The classic layered Peruvian Tuna Causa Recipe with a twist - citrusy raw tuna tartare and avocado is layered with lime and ají amarillo infused mashed potatoes. Causa de atún (tuna causa) is elegant in its simplicity, and sure to impress! This causa can be served as a starter or as a main dish, and they're gluten and dairy free!
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - What is Peruvian Causa
Causa, AKA causa rellena, is a classic Peruvian appetizer found all over Peru. "Causa" is the Spanish word for "cause," but there are different explanations for its origins. Causa may derive from the Andean indigenous Quechua language word "kausay." Kausay is their word for "life," and until the Spanish changed the word to "papa," it was also used for "potato."
Having spent a great deal of time in the Andes, and with the Quechua people, this makes perfect sense. High in the Andes mountains, potatoes were the main sustenance. Even in modern times, in the remote high country, potatoes are "life." The earliest versions of causa were probably nothing more than an ají amarillo chile pepper between 2 slices of potato. It wasn't until the Spanish conquered Peru that limes (and other citrus) began to make an appearance in Peruvian food.
Another chapter in the evolution of the causa takes place during the War of the Pacific in the late 19th century. The wives of the soldiers would prepare causa for their husbands, and hand them to them with the patriotic words "para la causa," which literally translates "for the cause" (of the war). This bit of trivia serves me well; I need to practice my Spanish!
So Many Causas!
Causas are made in a variety of ways, and with a variety of ingredients, the constant being the flavorful mashed potato mix. Tuna and chicken "salad" - combined with red onion and a bit of mayonnaise are very common. Ceviche is not as typical, but appears on menus along the coast of Peru with their abundance of fresh fish. The dish lends itself well to a variety of vegetarian fillings like mushrooms, chiles, and squash.
It was Peruvian ceviche and tuna tartare that inspired my tuna causa recipe. I LOVE raw tuna. Its firm, meaty texture is superb in a raw fish dish. The flash frozen ahi tuna I use holds up beautifully in these layered potato stacks.
So, this tuna causa recipe is composed of 3 layers: 1. Mashed potatoes seasoned with ají amarillo paste, lime juice, and fresh cilantro. 2. Thin-sliced avocadoes. 3. Citrus and ají amarillo infused Latin-style tuna tartare. Fabuloso!
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- potatoes - My preference is "yukon gold." They start out yellowish and with the ají amarillo paste, the causa is a pretty yellow color. Some websites recommend a "floury" potato, or a "waxy" potato. I think any potato will ultimately work. The potato mixture needs to resemble a stiff dough.
- ají amarillo paste - Peruvian ají amarillo paste can be found at many supermarkets in the Latin foods section or online.
- fresh lime juice - Please use fresh squeezed lime juice!
- fresh cilantro
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- olive oil
- tuna tartare - Latin-Inspired Tuna Tartare is a fresh twist on a classic. Ají amarillo chile paste, fresh citrus, ponzu (or soy sauce), and sesame oil provide the Latin-Asian flavors found throughout Peru. Follow the recipe minus the diced avocado. Use a slotted spoon to drain excess liquid before layering in the causa.
- garnishes - Soft or hard-cooked eggs are typical. Tomatoes, cilantro sprigs, minced fresh chiles or red onion, lime wedges, sliced tomatoes all make nice garnish. Choose your favorites!
- Prepare the mashed potatoes mixture - Bake the potatoes at 425° for 25-30 minutes until tender when a fork is inserted. Allow potatoes to cool before removing the skin. Rice or mash the potatoes. Add to a large prep bowl. Add the ají amarillo paste, lime juice, cilantro, and salt/pepper. Add olive oil a little at a time to achieve a stiff but pliable dough. Check for seasoning.
2. Prepare the tuna tartare - This is my Latin-style tuna tartare recipe. Use a slotted spoon to layer it after the avocados and first layer of mashed potatoes.
3. Assemble the tuna causa - To a ring mold, add a layer of mashed potatoes (see finished causa photos), followed by a layer of thin-sliced avocado. Using a slotted spoon, add a layer of tuna tartare. Finally, top with a layer of mashed potatoes. Press gently, and un-mold. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
4. Serve - Serve immediately or refrigerate. Garnish as desired.
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- How many servings does this recipe make? It varies according to the size of your ring molds. Mine are quite large, and I'm very satisfied with one causa and a side salad. I get 4 large causas. If you use a smaller ring mold, you may wish to serve 1 as a starter course.
- What kind of potatoes are best for causa? I use Yukon gold potatoes. I don't like a super starchy potato like russet. Peruvians have far more varieties, and they're not readily available in the US. Red or white potatoes would be finel
- Is this dish good leftover? Not IMHO. I am not a fan of leftover fish or seafood. However, the leftover mashed potatoes are great in a crispy potato patty.
- This tuna causa recipe is filling! My ring molds are 3.5 inch x 2.1 inch. My husband and I can only eat 1 alongside a salad. The recipe will make about 4 with this size ring mold.
- A ring mold is required for this tuna causa recipe.
- A ricer is a very useful tool for the potatoes, but not necessary.
🍷 Pairing Suggestions
We enjoy these raw tuna tartare causas with a dry rosé. A crisp, dry wine with a bit of acidity is perfect. A farmhouse saison is a good option for craft beer lovers!
As I mentioned earlier, one causa is enough for me with a salad. What comes to mind immediately? A radish, Lima bean, queso fresco, giant corn, and tomato salad. A more elaborate but equally tasty choice is a Peruvian solterito salad.