Hearty, healthy, hot soup is a fantastic way to chase away the winter cold! Peruvian Beef Noodle Soup (Sopa Criolla) with lean beef (ground or diced), angel hair pasta, and the tantalizing, subtle heat of aji panca is pure Peruvian comfort food and ready in half an hour!
My June 2017 month in Peru undoubtedly intensified my interest in Peruvian food and flavors. The cultural influences - Incan, Indigenous, Asian, European - and the unique and varied ingredients - peppers, root vegetables, tropical produce, seafood, alpaca, cuy... - have been beautifully incorporated into one vibrant and eclectic cuisine. Peruvian food has become a culinary force, and with good reason! It is delicious.
Peruvian Beef Noodle Soup (Sopa Criolla) reminds me of a good pot of homemade beef/vegetable/noodle or chicken noodle soup... nothing fancy, just wholesome, body-warming, comforting soup. The key ingredient in sopa criolla is aji panca.
My love of Peruvian food drives my desire to encourage home cooks outside Peru to cook Peruvian and Peruvian-inspired food. I do not claim to be an expert, but have traveled (and tasted) food all over the Sacred Valley, the Andes, and Lima, in fine-dining restaurants, and tiny cafés in remote villages. Some of the most amazing food I've had in Peru was prepared by our Quechua campesino cook on our treks.
In coming up with my North American version, I took a little bit of liberty with the traditional recipes. Peruvians use a lot of evaporated milk (which I don't care for!). I replace it with half n' half or non-dairy coconut creamer.
Additionally, Peruvians eat very carb-heavy meals, and I'm more concerned with getting veggies into the dish. So, my version omits the potato found in many of the recipes, as well as the fried bread found in some. I add diced sweet potato and petite peas, because we all need more vegetables, right?
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.
~~ Oscar Wilde.
If you are Peruvian, and reading this post, please understand that I am not offering an "authentic" Peruvian sopa criolla. My recipe is Peruvian-inspired, and in creating it, I hope that home cooks will embrace the flavors of your wonderful cuisine!
About Peruvian Ají Peppers:
Peru is home to some pretty amazing peppers! While they remain somewhat unknown outside the country, the increasing popularity of Peruvian food means they're more widely available outside Peru. We saw/tasted many of them during our month in Peru. I will focus on the peppers that I keep in my well-stocked pantry, those available in my local markets.
Ají amarillo was the first Peruvian pepper I experimented with in my cooking. You may have tried one of Peru's signature dishes, ají de gallina? It is a classic Peruvian dish - chicken with a creamy, spicy, nutty sauce served over rice.
The ají amarillo is very apparent in its sunny yellow-hued sauce. Ají amarillo has an earthy, sun-kissed sweetness that reminds me of raisins. People may say aji amarillo is "so hot," but this California-born New Mexican finds them to be quite mild! I would say they are on par with the jalapeño. I use ají amarillo in my adaptation of Ají de Gallina, Savory Plantain Pie, and my Creamy Tomato Bisque Peruvian Style.
Ají panca - featured in this Peruvian-Inspired Beef Noodle Soup (Sopa Criolla) - reminds me a bit of chipotle peppers. It has a more subtle but very present smoky flavor, and is deep red, mild, fruity, and slightly sweet. This tasty pepper is the key ingredient in Peruvian anticuchos (skewered beef hearts). By comparison, ají panca is milder than the jalapeño.
Ají rocoto may knock your socks off! This one is hot. This meaty, juicy pepper looks a bit like a red bell pepper, but the similarity ends there! The heat level varies, and may top out at habañero level spiciness. Proceed with caution. 😯 We enjoyed rocoto rellenos in Peru last summer - a spicy hot pepper stuffed with a savory meat mixture. I use them in my Grilled Rocoto and Bison Pizza, and my Roasted Sweet Potato and Giant Corn Peruvian Salad.
About Sopa Criolla:
I had sopa criolla a couple of times during our month in Peru in 2017, and again in 2018 and 2019. While the daytime temperatures were comfortable, the temperature dropped rapidly when the sun went down. Hot soup always sounded good.
The typical pot of sopa criolla includes beef stock, ground or finely diced beef, ají panca, and angel hair pasta. The soft cooked egg on top is mandatory. I cannot resist a runny egg. EVER.
How to Make Peruvian-Inspired Beef Noodle Soup
As with most "quick" recipes, you'll want to gather ingredients and prep them prior to making the soup. The only ingredients that require chopping are the onion, the sweet potato, and the parsley or cilantro garnish. Most recipes call for a parsley garnish. Cilantro is a very typical Peruvian ingredient, and we prefer it in sopa criolla.
Peruvian-Inspired Beef Noodle Soup Ingredients
Don't let the long list concern you! This comforting Peruvian-inspired beef noodle soup comes together in about 30 minutes...
- Brown the meat and aromatics - whether you're using diced or ground beef, you always want to brown the beef, the onion, and the garlic.
- Add the ají panca paste and the tomato paste.
- Stir in and cook 1-2 minutes before proceeding.
- Add the broth, sweet potatoes, and oregano - simmer this mixture until the sweet potatoes are tender but not mushy. Meanwhile, cook the angel hair pasta.
- Add the peas - cover and keep on very low heat while you drain the pasta and cook your eggs.
- Add the cream/milk - keep on a very low temperature until ready to serve.
Tips and FAQ
Which is better, minced or ground beef? I have had it both ways in Peru, and have done it both ways at home. It's really a matter of personal preference. Unless you can find very small diced beef, you'll spend a good amount of time chopping it small enough. On one occasion, I found lean chili beef that was perfect. Ground beef is the quickest option, and usually my pick.
How much ají panca paste should I use? I increase the typical amount of ají panca paste to 2 tablespoons in this recipe. As I mention above, we like heat. My suggestion if you're uncertain is to start with a tablespoon, and add as desired. Ají panca is really not very spicy.
Are the peas and sweet potatoes authentic? NOPE! While they're common in Peruvian cooking, I don't know that I've ever had them in a bowl of sopa criolla in Peru. As I mentioned earlier, our diet is plant-based with meat taking a secondary role. The vegetables taste really good with the soup, but you can certainly omit them... Just don't tell me. 😂
- I keep my cooked angel hair separate, adding it to each bowl before ladling the soup over. My recipe make 4 servings, and I'm cooking for 2. Pasta gets mushy in the liquid, and drinks it all up. You can cook the pasta in the broth (it's a generous amount) if you prefer.
- Freezing the leftover soup works well. Again, I suggest cooking the pasta separately. If I freeze half of the soup for another meal, I make a fresh batch of angel hair. Remember - a serving of pasta is 2 ounces!
- Traditional recipes call for parsley; we typically use cilantro (also used in Peruvian cooking) because we prefer the flavor. The choice is yours.
I hope you'll give this hearty, comforting Peruvian-inspired beef noodle soup.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound ground or finely diced beef, (see notes)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic , (or more!)
- 2 tablespoons aji panca paste, (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups sweet potato, 1/2" dice
- 4 cups good beef stock
- 1 teaspoon oregano leaves
- 2 cups petite peas, frozen is fine
- 1 cup half n' half or non-dairy coconut creamer
- 8 ounces angel hair pasta
- sea salt/fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 4 eggs, poached or basted
- parsley or cilantro, to garnish
- Put a pot of water with a palm full of salt on to boil for the pasta.
- To a dutch oven or deep pot, add the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef. Cook until the beef is mostly brown (breaking it up if it's ground beef). Add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Continue to cook until the beef is gently browned, and onion is translucent.
- Add the aji panca paste, the tomato paste, and the sweet potato. Stir an additional 4-5 minutes.
- Add the stock and oregano leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until sweet potatoes are tender (7-10 minutes depending on size of dice).
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. While pasta cooks, add peas to the simmering soup.
- Cook your eggs. Stir in the half n' half or creamer. Reduce heat to warm.
- Drain pasta.
- To serve: Add 1/4th of the angel hair to each bowl. Ladle the hot soup over. Use a fork to combine a bit. Top with an egg, and garnish with parsley or cilantro. Enjoy!
You may add your angel hair to the soup pot if you wish. I keep them separate because I have leftovers and I hate soggy noodles that have been slurping up all the soup! I refrigerate the leftover soup and make fresh noodles when I serve it...
The quickest way to make this soup is with ground beef. Occasionally I can get a tiny diced sirloin. We love it in sopa criolla. You can sub other ground meat (ie. turkey or chicken), but I would suggest switching to chicken stock also.
Aji panca is pretty mild (milder than a mild jalapeño). I use 2-3 tablespoons in a pot of soup this size, and I get lots of flavor with mild heat that is definitely present. Adjust to your preferences.
Macronutrients (approximation from MyFitnessPal.com): 634 calories; 46 g protein; 65 g carbohydrates; 20 g fat.
Macros are based on 1 pound of 96/4 extra lean ground beef.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 634Total Fat: 20gCarbohydrates: 65gProtein: 46g