Peru may have more than 500 dishes to try, but there's one you'll want to go back to again and again. Ají de gallina will become your go-to meal when you're in need of delicious and warm comfort food.
Ají de gallina is one of the most beloved dishes in Peru. It's comfort food, best eaten when you need to feel better about life or just feel warm in winter.
Let's break down what exactly aji de gallina means, first. Basically, it's chicken in a yellow pepper sauce.
Don't let the gallina part fool you. It's not often prepared with gallina (meat from an older hen) anymore, but instead chicken (meat from a younger hen). So you can call this ají de pollo, if you like. Some Peruvian restaurants actually do call it that.
Still confused about the difference between gallina and pollo? Head over to Chowhound for a great breakdown of the two. If you ever want to travel to Latin America, you definitely need to know the difference between the two.
Personally, I'm not a fan of gallina. I find the skin a bit tough and the meat isn't as tender as pollo. But that's another topic for another blog!
Now on to the pepper part.
Ají is another word for chili pepper. The word chili is from Nahuatl, an indigenous language in Mexico. The word ají is from Quechua, an indigenous language in the Andes in Peru and Bolivia.
And now presenting the recipe for ají de gallina!
If you prefer directions in English, follow this recipe from Peru Delights. Or you can watch the video in Spanish below from A Comer to get step-by-step directions.
There's an easier way to prepare ají de gallina by skipping some of the steps shown in this video. I learned how from a Peruvian friend. The results are still just as delicious, just not as time-consuming.
🇵🇪 Use rotisserie chicken instead of cooking the chicken yourself.
🇵🇪 Use saltine crackers instead of bread. Or use gluten-free bread if you have a gluten intolerance.
🇵🇪 Leave out the ají mirasol. Personally, I do this since it's a bit difficult to find locally.
🇵🇪 The dish tastes wonderful with only using ají amarillo. A jar of pureed ají amarillo can be found in your nearby Latin market or on Amazon. On the East Coast, Wegman's also sells it.
Using the shortcuts I shared, it should only take 15 minutes to prepare this delicious dish.
I can't wait for you to try your next favorite comfort food. You'll have to share what you think in the comments below!
If you don't want to cook ají de gallina for yourself, and you're not planning on traveling to Peru anytime soon, then now is the time to join my Spanish conversation classes. I make a mean aji de gallina and love sharing it with my students at our dinner and holiday parties. ¡No te lo pierdas!
Jackie Donaldson is a language teacher and pronunciation specialist at Amidon Studios. She founded Amidon Studios in 2017 after managing a language institute in Lima, Peru. She's taught English and Spanish to students from all over the world while living in Peru, Mexico, and the U.S. When she's not working or studying, you'll find her gardening, playing with her cat Frankie, swimming, and exploring the globe.