Just back from my recent trip to Peru, I can whole heartedly certify that it is a very vegetarian friendly country. Potatoes, quinoa, rice, corn and avocados are everyday staples in Peru. There is also an abundance of exotic  fruits that will bowl you over and keep you happy. One of my favorite Peruvian dishes was ‘Sopa de Quinua’ or Quinoa Soup. Though I love Quinoa and make it quite often, I never thought to make a soup out of it till I visited Peru.  

In the Andean region of South America where Quinoa has been grown for thousands of years, this soup is a staple in every household. When we were visiting Cusco which is at an elevation of almost 3400 m above sea level, we were encouraged to have Quinoa soup. While the body is getting used to rarified oxygen levels due to higher elevation, quinoa soup was recommended for its nutritive value and easy digestibility.

Quinoa, a grain like seed is a complete protein, unlike rice or beans. It is also gluten free. It is the best source for a plant based protein and being high in fiber and iron it should have a place in every vegetarian kitchen. In Peru, in the most basic form of the soup, Quinoa is cooked with potatoes, onions and garlic in lard or oil and flavored with native oregano and annatto seeds. Whatever vegetables or greens are at hand are added to the soup. The soups I had ranged from a clear pale yellow soup to a thick creamy one, chock full of vegetables and greens. It was served with a local chili sauce, Aji Amarillo, made with a fruity yellow pepper native to this region.  

Recreating it at home, the vegetable I added were potatoes carrots and peas, for the greens I added rainbow chard and beet greens. I skipped the garlic because I don’t like it. This soup is rustic and hearty and very mild tasting in keeping with the simple way they make it in Peru. I stirred in my new favorite Peruvian discovery, the Aji sauce, for a more robust taste.

Sopa de Quinoa or Quinoa Soup

1 tablespoon light olive oil and some extra for the greens

1 cup finely chopped white onions

1 cup peeled and diced potatoes

1/ 4 cup diced carrots, both carrots and potatoes diced into 1/4 inch cubes

1/4 cup washed and rinsed quinoa

1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano  [or any herb of your choice]

Salt and pepper to taste

2- 2 and 1/2  cups water

1/4 cup frozen peas

1 cup of chopped swiss chard + beet greens

1 tablespoon Aji Amariilo sauce [or any  hot sauce of you choice]

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Optional accompaniments. Avocado slices, freshly prepared pepper condiment and Queso Fresco or similar type of crumbled fresh cheese.

Preparation

Warm oil in a soup pot set over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for a couple of minutes. If using garlic add it now.

Add the potatoes and carrots and stir till well coated with oil. Cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the un cooked quinoa, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate.

Add the water and let it come to a boil. Add the peas.

Reduce the soup to a simmer put a lid on the pot and cook for about ten-twelve minutes till the vegetables are cooked al dente. The quinoa will be done as well.

Meanwhile stir fry the greens for a minute and add to the finished soup.

Add the Aji sauce or the hot sauce of your choice and chopped cilantro. Check for seasoning.

Serve with accompaniments of avocado, fresh pepper condiment and crumbled cheese.

To make a fresh pepper condiment; Chop yellow or orange pepper very finely [as the Peruvian pepper is not available here] add a glug of oil and vinegar and season with salt, pepper and some dried oregano.

Hope you enjoy this nourishing soup which is probably also well balanced in terms of protein and carb values.

  • Food Notes
  • Jars of Aji Amarillo sauce are available in Latin stores or Latin sections of some grocery stores. In the Washington Metro Area it is available at Shoppers Food Warehouse.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.

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