Prep: 10 min // Cook: 20 min
What is it?
Sopa de quinua (en español) is a traditional soup based on quinoa and vegetables, a typical dish from the Andean side of Peru. It is a one-pot mix of vegetables, broth and quinoa gently braised with oregano, cumin and coriander. We tasted this soup first time while cruising the great Lake Titicaca islands. I cannot exactly recall if the soup was so good because of the location, overlooking the highest navigable lake in the world (4200m altitude) or because we were tired and short of breath out of altitude sickness, but I promised myself I’d find the recipe. When I cooked it back home, I was convinced that definitely, the soup was so good indeed. As well as the location of course. The soup is rustic and hearty and nourishing at the same time. Imagine something like minestrone soup, only with a Peruvian kick.
A few days later, we are at Cusco and try this soup one more time. Equally sensational. During our Inca trail hike through Urubamba valley and uphill to Machu Picchu citadel, I talked to our guide about this soup. Basically, I talked to every Peruvian I met in the region about this soup just in case I can get a decent recipe out. The veggies and quinoa were pretty straightforward, but there was definitely some secret I had to dig out. Our guide, who was a great home chef too, spat out the recipe. He actually said it was pretty easy to do, and I had no reason to argue, so I took some notes on the ingredients and method.
For those who’ve been there and savoured this soup, this recipe will bring memories from your Peruvian travels. For those who haven’t been, I’m sure they will most likely find, in this soup, a reason to go.
Is it Healthy?
You bet it is! this ancient Andean and highly nutritious grain, Quinoa, is definitely a basic ingredient all modern healthy eating freaks don't want to miss. Combine this with sweet potatoes (high in fibre, antioxidants and vitamin A) and celery (vitamins A, K, and C, plus minerals like potassium and folate) and you've got an absolute warming superfood soup! Yet the really exotic flavour of this soup is coming from Ají Amarillo (translates "yellow chilli pepper"). It's an orangey-yellowish chilli with a fruity yet earthy flavour, used widely in Peruvian cuisine. So I’d highly recommend buying a ready-made Ají Amarillo paste from some speciality shops or order from Amazon this Rico Picante I've been using for a while. The paste is key to the deep, peppery and spicy flavour of this quinoa chowder soup. It can also spicy up and brighten all your soups, chicken roasts, salad dressings and marinades (like Ceviche tiger milk marinade). Food brings you back to places and connects you to lovely memories so I believe it is quite important getting the original ingredients and resembling the authentic taste as much as possible.
The recipe is pretty simple, it's a one-pot-mix-altogether kind of soup so all you need to make sure is get your seasonal vegetable supply and a proper pepper paste to spicy it up (see my shopping list at the end of this post).
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced (yellow onion or shallot preferably)
2 potatoes, cut into small bite-size chunks. Can be also done with sweet potatoes or pumpkin
2 carrots, diced
1 long celery stick, diced
1 garlic clove, mashed
2 tbsp Yellow chilli paste (Ají Amarillo) - or 3 tbsp if you like it a bit spicier
1/3 Cup Quinoa
1.5 litre chicken (or vegetable) stock
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp fresh coriander (or parsley and mint), finely chopped
Heat the oil in a soup pot (with a matching lid) over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for a couple of minutes until soft. Stir the garlic mash in and cook for another 30 sec.
Add the cumin and then the potatoes, carrots and celery and stir till all is covered with oil. Cook for 1-2 min.
Add the oregano, season with salt and pepper and then add the stock and bring it to a hard boil. Reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on until potatoes are lightly cooked (usually around 5-8 min).
Add the quinoa and cook for another 12-15 min until the quinoa is cooked (white springs are popped).
Stir the Aji Amarillo sauce (or the hot sauce of your choice) until incorporated and remove from heat. Aji Amarillo will give the soup this characteristic yellow colour and a mild spicy kick.
Add the chopped coriander and stir well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, add more yellow paste if you seek a more spicy flavour, and serve immediately with a squeeze of lime juice.
Below you will find my favourite authentic products (affiliate links) I used to cook and shoot this recipe. By clicking and purchasing through these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This allows me to keep the site up to date and do more research on food, ingredients and photography. Thanks for reading!
Aji Amarillo Paste
It is an orange-yellowish chilli with a fruity yet earthy flavour, used widely in Peruvian cuisine. As such fresh Ají chillies are hard to find outside Peru, I’d recommend buying the Rico Picante or the Chatica Ají Amarillo paste from Amazon which I've tested and works like a charm.
Check more recipes with Aji Amarillo.
I can talk for hours about Cholula hot sauce, one of my favourite ingredients that I'm using almost everywhere, like ketchup. It is similar to Tabasco, but a bit milder (not burn-your-face-off hot), richer and more peppery in flavour. Or if you are up to something even tastier, go for the refreshing Cholula chilli lime version that will add an extra lemony kick in the soup.