Anyone who has enjoyed a meal at a Peruvian restaurant seems to leave with a deep craving for a particular green dipping sauce. Served alongside chicken, fried plantains, or fish, the sauce seems to go with everything.
The mystery surrounding this seemingly simple sauce has inspired many blog posts and questions on chat groups, as well as a myriad of recipes.
Recipes vary wildly: Is there a whole head of lettuce in the sauce? Is mayonnaise included? What kind of pepper is used? Even in Peru there seems to be disagreement over the one true recipe.
Made with a native Andean pepper, the aji amaillo, this sauce packs a lot of flavor. In the United States it is often made with jalapeño peppers, because they are more readily available. Our recipe calls for aji amarillo sauce, which is easy to get from Amazon if your local grocer doesn’t carry it. We also used mayo, with the addition of a ripe avocado for a smooth richness that tempers the spice.
FOR THE GREEN SAUCE
- 2-3 jalapeños, about half of the ribs & seeds removed, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons Aji Amarillo paste
- 1 packed cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1 small ripe avocado (or ½ large), diced
- 2 tablespoons cotija cheese
- 1 fresh lime, zest and juice
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE CHICKEN
- 1 whole Green Circle Chicken, about 3-4 lbs
- 2 lemons, zest and juice, divided use
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 3 large cloves)
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon Spanish paprika
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
- Kosher salt
- 1½ tablespoons olive oil
- Make the green sauce: To the bowl of a food processor, add jalapeños, Aji Amarillo paste, cilantro, mayonnaise, avocado, cotija cheese, lime zest and juice, garlic, and vinegar. Pulse until mixture is blended then process until smooth; season to taste with salt and pepper. Sauce can be made several days in advance; store covered in the refrigerator.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Butterfly the chicken: place the chicken breast side down on a cutting board. Using poultry shears, cut out the backbone starting on one side of the tail and cutting through the ribs to the neck. Repeat on other side. Save the back for stock or another use (see notes). Flip the chicken over and splay open the legs. Place your palm in between the breasts at the highest point; press down hard until you hear the breastbone crack. This will allow the chicken to lay as flat as possible. Spread the legs out evenly and fold the wing tips under.
- Cut one of the lemons in half and squeeze lemon juice over both sides of the chicken, rubbing the juice into the skin.
- Zest the remaining lemon into a small bowl, then cut in half and squeeze juice over the zest. Stir in garlic, cumin, paprika, pepper, oregano, and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir in olive oil, mixing well.
- From both edges of the chicken, gently loosen the skin from the breast and thighs. Using your fingers, gently spread about 2 tablespoons of the paste under the skin. Season chicken all over with kosher salt.
- Place chicken in a shallow roasting pan or heavy rimmed sheet pan. Roast in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then baste with pan drippings and brush all over with remaining spice mixture. Continue to cook, basting with drippings every 10 minutes, until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thighs and breast registers 165 degrees F, about 45 minutes.
- Transfer chicken to a cutting board and rest for 20 minutes. Reserve pan drippings. Break down chicken into serving parts and place on a platter. Spoon pan drippings all over the chicken; serve with green sauce on the side.
Recipe Notes: Aji Amarillo paste can be purchased in the Hispanic section of some supermarkets, and also online. Don’t skip it! It’s the most important part of the green sauce. Leftover sauce can be served with any grilled or roasted meats, with rice, or as a dipping sauce for empanadas.
This chicken can also be made on a gas grill with or without a rotisserie attachment (if using an attachment, keep the bird whole and follow manufactures instructions). Using a grilling method, you’ll lose out on the drippings but will gain extra flavor from a little char.