Peruvian Food

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Causa Rellena

papa causa

This versatile Peruvian potato dish makes a great light meal or a fine addition to a buffet spread. Causa can be layered with any number of fillings — chicken salad and tuna salad are favorites. Served cold, causa rellena is often topped with extravagant garnishes and sauces for a colorful presentation.

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • Yellow (Yukon gold) potatoes — 2 pounds
  • Oil — 1/2 cup
  • Lime or lemon juice — 1/4 cup
  • Ají amarillo chile paste (optional) — 2 or 3 tablespoons
  • Salt and pepper — to taste
  • Filling (see variations) — 2 cups
  • Hard-boiled eggs, sliced into rounds — 2 or 3
  • Pitted black olives — 6 to 8

Method

  1. Place the potatoes in a large pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are tender and cooked through. Drain and set aside to cool.
  2. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them. Put the potatoes through a ricer or mash with a potato masher until smooth. Stir in the oil, pepper paste if using, lime or lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Line a casserole dish or baking pan with plastic wrap, pressing it down to fit the dish. Spread half the potatoes into the bottom of the dish and smooth out. Spread the desired filling evenly over the potatoes. Spread the remaining potatoes evenly over the filling. Press down gently to firm up your causa. Cover and chill thoroughly.
  4. Lay a serving platter upside-down over the top of the causa dish. Using both hands, flip the dish and platter over, letting the causa fall onto the platter. Remove and discard the plastic wrap.
  5. Garnish the causa decoratively with the hard-boiled eggs and olives and, if you like, a sauce. Cut into portions and serve.

Causa Rellena Variations

  • Potatoes: Peru has hundreds of varieties of potatoes. Bright yellow types are usually used for causa rellena, their color boosted by the ají peppers. Yukon gold are a good substitute in the United States. If you can find blue potatoes, give those a try too. Instead of lime or lemon juice, some cooks use bitter orange juice.
  • Fillings: Chicken or seafood salads bound together with mayonnaise are very common causa fillings. For seafood, try tuna salad, crab salad, shrimp salad, poached or fried fish or seafood, smoked trout or seafood ceviche. Vegetarian fillings include sliced avocados, sliced or grated cheese, sliced or chopped tomatoes, corn kernels, thinly sliced red onions.
  • Garnishes: Hard-boiled eggs and pitted black olives are the classic Peruvian garnish. You can also use shredded or whole lettuce leaves or any of the filling ingredients to garnish.
  • Sauces: Sauces are often drizzled over a finished causa. Try mixing mayonnaise a little lemon juice, ketchup or avocado puree and drizzle it decoratively over and around the causa with a squeeze bottle. Or make Salsa Huancaina: 12 ounces feta or ricotta cheese;  5 fresh, chopped ají amarillo peppers; 1/2 cup milk; 2 cloves garlic; 1/2 cup oil; salt and pepper. Put the cheese, peppers, milk and garlic into a blender and puree. With the blender still running, drizzle in the oil until the sauce has a creamy consistency. Season with salt and pepper.
  • A popular alternative way to form the causa is rolled up like a jellyroll, orpionono. Spread the potatoes into a smooth rectangle over a layer of plastic wrap. Spread the filling over the potatoes. Lift the plastic wrap from one end of the potatoes and roll the potatoes up over the filling. Place seam-side down on a serving platter, garnish and serve in slices. Causa rellena can also be formed in a springform pan or as individual portions.
  • Causa Limeña: A causa from Lima served with a fish filling or with fried fish on the side.

Notes

  • Causa takes its name from the old Incan Quechua word kausaq, which means “giver of life,” another name for the potato. Rellena is the Spanish word for “stuffed” or “filled.”