A Bite Inspired by… Cali, Colombia:
Know someone who’s not a big fan of eating their vegetables? This dish is guaranteed to turn anyone into a veggie lover before you can say “chipotle mayo”. Fresh, lightly charred vegetables coated in a smoky, creamy chipotle sauce—absolutely addicting! This fresh, nutritious side dish will turn any meal into an exciting Colombian inspired feast! Vegetarian (with a vegan option), gluten-free, and easy-to-make.
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My fiancé, Mateo’s, family is from Colombia. So, a few years ago, I traveled to his mother’s hometown of Cali, Colombia for a visit. I had never been to South America before and I didn’t speak a word of Spanish. So, while I was super excited to check it out, I was also a bit nervous because I had no idea what to expect. As you can probably I guess, I fell in love with Colombia from the moment I walked out of the airport. It’s just such a beautiful and unique place! The glowing warmth and glistening palm trees alone were enough to make me want to stay forever.
In just a short week and a half, I experienced a salsa show, celebrated a Colombian Christmas, visited countless sites (including, the church Mateo’s parents got married in), took a dip in the most gorgeous pool and, of course, ate lots and lots of delicious food! The two Colombian dishes that I really fell in love with (read: ate every single day of my 10-day trip) were arepas and empanadas. Arepas are a very prominent food in Colombia. They are basically small, savory cakes made out of a corn meal called masarepa. They are grilled or lightly fried in an oiled pan and then served with accompaniments, such as butter, cheese, or meats. Colombian empanadas are also made with masarepa and then filled with shredded pork or beef.
Both dishes are already mouthwatering on their own with no help at all. But, then one night, we went to a restaurant in Cali that served their arepas and empanadas with the most AMAZING sauce. It was sort of like a chipotle mayo, but with a very distinct lime taste to it. It tasted good on everything—bread, veggies, cake… Just kidding about that last one (mostly!) The sauce was a touch sweet, a bit smoky, and quite spicy with a kick of acid from the lime. It was possibly the most perfect sauce I’ve ever put in my mouth.
So, of course, the second I came back to the states I had to recreate it. I tried several different versions and proportions until I finally got the balance just right. This sauce tastes good on pretty much anything, as I said before, but I REALLY love it with charred vegetables. Charring vegetables gives them a smoky flavor that really highlights the flavors of the chipotle sauce.
The chipotle mayo in this dish is straight-up addicting and super easy to make with only 3 ingredients. All you need in canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (I like La Costena ), lime juice, and mayonnaise. I used Olive Oil Mayonnaise in this recipe because I love the flavor of it, but regular mayonnaise works well too. You can also use vegan mayo (try Earth Balance Olive Oil Mindful Mayo ) and magically turn this into a completely vegan dish! A quick whirl in the food processor and, presto, the most delicious sauce you will ever taste. I like to puree it until it’s about 80 percent smooth, but still has some small bits of pepper in it.
Next, I heat the oil on HIGH. Yes, high! It needs to be on high, if you want to get that beautiful char on your veggies. I add the carrots first and let them get slightly soft and dark. Next, I add the corn. I absolutely LOVE charred corn. It gives the corn such a nice texture and beautifully counterbalances the sweetness of it. Last, but definitely not least, I add the green beans and let them cook for a few minutes. Cooking your veggies this way will not only give them a gorgeous smoky flavor, it will also ensure that they maintain a crisp, freshness. Nobody likes soggy vegetables! Stir frying them on high heat will help them keep their texture and flavor.
After the veggies are done and have cooled slightly, I add the chipotle sauce and toss it well to make sure everything is coated evenly. Then, it’s ready to eat! These veggies taste amazing with grilled proteins like steak, chicken, tofu, or whatever else you like. The grill adds another element of smokiness that really rounds out the whole meal.
This is honestly the best way I know of to serve vegetables. One of my most anti-veggie friends finished a plate of these in 5 seconds flat the first time I served them to her. Now, she makes them for her own family. Note: this recipe is most effective on ADULTS who don’t like to eat their veggies; it’s a little bit too spicy for most kids, unfortunately. But, stay tuned for other veggie dishes coming in the future that kiddos (and adults) love!
Try this recipe today to turn any meal into an exciting Colombian-inspired feast! Also, feel free to double (or triple!) the chipotle mayo recipe, so you can use it with other foods. The sauce tastes great slathered on burgers, as a dipping sauce for fried food, or even as a salad dressing! Enjoy and repeat!
- 1 lb green beans, trimmed
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 2 ears of corn, kernels cut off
- ¼ cup olive oil mayonnaise (see note)
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 1 tablespoon of adobo sauce (from the can of chipotle peppers)
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Add mayo, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, and lime juice to a food processor. Puree until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture into a bowl and set aside.
- Heat oil in a large skillet on high heat until very hot. It should be sizzling, but not burning.
- Add carrots to the skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes until they start to soften and are lightly charred, stirring occasionally.
- Add corn. Allow corn to char for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add green beans. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly charred and cooked, but still a little crunchy.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Remove from heat. Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes.
- Add chipotle mayonnaise mixture into the vegetables. Stir until all the veggies are coated in the sauce. Enjoy!