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After a recent trip to Peru, once back home, I have tried to make one of their typical dishes, Aji Gallina.
I have compared about a dozen recipes from various sources, and the one I used is quite typical. The result tasted great, and everything worked well, except - it was not as yellow as we got it everywhere in Peru. The color of the sauce was more grayish with a slight yellow touch, not very appetizing really - it looked more like melting snow/slush.
Edit: I did have original aji amarillo peppers in it, and they were quite yellow.

What am I doing wrong?

Do they use food coloring in the tourist restaurants in Peru (or maybe all the time, also for home cooking)?
After some googling I found that some people recommend to add turmeric. I'll try that (I like turmeric) but I doubt this that will make that yellow.

Aji Gallina

The picture shows the typical yellow/orange coloring as seen in Peru.

  • Turmeric is definitely a good idea to get that yellow colour. The other thing is perhaps if you browned your onions, it would change the colour of the end product. Just sweating the onions will help them remain translucent and then in combination with the yellow peppers and the turmeric you should have a nice yellow coloured sauce. – soup4life Jul 25 '18 at 0:21
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I've only made Aji de Gallina a couple of times and this was several years back. So, I searched through several recipes to get an idea of what some of the variations may be.

Across the board, I couldn't see how the peppers alone could impart that much color, given the total volume of the recipe. Especially the lighter yellow peppers.

As your dish tasted great, I don't think you are doing anything wrong.

So, here are a few ideas:

  • As you noted in your question, turmeric is an option. Most recipes call for such a small amount that it probably wouldn't affect the taste too much.

  • You may get more color by substituting Aji Amarillo paste for part of all of the peppers. Most that I've seen have a very nice color. I used this when I made Aji de Gallina as the peppers were not available at that time. Here's one example:

enter image description here

  • Annatto (achiote) paste, powder, or seeds may be incorporated as it also gives a nice color. I haven't tried it with this dish but, as with other things, I would only use a small amount so as to not alter the flavor too much.

  • Last, but not least, is my go to. I've kept a bottle of Amarillo yellow coloring in my pantry for years. Any time I have the flavor on point, but need the color, that's where it comes from. It takes a very small amount (think pinch) and does not change the flavor of your dish. Works great for rice, paella, sauces, etc. And, because it's also sold to foodservice, it's quite feasible that restaurants use it.

enter image description here

  • I found exactly that 'Amarillo Yellow Coloring', and used it. I added a pinch, and the overall color turned out ok - not really bright yellow, but good enough. I'll try a bit more of it next time. – Aganju Aug 2 '18 at 22:34
  • Hi Aganju! Thanks for the follow up. I emphasized using a small amount because it's easy to get too much. But as you said, you can always add more if the color isn't vibrant enough. – Cindy Aug 3 '18 at 13:50
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Don't doubt that turmeric will turn anything yellow. It doesn't take much T. for an extremely bright, fluorescent yellow.

  • I'll try that next time. – Aganju Jul 22 '18 at 18:30
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As I had never heard of aji de gallina before, I Googled it to find out just what it is. This site was the first at top of the screen - https://www.thespruceeats.com/spicy-creamed-chicken-aji-de-gallina-3029517 It says it "is a delicious Peruvian classic—slightly spicy and bright yellow from the famous aji amarillo peppers..." There is this link to the famous??? aji amarillo peppers -https://www.thespruceeats.com/aji-amarillo-peruvian-yellow-chile-pepper-3029288 The first site above states you can buy the peppers in a Latin food store and that they are available frozen and jarred. Another Google search to buy them shows they are available dried and canned too. Good luck

  • 1
    I did have original aji amarillo peppers in it - that's why I am surprised it did not get yellow. – Aganju Jul 22 '18 at 18:27

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