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Ají de cocona, the tasty spicy from the jungle with which you could make the best ceviche of your life

In its chalaquita or creamy version, the cocona chili pepper it usually accompanies the traditional ones juane chicken, inchicapi, tacacho with jerky, river fish such as paiche or any other dish from our biodiverse and sacred Peruvian jungle. This link is so strong that one might think that its use is restricted to tables of Amazonian flavors. But is it really so?

On Advantage we wonder if the cocona chili, made based on this acidic fruit with a versatile flavor, should be a companion only to the gastronomy of the Peruvian jungle or could we see it with a bonito from the coast, a pataca serrana or a juicy grilled meat. This is what the experts responded:


“In all the dishes on the planet”, the chef responds forcefully Flavio solorzano. “It is a Creole type sauce that is not liquid but in pieces, it has a little juice, it is the most versatile there is. You can even eat it with grilled meat, something you couldn’t do with a creole sauce because it is too acidic ”, he tells us. Solorzano explains that its flavor adapts easily to any dish because it has the perfect acidity, it is not strident like lemon nor does it need to have glutamate: “If you put glutamate in the cocona pepper, you spoil it.”

The chef maintains that the cocona is a fruit that has not developed sugar. If bitten, its taste is not surprising; However, when adding salt, the madness begins: “With salt, a tremendous flavor reaction is generated and it can be explained because the cocona is a family of the aguaymanto, the potato and the tree tomato, when you add salt to the tomato, it explodes , because it has natural glutamate ”, adds Solorzano and emphasizes that there is still much to study about the cocona.

“You put cocona chili pepper on the pork, chorizo, strip roast, chicken, etc. and it will be awesome. The only tiradito that I make that does not need glutamate is the one with cocona, it is the only fruit with which you can make ceviche without the need for glutamate. Nobody is going to realize that you didn’t use lemon if you use cocona ”.

The traditional ají de cocona is prepared with chopped onion, ají charapita, cilantro or coriander sacha, salt and lemon.  Reference photo.  (Kelvin García / GEC)


Aldo Yaranga, chef of the La Patarashca Group, serves the cocona pepper in its blended and minced version: “In Tarapoto, the cocona pepper accompanies everything, not just traditional cuisine. The rich thing about the cocona pepper is that it has a different acidity profile, it is a very versatile, spicy and acid chalaquita. It is eaten with everything, just as you can eat the rocoto, only that the cocona pepper is fresher because it has a little fruit. People sometimes don’t accept it because they are afraid of it ”.

Yaranga argues that ignorance often generates prejudices about the cocona pepper, limiting its consumption as an accompaniment to dishes from the jungle and not from other regions. However, Yaranga shares a great idea to spread the use of the cocona: “The cocona can be used as if it were a tomato because they are family, in salads or Creole sarza. If you cut a cocona in half, you will see that the structure is the same as that of a tomato. Due to its high level of acidity, it can be eaten with salt, sauces, chalaca, liquefied chili, etc. It can be used for everything, from a cocona chimichurri to a jam, not just jungle cuisine ”.

As the diffusion of Amazonian cuisine advances in Peruvian restaurants, the cocona pepper reaches more spaces, but it does not manage to cross its own barriers. Yaranga observes that its use is more accepted in restaurants aimed at a foreign public interested in risking and using products from all over the country.

Lima, Wednesday, September 8, 2021 Interview with Aldo Yaranga, chef of La Patarashkita de Barranco


For Kumar Paredes, chef at Ku-Mar Cevichería Fusión, “Peruvians make the cocona pepper only for the jungle and we say that ceviche cannot be eaten at night. Despite having one of the most important gastronomies in Latin America and one of the most important in the world due to the diversity of our microclimates, cultures and fertile land, somehow we are too conservative ”, he affirms.

The cocona together with the charapita pepper make the perfect marriage.  (Alonso Chero / GEC)

The chef finds in the benefits of the cocona pepper and, of course, the charapita pepper, infinite possibilities of flavor. “It is the perfect marriage, the cocona is acid, pulpy and the charapita has an incredible perfume”, he tells us. “We have tested tuna tataki with cocona chalaca and charapita chili pepper and we are testing a new dish of sweet potato puree with charapita chili pepper because it has an impressive perfume that must be modulated. The chili pepper is like a chili pomegranate, you have to know how to handle it ”.

Kumar Paredes does not stop innovating, this time he tells us that he is bringing to the market a line of peppers and dressings aimed at the Peruvian community that lives abroad with products such as yellow pepper, panca, mirasol and others such as culantro, parrillero, acevichado, and the unmissable ají de cocona. Definitely a tasty project.

Kumar Paredes highlights the benefits of the cocona chili pepper and comments that he is in the experimentation stage with bonito tataki.  (Jessica Vicente / GEC)


From Awicha’s kitchen in Barranco, chef Jason Roman explores with the cocona pepper, but not in the traditional way: “We made a dish with beef tenderloin, native baked potatoes with butter and cocona pepper, but we have modified it. a little with the cocona as fruit, the onion washed, not cut, so that its flavor is not so present. We have dosed the ají charapita, it was present, but it was not so invasive. In addition, we use olive oil, salt and pepper for this chalaquita de cocona, and a green huacatay sauce ”.

Ají de cocona with beef the way of Jason Roman, chef of Awicha.  (Photo: Awicha)

In this dish, which is no longer on the menu, the cocona pepper gave a spicy touch to the dish, but at the same time made it refreshing. The purpose was to remember and gather the flavors that Roman met in Moyobamba and saw that it was used in the markets such as ají charapita, cocona and peanuts in all its stages. Experimentation is part of the dynamics of Awicha, so it is not ruled out using the cocona pepper or the fruit in their dishes. Roman highlights the use of cocona to refresh due to its acidity and, when using it, removes the lemon, as cocona is a good substitute. “I am combining it as if it were a vegetable rather than a fruit,” says the chef.

With the ají de cocona we are before a spicy and very tasty wonder ready to accompany the wide variety of Peruvian dishes and, why not, of the various menus in the world.

How does Flavio Solorzano prepare the cocona chili ?: “You peel the cocona and extract the juice quickly or, just as it is, you start to chop and it drips everything into a bowl. Quickly, you add salt, a little onion, charapita, a little cilantro or cilantro sacha. It is the simplest thing there is and the most spectacular ”.


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