Why It Works
- A recreation of a beloved restaurant sauce, this is perfect with both French fries and multiple kinds of grilled protein.
It was a few years ago when I was introduced to the wonder that is the Pio Pio sauce. A Peruvian restaurant chain in New York City, Pio Pio serves juicy, affordable rotisserie chicken. But it was the vibrant green dipping sauce that I became infatuated with.
I interrogated the waitstaff at almost every Pio Pio location to learn the contents of this spicy sauce. The only consistent answer? That no answer was the same.
Jalapeños and mayo. No, no, aji chiles, cilantro and oil. I had to face the reality that either no one knew what was in the sauce, the ingredients were top-secret, or both.
Light green, medium-hot, creamy, salty, tangy and oh-so-infatuating, it seems that every Peruvian restaurant has its own secret recipe for this mysterious condiment. An internet search for "Peruvian sauce" tells the story of dozens of people anxious to know how to make the sauce for themselves. Helpful bloggers post their recipes on message boards.
One says the secret is a head of lettuce, one swears the sauce cannot be made without evaporated milk, and several point to Peruvian black mint as the key ingredient.
I tried many, many recipes to come close to the magic of Pio Pio's sauce, none of which hit the mark. Finally, I brought a container from the restaurant into work, hoping someone else could reverse-engineer the ingredients. My admiration, along with my frustration, was building, and I needed a slight break from the sauce that taunted me.
Chile Pepper Editor-in-Chief Laura Dankowski took on the challenge, blending my scattered notes from past trials, along with her own hunch of what she tasted. We decided both jalapeños and aji paste (usually found in the Mexican section of grocery stores) were a must, and Laura hit on the addition of cheese, which added the necessary touch of saltiness. It's not exact—but pretty darn close.
At Pio Pio, the dip garnishes rotisserie chicken, crunchy-fried seafood platters and salchipapa, a delicious combination of deep-fried potatoes and sliced hot dogs. But I use the sauce for anything in the place of salsa, whether topping a burger, garnishing a breakfast burrito, or spreading on a piece of fish.
And I'm just glad I can finally stop harassing the Pio Pio employees for the recipe and make it on my own.
Additional writing by Laura Dankowski.
2 fresh jalapeños, including seeds and ribs, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon aji amarillo paste (see notes)
1 cup freshly picked cilantro leaves and small stems
2 tablespoons grated cotija cheese or Parmesan cheese
1 medium clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon juice from 1 lime
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine jalapeños, aji amarillo, cilantro, cotjia, garlic, oil, vinegar, and lime juice in a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth paste forms. Add mayonnaise and blend until homogenous. Transfer to a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with French fries or grilled chicken.
Aji amarillo paste is a hot yellow pepper paste from peru. It can be found in Latin specialty stores or ordered online. If unavailable, it can be omitted.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Unused sauce can be stored in a covered container for up to 1 week.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 12g||16%|
|Saturated Fat 2g||10%|
|Total Carbohydrate 1g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 5mg||26%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|