The causa de cangrejo is a layered potato, crab, and avocado dish. The potatoes are infused with the flavors of lime and ají amarillo peppers. I refer to this dish as Peruvian potato salad. Causas can also be made with shrimp, tuna, or chicken salad.
My absolute favorite is the causa de cangrejo. I love crab and I have been making this version for many years.
The causa can be made in a large round, and then cut into slices or prepared in a rectangular cake pan. I have also made this causa in small round molds for individual servings.
I typically make this causa with papa amarilla (Peruvian yellow potatoes) because I have easy access to them here in Peru. If you are using the Peruvian yellow potatoes, do not peel the potatoes before boiling them because they will fall apart in the water. Peel these potatoes after they are cooked. When I’m in the U.S. I typically use Yukon Gold potatoes. These you can peel before boiling.
Regarding the ají amarillo paste: If you can find fresh ají in your area, you can simmer the peppers and then blend them into a paste. You can also use the frozen aji amarillo peppers. The jarred aji amarillo paste is also an excellent alternative to use when you don’t have the peppers available.
Here in Peru I buy the crab pulp (pulpo de cangrejo). In the U.S. I typically use lump crab meat or splurge and use the crab claw meat.
I always put my own decorative twists for the final touches of the causa. Typically I use hard-boiled eggs, togarashi and sesame seeds, but you can use anything you like. I really enjoy togarashi, which is a small, hot red Japanese chili available both fresh and dried, but its most popular use is as part of a traditional spice mix that commonly comprises seaweed, orange zest, ginger, sesame seeds, and chile powder.
- 1 kilo (2.2 lbs.) whole papa amarilla (Peruvian yellow potatoes) or peeled and boiled yellow Yukon gold potatoes
- 4 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 to 6 tablespoons yellow ají amarillo pepper paste
- Salt to taste
- 12 ounces crabmeat
- 1 avocado
- 4 to 6 tablespoons of mayonnaise
- Fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- Togarashi (ground spice mix)
- Black sesame seeds (toasted)
- 3 hard-boiled eggs
1. Boil the potatoes and mash them while they are still hot. Allow to cool, then add lime juice, yellow ají pepper paste, oil and salt. Mix well, forming a uniform “dough” with your hands.
2. Separately combine the crabmeat with 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise, lime juice and salt.
3. To serve, arrange the causa de cangrejo in a cake pan, first placing a layer of the potato mixture, patting down with your fingers. Then add all of the crabmeat salad on top of the potato mixture and smooth out evenly. Cover that with another layer of the potato mixture and place a few slices of avocado on top of it. Season the avocado slices with salt and lime juice. Finally, cover the avocado slices with the top layer of the potato mixture.
4. After the causa has been assembled, spread 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise on top of the causa.
5. Chop or slice the hard-boiled eggs and decoratively place that on top of the mayonnaise.
6. For an extra touch, lightly sprinkle the black sesame seeds and togarashi on top.
7. I like to refrigerate the causa for 2 to 4 hours (sometimes overnight) before serving so it has a chance to hold together better.
Cover Photo: A version of the causa de cangrejo, which can be found at Comista/Maria Alejandra Baraybar