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Cathy Katin-Grazzini

Cathy’s Kitchen Prescription LLC


Peruvian Causa Rellena


The origin of Peru’s popular causa rellena was 1879, while Peru and Bolivia were at war with Chile. To support the army, Peruvian women gathered potatoes from the fields and fashioned a cold potato layered casserole for their boys, in support of the “causa” (cause).


Today, causa rellena’s potatoes are mashed, seasoned with aji amarillo chile and lime, and layered typically with tuna salad. In my plant-based remake, my crabless salad, made with hearts of palm, makes a worthy substitute for the fish.  Chilled potato salads like causa rellena are a great source of resistant starch, a boon to our friendly gut microbes. This is also a very climate-supportive dish; unlike the past when wild palms were killed to harvest their hearts, commercially farmed palms today, like peach palm, are multi-stemmed and sustainably grown.


A beautiful appetizer or elegant entrée for a luncheon or supper, causa rellena is eye-catching, mouth-pleasing, and a delicious way to savor the flavors of Peru.


Prep time 60 minutes to prep and compose the causa + 3 hours to chill

Makes 6 causa rellena

Equipment: Potato ricer and 3-inch ring molds


2½ pounds yellow potatoes, boiled and peeled

2½ cups Chesapeake crabless salad

1 avocado, thinly sliced

2 long sweet or bell peppers, seeded and roasted, and peeled

1 teaspoon freshly ground dried aji Amarillo chili, or to taste

3 tablespoons shiro (mild, white) miso taste, or to taste

1 teaspoon lime powder or 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, or to taste

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper


Garnish ideas

2 tomatoes, sliced and roasted

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

A small dollop of silken vegan mayonnaise

Fresh herb sprig


Hint! The whole trick to a successful causa rellena is to make a stiff potato mash and drain your fillings as much as possible. Otherwise, you will have trouble keeping the stacked layers vertical once you remove them from the ring molds.


Hint! Stir the potatoes as little as possible to keep their consistency dry and compactible.


To grind the aji Amarillo chili, remove the stem and grind in a coffee or spice grinder until you create a powder.  Use 1 teaspoon for this recipe and store the excess in a small spice jar, placed in a cool, dark cupboard, which it will remain potent for about 2 months.


Heat the oven to 400°F. Core the peppers. Leave whole if using long, sweet varieties; quarter them if using bell peppers. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, together with the sliced tomatoes if using as a garnish. Bake the peppers for 20 to 25 minutes, 30-35 minutes for the tomatoes, or until they lightly brown and soften. Toss the roasted peppers in a paper bag, tightly close, and allow to steam for about 15 minutes. The peels should come off very easily.


Place the unpeeled potatoes in a medium pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook 15-18 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. Drain as soon as a knife can penetrate the potatoes smoothly. Do not overcook. Return the potatoes to the pot and over medium heat dry them out, gently turning each to encourage evaporation. Turn off the heat, remove the potatoes from the pot. Peel and rice each potato back into the pot. Season with ground aji Amarillo chili and lime powder to taste. Using the powders help keep the mix dry. Add the miso paste to taste. Stir minimally, just enough to combine ingredients. Over stirring the potatoes can render their texture soggy and glue-like, unsuitable for the layered stacking in this dish.


To compose the causa rellena, set a ring mold on a flat surface, ideally the plate you plan to serve it on. Stuff the bottom with the riced, seasoned potatoes, creating a layer about ¾-inch thick. Next add a layer of thinly sliced avocado. Follow with an inch layer of crabless salad, followed by a slice of the peeled pepper, cut to fit the circular shape of the mold. Finally top off the ring mold with the potato mix. Use the tamper that comes with the ring molds to press everything lightly to eliminate air pockets. Repeat with the remaining ring molds.


Chill in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours.


To serve, use the ring mold’s tamper to hold the causa rellena in place as you lift the mold up and off. Repeat for the remaining 5 causa rellena.


Garnish with a slice of roasted tomato, encircled by a ring or topped with the center of a red onion slice. Follow with a dollop of silken vegan mayonnaise and a small sprig of fresh herbs.  Serve cold.

Peruvian Causa Rellena

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