Aji Limo (Lemon Drop Pepper): A Peruvian Favorite
When it comes to adding heat, the aji limo pepper is one of the most versatile chilies out there. This slender, multi-colored pepper is native to Peru, and it’s popular for its tangy and spicy flavor.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about these hot peppers, including common culinary uses, where to get them, substitutes, and more!
Facts about Aji Limo
30,000 - 50,000
What is an aji limo pepper?
The aji limo pepper is a type of chili pepper that originated in Peru, particularly in the coastal regions near Lima. It belongs to the Capsicum baccatum species and is similar to other popular chili peppers such as Habanero and Scotch Bonnet. The aji limo pepper is small and thin, with a length of about 1 to 2 inches, and is usually bright yellow to orange in color when mature. It is a popular ingredient in Peruvian cuisine and is often used in traditional dishes such as ceviche and aji de gallina.
What other names does it go by? Is it the same as lemon drop peppers?
The aji limo pepper is known by several other names, including lemon drop, aji lima, hot lemon, and kellu uchu.
Legend has it that the pepper was named “Limo” after the city of Lima in Peru, but upon being exported to the United States, it was mistranslated into “Limon,” which means lemon. This led to American companies referring to the pepper as “lemon drop peppers.” It’s also possible that the citrusy tang of the peppers influences the use of “lemon” in the name.
How hot are they?
The aji limo pepper is considered a medium to hot chili pepper, with a Scoville heat rating of 30,000 to 50,000 units. To put this into perspective, it is significantly milder than a Habanero pepper, which has a Scoville rating of 100,000 to 350,000 units. However, it is still much hotter than a Jalapeño pepper, which has a Scoville rating of 2,500 to 8,000 units.
What do they taste like?
The aji limo pepper has a unique flavor profile that sets it apart from other chili peppers. It has a bright and tangy flavor, with notes of citrus and tropical fruit, as well as a subtle floral aroma. Its heat is also distinct, with a quick and intense burn that is balanced by its fruity and acidic notes. It is often used to add a spicy and flavorful kick to dishes such as soups, stews, and sauces, as well as cocktails and desserts.
Common culinary uses
Aji limo peppers are a staple in Peruvian cuisine. They’re commonly used in popular dishes, including ceviche and lomo saltado. But that’s not all – these peppers can be used to add flavor to basically anything that could use a kick: hot sauces, marinades, stews, etc. When cooked, they have a citrus-spice flavor that’s distinct and flavorful.
Where to get aji limo peppers
Aji limo peppers are not widely available in American supermarkets, so it may be difficult to source fresh peppers. You might find them at specialty stores (think: Latin American grocers) and farmer’s markets when they are in season in the late summer.
There are also commercial products available using aji limo peppers which you can find on Amazon or directly from the brands. Chiporro Sauce Co. has a hot sauce called “Limo Hot” which uses this pepper, and the Sonoran Spice Company has an aji limo pepper powder.
If you cannot find aji limo peppers, there are several substitutes that you can use. If you don’t mind added heat, habaneros and Scotch bonnets have a similar fruity flavor profile. You can also use peppers with similar heat levels, like cayenne or tabasco peppers. However, those peppers have notably different tastes, so you may need to adjust your recipe. If you decide to substitute with a non-fruity pepper, you might also add a little bit of citrus zest to mimic the aji limo’s distinct lemoniness.
How to grow aji limo peppers at home
I am growing aji limo peppers in my garden for the first time this year, and one thing I noticed was that the seeds I bought had an extremely high germination rate. I am hoping it’s an indication that they will be a low-maintenance pepper that requires little extra care.
Aji limo peppers can be grown in any home garden if the climate conditions are suitable. They prefer warm temperatures and full sun, so make sure to plant them in a sunny spot. They also prefer well-drained soil and regular watering. You can start the seeds indoors or directly sow them in the ground.
How big do aji limo plants get?
Aji limo plants are relatively small, growing to about 2-3 feet tall. They have a bushy growth habit and produce peppers throughout the growing season. I will grow mine in 5-gallon grow bags and raised garden beds.