Causa originated centuries ago in Peru’s Andes Mountains, when it was a simple dish of mashed potatoes mixed with hot peppers. Over time, colonization introduced new ingredients that creole cooks shaped into causa limeña—a chilled, citrusy, and spicy potato puree that’s popular in Peru’s coastal capital, Lima. Traditional causa is a layered potato puree casserole filled with tuna salad and topped with olives, avocado, or hard-boiled eggs. This presentation is more modern, but it’s also how my mother prepared causa, making what was once old new again. The dairy-free potato puree is already vegan, and using chickpea for the salad makes the dish completely plant-based. Prepare and chill half an hour before serving.
- In a large pot, add the potatoes and cover with 2 inches of cold water. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, when the skin begins to crack and separate, about 25 minutes. Turn off heat, remove the potatoes, and let cool, about 30 minutes.
- When the potatoes are still warm but cool enough to handle, peel by hand and compost the peels. Then use a ricer to pass the potatoes into a bowl.
- Sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt and add the aji amarillo to the riced potatoes, and fold with a spatula to mix well. Continue to stir and fold while slowly adding the olive oil and then the lime juice. The potato puree should be creamy, smooth, and hold its shape. Taste and adjust for salt and aji amarillo.
- On a working surface, divide the potato puree into 12 equal pieces. Place each piece between the palms of your hands and move your hands in a circular motion to form a dozen smooth potato puree balls, each about 1¾ inches in diameter. Place the potato puree balls on a quarter baking sheet lined with a silicone mat and refrigerate for 30 minutes, uncovered.
- Strain the chickpeas into a separate bowl and use a fork to roughly mash them. Mix in the mayonnaise, onion, celery, and ½ teaspoon salt. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, covered.
- Use your fingers to create a small well on the top of each potato puree ball. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of chickpea salad into each well. Garnish the causa with chopped parsley and olives. Serve cold.
Nico Vera is a journalist and chef from Peru. He has contributed culinary culture stories to TASTE, Whetstone, Food52, Fare, Eaten, and New Worlder. On a mission to veganize Peru’s creole cuisine, he cooks for his family and community in Portland, Oregon.