Papa a la Huancaina recipe is an easy-to-make dish that is a typical Peruvian cuisine, specifically from the Junin region, often served as an appetizer or side dish. This delicious potato salad is served with a spicy and creamy cheese sauce.
What is the origin of this recipe?
It is believed that this dish originated during the construction of the railroad of Peru in the Andes mountains, more exactly in the Lima to Huancayo section. The local women, known as “huancainas,” prepared this nutritious and filling dish for the railroad workers, using potatoes as a base and a sauce made from cheese and yellow chili peppers, which they served with hard-boiled eggs.
What is huancaina sauce made of?
Huancaína is a spicy sauce that is the star of this delicious Peruvian appetizer.
It is made from white cheese, onions, aji amarillo, and saltine crackers often served over a bed of lettuce.
Can I make papas a la huancaína if I don’t have yellow peppers or fresh aji amarillos?
Certainly! Yellow chili peppers can be hard to find, which is why there is a yellow chili pepper paste that can be used as a substitute, and it is much easier to find and store.
Another secret: look carefully in the imported products or sauce sections, as sometimes they sell ready-made huancaína sauce. This sauce is very common in Peru and Bolivia and is used to accompany various dishes, from simple white noodles to a refreshing causa limeña. If you already have aji amarillo paste and you like Peruvian cuisine, take advantage of preparing this delicious ají amarillo sauce or polleria sauce that is a dipping sauce very similar to this one, a delicious lomo saltado or an aji de gallina.
Queso fresco or queso blanco: is a soft and fresh cheese made of cows whole milk, my favorite replace (that isn´t the more ortodox) is goat cheese, but you can use: feta cheese, cottage cheese or even cream cheese (in that case you must add more soda crackers)
Aji amarillo: the easiest replacement is aji amarillo paste, but it can be hard to find in the United States, an easier option is another chili pepper like habanero pepper, but if you replace it add just a pinch and after trying the sauce add more. There are some chillies like rocoto chili peppers that are way spicier.
Adjusting the spicy cheese sauce:
If we want the chili to be less spicy, what we can do is: cut it in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and veins, and put them in a pot with cold water, cook over high heat until it boils, and then after 3 minutes, remove them from the water carefully.
If the sauce is too spicy, we can add a little more cheese.
if it’s too thin, we can add more soda crackers.
What type of potatoes should I use to make papas a la huancaina?
There are many types of potatoes in Peru, and some are probably better than others for this dish. The traditional recipe often uses yellow potatoes, that easy to find in Latin American markets, but hard to find outside South America.
However, the truth is, I wouldn’t stress too much about it because in this flavorful preparation, the undeniable star is the huancaína sauce, and you can use yukon gold potatoes and have a really tasty dish.
Papa a la huacaina recipe
- 2 pounds potatoes washed
- 2 medium onions peeled and cut into julienne strips
- 1 pound white cheese or queso fresco can be goat cheese
- 1/2 pound of walnuts
- 1 can evaporated milk approximately 380 ml
- 2 spicy yellow chili peppers or 1 tablespoon of yellow chili pepper paste
- 6 soda or water crackers
- a dash mild-tasting oil
- Salt to taste
- 4 eggs
- Black olives and letuce to serve
Place the eggs in plenty of cold water. Heat to a boil, and once boiling, cook for 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let them cool.
In a large pot with plenty of water, immerse the potatoes and cook over medium heat until a knife inserted into them doesn’t stick. Let them cool, peel, cut into 3 cm slices, and set aside.
To make the sauce: In a skillet, heat a little oil and sauté the onions for 3 minutes. Set aside.
In a blender or food processor, combine the sautéed onions, evaporated milk, and yellow chili pepper. Process until you have a homogeneous mixture. Add the walnuts, then the cheese, and finally the crackers with a drizzle of oil. The sauce should be slightly thinner than mayonnaise; you can adjust the texture with more or fewer crackers.
On a plate, place the cooked potatoes, top with the huancaína sauce, garnish with hard-boiled eggs and olives, and enjoy!