Tamarillo or tree tomato aji hot sauce {Ají de tomate de árbol}

Tamarillo or tree tomato aji hot sauce

Tamarillo or tree tomato aji hot sauce, known as ají de tomate de árbol in Spanish,  is a very tasty hot sauce made from tree tomatoes or tamarillos, hot peppers, onion, cilantro and lime juice. A tree tomato or tomate de arbol, also known as tamarillo, is a South American fruit that looks somewhat like a roma tomato, but pointier and with a thicker skin.  Tree tomatoes can be either yellow orangish or dark red depending on the variety, the inside of the fruit will be either orange, dark red or almost purple. They can be eaten just plain, but make sure they are very ripe if eating them plain – they are very tart. Tamarillos or tree tomatoes are used frequently in juices and in desserts (cooked in a panela or sugar cane syrup with cinnamon, clove and other spices). One of the most well known way to use them is to make this aji or hot sauce, which is usually mild to medium spicy, and is served with a lot of different Ecuadorian dishes. This tamarillo hot sauce is a must-have for green plantain empanadas (or any empanadas), yuca bread, plantain chips, tamales, humitas (a fresh corn tamale) and goes great with potatoes, fish and meat, basically with almost anything.

It is very hard to find tree tomatoes in the US, most of the time when you find them they come from New Zealand (so please send us more). In Austin I was able to find them at Fiesta and also occasionally at Central Market. I’ve seen tree tomatoes or tamarillos only a few times in Seattle, once at QFC (U-District) and at Uwajimaya. I asked once at Pike Place Market and was told that several years ago an attempt to introduce them into Seattle was made but it wasn’t successful. You can find the tree tomato pulp frozen and it works well for juice but doesn’t do too well for this hot sauce (but it’s better than nothing if you have a craving), however sometimes you can find the actual fruits frozen at the Latin grocery stores,  then the hot sauce is almost as good as when made with the fresh fruit. This is the basic recipe for tree tomato aji, in some places in Ecuador – especially in Quito – it is very common to add chochos (lupini beans) to this aji, so if you have some on hand feel free to add them. I also love the Cuencano version of tree tomato aji, it’s very smooth and creamy since they blend it with some oil.

Tamarillos or tree tomatoes

Tamarillos or tree tomatoes, also known as tomate de arbol

Tamarillo or tree tomato aji hot sauce / Ají de tomate de árbol

Yield: ~1 1/2 cups of tamarillo or tree tomato aji

Tamarillo or tree tomato aji hot sauce / Ají  de tomate de árbol

Tamarillo or tree tomato aji hot sauce is a very tasty hot sauce made from tree tomatoes or tamarillos, hot peppers, onion, cilantro and lime juice.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 tree tomatoes, fresh or frozen
  • 2 ajies or hot peppers (serranos or red chilies are good options, habaneros if you are very brave)
  • 2 tbs finely chopped white onion
  • 1 tbs finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbs lime or lemon juice
  • ¼ cup water
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional – Add cooked and peeled chochos or lupini beans

Instructions

  1. If using fresh tree tomatoes peel them, boil them for about 5 minutes to make it easier to peel them.
  2. If using frozen tree tomatoes, defrost them over night in the fridge, then cut them in half and scoop out all the insides.
  3. Blend the tree tomatoes with the hot peppers (seeded and deveined if you want it very mild, you can always save a few seeds and add them in if it’s too mild).
  4. Transfer the blended mix of tree tomatoes and hot peppers to a small sauce pan, add the water (you can add more if you want a more liquid sauce) and cook on medium heat for about 5-8 minutes. You can also omit the cooking part, the sauce will be fresher, but will need to be consumed faster.
  5. Add the onion, lime juice, cilantro, chochos (if adding), and salt to taste.
  6. Serve warm or cold.

Notes

Replace water with oil (avocado, light olive oil, or a mild flavored oil) for a creamier Cuencano style aji (and do not cook it after blending).

http://laylita.com/recipes/2008/03/10/tree-tomato-aji/

Frozen tree tomato Making tree tomato or tamarillo aji hot sauce

Tree tomato aji Tamarillo or tree tomato aji

Aji de tomate de arbol or tree tomato hot sauce

 

Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this recipe! I am a Canadian in Ecuador, and I have tree tomatos growing, but didn’t know what to do with them. I love this recipe, and now I’ll be able to build on this recipe and play with the flavours a bit. I would be interested in hearing if anyone has had any experience growing these in northern climes, indoors or outdoors, and getting fruit?

    • Hi Deena – I believe someone commented or emailed me that they grown them in Oregon, and back when I lived in Austin I was able to get a small plant started, but that’s as far as it got. I remember that in Ecuador I was told that they needed a certain amount of altitude in order to do well, but they’re also sensitive to freezes.

  2. Me gusta mucho el aji de tomate de arbol, pero con pedacitos de remolacha, sabe delucioso tambien. Yo soy the Santo Domingo de los Colorados. Ecuador.

  3. Hey, this sauce looks great…how long can it be stored after you make it?

  4. Cecilia says:

    Could this recipe be canned? If so, do you think I should add vinegar or more lemon juice? Thanks!

    • Hi Cecilia – I’ve never canned it and am not much of an expert on canning so I don’t know. I’ll check the ones that they sell canned or in jars here in Ecuador and see if they have vinegar or lemon juice on the ingredient list.

  5. We found some tomate de arbol today in Oxford (England) and made Aji following your recipe, which turned out DELICIOUS!
    Laylita, you are the best. Thanks for keeping up this website.

  6. Hi Zaic,
    In Chicago, you can find frozen tomate de arbol at a little store called El Condor, on Milwaukee Avenue. They also sell dried “chochos,” tostado, etc.

  7. I was on holiday in Quito this summer and fell in love with ají and jugo de tomate de árbol. I was wondering if anyone knew where I could find tomate de árbol around Chicago or what I can use to substitute them (at least when making ají). It would go great with the thanksgiving turkey. :)

  8. We retired to Ecuador this past year. As a lover of hot spicy food I have become quite addicted to Aji. We live north of Ibarra (north of Quito) and the farmers here grow the tomato trees everywhere. The plants however, if you are not familiar with them, get to be quite large (I guess that is why they are called trees). Most of the tomato trees I have seen range from about 7 to 8 feet tall. If you like, I can look for seeds in or near the market or when I begin to get tomatoes from my three trees, I can save and dry some of the seeds and try to send them to you. Ecuador has very strict laws about importing seeds. I don’t know about exporting? Most people who live here bring seeds with them when they return from the states or have someone that is visiting bring seeds. I typically try to get heirloom seeds so I can save and replant the different vegetables that I like.

  9. Cecilia STark says:

    To all the people who comment on this recipe: Can u please let me know if you know an online store where i could either the fruit or the seeds. I live in Oklahoma state and it’s very difficult to get some of the ingredients to cook my dishes (Ecuador). I would appreciate if you reply to me. Thanks a lot.

  10. Martha Hopkins says:

    Hi Laylita,

    I attended IACP last week in Austin, TX, and came into 6 tomates de arbol courtesy of Melissa’s Produce based in LA. They were exhibiting at the trade show and gave me a box of their goodies since I live in Austin and they didn’t want the produce to go to waste. (What a box it was—quince, papaya, baby pineapple, mangos, passionfruit, prickly pear, the list goes on! )

    Anyway, I had no clue what to do with the tomates de arbol and stumbled across your site. I made the salsa tonight, and it was DELISH! Boyfriend loved it, too. I’m stewing some chicken thighs tomorrow and only wish I had more so I could try them in that. Thanks for the great recipe.

    Martha

  11. Hello Laylita,

    I wanted to ask how I could get some seeds of Tamarillo tree yellow ??

    A greeting and thank you very much from Spain

  12. Juan Navarro says:

    Has anyone been able to find the Tomates de Arbol in the Boston Area? I am salivating just thinking about the aji. I found chochos in Hi-Lo foods in Jamaica Plain. I’d be happy to buy some fresh if somenone wants to mail them to me. Thanks for the great recipes!

    • Natalia says:

      Juan,

      I have seen some tomate de arbol in a market basket in fields corner next to the dollar store and mcdonalds. I know they come frozen though, so you have to go to the frozen section where they sell juices !

  13. Jilli jill says:

    Oh I am so excited I have a young tree full of 50 or more ripening fruits and a garden full of peppers- Hot sauce galore coming soon! I think I might add some chocolate though.

  14. Cameron Allen says:

    So, I was wondering how long ago it was you found the tomates at Fiesta in Austin. I lived in the sierra of Ecuador for about six months in 2009, and having returned, I am jonesing for some jugo de tomate and aji. Thanks, the photos alone take me back. I’ll have to share with you my vegan takes on humitas, quimbolitos, etc…in case anyone is interested.

  15. Katherine says:

    Cait, do you think the trees would survive indoors? I live in Chicago and just wanted to know if they would survive the winter. I have found frozen tamarillos here, I wonder if the seeds from those would grow any fruit?
    Anyway I was SO happy to find tamarillo and aji peppers in my supermarket! When I asked nobody knew what I was talking about, but at least I found them in the frozen section!

  16. I grew my tamarillo trees from the seed of fruit I bought in a local supermarket. They germinate very easily and quickly grow into small trees about 2m tall and 3m in diameter. I have six trees and harvested fruit from the second year onwards. Here in South Africa they are well known. Most people eat them raw as a fruit by cutting them in half across the middle and scooping out the pulp with a teaspoon. They are also used to make jam and chilli flavoured chutneys.

  17. fantastic recipe

  18. Late October through mid April, the Portland Farmers Market starts March 20 this year.

  19. I grow and sell both the yellow and red tree tomatoes at the Portland Farmers Market (PSU). and Eugene Farmers Market in Oregon. They from $.50 to $1.00 each depending on size.

    Hi Gus – That is great to know! What time of the year are they in season in the PNW?

  20. Laylita-
    I am so happy to have found your site! I visited Ecuador in July, absolutely loved the food and have been desperate to find recipes for my favorite foods. I was wondering if anyone out there in Chicago can recommend any stores where I can find the tamarillos. I would really appreciate it!
    I look forward to cooking these amazing meals. Muchas gracias!

  21. I am so excited to make this aji tonight! It has been a very long time since I enjoyed it on everything in Cuenca. I made the arroz con pollo last night and it was wonderful – like a taste of home.

  22. Hello again Laylita,

    I live in Florida, and I’ve never found tomate de arbol fresh or frozen anywhere, but I have found in the local grocery store frozen pulpa de tomate de arbol. Tomate de arbol juice and aji taste great using this pulpa, I just wonder where I could get some “chochos” I miss them so much in my salsa de aji.

  23. I made this with the purple tree tomatoes and the salsa ended up looking a little like a blueberry smoothie, but very tasty. Next time I’ll try to find the yellow ones so I can get my husband to eat it, too – he’s into visuals and couldn’t get past the color. :-)

  24. Hi Odette, Thank you so much for that information, you are awesome! I will have to go visit that QFC.

  25. I spotted fresh tamarillos from New Zealand or tree tomatoes at QFC in University Village – they were in an area that had a number of unusual fruits (expensive – $1.99 each)- then I found your blog – and noticed you hadn’t found any in Seattle – so hope this information is helpful.

    Thanks for this amazing blog- I’m bookmarking this one.

  26. Wow – I am so glad to find this recipe. I spent a couple of years in Ecuador and have been looking for a recipe to make this “Aji” as they called it in Ecuador.
    Thank you so much. My mouth is watering thinking about having some. The only difference that I can see is that everywhere I had it they used red tamarillos.

  27. Hi Kathleen, tree tomato juice is really easy to make, just remove the pulp from the tree tomatoes as you did for the aji, blend the pulp with sugar and water, I would use at least 1 tree tomato per each cup of water, strain and drink cold. It’s good but doesn’t compare to the juice made from fresh tree tomatoes.

  28. kathleen says:

    I found frozen tree tomatoes in a small shop in Chicago. I made this aji, and it was excellent! I would also like to make tree tomato juice – do you have a recipe for that? Thanks for these great Ecuadorian recipes!!

  29. I loved drinking tamarillo juice every day when I was in Ecquador…when I got home to LA I immediatly went to find them. Turns out, they arent hard to find here, just outrageously expensive, so now I limit myself to one glass of juice a year. Sigh. (They come out to about $3 each, and it breaks my heart)…next time I indulge, I think I will have to try this beautiful recipe too! Thank you for the inspiration!

  30. this looks right up my alley. i’ll have to see if i can find these in one of the latin american supermarkets near my apartment.

  31. i LOVE hot sauce, and i put it almost everything. in fact, i’m tempted to carry a bottle around and whip it out in restaurants. this sounds deliciously spicy and if i can find some tree tomatoes, you can bet i’ll be making it!

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