Vegan Papa a la Huancaina

Peru’s Indigenous people have cultivated hundreds of native potato varieties in the Andes for centuries. They boil, fry, roast, and bake potatoes in earthen ovens. And they make potato salads with various dressings. One is papa la huancaina, or potatoes in the style of Huancayo, a town in Peru’s Andes. Boiled potato rounds are bathed in a creamy cheese sauce that street food vendors make with milk and queso fresco. Ground aji amarillo, Peru’s native yellow hot pepper adds color and heat. One story goes that women from Huancayo prepared this dish for workers that constructed the railroad line from Lima to Huancayo. Served on a bed of lettuce, this vegan version has the same aji amarillo and onion aderezo base, while the mixture of oat milk, coconut yogurt, and nutritional yeast (nooch) replaces the savory profile in queso fresco. For a hearty combinado, serve with vegan tallarines rojos.

Vegan Papa a la Huancaina

Serves 4

  • 2 Yukon gold potatoes, plus water for boiling
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable cooking oil
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons aji amarillo paste
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup oat milk
  • ½ cup plain coconut yogurt
  • 12 saltine crackers, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon nooch
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • lettuce leaves
  • Kalamata olives, for garnish

Place potatoes in a large pot, and cover them with 2 inches cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook until they are fork tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and set the potatoes aside to cool.

For the onion aderezo, in a large skillet, heat the vegetable cooking oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, and aji amarillo. Stir until the onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with turmeric, stir for a minute, then remove from the heat.

In a tall electric blender, purée the onion aderezo with the milk and yogurt. Add the saltines, mix in nooch and continue to blend. Season with salt as needed.

Peel the potatoes and slice into ½-inch thick rounds. Plate the potato rounds on a bed of lettuce, bathe with huancaina sauce, and top with olives.