Sancocho

published Sep 6, 2023
Sancocho Recipe

Learn how to make sancocho, an iconic stew native to Puerto Rico with chunks of meat and hearty vegetables.

Serves8 to 10

Prep40 minutes

Cook2 hours

Jump to Recipe
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pot of sancocho stew on a marble surface
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Ben Weiner

Sancocho is one of my favorite kinds of soups, and for good reason. Typically made with meat and tropical root vegetables, it’s a great way to use up ingredients that you have on hand and to feed a crowd. 

During the summer months, I prefer my sancocho more on the brothy side, and during winter months, I like a heartier, more stew-like sancocho, using a little less broth and bigger cuts of meat like oxtail or short rib. That’s the wonderful part about dishes like this: everyone makes their own version of it for their loved ones to enjoy. 

What Is Sancocho?

Sancocho is a soup made throughout Latin America and the Caribbean with meat, root vegetables, fresh sofrito (an aromatic Puerto Rican seasoning blend), and seasoned with sazón seasoning and an adobo spice blend. It’s often made differently depending on where you’re located, with the ingredients varying on what people have access to. You can often find chunks of meat (mostly beef or pork) and vegetables like taro, yuca, malanga (also known as cocoyam), and sweet potato. 

This recipe calls for a frozen sancocho vegetable mix that includes Caribbean pumpkin, cassava, yam, sweet potato, green plantain, and malanga. If that isn’t available to you, you can use equal amounts of each fresh vegetable, chopped into large chunks. In addition to these common tropical root vegetables, you’ll be able to find more delicate ones like calabaza squash and corn that give a hint of sweetness to the soup itself when simmered.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Ben Weiner

If You’re Making Sancocho, a Few Tips

  • Customize your meat. This particular recipe is on the simpler side, using one kind of meat, but once you have the method down, you can customize this to your liking, using whatever kind of protein or vegetables you have access to and enjoy cooking. Some folks like to use pigs’ feet, neck bones, and other collagen-boosting cuts of meat for even heartier versions of this flavorful soup for additional flavor and nutrients.
  • Freshen it up with herbs. There’s often a chance of soups being a little one-dimensional when working with a single protein, but adding fresh herbs like culantro (sawtooth herb) and oregano brujo leaf (Mexican mint) before serving wakes it right on up. If you can’t find oregano brujo, feel free to omit, but you can substitute the culantro with fresh cilantro sprigs. 

How to Serve Sancocho

When making a brothy sancocho like this, I prefer to serve steamed white rice and sliced avocado on the side, so it doesn’t get mushy with the soup; this lets you get a little bit of everything in each bite.

Sancocho Recipe

Learn how to make sancocho, an iconic stew native to Puerto Rico with chunks of meat and hearty vegetables.

Prep time 40 minutes

Cook time 2 hours

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 6 frozen mini ears

    extra-sweet corn on the cob

  • 2 pounds

    beef stew meat (1 1/2-inch pieces), boneless chuck roast, or London broil

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons

    neutral oil, such as canola, divided

  • 10 cups

    unsalted beef broth or water

  • 1 cup

    fresh sofrito or thawed frozen sofrito, divided

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    sazón seasoning, such as Badia or Iberia, plus more as needed

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    adobo spice blend, such as Spice Tribe, plus more as needed

  • 2

    Knorr pork bouillon cubes, or 2 packets Goya Ham Flavored Concentrate from a 1.41-ounce box

  • 2

    small bay leaves

  • 1

    large guineo (green banana)

  • 1 (32-ounce) bag

    frozen sancocho tropical vegetable mix (no need to thaw)

  • 4

    fresh culantro leaves (also known as recao or sawtooth herb)

  • 1

    large fresh oregano brujo leaf (also known as Mexican mint)

  • Steamed white rice, for serving

  • Sliced avocado, for serving

  • Hot sauce (optional)

Instructions

  1. Let 6 frozen mini ears corn thaw at room temperature while you start the sancocho.

  2. Trim off any thick surface fat from 2 pounds chuck roast or London broil and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces if needed (no need to cut beef stew meat). Season the beef with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.

  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the neutral oil in a large pot or Dutch oven (at least 5 1/2 quarts) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of the beef and sear until browned all over, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon neutral oil to the pot and repeat searing the remaining beef.

  4. Return all the beef and any accumulated juices to the pot. Add 10 cups unsalted beef broth or water, 1/2 cup of the sofrito, 1 1/2 teaspoons sazón seasoning, 1 1/2 teaspoons adobo spice blend, 2 pork bouillon cubes or ham concentrate packets, and 2 small bay leaves. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the beef is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

  5. When the beef is almost ready, cut each thawed mini ear of corn crosswise into 3 rounds. Peel and cut 1 guineo (green banana) crosswise into 1-inch thick rounds.

  6. When the beef is ready, add the corn, guineo, remaining 1/2 cup sofrito, 1 (32-ounce) bag frozen sancocho tropical vegetable mix, 4 fresh culantro leaves, and 1 large fresh oregano brujo leaf. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered until the root vegetables are fork-tender, about 30 minutes.

  7. Remove the oregano brujo and bay leaves. Taste and season with more sazón and adobo as needed. Serve with steamed white rice, sliced avocado, and hot sauce if desired.

Recipe Notes

I make my own sazón and adobo spice blends to control the amount of salt I use when cooking, so if you’re using store-bought blends, make sure to taste and adjust the amount accordingly to avoid oversalting your dish.

Substitutions: Frozen sancocho vegetable mix includes Caribbean pumpkin, cassava, yam, sweet potato, green plantain, and malanga. If using fresh vegetables, use equal amounts of each vegetable, chopped into large chunks, until you have 2 pounds total.

2 ears fresh corn on the cob can be substituted for the frozen corn. Shuck and cut crosswise into rounds about 1-inch wide.

Oregano brujo and culantro can typically be found in international or Latin markets. If you can’t find oregano brujo, just omit it. If you can’t find culantro, substitute it with 4 fresh cilantro sprigs.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. They can also be frozen for up to 6 months; thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat with a splash of broth or water to thin it back out.