Summer party-approved: Briny cotija cheese is the star of this spiced Peruvian dip

Whether planning a Mother's Day brunch or a warm-weather cocktail party, this dip can take center stage

Published May 13, 2023 12:30PM (EDT)

Cotija salsa  (From "The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook, 10th Anniversary" by Tracey Medeiros (The Countryman Press, June 2023).)
Cotija salsa (From "The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook, 10th Anniversary" by Tracey Medeiros (The Countryman Press, June 2023).)

Aji Amarillo paste is a staple ingredient in Peruvian cuisine. It is made from yellow hot peppers grown in the Andes. It can be found in Latin markets or ordered online. This vibrant versatile sauce has a spicy kick. If you want a less spicy salsa, use 1/2 tablespoon of the Aji-Amarillo paste. Use this creamy, herbal salsa with a bite as an easy dip for veggies or spoon over chicken, steaks and fish.

Cotija salsa 
2 1/2 cups
Prep Time
5 minutes, plus overnight chilling
Cook Time


1 small green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and coarsely chopped

1/4 cup chopped Spanish onion

1/4 cup chopped red onion

4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed 

1 cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed, coarsely chopped 

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, loosely packed, coarsely chopped 

3 ounces crumbled fresh Cotija cheese 

4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more as needed 

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 

1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons Aji-Amarillo paste, or to taste 

3/4 cup mayonnaise, homemade or store-bought

1/8 teaspoon adobo, plus more for garnish

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Kosher salt, as needed 

Minced cilantro, for garnish 




  1. Place the pepper, onions, garlic, mint, and cilantro leaves into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until vegetables are chopped fine.

  2. Add the cheese, lime and lemon juices, and 1 tablespoon of the Aji-Amarillo paste then process until smooth, adjusting the heat with additional Aji-Amarillo paste, if desired.

  3. Add the mayonnaise, adobo powder, and pepper and blend on high until slightly grainy in texture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, about 2 minutes.

  4. Adjust seasonings with adobo powder, salt, and pepper, to taste. Cover and refrigerate overnight; this will help to firm up the salsa and to meld the flavors. Garnish with cilantro and adobo. Serve with a simple crudité platter.


Cook's Notes

The sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If you can't find fresh Cotija cheese, feta cheese is a great substitute.


This recipe is from Tracey Medeiros' forthcoming book "The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook, 10th Anniversary" (The Countryman Press, June 2023).

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By Tracey Medeiros

MORE FROM Tracey Medeiros

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