Causa is the layered potato and seafood salad you see above. A signature dish from Peru there are endless ways to compose and present this dish. You can make this as gourmet or as humble as you want. While we’ve made a simple Causa here, you need only be limited by your imagination. I’ve seen huge family sized Causa (that you would cut into slices like a cake) to mini ornate appetizer sized Causa – Causa with layers of mashed purple potatoes and any number of different fillings and sauces. Google Causa for some inspiration and have fun making your own version of this classic Peruvian specialty.
Our take on Causa captures three classic Peruvian ingredients – First – the Peruvian potato – Peru is famous for their hundreds of varieties of potatoes and as a result there are many dishes that revolve around their endless varieties. A classic Causa would use the yellow potato of Peru, but as we couldn’t exactly pick those up at No Frills – we grabbed a bag of mini golden gem potatoes and peeled them to help create a uniform color.
The second essential component in Causa is seafood – while we have simplified (and economized) our Causa with Tuna – this dish is easily adapted to include the best fresh seafood you can find. From fresh crab meat, to baby shrimp or prawns. Depending on the occasion, you might want to elevate the seafood portion.
The final must-use ingredient is Aji Amarillo (Yellow Pepper). We have used this ingredient in other posts – Papas a la Huancaina and our favorite – Salteñas. We pick ours up at the South China Seas Trading company in the Granville Island Public Market. The yellow pepper has a great flavor and depending on preference you can adjust the amount to create a milder or stronger intensity.
Presentation of this dish is key, so use some sort of a mold. We’ve used tart rings to create our layers but you can also use the tuna can if you remove the bottom of the tin as well (be careful of the edges)
This recipe will make 4-6 Causa
- 1 pound bag of yellow fleshed mini potatoes (larger ones if you can find them) peeled, and boiled until you can pierce the potatoes with a fork easily. / 1 libra de papas pueden ser grandes o pequeñas, peladas y hervidas hasta que estén blandas.
- 2 tbs Aji Amarillo / Yellow pepper
- 4 tbs Lemon Juice / jugo de limón
- 2 Cans of Tuna / atún en lata
- 1 Red pepper / Pimentón rojo
- 1/2 Onion / cebolla
- 1/4 cups of mayonnaise / taza de mayonesa
- 1 Avocado / palta
- Salt and Pepper to taste / sal y pimienta al gusto
- Olive Oil / Aceite de oliva
Instructions / Instrucciones
- Peel and boil potatoes, then rice or mash in a large bowl / Pelar las papas y ponerlas a hervir en una olla grande
- Mix the potato with the aji amarillo, taste as you go until it is spiced to your liking. Add 2 tbs of lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix everything together. Add Olive oil as needed until you’ve formed a smooth potato ‘dough’ / Mezclar las papas con el aji amarillo. Agregar 2 cucharadas de jugo de limón y sal y pimienta al gusto. Agregar aceite de oliva, así será más facil amasar la papa.
- Finely dice the red pepper and the onion, add them to a medium bowl and mix together with the canned tuna. Add the remaining lemon juice and the mayonnaise and mix well. / Cortar el pimiento rojo y la cebolla en cuadritos y colocarlos en un recipiente junto al atún, agregar el jugo de limón restante y la mayonesa, mezclar bien.
- We assembled our Causa with a base layer of potatoes, topped with a layer of avocado, another layer of potatoes, a layer of tuna, one final layer of potatoes and finished with a spoonful of tuna on top and garnished with an avocado slice / Colocar como base la papa y encima la palta, agregar encima otra capa de papa y en la parte superior colocar el atún y para terminar otra capa más de papa. Puedes colocar una rebanada de palta y un poco de atún encima como decoración.
If I had to narrow down my list of favourite Peruvian dishes, this simple salad would be right up there near the top. I first had this salad when I was in Peru a few years ago, staying with my friend Carolina. Just as soon as I finished my first bite I started asking about what this sauce was – how was it made? what was it called? what were the ingredients? and I knew I would have to learn how to make this myself. When Carolina listed off the ingredients for me I was surprised and a bit in disbelief when she mentioned crackers as one of them… but as I’ve learned, the soda crackers are an important component. The other two key parts of this recipe are the potato (Peru is famous for its hundreds of potato varieties and this recipe is typically made with the Peruvian yellow potato) and the yellow pepper (aji amarillo) a spicy pepper from the Andes and common in lots of Peruvian as well as Bolivian dishes.
The cheese that is normally used is called queso fresco, which is an unaged white cheese and is similar enough in taste to queso blanco which is a white cheese that you can easily make at home. We’ve had a hard time finding queso fresco and so we made the queso blanco ourselves and it worked really great. If you can not find queso fresco or blanco at your supermarket AND you don’t feel like making it yourself, you can just use a cheese like feta (but go easy on it as it is so salty) or ricotta.
This is a tremendously versatile sauce both in how it is served and how it is made. Many variations of this recipe are available online and, of course, in the memories and homes of Peruvians all over the world, and when this recipe is broken down it is basically a spicy cheese sauce, and while it is truly fantastic just like this over boiled potatoes, it also works well as a dip for veggies, and (as Fabio brilliantly discovered) for pizza! You can customize your huancaína sauce to be extra spicy, cheesy, or creamy as you like it. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
First – this is how to make the queso blanco used in in the huancaína sauce. The recipe is adapted from Karen Solomon’s book Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it
The Queso Blanco
- 8 cups homogenized milk (whole milk) / tazas de leche entera
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar / taza de vinagre de manzana
- 2 teaspoons salt / cucharillas de sal
- Clip a thermometer to the side of a saucepan, add milk and place over medium heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally until the temperature reads 185 degrees F / Poner la leche en una olla con una termómetro y poner sobre fuego medio y calentar por 25 minutos batiendo ocasionalmente hasta que la temperature alcanze los 185 degrados F
- Add the vinegar and stir just until incorporated throughout / Agregar el vinagre y batir hasta que este incorporado
- Turn off the heat and let the milk sit for about 10 minutes / Apagar el fuego y dejar por diez minutos
- At this point you will notice curds separating from the whey / a esta punto se puede notar la nat a la cual es el queso
- Using a slotted spoon, scoop the curds into a mesh sieve that is sitting over another bowl and let drain / Usando una cuchara con agujeros sacar el queso y ponerlos en un colador fino sobre un recipiente y colar
- Discard the whey that has drained into the bowl and then empty the drained curds into the empty bowl and toss together with the salt / Elimine el liquido que esta en la recipiente y poker el queso en el recipiente vacio y mezclar con la sal
- Move the curds onto a clean kitchen towel, a cheese cloth or into a milk bag (a mesh bag used for almond/rice milk etc). Tie curds up in material and squeeze gently then hang over a bowl or the sink for about 45 minutes / Poner el queso sobre un pañuelo para queso y atar y presionar escurriendo, colgar sobre el grifo por 45 minutos
- Transfer the drained cheese curds to a (makeshift) cheese press and weight it for 3-4 hours / Poner el queso en una lata vacia y presionar el queso por 3 o 4 horas
- The cheese is ready to be used and can be kept in the refrigerator wrapped in wax paper for up to one week / El queso esta listo, y se puede quedar en el refrigerador por una semana
The Papas a la Huancaína
- 3 potatoes (yukon gold preferable) / papas
- 4 eggs hard boiled / huevos duros
- 3/4 cup queso blanco or feta / tazas de queso
- 1 garlic clove crushed / ajo
- 1 cup of milk / taza de leche
- 2 to 3 tbsps of ají amarillo paste (depending how spicy to want it) / cucharadas de ají amarillo (si quiere más picante agrege más)
- 2 tbsps of olive oil / cucharadas de aceite de oliva
- 1-2 tbsps lime juice / cucharadas de jugo de limón
- 6 to 8 soda crackers (depending of the texture) / galletas de agua
- black olives / aceitunas negras
- lettuce / lechuga
- Peel and boil the potatoes and then cut into thick slices / Pelar las papas y hervirlas, luego cortarlas en rodajas.
- For the salsa Huancaína: In a blender or food processor add the cheese, garlic, ají amarillo paste and milk. Blend for 10-20 seconds then add a few crackers, the olive oil and lime juice / Para la salsa Huancaína: en una licuadora poner el queso, ajo, ají amarrillo y la leche y licuar. También agreagar las galletas de agua, aceite y jugo de limón.
- Check the consistency and taste – if the sauce needs more thickening add more crackers and blend a few more seconds / Pruebe y ponga sal y pimienta al gusto, si la salsa esta muy liquida ponga mas galletas ya que esto hará a espesar la salsa.
- To serve – place the lettuce on a plate and top with the sliced potatoes, the salsa a la huancaína should be poured over the potatoes covering them. To garnish add some black olives and wedges of the hard boiled eggs / Para servir ponga la lechuga en un plato y las papas encima, colocar la salsa sobre las papas cubiréndolas. Poner aceitunas negras y rebanadas de los huevos duros para la decoracion.