There are so many peppers out there that it can be difficult to identify all of them! Peppers are not only delicious, but they also add so many nutrients to every dish. That’s why you should try different peppers and experiment with them in your dishes. One pepper you may not know is ají cachucha (ají dulce). These peppers are also referred to as ají dulce, quechucha, ajicito, or ají gustoso.
Like bell peppers, this one is dark green but can also turn red and orange. However, ají cachucha has a unique flavor you’ve never tasted in any type of pepper.
Are you interested in learning more about ají cachucha? Continue reading to learn more about its flavor, appearance, and more.
What Is Ají Cachucha?
Ají cachucha (Capsicum chinense) is a small, brightly-colored pepper in the Solanaceae family—also known as the nightshade family. The name “aji cachucha” comes from South American Spanish, where “ají” means chili pepper and “cachucha” means cap, referring to its cap-like shape. The addition of “dulce” means sweet, making it a sweet chili pepper. Similarly, “ají gustoso” translates to “tasty chili pepper” and “ajicito” is the diminutive form meaning “little chili pepper”. These terms are commonly used in Latin American cuisine to describe different types of peppers.
This pepper originates from the Caribbean and Latin America. It is especially popular in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. They’re similar to other popular types of peppers, such as bell peppers, habaneros, and poblano peppers.
Is Ají Cachucha Spicy?
The first question you’re likely asking yourself is if ají cachucha is spicy. After all, when it comes to spice sensitivity, not everyone is created equal.
If you’re sensitive to spicy food, you’re in luck—ají cachucha has little to no heat! It has a sweet flavor with only a touch of heat. In the Scoville scale, aji dulce has between 0 and 1,000 Scoville units. Compare this to a jalapeno, which has 5,000 Scoville units.
Like bell peppers, ají cachucha are brightly colored peppers in shades of red, orange, or dark green. But unlike these classic peppers, ají cachucha is small. Ají cachucha peppers don’t often exceed four inches (10 centimeters) in length and are between 0.8 and 2.8 inches (2 to 7 centimeters) in diameter.
They’re also similar in appearance to habaneros since they’re about the same size and have a wrinkled texture. However, ají cachucha doesn’t pack the same heat that Habaneros boast.
Some ají cachucha peppers may have a smoother texture, and the skin is usually glossy. The skin has medium thickness, so you’ll need a strong knife to cut them. They vary in shape from round, squat, and oblong. Ají cachucha has cream-colored seeds.
Like many peppers, ají cachucha is very healthy. Ají cachucha is an excellent source of the following vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
100 grams of ají cachuche has around 96 calories, so these peppers fit into a low-calorie diet.
How to Grow Ají Cachucha
Ají cachucha is very easy to grow, perfect for beginner gardeners and any chef who wants to use fresh produce in their recipes. The key aspect to remember is ají cachucha like a lot of sunlight, so it’s best to grow this pepper in sunny climates.
While ají cachucha’s peak season is from summer to fall, you can technically grow this pepper year-round.
You’ll also need to water your ají cachucha often since lacking water will cause the pepper to grow small and extremely hot. It takes about 90 days for one plant to produce full-size peppers.
If you grow them in these conditions, a single plant can produce dozens of peppers.
When an ají cachucha pepper is young, it will be light-to-dark green in color. As it matures, it will transform into one of the bright hues we mentioned previously.
Cooking With Ají Cachucha
Now that you know the basics of ají cachucha, it’s time to cook with these delicious peppers! But first, it’s best to know the basics of their flavor and how to use this pepper in various recipes.
Taste and Flavor
As stated previously, ají cachucha has a sweet flavor with mild heat. They also have a slightly fruity taste. Depending on the way they were grown, some peppers have a smoky flavor to them.
Since the flavor is so versatile, these peppers can work in various dishes. Uncooked, ají cachucha has a crisp texture. It’s very aromatic, so ají cachucha is flavorful when eaten raw and cooked.
Best Dishes for Ají Cachucha
Ají cachucha peppers are native to the Caribbean and Latin America, specifically Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. That’s why it’s best to cook this pepper in dishes native to these regions.
Some popular examples of Latin American and Caribbean food that use ají cachucha peppers include:
- Arroz con Pollo
- Ropa Vieja
Again, ají cachucha peppers are versatile and can work in various dishes, notably soups, sauces, rice dishes, and stews. Check out how I used it in Macaroni con Pollo.
Alternatives to Ají Cachucha
Any sweet or mild pepper is a good alternative to ají cachucha. Bell peppers are a good choice, though they don’t have the slight heat and smokiness that ají cachucha offers.
If you can’t find ají cachucha at your local grocery store, try finding any pepper labeled “sweet peppers.” These are similar to ají cachucha but also don’t have the heat that these peppers offer.
If you want a spicier pepper, habaneros are the perfect option. Using habaneros instead of ají cachucha is a better option for hot sauces and salsas.
Where Can You Buy Ají Cachucha?
Depending on where you live, ají cachucha may be hard to find. You may find them at a local farmer’s market or a Latin American grocery store such as Cuban Food Market.
Many people either grow ají cachucha themselves or buy peppers from small growers. If you want to grow them yourself, you can find ají cachucha seeds online.
Because of their increased demand, more major and commercial grocery stores are starting to carry this pepper. Because of this, it’s now common to find ají cachucha worldwide and is especially in demand in the US.
Are You Ready to Cook With Ají Cachucha?
Ají cachucha is the perfect pepper if you want to add something sweet and smoky to your dish, without your meal being too spicy.
If you can find ají cachucha or grow your own, there are many delicious recipes to make with this pepper. Since ají cachucha is popular in Caribbean and Latin American food, this pepper is perfect for classic Cuban dishes.
Are you interested in making Cuban food? Take a look at our recipes!
Noelle fell in love with Cuban food at first bite. She has been cooking, learning and crafting Cuban food for over 25 years. She was taught by her Cuban husband’s mami and abuela. They taught her everything using the “by eye” method. She took those “by eye” recipes and turned them into measured recipes. This website is where Noelle shares her love of Cuban food with the world.