Asopao Recipe from Puerto Rico: Hearty Stew with Dried Codfish and Vegetables


Asopao Recipe from Puerto Rico: Hearty Stew with Dried Codfish and Vegetables
Region / culture: Puerto Rico | Preparation time: overnight | Cooking time: 1 hour | Servings: 6-8



Asopao is a hearty and comforting dish that hails from the Caribbean, particularly popular in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. This savory soup is a cross between a soup and a stew, featuring a rich and flavorful broth, tender pieces of meat or seafood, and perfectly cooked rice. It's a versatile dish that can be adapted to include a variety of ingredients, making it a staple in many households. Whether you're looking to warm up on a chilly day or enjoy a filling meal, asopao is sure to satisfy.


The origins of asopao can be traced back to Spain, with its roots deeply embedded in the traditional Spanish dish known as "asopado." When the Spanish colonized the Caribbean, they brought with them their culinary traditions, which were then blended with the local ingredients and flavors of the islands. Over time, asopao evolved into the beloved dish it is today, with each region adding its own unique twist. The inclusion of local ingredients such as sofrito, a flavorful base made from onions, peppers, and herbs, transformed the dish into a true representation of Caribbean cuisine.


How to prepare

  1. Remove the codfish from the package and rinse it under cold water for a few minutes.
  2. Place the codfish in a large covered bowl and cover it with cold water. Leave it overnight.
  3. When you are ready to prepare the dish, rinse the codfish under cold water once more and set it aside.
  4. In a large heavy pot, add olive oil and heat it up.
  5. When you see the oil start to smoke, add the sofrito and stir. Then, add tomato paste and oregano and stir again.
  6. When the mixture starts to bubble, add tomato sauce and stir.
  7. It is very important to stir the mixture when adding the ingredients so that it does not burn.
  8. Next, add the codfish, making sure to flake it.
  9. Now, add water and bring it to a boil.
  10. Once it comes to a boil, lower the flame and allow it to simmer.
  11. This would be a good time to taste and adjust as needed.
  12. If you find that it has sufficient salt, just add pepper.
  13. Check that you have enough liquid. If not, you can add more. Don't worry, remember this is going to be a soup.
  14. At this point, you can add the rice and bring up the heat until it starts to boil.
  15. Now, lower the heat and let it simmer.
  16. You will know it is done when you see that the rice is nice and soft.
  17. If you find that it is too thick, you can add a can of chicken broth.


  • 1. Chicken Asopao: Substitute boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts for the codfish for a poultry version of the dish.
  • 2. Vegetarian Asopao: Omit the codfish and add a variety of vegetables such as bell peppers, carrots, and peas for a hearty vegetarian option.
  • 3. Shrimp Asopao: Add peeled and deveined shrimp to the pot during the last 10 minutes of cooking for a seafood variation.

Cooking Tips & Tricks

1. Soaking the codfish overnight is crucial for removing excess salt and rehydrating the fish, ensuring it's perfectly seasoned and tender.

2. Use a heavy pot to evenly distribute heat and prevent the bottom from burning.

3. Constant stirring, especially when adding tomato paste and sauce, prevents sticking and ensures a smooth, rich base.

4. Adjust the amount of rice based on your preference for thickness. Remember, the rice will continue to absorb liquid, so it's better to err on the side of more liquid.

5. Taste as you go to adjust seasonings. The saltiness of the codfish can vary, so it's important to taste before adding additional salt.

Serving Suggestions

Asopao is traditionally served hot, straight from the pot. It can be garnished with fresh cilantro or parsley for added flavor and color. A side of crusty bread or tostones (fried plantains) makes for a perfect accompaniment to soak up the delicious broth.

Cooking Techniques

The key to a successful asopao lies in the layering of flavors. Sautéing the sofrito in olive oil until it's fragrant sets the foundation. Adding the tomato paste and sauce and allowing them to cook down intensifies the flavor. Simmering the ingredients together allows the flavors to meld and the rice to cook to perfection.

Ingredient Substitutions

1. Brown rice can be substituted for long-grain white rice for a whole-grain option, though cooking times may vary.

2. For a lower sodium option, low-sodium tomato sauce and paste can be used.

3. Chicken or vegetable broth can be used in place of water for added flavor.

Make Ahead Tips

Asopao can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The flavors often deepen over time, making leftovers even more delicious. If the asopao thickens too much upon storage, simply add a bit of water or broth when reheating to achieve the desired consistency.

Presentation Ideas

Serve asopao in a deep bowl to highlight its rich broth and colorful ingredients. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro or parsley and a wedge of lime for a pop of color and a burst of freshness.

Pairing Recommendations

A light, crisp white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or a citrusy, refreshing beer pairs well with the flavors of asopao. For a non-alcoholic option, a sparkling limeade complements the dish's savory notes.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Store leftover asopao in an airtight container in the refrigerator. To reheat, transfer to a pot and warm over medium heat, adding water or broth as needed to thin the soup. Avoid microwaving as it can unevenly heat and potentially spoil the texture of the rice.

Nutrition Information

Calories per serving

A typical serving of asopao contains approximately 300-400 calories. The exact calorie count can vary based on the specific ingredients used and the portion size. This makes asopao a relatively light yet filling meal option.


A serving of asopao primarily gets its carbohydrates from the long-grain rice included in the recipe. Depending on the serving size, a portion of asopao can contain approximately 30-45 grams of carbohydrates. The exact amount can vary based on the quantity of rice used and any additional ingredients that may be included in variations of the recipe.


The fats in asopao come mainly from the olive oil used in sautéing the sofrito and the natural fats found in the codfish. Overall, the dish is relatively low in fat, with a serving containing about 10-15 grams, depending on the amount of olive oil used and the fat content of the codfish.


Codfish is an excellent source of lean protein. A serving of asopao can provide approximately 20-25 grams of protein, making it a satisfying and muscle-building component of the meal. The protein content can vary based on the amount of codfish used in the recipe.

Vitamins and minerals

Asopao is rich in vitamins and minerals, thanks to the variety of ingredients used. Codfish is a good source of vitamins B12 and B6, as well as minerals like phosphorus, selenium, and potassium. The sofrito, made with onions and peppers, adds vitamin C, vitamin A, and antioxidants to the dish.


The primary allergen present in asopao is fish, due to the codfish. Individuals with a fish allergy should avoid this dish. Additionally, those with sensitivities to nightshades should be cautious of the tomato sauce and paste used in the recipe.


Asopao is a balanced dish that provides a good mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, along with essential vitamins and minerals. It's a nutritious meal option that can be easily adjusted to meet dietary needs and preferences.


Asopao is a versatile and nourishing dish that embodies the warmth and flavor of Caribbean cuisine. Whether you're making the traditional codfish version or experimenting with your own variations, asopao is sure to bring comfort and satisfaction to any meal. With its rich history, nutritional benefits, and delicious taste, asopao is a timeless dish that can be enjoyed by all.

How did I get this recipe?

I can't forget the first time I saw this recipe for Asopao. It was many years ago, when I was just a young girl living in the countryside of Puerto Rico. My abuela, my grandmother, was the one who first introduced me to this savory dish, and I have been making it ever since.

Abuela was a wonderful cook, and she had a knack for creating delicious meals out of the most simple ingredients. She learned to make Asopao from her own mother, who learned it from her mother before her. It was a recipe that had been passed down through generations, and now it was my turn to learn the secrets of this traditional dish.

I remember the day Abuela sat me down in the kitchen and began to show me how to make Asopao. She started by heating up a large pot on the stove and adding some olive oil. Then she chopped up some onions, garlic, and bell peppers, and tossed them into the pot to sauté. The smell of the vegetables cooking filled the air, and I could already tell that this was going to be something special.

Next, Abuela added in some diced tomatoes and a bay leaf, along with some chicken broth and water. She brought the mixture to a boil, then added in some rice and let it simmer until the grains were tender. Finally, she added in some shredded chicken, green peas, and olives, and let the whole thing cook together until it was thick and hearty.

As Abuela stirred the pot, she told me about the history of Asopao. She said that it was a dish that had been brought to Puerto Rico by the Spanish colonizers, who had adapted it from the traditional Spanish dish of arroz caldoso. Over the years, the Puerto Ricans had put their own spin on the recipe, adding in local ingredients like plantains, yuca, and sofrito to make it their own.

I listened intently as Abuela shared these stories with me, feeling a deep connection to my heritage and the generations of women who had come before me. As the aromas of the Asopao filled the kitchen, I could feel the love and tradition that went into every spoonful.

Finally, the Asopao was ready, and Abuela ladled it into bowls for us to enjoy. I took my first bite and was immediately transported back to my childhood, when Abuela would make this dish for me on rainy days or when I was feeling under the weather. The warm, comforting flavors of the Asopao wrapped around me like a hug from my grandmother, and I knew that this recipe would always hold a special place in my heart.

Now, as I sit here in my own kitchen, making Asopao for my own grandchildren, I can't help but think of Abuela and the love and tradition she passed down to me. I am grateful for the lessons she taught me, not just in cooking, but in life and family and heritage. And as I watch my grandchildren enjoy their first taste of Asopao, I know that the memories of this dish will live on for generations to come.


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