A spicy and flavorful fermented Aji Chombo hot sauce recipe perfect for the true spice lovers! This recipe is from my book Fermented Hot Sauce Cookbook.
🌶️ Aji Chombo
Aji Chombo is not only a chile itself, but also an addictively hot traditional Panamanian sauce. The addition of turmeric and mustard adds a whole new level of deliciousness in an already fiery and flavorful sauce.
🧡 Why You Will Love This Recipe
- It is a very easy recipe - perfect for first time hot sauce fermenters or seasoned fermenters alike!
- Complex spicy and fruity flavor notes.
- Inspired by hot sauce of Central America and the Caribbean, with a focus on Panamanian cuisine.
- A true spice-lover's hot sauce with a high heat rating, yet not lacking in flavor.
- Packed with gut healing probiotics thanks to the fermentation process.
- Naturally gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free and keto.
🗒️ Ingredient Notes
Aji chombo peppers: Aji chombo peppers are the traditional chile used in a sauce of the same namesake, though if you are not growing your own aji chombo chile plants or are not Central America, they can be hard to source. They are a variety of Capsicum chinense. Habanero chiles or scotch bonnet peppers have similar scoville heat units and can easily be sourced for this recipe. Fresh peppers are best! If you are sensitive to hot peppers, opt for jalapeno peppers or serrano peppers instead.
Onion: A white or yellow onion works best in this recipe. I do not recommend using a red or green onion, as this will change the flavor profile too much!
Non-chlorinated water: Chlorine can inhibit the fermentation process, hence I do not recommend using chlorinated, aka tap water for this recipe. Any home-filtered or store-bought spring water should do the trick just fine.
Non-iodized salt: Salt that has been treated with iodine can interfere with fermentation, so stick with sea salt like Celtic sea salt or pink Himalayan salt, as the minerals will help with fermentation.
Vinegar: Regular distilled white vinegar works well in this recipe, but in a pinch, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or rice vinegar will do the trick.
Reserved brine: Reserving some of the brine from the fermentation step will serve as the salt used in the final step. Using this instead of regular salt, adds additional flavor from the ingredients fermented as well as saltiness.
Turmeric: Turmeric adds some bitter earthiness to the recipe which helps lend aji chombo its unique taste as well as balance out the sharper spicy notes from chili peppers.
Mustard: This is the secret ingredient in any good Caribbean hot sauce recipe! Yellow mustard is traditional, though I am partial to a good stone-ground.
🍴 Serving Ideas
Aji chombo hot sauce can be used just like any favorite hot sauce on a large variety of dishes, though due to its high heat factor, use a bit more sparingly than you are used to to start. Here are some of my favorite uses:
- Sprinkle on morning eggs.
- Use in marinades for meat, tofu or veggies.
- Drizzle on slices of fresh mango.
- Use like you would a good salsa, as a dip for quesadillas, tortilla chips and more.
- Mix into sour cream or mayo with a squeeze of lime juice for a softer, more mild dip that still lets some of that delicious aji chombo flavor come through.
- Use in rice dishes and buddha bowls.
❓ Frequently Asked Questions
Aji chombo is also known as Panama sauce, as it is one of the most (if not the most) popular national condiments.
Yes, you can make a fresh hot sauce version of this recipe, though it will taste a bit different. To make the fresh version, blend all of the ingredients except for water and salt, using 3/4 cup vinegar instead, plus adding 1/2 teaspoon salt.
The short answer is yes. However, the results will be a bit different. If you want to use dried chiles, rehydrate them by soaking in hot water for a few hours before carrying on with the recipe.
🔥 More Hot Sauce Recipes
To learn more about fermentation and the hot sauce making process, check out my book Fermented Hot Sauce Cookbook!
- 4 ounces fresh aji chombo or habanero peppers, stemmed this is approximately 17 peppers
- 1 yellow or white onion halved
- 2 ½ cups non-chlorinated water
- 2 tablespoons non-iodized salt
- ½ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup reserved brine
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon stone ground or yellow mustard
- In a clean jar, combine the chiles and onion.
- In a separate vessel, make a brine by combining the water and salt.
- Place a weight, if using, then pour the brine into the jar, leaving at least 1 inch of headspace. Screw the lid on tightly and store the jar in a warm spot away from direct sunlight to ferment for 2 weeks. Burp the jar daily to relieve pressure by removing the lid for a few seconds, then screwing it back on.
- Once fermentation is complete, strain the ferment, reserving the ¼ cup of brine.
- In a blender or food processor, combine the ferment, vinegar, reserved brine, turmeric, and mustard. Blend until smooth.
- Keep the sauce stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.
Can this be brought up to 140 160 degrees to stop fermentation and for long term storage
Kristen Wood says
Most definitely. When I'm gifting hot sauce, I often simmer it on low for about 10 minutes before bottling.
I am excited to try this recipe as I grew a lot of Aji Chombos this year. Do you think freezing some of the sauce would work?
Kristen Wood says
Yes, it will work if stored in proper freezer-safe containers. Freezing will temporarily halt any fermentation still taking place, so just have caution when thawing the sauce, as it may expand some once all starts to warm up. I hope you enjoy! 🙂
Is there any danger with the fermentation process? Like spoilage, mold, mildew, etc?
Kristen Wood says
Those are very natural fears when it comes to fermentation, but fermentation is actually a rather safe. As lactic acid bacteria carries out the fermentation process, it actually kills off harmful bacteria as well. There is a saying in the fermenation world that "..below the brine and everything is fine..". So long as the ingredients being fermented are kept below the brine and are prevented from being exposed to oxygen, you are not likely to encounter any issues whatsoever. If you leave a jar open and ingredients have floated to the surface and have been exposed to oxygen for an extended period of time, mold can grow, but in this case it will be obvious. As with many things, if it smells or looks off, toss it and start again. But in all my years of fermenting, I've yet to encounter any mold myself! I hope this helps.
Bella Gentry says
Are you supposed to put in the seeds? I have Rare seeds sourced Sugar rush peach peppers which are thin walled. I am surprised to see vinegar in a fermented sauce. Is this the traditional method or a short cut? Ivam going to assume you can use mustard powder as prepared mustard is vinegar turmericssalt and mustard.
Kristen Wood says
Hi, Bella! I like to include the seeds (they soften and blend just fine), but if you prefer to deseed, that is more than fine. As for the vinegar and mustard, those are included after the fermentation process is complete, during the blending process for additional flavor. The traditional addition to an Aji Chombo is actually prepared mustard rather than ground mustard. You can use ground mustard if you prefer, but it will not have the exact same flavor profile. I hope this helps!
Wow! I am a total spice lover so this recipe is right up my alley. Love the hot flavors of turmeric and mustard, too!
I love hot sauce, but this is the first time I made one for myself. Oh, wow, I am so excited to try it on a variety of meals, thanks!
This sounds very interesting, the recipe seems very easy to follow.
WOW! Just tried it for the first time after weeks of waiting, and it does pack a punch! So full of flavour and the heat doesn't undermine the other flavours of the sauce! Really very good!
Amanda Wren-Grimwood says
I've not tried fermenting before but my family love chillie sauce. I can't wait to make this.
You were right! This was a great recipe to start out with for a first time fermenter. It turned out great!
I'm a hot sauce nut and this is definitely on my list to make! Love the variety of fresh peppers in your recipes!
We looove hot sauce in our home so I had to try this recipe! It’s spectacular and just the right amount of heat, thank you.
I'd never made hot sauce before but it was so easy that I now use it on everything! The best topping for Friday night nachos.
I have not tried aji chombo before but I’d love to give it a try. Thanks for sharing this authentic recipe.