Panamanian Soup Sancocho

There are few things that remind me of my childhood more than a hot, bubbling bowl of sancocho. The thought of this luscious, thick soup full of hearty fruits of labor melt away all the unfortunate incidences or not-so-memorable things that happen through out the day. For me, its an ethereal experience as I wrap my lips around the corners of a big ol’ spoon and take in the aromatic broth and perfectly concocted blend of earthy veggies and spices. My days under the warm Panamanian sun and the cool, chilled Latin vibe envelops in while washing away the cold days too frequent in Canadian weather.

What is this weird sounding soup you ask? Its pronounced the exact way you read it, san-co-cho. According to Wikipedia, sancocho is a traditional soup (often considered a stew) in several Latin American cuisines derived from the Spanish dish known as Cocido. Variations represent popular national dishes in Honduras, the Canary Islands, Mexico, Ecuador, Columbia, Peru, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and of course Panama. It usually consists of large pieces of meat and vegetables served in a broth. Its often recommended as one of the best remedies for a hangover, so not a bad idea to make tons and store in the freezer ready for those wild weekends. Just sayin’!

My mom made sancocho famous to me and often with a Chinese twist. She’d incorporate Chinese herbs and spices that I still don’t know the names of and made it all the more special and “food baby worthy”. I make several variations depending on what I have around and improvise as I go along. Its the best way! Here’s my recipe with unconventional ingredients you can add as an option and directions for you to try and capture some “island” flare!


  • 4 chicken legs, skinned and cut into pieces (organic and free range if possible)
  • 1 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped (roma tomatoes if possible)
  • 2 plantains, large chunks (ripe, yellow with brown spots on skin)
  • 1 green/red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 3 lbs yucca (cassava) root, peeled, cubed
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed
  • 2 corn cobs, peeled, large chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano with stem (or 1 tsp dried), minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh cilantro, minced
  • 4 whole cloves garlic, peeled, lightly crushed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Cheekynibbles’ chicken stock (or store bought if you must)

Optional Ingredients (not traditional but I would go for it, for more flavor and BAM!):

  • 1 whole jalapenos pepper, sliced in half (I leave seeds in!)
  • few dashes worchestershire to taste
  • few dashes soy sauce to taste
  • few splashes lemon juice to taste

What I Do:

Rinse chicken legs and pat dry. Marinade chicken with cilantro, oregano, garlic, and olive oil for a few minutes or longer if time permits. Heat a large pot over medium heat and place chicken legs with herbs in to brown. Add chopped onions to sweat lightly and pour in chicken stock. Bring liquid to a boil and let simmer over medium low heat until chicken is cooked through.

Raise heat back up to medium and add yucca, potatoes, plantains, tomatoes, and corn. Bring the pot to a gentle simmer and cook until vegetables are soft. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve along or with white/brown rice on the side. As mentioned before, with all good things, make lots and freeze as it only gets better and more flavorful with time!