Ocopa evolved from ancient Inca messengers’ travel rations. Today, it is a specialty of the city of Arequipa, in the southern tip of Peru. It is very similar to papas a la Huancaina, which is from the Junin city of Huancayo.


Servings Prep Time
10servings 45minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
10servings 45minutes
Cook Time
  • 6medium yellow potatoes
  • 1large red onion, rough chop
  • 5cloves garlic, halved
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/4cup ají amarillo paste
  • 1/2cup huacatay (chopped or puree)
  • 8each crackers, crushed (1 oz.)
  • 4oz. roasted peanuts
  • 8oz. ricotta cheese or queso fresco
  • 1-1 1/2cups evaporated milk / as needed
  • 1/2tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 2large eggs
  • lettuce leaves(for garnish)
  1. Peel potatoes; rinse and place in cold salted water.
  2. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, and boil potatoes until just fork tender (about 20-25 minutes).
  3. While cooking, add whole eggs; hard-boil for the last 13 minutes of potato cooking time.
  4. Rinse potatoes and egg under cold water until cool; drain and set aside.
  5. Heat oil; sauté onion over medium until soft (about 5 minutes).
  6. Add garlic and ají, and sauté over low heat for another 3-4 minutes or so (until translucent and soft; a little golden color is okay).
  7. Add huacatay (and ají paste, if using instead of fresh); then remove from heat, and allow to cool.
  8. Combine onion mix with peanuts, queso fresco and cracker pieces; place in blender, and purée until smooth.
  9. While pureéing, add just enough evaporated milk to make a smooth, creamy sauce. It should be thick, but still pourable.
  10. Taste, and adjust salt as desired.
  11. Slice the potatoes width-wise into small rounds, and place potatoes on top of lettuce leaves. Top each round with a dollop of sauce, and garnish each potato round with a slice of hard-boiled egg.
Recipe Notes

Huacatay is an herb indigenous to Peru. It has a lemony, herbal flavor that is hard to duplicate. It can be found in Latin American markets, or online. If you can't find it, you can substitute a mixture of mint, basil and parsley to equal ¼ cup. Squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon juice onto the herb mixture.

Ocopa traditionally calls for a sweet cookie or graham-type cracker; however, I find this is too sweet for my taste. I prefer Ritz crackers because they add just a bit of buttery sweetness. My mother in law uses Saltines.

Queso fresco and commercial huacatay (in a jar) can be very salty; do not add salt without tasting first.