Every country has their own version of this satisfying stew with humble origins. Families would make a huge pot and let it stew all day and have a hearty meal ready after a long day of labor. Great for a family get together, as the pot seems to be never ending! It's a true comfort food that smells fantastic simmering all afternoon.
The Puerto Rican version across the board features corn on the cob, sazón and sofrito. But if you ask 10 different Puerto Ricans exactly what should go into a batch of sancocho, you will likely get 10 different answers. Here are my suggestions: try to at least have and green plantain, pumpkin, and one of the following: malanga, yautia, yuca, or ñame. Corn is a must!
To understand Sancocho, you’ve got to understand viandas (root vegetables):
- Plantain- usually add in green, unripe plantain, but I know people that love ripe plantain, and they add it in.
- Green banana- unripe yellow banana is used as a starch in Puerto Rico. Lovely texture and taste, my favorite!
- Ñame- this is a white yam, but not related to sweet potato. Look for African yam. It will be pretty sizeable with a rough texture. Once peeled and cooked, it is a starchy, dense, delicious addition.
- Yuca, tapioca, manioc, cassava -- different names for the same thing!
- Calabaza- usually just labeled like that in the markets I see it in. It doesn't look like the type of pumpkin that you make Jack-O-Lanterns out of. Instead, the rind is lighter, more yellow, and with green accents or even large green patches. If I had to guess, Kabocha squash would probably be the most similar
- Malanga- purple and white taro
- Yautia- This is where it can get confusing, as the English translation is taro, but most people know taro and the white and purple. But there is a plain white and a yellow version of yautia, so whatever is available works.
- Boniato- Caribbean sweet potato
- Chayote- a squash-like gourd that is technically a fruit but is eaten like a vegetable. The flesh is quite crisp something like a water chestnut.
Finding these ingredients can be challenging depending on where you live. Of course, you can find most of the ingredients at your local Latin or African market, as many of the starches are also native to Africa and brought over to the Caribbean . If you can’t find something it’s ok to swap out root vegetables with what is available. If you are missing something, add a little more of something else. Don't be intimidated by the ingredient list. You have flexibility in what ingredients you choose to use, and the steps are super easy. The hardest part will be peeling the root vegetables. Beyond that it's your basic tubers and meat stew execution. The base of sancocho is meats + root vegetable starches, so you have a lot of flexibility. The rest is just beef broth, aromatics, and seasonings. You can use your favorite meat and broth with sancocho -- beef, pork, and chicken will all work and taste great.
You should also understand sofrito before cooking sancocho. It is a versatile aromatic green puree made of small sweet peppers (ají dulce, but often cubanelle or green bell are used since sometimes the ají dulce can be hard to find), cilantro and culantro, garlic and onions (some people add tomatoes, so it’s really by family recipe but overall it should be green. It makes a powerful base for dishes like stews, beans and rice.
This recipe also needs patience as it takes time to cook all of the meats and veggies.. and it’s typically simmering for hours. Just remember that you need to start cooking it from the longest-cooking to the shortest-cooking ingredient
So let's get to the recipe!
2 pounds beef top round, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup mojo garlic sauce
2 tablespoons adobo
2 tablespoons of sazón
½ cup sofrito
1 large onion, cut into small dice
2 small carrots, peeled and sliced
1 ½ cups Spanish tomato sauce
3 quarts chicken stock
8 ounces yautía, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
8 ounces yuca, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
8 ounces calabaza, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
2 green bananas, peeled and cut into ½-inch slices
2 green plantains, peeled and cut into ½-inch slices
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 ears of corn, cut into 4 parts each
- Season the meat with the adobo, and set aside. In a large heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat, add vegetable oil. Add the meat and sear for about 3 minutes on each side.
- Add the sofrito, onion, garlic, carrot. Season with 2 teaspoons of salt and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes until the onion loses its raw taste. Add the tomato sauce, and cook for another 4 minutes, stirring occasionally so that no scorching occurs. At this point the mixture should look like a thick meat stew.
- Add the chicken stock, and bring to a full boil. Add the yautía, yuca, calabaza, banana, plantain and corn, and return to a full boil. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes until the vegetables are fork-tender and the meat is very soft.
- Removed the sancocho from the heat, and stir in the chopped cilantro. Serve hot on its own or with a side of white rice or tostones.
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