The aji dulce pepper is a brightly colored pod popular in the Caribbean, particularly Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, with sweet flavor and mild heat. Learn all about them.
Scoville Heat Units: 0-1,000 SHU
There are many different types of aji peppers in the world, most of the produced in the South American and Caribbean region. They range from very mild to somewhat hot, depending on the variety, though the majority of them offer up a wonderful fruity flavor. Because of that flavor, and also how easily they grow, they are important to many different cuisines.
The ají dulce is particularly popular in Caribbean cuisines, where it is native to the area, particularly Puerto Rican cuisine, Cuban cuisine, and Dominican cuisine. The peppers is classified as Capsicum chinense, which are native to the Yucatan Peninsula area of Central America and on the Caribbean islands.
Ají dulces are also known as ají dulce, ajicito or ajíes in Puerto Rico; ají gustoso or ají cachucha in the Domincan Republic; or ají cachucha in Cuba. The name translates to "Sweet" (dulce) "Pepper" (aji).
Aji dulce peppers are small, brightly colored pods that look very much like habanero peppers, though without the incredible habanero heat. The peppers start off green and mature to bright orange, yellow or mostly to a vibrant red. The pods can sometimes be wrinkly, though many grown with smoother skin and can vary somewhat from pod to pod, ranging from squat to round to oblong.
The peppers average 2 to 7 centimeters in diameter and 2 to 10 centimeters in length with glossy skin.
How Hot is the Aji Dulce Pepper?
Aji dulces offer very little to no heat, and are better known for their sweet flavor, though occasionally a pod can deliver a touch of heat. The peppers range from 0 to 1,000 Scoville Heat Units on the Scoville scale, which is similar to the heat of the Cubanelle pepper. Compare that to your typical jalapeno pepper, which averages about 5,000 SHU, and you'll see that the hottest aji dulce pepper is still 5 times milder than an average jalapeno.
Flavor and Taste of the Aji Dulce
These peppers offer up a sweet and somewhat fruity flavor with very little heat, making them quite popular. Some report a smoky quality to the pods. Because of their sweet flavor and mild heat, they are very popular in Dominican, Cuban and Puerto Rican cuisines, including many national dishes. They are commonly used in sofrito, which is a massively popular flavor building puree widely used in Latin America and Caribbean cooking, and dishes like Puerto Rican Arroz con Pollo, Sancocho, or Cuban Ropa Vieja and Picadillo. They are widely used in making sauces, soups, stews and rice dishes.
Growing Aji Dulce Peppers
I’ve grown these peppers in my garden on and off over the years and consider them very easy to grow. The plants enjoy full sun and they are always highly productive. A single plant will produce many dozens of peppers over the season, fruiting quite often. Learn more about Growing Chili Peppers to help, or see this Guide to Growing Chili Peppers.
Treat them like other Capsicum annuum varieties, as they require no special treatments or considerations. Plants will typically reach 1 to 2 feet tall and can be grown in many climates, though like most pepper plants, prefer warmer climates.
I’ve grown them in zone 5 without any issue.
Substitutes for Aji Dulce Peppers
If you are unable to obtain aji dulce peppers, try using any sweet and mild chili pepper. A typical red or orange bell pepper will offer a similar flavor, but without the reported smokiness associated with these peppers. You can often find small peppers labeled simply as "sweet peppers" in grocery stores, that look like tiny little bell peppers. Other aji peppers can work as well, though beware as some ajis pack a good level of heat.
Where Can I Buy Aji Dulce Seeds?
Learn more about aji peppers, including the many different types and varieties.
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