Causa Rellena

October  4, 2022
2 Ratings
Photo by Emily Dryden
  • Serves 8-10
Author Notes

Causa is a beloved specialty that originated in the cosmopolitan, urbane cuisine of Lima, Peru’s capital. Over the decades, it has spread throughout the country, picking up local ingredients and seasonings along the way. At its most basic, causa is a cold, savory potato layer cake; here, it has an inner layer of chicken salad, and is topped with the typical Peruvian fixings of hardboiled eggs, avocado, and olives. It is a summertime essential that can serve as an appetizer, entrée, snack, or hors d’oeuvre.

This dish requires ají amarillo paste, which is an essential part of Peruvian cuisine. The flavor is irreplaceable. It can be found jarred in most Latino markets, as well as online, fairly economically. If you cannot get your hands on it, puree any fresh chiles and add to your taste.

The chicken in the filling can be replaced with canned tuna, crabmeat, poached shrimp, hearts of palm, or anything else you desire.

The assembly instructions below serve as a guideline. Feel free to arrange and decorate the causa according to your personal aesthetic. You can make individual servings using ring molds or ramekins lined with plastic wrap. You can also make bite-sized causa balls and spoon the chicken salad on top.

This causa is delicious on its own, but it is so much better with salsa golf (recipe below). You can drizzle the entire causa with the sauce or add it to individual servings. —Carlos C. Olaechea

What You'll Need
  • Causa Rellena
  • 3 pounds (about 6) russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1/4 yellow onion, peeled
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1 pound poached chicken breast, chopped
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup diced carrots, cooked until tender
  • 1/3 cup green peas, cooked until tender
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Juice of 4 limes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 2 tablespoons ají amarillo paste
  • Sliced avocado, hardboiled eggs, and pitted botija or kalamata olives to garnish
  • Salsa Golf
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon pisco, brandy, or vodka
  1. Causa Rellena
  2. Place potatoes in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Fill pot with enough cold water to cover potatoes and add yellow onion and garlic cloves.
  3. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. When boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until potatoes are cooked through, about 15 minutes. To test for doneness, use a knife to pierce a slice of potato. If it goes through easily, the potatoes are cooked.
  4. When the potatoes are cooked through, turn off the burner, and drain the water from the pot. Place the pot back onto the burner and cover with lid. Let the potatoes sit for about 15 minutes to finish cooking the potatoes. You want the potatoes to be mostly dry.
  5. After the 15 minutes, uncover the pot. Pass potatoes along with the onion and garlic through a ricer or food mill into a large bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the chicken salad. Place the poached chicken, peas, carrots, mayonnaise, and garlic powder into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  7. When riced potatoes have cooled to room temperature, add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, lime juice, and ají amarillo paste and continue to mix until potatoes are a uniform yellow color. Add salt to taste. Adjust lime juice and/or ají amarillo paste, if necessary. The flavor of the potatoes should be tart and somewhat spicy.
  8. Lightly grease the inside of a 9-inch springform pan with oil, being sure to coat the sides. Use your hands or a spatula to evenly spread 1/3 of the potato mixture inside the pan.
  9. Now add the chicken salad and spread evenly over the potatoes. Cover with the remaining potato mixture, spreading out evenly and smoothly. Cover pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours to chill and set.
  10. When ready to serve, remove causa from the refrigerator. Remove plastic wrap and place on a serving platter. Unfasten the latch of the springform pan. Remove the side of the pan from the causa. Smooth the top and sides of the causa, if necessary. Garnish with sliced avocado, hardboiled eggs, and olives. Drizzle entire causa with salsa golf, if using, and slice it like a cake to serve.
  1. Salsa Golf
  2. Thoroughly combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. You can either drizzle this sauce onto the causa with a spoon or transfer to a squeeze bottle for more control.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Dawn Krom
    Dawn Krom
  • Danuta Gajewski
    Danuta Gajewski
  • Carlos C. Olaechea
    Carlos C. Olaechea
  • Aimless
I was born in Peru to a Limeño father and a Texan mother. We moved to Miami when I was five, and I grew up in the "Kendall-suyo" neighborhood—often called the 5th province of the Inca Empire because of its large Peruvian population. I've been writing about food since I was 11 years old, and in 2016 I received a master's degree in Gastronomy from Boston University. A travel columnist at Food52, I'm currently based in Hollywood, Florida—another vibrant Peruvian community—where I am a writer, culinary tour guide, and consultant.

14 Reviews

Aimless April 8, 2018
After mooning over this recipe for months and finally hunting down the aji amarillo, I made it for a potluck buffet and it was a big success. The presentation was incredible, so fun and colorful. It's time consuming to make but not difficult. I followed directions exactly. Thanks for this wonderful unusual recipe.
mstv October 10, 2017
Delicious! Had never served with Salsa Golf before. Thank you for the tasty recipe.
roz September 8, 2017
My mouth is dangerously drooling, can't wait to try this and perfect it in time for Christmas buffet. Thank you so much for posting.
Carlos C. September 12, 2017
You're welcome! I hope you get to enjoy it. BTW, you can totally incorporate Christmas themes or colors into this.
lottoqueen September 5, 2017
This looks delish Carlos!! Thank you especially for the different (fancy or more simple) serving and ingredient suggestions. My question is can the mayo be replaced in both the Causa and the salsa with sour cream?
Carlos C. September 6, 2017
Thank you and you're welcome! That is a great question. The answer really lies in keeping this causa principle in mind: the filling needs to counter the tartness and spiciness of the potatoes. I feel that with the sour cream, you run the risk of erasing that contrast. If you want to avoid mayonnaise, you can use creme fraiche or mascarpone. If you want to use sour cream, I suggest using a Mexican or Central American crema or mantequilla, which is creamier and not as sour as American or Eastern European sour cream. If you are concerned about the eggs in mayonnaise, there is Portuguese milk-based mayonnaise that is incredibly easy to make and super thick and fluffy. My advice to you is to prepare the potato mixture first (it keeps for several days), make a few little balls, and dollop a bit of sour cream or other mayonnaise alternatives on them. See how you feel about the combination, and then create your filling. And please let me know how it turns out
Carlos C. September 6, 2017
As for the Salsa Golf, I am not as flexible. It needs to be made with mayonnaise and only mayonnaise (the Portuguese milk mayonnaise will work, too). If you want to avoid mayonnaise, use any other sauce or dressing that you want. Last night I drizzled a green cause (seasoned with Peruvian Black mint and stuffed with green beans and spinach) with a yogurt/mayonnaise/wasabi sauce, and it was amazing. Again, please let me know how you customize your causa.
Hector J. September 3, 2017
que delicia. Delicious ...
Dawn K. September 1, 2017
I love this! Sounds so good, showy and doable. I have never heard of a Causa, but I am certainly going to give it a try. Thanks for posting!
Carlos C. September 1, 2017
I hope you do give it a try. Remember that the recipe is merely a guideline. Play around with it. If you can find aji amarillo, great! If not, don't worry about it.
Alli August 30, 2017
Causa! This and papa a la huancaina are the dishes my Peruvian in-laws go most crazy for. I love the idea of using poached shrimp! My mother in law only does chicken or canned tuna or salmon. Will have to try it that way before the end of summer (although we eat it year-round).
Carlos C. August 31, 2017
You can really fill it with anything you'd like! It is one of the most versatile dishes I know. I had one in Lima once that was filled with quinoa, and it was fantastic.
Danuta G. August 28, 2017
Being Polish...anything with potatoes catches my eye! Quick question, how long do the avocado slices remain fresh on top...I was thinking of making this for an upcoming brunch...but should I wait till I get there to decorate the top of the causa?
Carlos C. August 28, 2017
If you squeeze a generous amount of lime juice on the avocado before placing the slices on the causa, they will last maybe a couple of hours (keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve). You can add it to the causa when you arrive at the brunch, but don't be limited by the garnishes I suggest in the recipe. You can top it with anything: beats, tomatoes, herbs, pea shoots, watercress, corn, edible flowers...and all of that will surely last longer than the volatile avocado.