Aji Panca: At a Glance
This is the ideal spice for adding sweetness and a touch of heat to any Latin-inspired dish, sauce or dry rub. Aji panca peppers are available as a powder, as whole dried chilis, or a paste. Thanks to its mild and sweet flavor, Aji Panca powder adds complex flavor, without overpowering dishes.
Cooking with Aji Panca
Aji Panca chiles are milder and fruitier than Anchos or Chipotle chiles. And the taste closely mirrors that of Chipotle, although with a more subdued spiciness. The Aji panca peppers register just 1,000-1,500 Scoville units (while their close cousins the aji amarillo register 40,000)!
In powder form, Aji panca powder is versatile in the kitchen and is often called for in South American and Latin American cooking. The powdered chiles are primarily used for:
- Soups and Stews – In slow-cooked stews and simmering soups, Aji panca powder gives a sweet, smoky flavor.
- Dry Rubs – As a dry rub for pork, chicken or beef prior to grilling or roasting, the powder gives a complex, almost Chipotle-like flavor. With a dash of salt, Aji powder can help to lock in moisture in dry rubs.
- Sauces – A common ingredient in Latin and South American sauces, the powder creates a sweet and slightly spicy flavor – without overwhelming other flavors. It’s great in creamy sauces.
Aji Panca History
The Aji panca is in a class of its own in terms of flavor. Like most chiles, the Aji panca is known for its smokiness, similar to what you’d expect from a chipotle chile. Yet, the panca is revered for its sweet, berry-like taste. In fact, many compare it to blueberry. That’s why you’ll find Aji panca in many savory recipes, as well as in sweet dishes.
The peppers have been utilized in South American cuisine for thousands of years. The Incas are believed to have first cultivated the panca peppers, which are native to the region. And fossil evidence shows, Incas long dried, smoked and ground peppers. In modern Peruvian cuisine, Aji panca and the hotter Aji amarillo are two of the most important ingredients.
They’re available fresh throughout the country, although the smoked and ground powder is a prized spice throughout Latin America.
Aji Panca Cultivation: Where Its Grown
The coastal areas of Peru – known for their hills, Mediterranean climate and fertile soils. And these peppers have been grown there for more than 5,000 years, starting with the Incas. Historians speculate that aji peppers, as well as quinoa, are “lost crops” of the Incas.
The aji panca have been grown there for thousands of years, and fossilized peppers, in fact, have been found in the region.
Anja panca plants require higher temperatures to thrive. Soil temperatures must be 75 degrees at a minimum, and they grow to about 5 feet in height. Each plant produces about 20-30 pounds of panca chiles, which are then dried.
About Our Aji Panca Chiles
Burma Spice sources our aji panca chiles and powders from a farming cooperative in the Cajamarca region of Peru. The region’s mountainous climate – the farming collective is located at 9,000 feet – gives these aja panca peppers their unique flavor.
The collection grows and dries the peppers, using traditional, centuries-old techniques.