sauce made with tamarillo or tree tomato fruits, hot peppers (called ajíes), onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and water or oil.

Ecuadorian aji hot sauce recipe

En Español 

Tamarillo or tree tomato aji hot sauce, called ají de tomate de árbol in Ecuador,  is a very tasty hot sauce made from tree tomatoes or tamarillos, hot peppers, onion, cilantro and lime juice. A tree tomato or tomate de arbol, also known as tamarillo, is a South American fruit that looks somewhat like a roma tomato, but pointier and with a thicker skin. 

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Ecuadorian tamarillo or tree tomato hot sauce

Tree tomatoes can be either yellow orangish or dark red depending on the variety, the inside of the fruit will be either orange, dark red or almost purple. They can be eaten just plain, but make sure they are very ripe if eating them plain – they are very tart. Tamarillos or tree tomatoes are used frequently in juices and in desserts (cooked in a panela or sugar cane syrup with cinnamon, clove and other spices). One of the most well known way to use them is to make this aji or hot sauce, which is usually mild to medium spicy, and is served with a lot of different Ecuadorian dishes.

This tamarillo hot sauce is a must-have for green plantain empanadas (or any empanadas), yuca bread, plantain chips, tamales, humitas (a fresh corn tamale) and goes great with potatoes, fish and meat, basically with almost anything.

Aji de tomate de arbol or tree tomato hot sauce

It is very hard to find tree tomatoes in the US, most of the time when you find them they come from New Zealand (so please send us more). In Austin I was able to find them at Fiesta and also occasionally at Central Market. I’ve seen tree tomatoes or tamarillos only a few times in Seattle, once at QFC (U-District) and at Uwajimaya. I asked once at Pike Place Market and was told that several years ago an attempt to introduce them into Seattle was made but it wasn’t successful.

You can find the tree tomato pulp frozen and it works well for juice but doesn’t do too well for this hot sauce (but it’s better than nothing if you have a craving), however sometimes you can find the actual fruits frozen at the Latin grocery stores,  then the hot sauce is almost as good as when made with the fresh fruit.

Tamarillo or tree tomato fruits in Ecuador

This is the basic recipe for tree tomato aji, in some places in Ecuador – especially in Quito – it is very common to add chochos (lupini beans) to this aji, so if you have some on hand feel free to add them. I also love the Cuencano version of tree tomato aji, it’s very smooth and creamy since they blend it with some oil.

Ecuadorian tamarillo or tree tomato hot sauce

Tamarillo or tree tomato ají hot sauce / Ecuadorian ají de tomate de árbol

Tamarillo or tree tomato aji hot sauce is a very tasty hot sauce made from tree tomatoes or tamarillos, hot peppers, onion, cilantro and lime juice.
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Course: Salsa, Sauce
Cuisine: Ecuadorian, Latin, South American
Keyword: Aji, Aji sauce, Ecuadorian aji sauce, Tamarillo, Tomate de arbol, Tree tomato
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 1 to 1 1/2 cups of tamarillo or tree tomato aji


  • 4-5 tree tomatoes fresh or frozen
  • 2 ajies or hot peppers serranos or red chilies are good options, habaneros if you are very brave
  • 2 tbs finely chopped white onion
  • 1 tbs finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbs lime or lemon juice
  • ¼ cup water
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional – Add cooked and peeled chochos or lupini beans


  • If using fresh tree tomatoes peel them, boil them for about 5 minutes to make it easier to peel them.
  • If using frozen tree tomatoes, defrost them over night in the fridge, then cut them in half and scoop out all the insides.
  • Blend the tree tomatoes with the hot peppers (seeded and deveined if you want it very mild, you can always save a few seeds and add them in if it’s too mild).
  • Transfer the blended mix of tree tomatoes and hot peppers to a small sauce pan, add the water (you can add more if you want a more liquid sauce) and cook on medium heat for about 5-8 minutes. You can also omit the cooking part, the sauce will be fresher, but will need to be consumed faster.
  • Add the onion, lime juice, cilantro, chochos (if adding), and salt to taste.
  • Serve warm or cold.


Replace water with oil (avocado, light olive oil, or a mild flavored oil) for a creamier Cuencano style aji (and do not cook it after blending).
Tamarillos or tree tomatoes
Tamarillos or tree tomatoes, also known as tomate de arbol
Frozen tree tomato
Making tree tomato or tamarillo aji hot sauce
Tree tomato aji
Tamarillo or tree tomato aji hot sauce

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  1. Has anyone been able to find the Tomates de Arbol in the Boston Area? I am salivating just thinking about the aji. I found chochos in Hi-Lo foods in Jamaica Plain. I’d be happy to buy some fresh if somenone wants to mail them to me. Thanks for the great recipes!

    1. Juan,

      I have seen some tomate de arbol in a market basket in fields corner next to the dollar store and mcdonalds. I know they come frozen though, so you have to go to the frozen section where they sell juices !

  2. Oh I am so excited I have a young tree full of 50 or more ripening fruits and a garden full of peppers- Hot sauce galore coming soon! I think I might add some chocolate though.

  3. So, I was wondering how long ago it was you found the tomates at Fiesta in Austin. I lived in the sierra of Ecuador for about six months in 2009, and having returned, I am jonesing for some jugo de tomate and aji. Thanks, the photos alone take me back. I’ll have to share with you my vegan takes on humitas, quimbolitos, etc…in case anyone is interested.

  4. Cait, do you think the trees would survive indoors? I live in Chicago and just wanted to know if they would survive the winter. I have found frozen tamarillos here, I wonder if the seeds from those would grow any fruit?
    Anyway I was SO happy to find tamarillo and aji peppers in my supermarket! When I asked nobody knew what I was talking about, but at least I found them in the frozen section!

  5. I grew my tamarillo trees from the seed of fruit I bought in a local supermarket. They germinate very easily and quickly grow into small trees about 2m tall and 3m in diameter. I have six trees and harvested fruit from the second year onwards. Here in South Africa they are well known. Most people eat them raw as a fruit by cutting them in half across the middle and scooping out the pulp with a teaspoon. They are also used to make jam and chilli flavoured chutneys.

  6. I grow and sell both the yellow and red tree tomatoes at the Portland Farmers Market (PSU). and Eugene Farmers Market in Oregon. They from $.50 to $1.00 each depending on size.

    Hi Gus – That is great to know! What time of the year are they in season in the PNW?

  7. Laylita-
    I am so happy to have found your site! I visited Ecuador in July, absolutely loved the food and have been desperate to find recipes for my favorite foods. I was wondering if anyone out there in Chicago can recommend any stores where I can find the tamarillos. I would really appreciate it!
    I look forward to cooking these amazing meals. Muchas gracias!

  8. I am so excited to make this aji tonight! It has been a very long time since I enjoyed it on everything in Cuenca. I made the arroz con pollo last night and it was wonderful – like a taste of home.

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