Ajiaco is a satisfying, one-pot meal, served with an array of mouth-watering fixin’s that’ll make your taste buds dance!
I’m a soupaholic and I love making a variety of soups all year round. They are inexpensive to make, super satisfying, great for make-ahead meals and freezable. Plus, you can feed a whole herd of people easily. Some of my go-to recipes are my Potato Leek Soup, this French Onion Soup, and of course, Vegan Ajiaco!
What is Ajiaco?
It’s a mouth-watering, hearty soup, that is bursting with different flavors and has a rich, creamy texture. It’s almost stew-like, and it’s the epitome of pure comfort food.
Ajiaco is common to Colombia, Cuba, and Peru, and is prepared slightly different in each culture. The recipe I’m sharing today is a Colombian version (Ajiaco Bogotano). This soup is well-known throughout the region, and especially in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia.
Traditional Ajiaco is made up of three types of Andean-grown potatoes, which provides the thick, creamy, and buttery texture that the soup has. The potatoes are cooked until they are almost completely broken down to provide a stew-like consistency.
It’s typically made with corn on the cob, chicken and a unique-flavored herb called, Guascas. This herb is the star of the show, and it’s necessary to give this soup its one-of-a-kind flavor.
My favorite part of Ajiaco is all the fixin’s that accompany it. It’s served with avocado, Aji (Colombian Salsa), capers and a table cream (similar to sour cream). Each topping adds another layer of flavor to this already flavorsome meal. I highly recommend all of them for the full Ajiaco experience.
What is Guascas?
In many areas of the world, Guascas is considered a weed and is referred to as the Gallant Soldier or a Potato Weed. However, in South and Central America, it’s considered a culinary herb, and leafy vegetable with medicinal benefits.
Fresh, aromatic guascas is commonly used in Ajiaco, but it’s not readily available here, so dried guascas is the next best thing.
It’s really hard to describe the distinctive flavor of guascas…it’s like no other herb I’ve tried before. It really stands on its own. If I had to describe it, I would say it has an artichoke-like flavor, with an earthy undertone and a lime-like aroma. It creates a rich flavor and adds a lot of depth to the soup.
You can find dried guascas in most Latin markets or you can find it on Amazon Here. It’s really worth searching for and will give your Ajiaco its authentic flavor.
My introduction to Ajiaco
While living in Los Angeles, I went on a date with a guy from Colombia. Per his suggestion, we went out to an authentic Colombian restaurant called, Cafe Colombia. It was a small family-owned eatery with the most charming ambiance.
I had no idea what to order while scanning the menu. Mostly because it was in Spanish, and I’m really lacking in that department. I asked for his recommendation, and that’s when I first heard the word, Ajiaco.
He explained what it was and made such a big deal over this soup. His excitement had me sold, and I placed an order for my very first bowl.
The soup arrived at the table accompanied by a side of rice and a tasty array of fixin’s, including avocado, capers, and cream. It looked so comforting and colorful and had whole corn cobs in it.
I’ve never tried anything like it. I couldn’t get over the combination of flavors and textures. Now I knew why he was making such a big deal over the soup.
We had a great time on our date, and I’m so glad I went, but there really wasn’t a love connection, other than my new LOVE for this soup! I became a regular at Cafe Colombia after that and became a pro at ordering Ajiaco.
A few years later, I went vegan and I no longer felt the same joy about having chicken in my soup, but I still craved the creamy potato base, the flavor of guascas, the mouth-watering garnishes, and the cozy feeling I would get from it.
I was now on a mission to make a vegan version. I tried to keep the recipe as traditional as possible, but I had to change a few things. The stock is traditionally made with chicken, and it’s simmered in water, onions, and garlic to create a broth.
To replace this step, I sautéed the onions and garlic together and used vegetable broth. The cook time is much shorter without the addition of chicken, so that’s a big bonus.
What kind of potatoes do I need?
Ajiaco is traditionally made with three local potatoes called papas criollas, the waxy sabanera, and the soft pastusa. It’s really hard to find these potatoes in the U.S, but I’ve found papas criollas in a nearby latin market in the freezer section. They are small, golden-yellow potatoes with a buttery, nutty, creamy taste and texture.
If you can find them, I highly recommend trying them out at least once. They are a little expensive, so most of the time, I just use fingerling or yukon gold to replace them.
The one thing that I found easily was the guascas. I just couldn’t imagine the soup without it. You will still have a delicious soup if you use other herbs, but it just won’t have that authentic Ajiaco flavor.
Are you ready to give this a try?
I hope you guys enjoyed learning a little about Ajiaco and maybe you’ll give it a try. I’m looking forward to visiting Bogotá one day, and I would love to enjoy a vegan version of this incredibly delicious soup!
Looking for more comforting soup recipes? You may like these:
I’d love to hear from you
If you make this recipe, I’d love to get your feedback. You can leave a comment below and let me know what you think. It would really make my day. You can also follow me on Instagram and share your creation with me. Just tag me @veganhuggs and hashtag #veganhuggs so I don’t miss it.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion , diced
- 3-4 garlic cloves , minced
- 2 large carrots , peeled and sliced
- 8 cups vegetable broth , low sodium
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/3 cup dried guascas , large stems removed *See note
- 2 medium russet potatoes (about 1 pound ), peeled and sliced
- 3 medium red potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and sliced
- 3 medium yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled & cut into bite-sized pieces *See note
- 1 teaspoon sea salt , more to taste *See note
- Fresh ground pepper , to taste
- 2 ears of fresh corn cut into 2-3 pieces (sub frozen cobs or 2 cups frozen kernels) *See note
- 3 green onions , sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro , chopped (*optional)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (*optional)
- Vegan sour cream (about 3/4 cup)
- Capers (about 1/2 cup)
- 2-3 avocados, peeled, halved and sliced (squeeze lime on them to prevent browning)
- In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat & sprinkle with salt. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add garlic and carrots, sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Raise heat to high, and add vegetable broth, red potatoes, russet potatoes, guascas, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Once the soup starts to boil, put heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer, and cover pot partially with a lid. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes are starting to break down. Using a fork, mash some potato pieces against the side of the pot. This helps thicken the soup and create a stew-like consistency.
- Now add the yukon potatoes (or papas criollas), corn cobs, green onion and cilantro. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender and corn is cooked. Mash a few more potatoes, if preferred. Check for seasoning and add more if needed. Remove bay leaves. While soup is finishing up, start preparing your selected garnishes.
- Remove from heat and add lime juice. Serve hot with sour cream, avocado slices and capers.
*You can find dried guascas in most Latin markets or you can find it on Amazon Here. It's really worth searching for and will give your Ajiaco its authentic flavor. If you want to make the soup without the guascas, you can sub it with 1 teaspoon of thyme and 1 extra bay leaf. The soup won't have the same flavor as Ajiaco, but it will still be delicious and flavorful.
*Papas criollas are 1 of the 3 potato types traditionally used for this recipe. They are small, golden-yellow potatoes with a buttery, nutty, creamy taste and texture. If you can find them, I highly recommend trying them out at least once. They are a little expensive, so most of the time, I just use yukon gold to replace them. You can also use fingerling potatoes.
*If you're using frozen corn kernels, thaw them under cold water and add them to the soup the last 6-7 minutes of cooking time. If using frozen corn cobs, they can go in the pot the same time as the fresh.
*The capers are served on the side but are quite salty. Keep this in mind when adding additional salt to the recipe.
*I highly recommend adding the vegan sour cream, capers, and avocado on the side to get the full Ajiaco experience. Additional garnish or side ideas: Serve with a side of rice, fresh-cut cilantro, lime wedges, red pepper flakes or aji (Colombian salsa).
Some of the non-traditional ingredients I added: carrots, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and lime juice. Feel free to omit them to keep the soup closer to the original.
To reheat the soup, cook over medium heat and stir in a small amount of vegetable broth if needed.
*I feel the Ajiaco is perfect without a chicken replacement. The guascas, potatoes, and sides are wonderful on their own. However, if you would like to have the additional texture. You can sautée Vegan Chick'n and serve it on the side.
**This recipe was adapted from My Colombian Recipes