Sancocho (Puerto Rican Meat and Vegetable Stew) Recipe

Sancocho (Puerto Rican Meat and Vegetable Stew) Recipe

Sancocho (Puerto Rican Meat and Vegetable Stew) Recipe
nutritional information (per serving)

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nutritional information
Servings: 8
amount per serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 5g25%
158 mg53%
1511 mg66%
dietary fiber 3g12%
Total sugar 16g
Vitamin C 29 mg143%
Calcium 58 mg4%
iron 4 mg20%
Potassium 1417 mg30%
*The % Daily Value (DV) indicates how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories per day is used for general nutritional advice.

(Nutritional information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

If you're looking for pure comfort in a bowl, you'll find it in sancocho, a Latin American meat stew packed with root vegetables and scented with coriander. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico and when we moved to the mainland my mom would serve us loads of it whenever we were homesick. It has always brought us back to our little island. The same goes for any Boricua in your life.

Like many Caribbean dishes, this stew had very humble beginnings. It was cobbled together from whatever leftovers enslaved laborers could get their hands on and made heartier with root vegetables, which were the main source of nutrition in their diet. Today, it's a revered dish that symbolizes the Puerto Rican spirit: creating something from nothing and breathing new life into it.

When it comes to sancocho, the possibilities are endless

Sancocho works with almost any protein that can handle a longer cooking time. In the Caribbean and Latin America, there are dozens of variations made from combinations of beef, goat, pork, chicken, and fish. This version comes from my mother who is Colombian but grew up in Puerto Rico.

During the lean times of my childhood, she used chicken drumsticks (as is traditional in Colombian sancocho) instead of the more expensive cuts of beef used in Puerto Rican versions of this stew. In the '80s, we didn't have access to many of our island ingredients in Houston. She substituted sweet potatoes for the Caribbean squash and cilantro for the recao (aka culantro), which grows like a weed throughout Puerto Rico.

If you can't find calabaza, substitute kabocha squash, butternut squash, or sweet potatoes. Try taro or malanga if you can't find yuca and green plantains. If you can't get hold of any of these, just substitute equal parts Yukon Gold Potatoes.

The substitutions didn't matter, however, as she always started with a solid base of sofrito, the pungent flavor base of many Puerto Rican dishes. She then added a generous sprinkling of adobo and sazón, spice blends that gave the broth a deep earthy note and a golden hue to everything in the stew. Although it takes about an hour and a half to prepare sancocho on the stove, it's worth the wait. The sum is much greater than its parts.

Tips for preparing a perfect bowl of Sancocho

To add a lot of flavor Be sure to sear the chicken in the same pot you use to make the sancocho. Do it in small batches so the pot doesn't get too crowded and the meat doesn't get steamed. The stock (yes, the burnt-looking bits) that forms on the bottom of the pot and the browning of the chicken give the stew a rich umami flavor.

When it comes to temperature, the rule is: low and slow. Let the stew simmer, don't boil it. This can result in tough meat with bits of fat and collagen that haven't had time to break down. It also breaks down the veggies too quickly, resulting in a soggy broth and lacking consistency in the veggies — which you'll want to cut into similar sizes so they cook evenly. If you're using cuts of meat that take longer to tender, add the vegetables in the last 45 minutes of the cook time to avoid overcooking and falling apart.

On the other side of this equation Do not leave the stew on the stove for too long. Cooking too long can make the meat stringy and dry and pulverize your veggies. Cover the pot to keep the broth from evaporating. Leave the lid slightly open to prevent overcooking. If the broth is running low, simply add more or top up the pot with water.

“This is a hearty and veggie-packed stew made even more flavorful by cooking the bone-in chicken in the gravy. It's even more delicious the second day and tastes great with some rice on the side.” –Julia Hartbeck

  • 1 Middle yellow onion, quartered

  • 1 Middle green paprika, quartered and cored

  • 1/2 Cup roughly chopped, lightly wrapped fresh coriander Leaves and stems, more leaves for garnish

  • 4 Middle Garlic cloves, smash

  • 2 tablespoon Olive oil, divided

  • 2 Pound chicken drumsticks, skin removed

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, more to taste

  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, more to taste

  • 1 (8-ounce) can Tomato sauce

  • 1 tablespoon Adobo All Purpose Seasoning

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Spice with achiote

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 16 cups (4 quarts) chicken broth, more as needed

  • 1/2 Pound Yukon Gold Potatoes, peel and cut into 3/4 inch cubes

  • 1/2 Pound yuca root, peeled, woody center removed, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

  • 1 Middle green plantain, peel and cut into 1 inch thick slices

  • 1/2 Pound Calabaza squash (Caribbean squash), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes

  • 1 Middle ear of corn, cut into 1 inch rounds

  • Boiled white rice, for serving, optional

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  2. Make Puerto Rican sofrito (recaito). Then process the onion, pepper, cilantro, garlic and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a food processor or blender until a chunky sauce forms. Set aside half a cup of Recaito. Freeze the rest for future preparations.

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  3. In a very large heavy-duty saucepan over medium-high heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  4. Dry the drumsticks with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  5. Fry the chicken in batches. After searing, remove from the pot and set aside.

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  6. Reduce the heat to medium. Remove excess fat from the saucepan, leaving about 2 tablespoons. Add the reserved 1/2 cup of Recaito and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  7. Add tomato sauce, adobo, sazón, oregano and bay leaves. Sauté for 1 minute to allow the spices to bloom, scraping off any brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  8. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep in mind that the broth will become saltier as it boils and evaporates.

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  9. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Return the chicken to the pot and cover, leaving the lid slightly cracked. Simmer on low for 1 hour.

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  10. Use a spoon to skim the fat from the top of the stew. Add potatoes, yuca, plantains, calabaza, and corn. If needed, add more chicken broth to cover the ingredients in the pot. Cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and simmer on low for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  11. Taste the broth and season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve the stew in large bowls and garnish with coriander leaves. Serve plain or with a side of white rice.

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

recipe variations

  • Any vegetable that can handle long cooking makes a great addition to this stew, especially roots and tubers.
  • When it comes to proteins, opt for chewy, fatty cuts like chuck, round, oxtail, and chicken thighs. If using beef or other red meat, substitute beef broth for the chicken broth.

How to Store and Freeze Sancocho

  • You can store leftover sancocho in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days. If you want to freeze it, divide it into individual portions. It can be stored in airtight containers for up to two months. To avoid freezer burn, fill containers to the brim, leaving about 1/2 inch of space. Cover the surface of the stew directly with plastic or wax paper.
  • You can reheat sancocho on the stovetop or in the microwave. You may want to add some water to thin the broth. Be sure to cook the stew until the meat is fully warmed through.

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