Colombian Chicken Soup

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

This is our version of a Colombian recipe (Ajiaco) that hinges on using several different kinds of potatoes, which are native to South America. The soup is served with a variety of garnishes, including a special salsa, “Aji”, that for us, truly defines the dish.

Ajiaco soup has all sorts of variations, but they all seem to rely on potatoes — some of which are cooked so long they dissolve, thickening the soup — corn (usually on the cob), and chicken. We decided to finely dice russet potatoes so they would dissolve quickly, and we pureed the soup base with an immersion blender, which saved hours of cooking time. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can either puree the soup base in a blender, or just cook it until the diced potatoes dissolve.

Colombian Chicken Soup

It’s important to use bone-on pieces of chicken here, as they are both cheaper and will make your soup broth more flavorful.

Garnishes are up to you. They almost always include capers, avocados and cilantro, and will often include a salsa or a crema, which, depending on your perspective is either thin sour cream or a thick regular cream.

We used tiny, multi-colored potatoes to finish the dish, but you can use any mix of potatoes — just make sure to not use all russets. Red skinned potatoes, purple potatoes, fingerlings and small Yukon Golds are all good choices.

Colombian Chicken Soup Recipe

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  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 10 to 12

The real version of this dish requires a special herb called guasca, which is a unique flavor. We added bay leaves to get somewhere close.

Ingredients

Soup Ingredients:

    • 3 pounds chicken thighs and legs, skin removed, rinsed well
    • 1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
    • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and diced
    • 5 garlic cloves, minced
    • Salt
    • 1 1/2 quarts water
    • 1 quart chicken stock
    • 1 tablespoon cumin
    • 3 bay leaves
    • 2 pounds small potatoes, of various colors
    • 2 ears of fresh corn, cut crosswise into 1-2 inch rounds

Aji Ingredients:

    • 4 scallions (white and light green parts only)
    • 2 Roma or other plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
    • 2 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles or 2 fresh hot red chiles, stems and seeds removed (wear gloves, do NOT touch your eyes!)
    • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
    • 3 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
    • 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
    • Garnish: capers, sour cream, avocados, cilantro

Method

1 Put the chicken, diced russet potatoes, chopped onion and garlic in a large (at least 8 quart) stock pot and add 1 1/2 quarts of water and the quart of chicken stock. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to a vigorous simmer. Add the cumin, bay leaves and salt to taste. Simmer this until the meat wants to fall of the bones of the chicken — anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour, 15 minutes.

2 When the chicken is ready, remove it and the bay leaves from the soup and set in a large bowl. If you are going to puree the soup base with an immersion blender or by putting the soup into a regular blender in batches, do so now.

3 Pour the pureed soup base back into the pot and bring to a very gentle simmer. Add the second batch of potatoes and cook until tender, about 20-40 minutes, depending on size.

4 While the potatoes are cooking, shred the meat off the chicken bones and set aside. Make the salsa by pulsing all the ingredients in a food processor until they're finely minced. Transfer to a serving bowl.

5 Drop the pieces of corn on the cob into the simmering soup and cook for 5 minutes.

6 Serve the soup with the salsa, capers, sliced avocados, sour cream, and cilantro in separate bowls. Let people add garnishes to their own servings.

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Links:

Ajiaco soup from Andrea of Andrea's Recipes

A light, spring version of Ajiaco Soup - from Bitchin' Camero

Sancocho, another Colombian Chicken Soup - from My Colombian Recipes

Showing 4 of 9 Comments

  • Jen

    I am originally from Bogota, where Ajiaco is from. Ajiaco is made with different types of potatoes, and arracacha, which is a something between a yellowpotato and yuca. This is the thing that thickens the soup, you don’t put yuca in Ajiaco, that just sounds totally wrong, and you don’t put the plantain in the soup, you may serve it as aside, fried with some rice and avocado, but NEVER in the soup. Then you serve it with heavy cream and capers. I dont know why people are talking about chicken feet, is not the feet, is the drums and thighs what you use for the soup. And you NEVER EVER, put aji in the soup. You can find dried guascas in the US now, they don’t give the same flavor as the fresh ones, but no cumin or bay leaves will ever come close to the flavor that the guascas give.

  • Heather

    We came across the real thing in Pasto, Columbia. Usually served on Sundays. Every cook makes the salsa differently though.

    Here is a pic of how it really looks: http://www.shiftyfeet.com/shiftyfeet/2011/05/the-search-is-over.html

  • Marsh

    I lived in Colombia for 4 years and NEVER saw chicken feet in any soup. Not in Bogota or Cartagena. Ajiaco is by far my favorite. Amazing soup especially with the creme and capers added and fresh avacados or even bananas sliced in for a bit of sweetness to go with the salty taste. I thought bananas in the soup sounded strange until I tried it and found it a delightful surprise.
    Best soup and great for a cold rainy day. I guess that is why it is so popular because there are so many cold rainy days in Bogota. Warms the body and the soul.

  • alicia

    I just made this last night and it was delicious! I wasn’t going to puree the soup base, but I ended up doing that to about 80% of it because it was sort of lumpy looking. Glad I did since it ended up with a smoother/silkier looking texture. Instead of corn on the cob I added 1 cup of frozen corn after the soup was done. Do you have any tricks on how to chop corn on the cob into 1-2 inch pieces?

    We just cut the corn segments with a sharp, heavy chef’s knife. ~Elise

  • Will S.

    As mentioned by a previous comment, Ajiaco really is nothing more than chicken soup with potatoes, corn and simple seasonings (my mother uses cumin, garlic, salt, pepper and cilantro).
    Mom would boil the chicken, remove and set aside when cooked, add chopped potatoes, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook the potatoes to where they just start to disintegrate (this thickens the soup). At this point you can add the corn and cilantro. While that simmers, remove the skin from the chicken and shred or chop up the chicken from the bones. Add the chicken to the soup and simmer for a few minutes.
    At the dinner table we have capers, cream and lemon juice to add to the soup, according to your taste.
    As mentioned in a previous comment, Ajiaco here in the U.S. is more of an experiment because foods from the country of origin will have a different flavor than the same or similar foods from here in the U.S.
    Thank you for posting the recipe. It looks very good. And, thank you for your website. You just made my job easier at the fire station. lol

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