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Sancocho: A Hearty Colombian Soup That Warms the Soul


Colombian sancocho
Traditional Colombian sancocho. Credit: Royjsi/Wikipedia/CC BY 4.0

If there’s one dish that embodies the heart and soul of Colombian cuisine, it’s sancocho. This traditional soup is a beloved comfort food that brings families and friends together around the table.

A warm and nourishing combination of meat, vegetables, and herbs, sancocho is a culinary delight that satisfies both the stomach and the soul.

What is Sancocho?

Sancocho is a flavorful stew that varies in ingredients and preparation methods across different regions of Colombia. It is commonly made with a combination of meat (such as beef, chicken, pork, or fish), starchy vegetables (such as plantains, yuca, potatoes, or corn), and a medley of aromatic herbs and spices. The slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld together, resulting in a rich and hearty dish that is often enjoyed as a main course.

Ingredients: To prepare a traditional sancocho, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Meat: Choose your preferred protein, such as beef, chicken, pork, or fish. You can use bone-in pieces for added flavor.
  • Vegetables: Common vegetables used in sancocho include plantains, yuca (cassava), potatoes, corn, carrots, and onions. Feel free to add any other vegetables of your choice.
  • Aromatic Herbs and Spices: Cilantro, garlic, scallions, cumin, and oregano are commonly used to enhance the flavors of sancocho.
  • Stock or Broth: Use chicken or beef stock, or simply water, as the base of the soup.
  • Seasoning: Salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation Steps: Now, let’s walk through the steps to prepare a delicious sancocho:

  1. Start by preparing your meat. If using chicken or beef, cut it into pieces. If using fish or pork, you can leave it in larger chunks. Season the meat with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large pot, heat some oil over medium heat. Add the meat and brown it on all sides to enhance the flavor. Remove the meat from the pot and set it aside.
  3. In the same pot, add the onions and garlic. Sauté until they become translucent and fragrant.
  4. Return the meat to the pot and add enough stock or broth to cover the ingredients. Bring the liquid to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  5. Add the starchy vegetables, such as plantains, yuca, and potatoes, to the pot. These vegetables take longer to cook, so adding them early ensures they become tender and flavorful.
  6. Season the soup with aromatic herbs and spices. Add chopped cilantro, scallions, cumin, and oregano to infuse the soup with delicious flavors.
  7. Continue simmering the sancocho over low heat, partially covered, for about 1 to 2 hours. This slow cooking process allows the flavors to develop and the meat to become tender.
  8. As the sancocho cooks, periodically skim off any foam or impurities that rise to the surface.
  9. Once the meat is tender and the vegetables are cooked through, taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if needed. Add salt and pepper according to your preference.
  10. Serve the sancocho hot in bowls, garnished with fresh cilantro or scallions. It is often accompanied by a side of white rice, avocado slices, and aji or hot sauce for extra flavor.

Tips for a delicious Colombian sancocho:

  • Use bone-in meat for added flavor and richness.
  • Experiment with different combinations of vegetables to add variety to your sancocho.
  • Allow the soup to simmer slowly to fully develop the flavors and ensure tender meat.
  • Feel free to customize the seasoning to suit your taste preferences. Add a touch of spice with aji or hot sauce if desired.
  • Leftover sancocho often tastes even better the next day as the flavors continue to meld together.

Sancocho is more than just a dish—it’s a cultural symbol that represents the warmth, togetherness, and rich culinary heritage of Colombia. Whether enjoyed on a rainy day or during a festive gathering, this hearty soup brings comfort and satisfaction to all who indulge in its flavors.

By following the steps outlined above, you can embark on a culinary journey and prepare your own authentic sancocho, creating a wholesome and memorable dining experience for yourself and your loved ones. So gather your ingredients, embrace the tradition, and savor the heartwarming delights of Colombian sancocho.

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