Aji de Gallina

Aji de Gallina Recipe

Every home has their secrets, and this recipe is mine.

Serves6 to 8

Makesabout 9 cups

Prep45 minutes to 1 hour

Cook1 hour

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overhead shot of aji de gallina, served on a blue and white striped plate with rice, hard boiled eggs, and potato slices
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Aji de gallina is a classic Peruvian comfort food that translates to chicken chili. The “gallina” or hen is poached, shredded off the bone, and then added to an aji amarillo sauce blended with aromatics like onion, garlic, oregano, and cumin and thickened with milk and stale bread. It’s a creamy chili that’s both nourishing and super-comforting.

Every home has their own secrets to making this Peruvian classic (and a special way of serving it too!). Some will use rotisserie chicken because it’s more flavorful than poached chicken (plus it cuts back on cooking time), while others might use soft milk bread for a smoother consistency, or perhaps they blend the nuts with the aji paste instead of incorporating them chopped. However you might choose to make this, it’s always delicious. 

Why You’ll Love It

  • This is a very creamy, comforting chicken dish. According to our cross-tester, the sauce is  super silky. 
  • It relies on a key ingredient that’s essential to Peruvian cooking. Aji de gallina gets its bright yellow hue and signature flavor from aji amarillo paste. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Key Ingredients in Aji de Gallina

  • Chicken: You’ll need a whole chicken, which is broken down and added to a pot to make a flavorful stock to use in the sauce. 
  • Aji amarillo paste: The aji’s flavor is brought out by the salt, onions, and garlic. Yet its heat is tamed and mellowed out with the addition of milk-soaked bread in this dish. 
  • Bread: Adds body to the sauce, while also making it super silky. 

Where to Find Aji Amarillo

Aji amarillo peppers can be rather difficult to find fresh in the United States, but you may find them in the frozen section of your local Latin supermarket. You may also find them in paste form; I would recommend taste testing these pastes prior to using them, as they may vary in spice level. 

To make your own paste from frozen peppers, bring a pot of water with the frozen peppers to a boil, discard water, and carefully peel off the skins and remove the seeds. Once softened, you can decide to blend it with a little salt and reserve for cooking or store in an ice cube tray in the freezer for another recipe. If you don’t want the full heat of the aji amarillo, remove the seeds and veins before bringing to a boil. You can also gently simmer the aji amarillos in fresh water two to three times, discarding the water each time to remove the capsaicin.  

How to Make Aji de Gallina

  1. Make the chicken stock. Add the ingredients to a large stockpot and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Once cool enough to handle, shred into bite-size pieces. 
  2. Make the sauce. Soak the bread in evaporated milk. Meanwhile, cook the onion, garlic, aji amarillo paste, dried oregano, and ground cumin until the paste caramelizes, then add a bit of stock. Scrape into a blender with the milk-soaked bread and more chicken stock and blend until smooth, then transfer to a pot and simmer until slightly reduced. 
  3. Finish the aji de gallina. Add the shredded chicken, Parmesan, and pecans, and stir to combine, and simmer until it coats the back of a spoon. Serve with cooked white rice, boiled potatoes, olives, and hard-boiled eggs. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Helpful Swaps

  • You can sub in shredded rotisserie or another cooked chicken for the poached chicken, as well as store-bought low-sodium chicken broth can be substituted for the chicken stock. 
  • If you don’t have milk bread, you can use country white sandwich bread. 

Storage & Make-Ahead Tips

  • The chicken stock can be made ahead up to 2 days ahead. Refrigerate the stock and shredded chicken in separate airtight containers. 
  • Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Do not freeze, as the dairy will separate and turn into a grainy texture.

What to Serve with Aji de Gallina

Traditionally, you’ll find this dish served with a bed of white rice, yellow Peruvian potatoes, alfonso olives, and hard-boiled eggs

Aji de Gallina Recipe

Every home has their secrets, and this recipe is mine.

Prep time 45 minutes to 1 hour

Cook time 1 hour

Makes about 9 cups

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the chicken stock:

  • 2

    medium carrots

  • 4

    medium stalks celery

  • 1

    medium white onion

  • 1 (about 5-pound)

    whole chicken

  • 1

    dried bay leaf

For the aji de gallina:

  • 3 (1 to 1 1/2-inch-thick) slices

    milk bread, or 5 slices country white sandwich bread

  • 1 (12-ounce) can

    evaporated milk

  • 1

    medium red onion

  • 2 cloves

    garlic

  • 1 1/2 ounces

    Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup loosely packed freshly grated or 1/3 cup store-bought grated)

  • 1 cup

    roasted pecans

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive or vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/3 cup

    aji amarillo paste

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cumin

  • 2 1/3 cups

    chicken stock, divided, plus more as needed (recipe above)

For serving (per person):

Instructions

Make the chicken stock:

  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same large stockpot (8 to 10 quarts) as you complete it: Coarsely chop 2 medium carrots and 4 medium celery stalks. Halve and peel 1 medium white onion. Cut the legs, wings, and breasts off 1 (about 5-pound) whole chicken (add the carcass to the pot too).

  2. Add 1 dried bay leaf and enough cold water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat as needed to maintain a simmer. Cook, skimming off any impurities and foam that rise to the surface, until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.

  3. Transfer the chicken pieces to a large plate or clean cutting board. Fit a colander or strainer over a large heatproof bowl. Pour the stock through the strainer and discard the contents of the strainer. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat into bite-size pieces and discard the skin and bones.

Make the aji de gallina:

  1. Cut the crusts off 3 thick slices milk bread or 5 slices country white sandwich bread. Tear into large pieces and place in a blender. Add 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk and let soak while you start the sauce.

  2. Finely chop 1 medium red onion (about 2 cups). Finely grate or mince 2 garlic cloves. Finely grate 1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), or measure out 1/3 cup store-bought grated. Coarsely chop 1 cup roasted pecans.

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil in a small Dutch oven or pot (about 3 quarts) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and sauté until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic, 1/3 cup aji amarillo paste, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin. Cook, stirring frequently, until the aji amarillo caramelizes, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of the chicken stock and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

  4. Scrape the onion mixture into the blender. Add the remaining 2 cups chicken stock and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture back into the pot and simmer over medium heat until reduced slightly, 8 to 10 minutes.

  5. Add the shredded chicken, Parmesan, and pecans, and stir to combine. Bring back to a simmer. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If it is too thick, mix in more chicken stock as needed. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Serve with cooked white rice, boiled potatoes, olives, and hard-boiled eggs.

Recipe Notes

Substitutions: 2 pounds shredded rotisserie or other cooked chicken (about 6 cups) can be substituted for the poached chicken, and store-bought low-sodium chicken broth can be substituted for the chicken stock.

Immersion blender: An immersion blender can be used in place of a high-speed blender. Soak the bread in the milk, then add to the pot after the 1/2 cup chicken stock is added in and the browned bits are scraped up. Blend directly in the pot with an immersion blender until smooth.

Make ahead: The chicken stock can be made ahead up to 2 days ahead. Refrigerate the stock and shredded chicken in separate airtight containers.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Do not freeze, as the dairy will separate and turn into a grainy texture.