Quinoa with Aji Colorado or Bolivian Red Pepper

aji de quinoa from Bolivia

Submited by Rita Jimenez

Quinoa with aji colorado or spicy red pepper is one of the defining dishes of Bolivia, where Rita Jimenez was born and raised. For half a century, this abuela has lived in Massachusetts. But whenever she travels to her hometown of Cochabamba, Rita makes sure to load up on this protein-rich staple in her favorite traditional Bolivian meals, including this recipe.

That’s not too hard, thankfully. In Bolivia, aji de quinua, as this dish is called, is on the menu seemingly everywhere—at the homes of the friends and family members she visits and and in her Andes valley hometown’s many excellent restaurants, Rita says.

The word quinoa comes from the Quechua kinwa or kinuwa, the Indigenous name of the seed that flowers from the amaranth family plants that thrive in the Andes regions of Bolivia and Peru. The Incas considered this nourishing ingredient sacred, calling it mother grain. When the Spaniards arrived in Bolivia, they were surprised to see the locals cultivating and eating this strange seed. The Spanish soon replaced it with their go-to grain: wheat, though quinoa remained a staple of the Indigenous community. In the past decades, quinoa has come into its own as a healthy superfood, and its popularity (and price) have exploded.

Quinoa: A Beloved Bolivian Staple

Back home in Bolivia, quinoa is the opposite of trendy. Locals have been eating quinoa since ancient times, says Rita. ”It is so popular in our cuisine.” The quinoa grains must first be rinsed in cold water, to wash away any residue saponin, which can give it a bitter taste. After the seeds cook in a 1:1 ratio with water for 15 minutes, this recipe calls for the quinoa to be mixed with the sautéed onions, tomatoes, colorado or red aji pepper, and garlic. Chopped boiled potatoes and charque or dried beef jerky, a common ingredient in Bolivia, are then added.

Thank you, Rita, for sending Familia Kitchen this family recipe. It is simple and delicioso, and has become one of our weeknight go-tos. Quinoa with aji colorado is just one of the authentic delicacies of her homeland’s cuisine.  ”It’s not just because I’m a Bolivian,” says Rita, ”but  in Bolivia you eat the best food. We have an endless variety. Nothing is ever lacking.”

For more of Rita’s family-famous recipes, check out her falso conejo — yes, its name means “fake rabbit.” In this much loved, traditional Bolivian dish, beef cutlets are dredged in bread crumbs. The meat is then shallow fried and cooked in a flavorful sauce made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, red or yellow aji peppers, and bright green peas. Both recipes top the list of dishes Rita makes sure to savor every time she goes home.

Ready to Try Rita’s Bolivian Quinoa with Aji Colorado?

Rita’s Aji de Quinua or Bolivian Red Pepper Quinoa

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Rita Jimenez Cuisine: Bolivian


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 2 cups quinoa, rinsed well in cold water

  • 2 cups water, for boiling quinoa

  • 4 cups water, divided, for boiling the aji peppers and charque

  • 3 Tbsp aji colorado or Bolivian dried red pepper

  • 1/2 cup charque or beef jerky

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, for shallow-frying charque or beef jerky

  • 8 potatoes, boiled and diced

  • 3 onions, finely chopped

  • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped

  • 1 clove garlic, freshly pressed

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, for sautéing tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic

  • Salt, to taste


  • Steep the Dried Red Aji Peppers
  • Bring 2 to 3 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan.
  • In a bowl, pour the boiling water. Add the dried red aji peppers.
  • Steep the ajies or peppers for 15 minutes.
  • When ready, strain the peppers. Remove stems and seeds. Chop into small pieces and set aside
  • Prep the Charque or Beef Jerky
  • Bring 2 to 3 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan.
  • When the water boils, add the charque or beef jerky. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Strain the charque and sauté in oil on the stovetop.
  • Press the cooked charque or beef jerky with a batan (a Bolivian traditional press) or rolling pin, large can, or something heavy. Gently press and shred the jerky into soft, pliable, small pieces. Set aside.
  • Boil the Potatoes
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil. Peel the potatoes.
  • When the water starts to boil, add the potatoes and boil until cooked through, yet firm.
  • When ready, strain and set aside. When the potatoes are cool, dice them.
  • Make the Quinoa
  • In a colander, rinse the quinoa grains 3 times with fresh, cold tap water.
  • Bring 2 cups of water to a boil (without salt) in a large pot.
  • When the water boils, add the rinsed quinoa.
  • Cover and lower the heat to simmer. Cook the quinoa for 15 minutes.
  • Putting It All Together
  • In a wide skillet on the stovetop, warm the olive oil on low heat.
  • Add the finely chopped onions, tomatoes and red aji peppers; freshly pressed garlic; and salt.
  • Sauté for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the onions turn translucent and the tomatoes are cooked.
  • Add the onions and tomatoes to the pot with the quinoa.
  • Fold in the diced, boiled potatoes and shredded charque or beef jerky.
  • Warm over low heat for a few minutes until the quinoa mixture heats throughout, uniformly.
  • Gently mix it all together one last time. Serve hot.


  • With the potatoes you have a choice. You can peel, boil and dice them and add them into the quinoa. Or you can peel, boil and slice them and serve them on the side, accompanying the quinoa.
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