Papa a la Huancaina Recipe: Experience Peru on a Plate (2024)

Papa a la Huancaina, with its vibrant colors and delicious flavors, brings the culinary richness of Peru right onto your plate.

This popular Peruvian appetizer is composed of tender boiled potatoes smothered in a tantalizingly creamy, spicy cheese sauce.

If you’ve been longing to explore the world of Latin American cuisine then join us on this culinary journey as we explore the history, ingredients and step-by-step process of creating Papa a la Huancaina.

What is Papa a la Huancaina

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Papa a la Huancaína is a traditional Peruvian dish, often served as a starter or side dish. It features boiled potatoes that are sliced and served cold, topped with a creamy and spicy cheese sauce, called Huancaina sauce. The sauce is typically made from fresh cheese (queso fresco), evaporated milk and aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow chili pepper).

The traditional Peruvian dish is usually served on a bed of lettuce and garnished with hard-boiled eggs and black olives.

Despite its creamy and rich appearance, the dish is often enjoyed during the warmer months because it’s served chilled.

Papa a la Huancaina is beloved in Peru and is often found at celebrations and gatherings.

History of Papa la Huancaína

Despite its name, which directly translates to ‘Potatoes Huancayo Style,’ the dish’s origins are believed to be not from Huancayo but rather from Lima, the capital of Peru.

It is said to have been invented during the construction of the Central Railway connecting Lima and Huancayo in the late 19th century.

The wives of the workers, needing to make a hearty yet quick meal for their husbands, started preparing a simple dish of boiled potatoes with a sauce made from local Peruvian ingredients.

They used queso fresco (fresh cheese), ají amarillo (yellow Peruvian pepper), and milk.

The dish became popular among the workers who named it ‘Papa a la Huancaina’ – ‘Potatoes in the style of Huancayo’ in honor of the final destination of the railway.

Over time, the dish gained popularity and became a staple of Peruvian cuisine.

The traditional recipe for Papa a la Huancaína has remained mostly unchanged over the decades, a testament to its perfection.

Yet, it has also been adapted in various ways, embracing new ingredients and flavors, showing the creativity in Peruvian gastronomy.

Thus, Papa a la Huancaina is more than just a dish; it’s a piece of Peruvian history, a symbol of the country’s culinary heritage and a testament to the ingenuity of its people.

Papa a la Huancaina Ingredients

Creating Papa a la Huancaina in your kitchen requires a blend of simple and flavorful ingredients, many of which capture the essence of traditional Peruvian food.

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the Huancaina Sauce:

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  1. Ají Amarillo Paste: You’ll need about 2-3 tablespoons of this bright yellow chili paste, a staple ingredient in Peruvian cooking, giving the dish its characteristic spiciness and color. If you can’t find Ají Amarillo, you can substitute it with another chili paste, but note that this might change the flavor profile of the dish.
  2. Fresh Cheese (Queso Fresco): 200 grams. This gives the sauce its rich, creamy texture. If queso fresco isn’t available, you can use a mild feta or farmer’s cheese.
  3. Evaporated Milk: 1 cup. This adds a creamy and slightly sweet flavor to the sauce. You can use regular milk as a substitute if needed.
  4. Saltine Crackers: About 4-6 crackers. These thicken the sauce and give it body.
  5. Garlic Cloves: 2 cloves, finely chopped.
  6. Vegetable Oil: 1/4 cup.

For the Potatoes and Garnish:

  1. Yellow Potatoes: 8-10 medium-sized potatoes. These are traditionally used in the recipe, but any variety of potato that holds up well when boiled can be used.
  2. Eggs: 4 large eggs. These are boiled, peeled, and quartered for garnish.
  3. Black Olives: 8-10 olives, preferably Aceitunas Botijas or Kalamata, for garnish.
  4. Lettuce Leaves: 1 head of lettuce. The leaves are typically used as a bed for serving the potatoes and sauce.

How to Make Papa a la Huancaina

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Here’s a step-by-step recipe for Papa a la Huancaina:

Step 1: Boil the Potatoes and Eggs

  • Start by washing the potatoes thoroughly. Place them in a large pot, add enough water to cover the potatoes, and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are tender but still firm, which usually takes about 20-30 minutes. You can check the doneness by inserting a fork or knife into a potato; it should slide in easily without breaking the potato apart.
  • In a separate pot, add the eggs and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the eggs simmer for about 10 minutes for hard-boiled eggs. Once done, drain the water and let the eggs cool before peeling and quartering them.

Step 2: Prepare the Huancaina Sauce

  • While the potatoes and eggs are cooking, you can start preparing the Huancaina sauce. In a frying pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and aji amarillo paste. Sauté for about 2-3 minutes until the mixture is fragrant.
  • Next, transfer this mixture to a blender. Add the queso fresco, evaporated milk, and saltine crackers. Blend until you have a smooth, creamy sauce. If the sauce is too thick, you can add a little more milk. If it’s too thin, add another cracker. The consistency should be similar to a creamy salad dressing.

Step 3: Assemble the Dish

  • Once the potatoes are cooked, drain the water and let them cool for a few minutes. Then peel the potatoes and slice them into about 1/2 inch rounds.
  • To serve, arrange a few lettuce leaves on each plate. Place the sliced potatoes on top of the lettuce, generously pour the Huancaina sauce over the potatoes. Garnish with the quartered eggs and black olives. Some people also like to sprinkle some chopped parsley or cilantro for added color and flavor.

And there you have it, a traditional Peruvian dish right in your kitchen.

Note: The dish is typically served cold or at room temperature, so feel free to prepare it in advance and keep it in the refrigerator until serving time.

Serving Suggestions for Papa a la Huancaína

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Papa a la Huancaina is a wonderfully versatile dish that can be served in numerous ways to suit different occasions and tastes.

Whether it’s a casual family meal or a more formal dinner party, this dish brings a taste of Peru to your table.

Traditional Serving Method: Traditionally, Papa a la Huancaina is served cold or at room temperature, making it a perfect choice for summer meals or picnics. The dish is often presented on a bed of lettuce leaves, with the Huancaina sauce generously drizzled over the sliced boiled potatoes. It is garnished with quartered hard-boiled eggs and aceitunas botijas or Peruvian black olives.

As a Side Dish: While it can stand alone as a hearty appetizer, Papa a la Huancaina also shines as a side dish. Try serving it alongside grilled meats, like anticuchos (Peruvian skewers) or roasted chicken. It’s a common accompaniment to Peruvian arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) as well.

Innovative Pairings: For a modern twist, consider using the Huancaina sauce in other dishes. It pairs beautifully with grilled vegetables, pasta or even as a dip for crudites or chips.

Presentation: When it comes to presentation, a colorful plate can make the dish even more appealing. Consider using colorful Peruvian pottery or glassware for a truly authentic presentation.

Tips and Tricks

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Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a culinary newbie, these tips and tricks will help you create a Papa a la Huancaina that’s sure to impress:

1. Balancing Heat: Ají Amarillo, the yellow Peruvian pepper, lends a spicy kick to the Huancaina sauce. If you want a milder sauce, consider using less ají amarillo paste, or remove the seeds and veins from fresh peppers before blending. Remember, it’s easier to add heat later than to try to tone it down.

2. Cheese Substitutions: If you can’t find queso fresco, other fresh, mild cheeses like mild feta, farmer’s cheese, or ricotta can be used. Each will impart a slightly different flavor, so feel free to experiment to find what you like best.

3. Consistency of the Sauce: The sauce should be creamy and pourable but not runny. To achieve the right consistency, you can adjust the amount of evaporated milk or saltine crackers. Add more milk if it’s too thick, or more crackers if it’s too thin.

4. Boiling the Potatoes: When boiling the potatoes, make sure they’re tender but not falling apart. They should hold their shape when sliced. A good trick is to insert a knife or fork into the potatoes to check their doneness.

5. Serving Temperature: Papa a la Huancaina is typically served chilled or at room temperature. If you’re preparing it in advance, keep the boiled potatoes and the sauce separate in the refrigerator and assemble just before serving.

6. Exploring Flavors: Traditional Papa a la Huancaina is delightful, but don’t be afraid to add your own spin. Try garnishing with different ingredients like avocado slices, cooked shrimp, or fresh herbs to make the dish your own.

Nutritional Information

It’s important to remember that the exact nutritional information for Papa a la Huancaina can vary based on the specific ingredients used and their quantities.

Here is a general guide:

Per Serving (Approximate):

  • Calories: 350-400
  • Fat: 15-20g
  • Saturated Fat: 7-10g
  • Carbohydrates: 40-45g
  • Fiber: 5-7g
  • Protein: 12-15g
  • Sodium: 400-600mg
  • Sugar: 5-7g

Key Nutritional Elements:

  1. Potatoes: A good source of vitamins and minerals, particularly Vitamin C and potassium. They’re also high in fiber, which can help promote satiety and digestive health.
  2. Queso Fresco: Provides a good amount of protein and calcium, although it also contributes to the dish’s fat content.
  3. Ají Amarillo Paste: This paste is made from Peruvian yellow peppers, which are a great source of vitamins A, C, and some B vitamins. They also contain capsaicin, which can boost metabolism and aid in digestion.
  4. Eggs: Eggs are a very good source of inexpensive, high-quality protein. More than half the protein of an egg is found in the egg white, which also includes vitamin B2 and lower amounts of fat and cholesterol than the yolk.
  5. Lettuce and Olives: Both contribute to the fiber content of the dish and provide a variety of vitamins and minerals.


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Papa a la Huancaina is not just a dish, but a beautiful showcase of Peruvian heritage and the country’s rich culinary tradition.

Its flavorful simplicity brings people together, proving that sometimes the most humble ingredients can create the most unforgettable meals.

We hope that this exploration of Papa a la Huancaina has been both informative and inspiring for you, and that it has sparked your curiosity to discover more of what Peruvian cuisine has to offer.

¡Buen provecho!

Papa a la Huancaina Recipe: Experience Peru on a Plate (7)

Jorge Garcia

Our blog is all about sharing our love of Latin American foods & drinks. We’ll bring you articles and recipes of the very best Latin American & Spanish cuisine. Amigofoods was founded in 2003 and is the largest online grocery store offering a wide variety of hard to find freshly imported foods & drinks from all over Latin America and Spain.

Read more about the author & Amigofoods on our About Us page.

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