This popular potato salad (papas a la Huancaina) is as delicious as it is colorful (similar to the no mayo potato salad). Perfectly tender potatoes are combined with a creamy dressing made with spicy yellow pepper paste and queso fresco. It's served with hard-boiled eggs and black olives.
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If you think it's time you added a new and different potato salad to your repertoire, this is a fantastic and unique recipe.
This is the famous Papas a la Huancaina, a typical dish from Peru which I loosely translated to Peruvian potato salad.
The sauce is super easy to make and can be mixed in the blender or with an immersion blender (one of my favorite inventions ever!), so other than searching for a few of the ingredients, it's a no-brainer.
According to my friends from Peru, it's such a standard meal that there are as many recipes as grandmothers.
This is one of my favorite potato salads ever, so I say go for it and try it at least once.
- Potatoes: I use small potatoes that come in different colors and sizes. They bake faster and fall apart less. But you can use any small potato or regular ones, the one you always make potato salad with. Fingerling potatoes, Yukon gold potatoes are popular ones.
- Queso fresco: it's made from cow's milk and is white and has a somewhat crumbly grainy texture. It is not a soft cheese. You can buy it online.
- Aji amarillo paste: the yellow pepper paste is the star of this dish and the ingredient that, in my opinion, sets it apart. The yellow chili peppers used are not the regular ones you usually see in the market, brother to the green and red, no, this is a small orange-yellowish one, similar to jalapeños in size.
- Crackers: salty or water crackers are used to thicken the mixture. Any type that is plain in flavor will do. Breadcrumbs can be used too, but I think the crackers are superior in texture.
- Hard-boiled eggs.
- Fresh parsley.
- Black olives: with or without pits. I use kalamata olives with pits.
Type of potatoes
For the traditional dish yellow potatoes (or "papa amarilla" in Spanish) are used, which are common in Peruvian cuisine.
Yellow potatoes have a creamy texture and a slightly sweet taste that complements the rich and spicy sauce.
If you can't find yellow potatoes, use a starchy potato, one that will not completely disintegrate and hold their shape well when boiled, such as red potatoes, Yukon Gold, or fingerling potatoes.
Keep in mind that the texture and flavor of the dish may vary slightly depending on the type used.
I like to use a mix and feel it makes the dish more festive, and a simple potato salad acquires more of an identity.
I find that small potatoes always work better than large ones. But any type you regularly use for your favorite potato salad works.
Depending on where you live, you'll find different types of potatoes.
Here in Argentina, we don't have a ton, but small potatoes come in different shapes and colors. They're grown in the North, near Peru, so I use them when I find them.
How to make papas a la huancaina
- Potatoes: they are cooked with skin or without. Leaving the skin on is the way to go if using small ones. If you are using regular potatoes, it's your choice. My recommendation is to boil them with their skins and peel them after they've cooled down.
- Sauce: it's the star of the recipe, and it's very simple. Mix the ingredients in the pan where you sauteed the onion with an immersion blender, or transfer it all to a regular blender. I find the first option much easier and less messy.
- Organization: read the recipe first and make sure you have ingredients at the right temperatures, equipment needed, and enough workspace. This will make the process so much easier!
- Potatoes: use small potatoes if you can find them. They have a better structure. But the potatoes you use for making your favorite potato salad will work.
- Yellow pepper paste: you can make a batch and keep it in the fridge. Here's a link to a homemade recipe. Or you can buy yellow pepper sauce online since the Peruvian yellow peppers might be hard to find.
- Olives: do use them if you have some. They add to the final dish.
- Queso fresco: it should be somewhat crumbly. You can buy it online.
- Substitutions: though they are not exactly the same, you can sub a mix of regular yellow pepper and habanero peppers (for heat, or any other spicy yellow pepper you like), and the queso fresco for firm ricotta with some cream cheese. It will work once you blend everything.
- Evaporated milk: it adds a unique flavor and texture. But I have used regular whole milk with good results. Just add less of it.
- Variation: add some thinly sliced onion, regular or red onion. Some people also add minced garlic.
Related recipes you might like:
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- ½ an onion
- 6 tablespoons yellow pepper paste (homemade recipe)
- 9 oz (250g) queso fresco (see notes below)
- ¼ to ⅓ cup olive oil + a few extra tablespoons
- ½ cup evaporated milk or whole milk
- 3-4 water crackers or saltines
- 4 eggs, hard-boiled (see notes below)
- 2 pounds assorted small potatoes (skins left on)
- ½ cup of black olives (I didn't use them, but they are traditional)
- ½ a lime
- Chopped fresh parsley, to serve
- In a skillet, sautée onion in a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat, until starting to get golden.
- Add the pepper paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
- Transfer the mixture to a blender, or use an immersion blender directly in the pan.
- Add queso fresco, milk, crackers, salt and pepper to taste, and ¼ cup olive oil. Blend until smooth. Add lime juice and check seasonings, adjusting if necessary.
- Add the rest of the olive oil if you want a thinner consistency.
- Meanwhile, cook potatoes in a large pan of salted water. Drain, transfer to a large bowl, add the lime juice and a couple of tablespoons olive oil, toss and let cool.
- Potatoes and eggs can be made in advance if you want a cold salad.
- In a serving bowl put potatoes and add some of the pepper sauce. Toss.
- Add some more sauce, sprinkle with parsley and arrange the eggs, cut into quarters, around the edges of the bowl.
- Scatter olives on top if using.
- Serve with a bowl of extra sauce drizzled with olive oil if you want.
- Potatoes: use small potatoes if you can find them. They have a better structure. But the potatoes you normally use for making your favorite potato salad will work.
- Yellow pepper paste: you can make a batch and keep it in the fridge. Here's a link to a homemade recipe. Or you can buy aji amarillo sauce online since the Peruvian yellow peppers might be hard to find.
- Black olives: do use them. They add to the final dish.
- Queso fresco: it should be somewhat crumbly. You can buy queso fresco online.
- Substitutions: though they are not exactly the same, you can sub a mix of regular yellow pepper with habanero peppers (for heat, or any other spicy yellow pepper you like), and the queso fresco for firm ricotta with some cream cheese. It will work once you blend everything.
- Evaporated milk: I use regular whole milk when I don't have evaporated. It works just fine.
- Hard-boiled eggs: put eggs in regular tap water with a sprinkling of salt (this prevents the white from escaping in case of the eggshell breaking while cooking), and cook for 10 minutes exactly after it starts to boil. Drain, rinse in cold water for a few minutes and peel.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Salad
- Method: Mixing
- Cuisine: Peruvian
- Serving Size: ¼
- Calories: 605
- Sugar: 7.5 g
- Sodium: 1263.1 mg
- Fat: 35.7 g
- Carbohydrates: 49.5 g
- Fiber: 6.3 g
- Protein: 24.4 g
- Cholesterol: 230 mg
Keywords: Peruvian potato salad