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3 BEST Substitutes for Ají Dulce in Cooking

Ají dulce, known for its unique fragrance and sweet, almost citrusy flavor, is a beloved ingredient in many Latin American and Caribbean dishes.

However, for those who can’t readily find it, it’s pivotal to understand what alternatives can step in without sacrificing the essence of your culinary creation.

In this guide, we’ll explore some substitutes for ají dulce in cooking while remaining true to the brand’s tone of knowledgeable, balanced, and health-oriented.

Key Takeaways:

  • Steaming maintains moisture and a gentle temperature, perfect for most dumplings.
  • Pan-frying offers a delightful contrast of crispy and soft textures, ideal for thicker dumpling skins.
  • Microwaving is a fast alternative, yielding consistent and rapid results, albeit with a softer texture.
  • Air-frying is a modern take, providing the perfect balance of crispy and moist dumplings.

🙋‍♀️ What is Ají Dulce?

Often referred to as the “sweet chili pepper,” ají dulce is a delightful variety of Capsicum chinense. Originating in South America, this pepper plays a significant role in Caribbean cuisine with its unique flavor profile.

While resembling habanero peppers in appearance, ají dulce offers a milder heat and a distinct aroma that enhances the taste of various dishes.

Considered an essential ingredient in traditional recipes like sancocho, sofrito, and arroz con pollo, this versatile pepper adds depth and complexity to culinary creations, making it a favorite choice among chefs and home cooks alike.

👨‍🍳 Why Substitutes Matter for Aji Dulce

When culinary plans are thwarted by missing ingredients, creative realignment can save the day.

Substitution isn’t merely about making do; it’s a nuanced art that involves understanding flavors and how they interact in cooking.

It’s an essential skill for every chef and home cook, ensuring that no dish is left incomplete when a key component is unavailable.

1 – Red Bell Peppers

Often overshadowed in the heat department, red bell peppers are the go-to for a sweet replacement in recipes that call for ají dulce. Their luscious, succulent flesh provides a base for building flavor without overpowering with spice.

Bursting with vitamins and antioxidants, incorporating these into your dishes isn’t just about taste — it’s about adding a nutritional punch as well.

According to Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, “Red bell peppers offer a mild, sweet flavor that can replicate the versatility of ají dulce in many dishes, ensuring that the balance of flavors is maintained.”

2 – Cubanelle Peppers

Cubanelle peppers, also known as Cuban peppers, provide a delicate spiciness and a subtle citrus undertone that closely parallels the ají dulce flavor profile. Chefs turn to these elongated, pale green peppers for their ability to enhance broth and soup bases, stir-fries, and even as a colorful addition to salsas and salads.

Chef Jose Andres suggests, “For the home cook looking to maintain the mild heat and citrusy zest of ají dulce, Cubanelle peppers are a safe bet. Their thin flesh and low seed count make them perfect for fresh applications or quick-cooking dishes.”

3 – Poblano Peppers

If you’re yearning for a smoky dimension in your dishes, turn your spoon towards poblano peppers. These large, heart-shaped chilies bring a mild to medium heat that won’t overpower your taste buds and a rich, earthy flavor that pairs perfectly with moles, stews, and soups.

Chef Marcus Samuelsson shares, “Poblanos, with their substantial size and robust flavor, are a wonderful substitute for those seeking a pepper that can stand in for ají dulce without compromising the dish. They bring a wealth of culinary possibilities to the table.”

Incorporating Substitute Peppers in Recipes

Ready to put your newfound knowledge to the test? Here are six tantalizing recipes that highlight the versatility of red bell peppers, Cubanelles, and poblanos as substitutes for ají dulce.

1. Red Bell Pepper Ají Dulce Sauce

A vibrant and tangy sauce featuring red bell peppers that’s perfect for dipping, drizzling, or marinating. This sauce offers the same vibrant color and a touch of sweetness akin to ají dulce.

2. Cubanelle Pepper Salsa

Combine the mild heat and citrus notes of Cubanelle peppers with tomatoes, onions, and fresh herbs for a zesty salsa that works wonders with a variety of dishes.

3. Poblano Pepper Relleno

Stuff roasted poblano peppers with a delectable mixture of seasoned meat or beans. This dish captures the essence of ají dulce’s richness in every bite.

4. Red Bell Pepper Ají Dulce Rice

Infuse your rice with the sweet, robust flavor of red bell peppers for an aromatic side dish that pairs exquisitely with a range of main courses.

5. Cubanelle Pepper Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Whip up a gourmet appetizer or side using the light, creamy flavors of goat cheese mixed with the subtle spiciness of Cubanelle peppers.

6. Poblano Pepper Enchiladas

Spice up your enchiladas with poblano peppers that deliver a rich, smoky kick under the blanket of a zesty sauce.


Don’t allow a missing ají dulce to take the heat out of your cooking ambitions.

In the world of dynamic flavors, discovering the right substitutes is a pathway to creative mastery — and health-oriented, balanced recipes.

Whether it’s the sweetness of red bell peppers, the mild heat of Cubanelles, or the depth of poblano, these alternative peppers can transform your culinary repertoire, one dish at a time.


Monday 18th of March 2024

I've been experimenting with Ají Dulce lately, but it's hard to find. Do you have any experience with the substitutes mentioned here? Which one would you recommend for a spicy salsa?

Andrew Gray

Monday 18th of March 2024

I'm leaning towards using bell peppers as an Ají Dulce substitute. Have you experimented with them?