Sandra Gutierrez: Layered Potato and Egg Salad (Causa Vegetariana)

We welcome a guest post from Sandra A. Gutierrez, author of The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes That Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South. Here she tells us how she came up with a delicious recipe that blends some favorite dishes of Peruvian and southern cuisines. [This recipe is crossposted at]—ellen


I find that both Southerners and Latinos love to entertain. And come summer time in the South, whether it’s for a picnic, a church-supper, or a dinner on the grounds, you’ll find at least one kind of potato salad. But did you know that potatoes are native to Peru? That is where potatoes were first domesticated, during the time of the Incas. Were you visit modern-day Peru and walk through a market, you’d find yourself surrounded by dozens and dozens of varieties of potatoes. In Peru, potatoes are red, purple, yellow, white, large, and small; there are round potatoes, fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes and even freeze-dried potatoes.

Potato salads came to America via the Germans who first introduced warm potato salad, usually dressed with mustardy vinaigrettes. In Peru, however, there is one particular way to serve potato salads that I love. They are called causas and they are layered potato salads, usually filled with a mayonnaise-based mixture of seafood, poultry, or vegetables. First, the potatoes are flavored with lime juice, olive oil, and with a yellow pepper called ají amarillo. It is the ají that gives it a most delicious flavor, adding enough spice to elevate potatoes to a new level, and also lending a vibrantly golden color to the salads. I am thrilled to tell you that ají amarillo (whether whole or in the form of a paste, like the one I use in the book) are widely available in Latin tiendas that abound in the South and around our country (I recently found them during a trip to Massachusetts). In my book, I offer you a mail-source section so you can order them online.

One day, as I was talking with my editor and friend Elaine Maisner, and telling her about these salads, she said that I should try to make a vegetarian version to include in The New Southern-Latino Table. I proceeded to tell her that one of my favorite versions of potato salads—one I often encountered in the South—included the addition of eggs and olives. We decided right there that this should be the inspiration. Here is the resulting recipe.

Layered Potato and Egg Salad (Causa Vegetariana), recipe and photo by Sandra A. Gutierrez

Layered Potato and Egg Salad (Causa Vegetariana)

For the Potato Layer:
4 pounds yellow potatoes (such as Yukon gold), boiled, peeled, and mashed
½ cup minced white onion
½ cup key lime juice
1 teaspoon ají amarillo paste
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Egg Layer:
9 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
2 tablespoons minced capers
⅓ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch salt
1 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives
¼ cup finely chopped chives

Spray a 9x13x2-inch casserole dish with cooking spray. Place the mashed potatoes in a large bowl; add the onions and stir to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, ají amarillo, salt, and pepper until the ají paste is dissolved. Whisk in the oil and add the dressing to the potato mixture, stirring well to combine. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, olives, capers, mayonnaise, mustard, pepper, and salt; stir to combine. Spread half of the potato mixture evenly in the prepared dish. Spread the egg salad evenly over the potato layer; top with the remaining potatoes. Garnish with the olives and chives. Chill for at least 1 hour (up to 24 hours) before serving. Serves 12.

Recipe from The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes that Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South. Copyright © 2011 by Sandra A. Gutierrez.

Sandra A. Gutierrez grew up in the United States and Guatemala, is a journalist, food writer, culinary instructor, and recipe developer. She lives in Cary, N.C., with her husband and their daughters. Visit the author’s website at Sandra’s Kitchen Studio, and follow her on Twitter @sandralatinista. Keep up with the latest book events by liking the book on Facebook.