This Peruvian Cilantro Chicken Soup is chicken soup with a twist... the flavors of Peru! Ají amarillo paste provides a bit of fruity heat, and cilantro shines in my healthy and warming Peruvian soup recipe (aguadito de pollo)! It's super easy to make, customizeable, healthy, and full of flavor, all in about 30 minutes!
You cannot teach creativity—how to become a good writer. But you can help a young writer discover within himself what kind of writer he would like to be.Mario Vargas Llosa, Peruvian writer and 2010 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks About Aguadito de Pollo
Aguadito de Pollo is the Spanish/Peruvian name for this bright green and very healthy soup cilantro chicken soup! You will find as many versions of it as there are cooks that make it.
My version of Peruvian cilantro chicken soup recipe was a result of my desire to include more Peruvian flavors in my cooking. My sister-in-love Josselin is a native of Peru, and she introduced me to her native cuisine nearly 20 years ago. Since then, I have made 4 month-long trips to Peru with my husband Mark - Dean of the Honors College at UTRGV - with Honors students on studies abroad.
I fell in love with aji amarillo - the mildly spicy bright yellow chile - that provides bright, fruity heat to so many Peruvian dishes. It finds its way into my ají de gallina, my Peruvian causa, this ahi tuna tartare, and so many other Peruvian recipes. I'm comfortable enough with this sunshine-colored Peruvian pepper that I use it in creative recipes like this Latin mango chicken.
I often wonder, as does Mario Vargas Llosa, about our ability to "teach creativity," and I join with him in seeking to foster discovery, and to encourage the kinds of experiences that lead men and women - young and old - to enjoy life with food.
I am thrilled each and every time I hear that my passion for food has led others to explore, create, and find joy in the process... beyond mere sustenance. Peruvian Cilantro Chicken Soup is really just chicken soup with a twist. I hope you will give it a try!
🌶️ About Ají Amarillo Peppers
Finding ají amarillo peppers in any form is not always easy. Since moving to Texas' Rio Grande Valley, I can reliably get both the frozen peppers and the paste at my local Latin foods market. Occasionally I buy the dried peppers, but the process of drying them does change the flavor. I have never been able to find the fresh peppers, but you may have better luck depending on your location!
Ají amarillo peppers keep for months in the freezer, and it is super simple to make the paste from the frozen chiles. If you can find the paste, I highly recommend keeping it in your Well-Stocked Pantry 😉
The paste is required for this Peruvian soup recipe. There is no substitute, but if you must omit it, you will still have a very flavorful soup. The remaining paste keeps well in the refrigerator for weeks, or in the freezer for months.
📋 Ingredients for Cilantro Chicken Soup
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- chicken broth
- beer - Beer is an optional ingredient, but one that I really like. It adds a bit of complexity to the broth. Choose a lager for its "clean" taste. You don't want either a hoppy or a malty beer. I like Coronitas for cooking.
- boneless chicken - I really prefer boneless skinless chicken thigh meat, but I do use chicken breast as well. I have occasionally used rotisserie chicken as a great time-saver as well.
- cilantro - Cilantro is the key flavor ingredient in this soup, so if you have to feed someone with an allergy or aversion to cilantro, this isn't the recipe for you.
- lima beans - Lima beans are my preference. Peruvians use fresh tarwi, and if I ever find them in the US, I'll use them. They're delicious! Peas are a great substitute.
- red onion - Peruvians have an affinity for red onion, and they're my "go to" onion. However, yellow and white onions are fine, and I've been known to use shallots as well.
- potatoes and/or sweet potato - Use one or a combination. My preference is sweet potato and giant corn, but the choice is yours. I use about 2 cups of starches in my soup.
- corn - I love choclo (giant Peruvian corn). I cook it from dried that I purchase at my local Latin foods market or I buy choclo on Amazon. Hominy/posole is my 2nd choice, but sweet corn will do in a pinch!
- bell pepper
- ají amarillo paste - Ají amarillo paste has no good substitute. However, if you omit it, you will still have a very flavorful soup!
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🔪 Step by Step Instructions
- NOTE: I updated most of the photographs in November 2022. However, I had some issues with the new process shots, and opted to keep the old process shots because they were more clear. When I took photos in 2020, I used purple potatoes rather than new Yukon gold potatoes.
- Purée cilantro and chicken broth - Combine cilantro and 1 cup of chicken broth in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture is pretty smooth.
- Sauté the chicken and hard vegetables - Add the chicken to the pot with olive oil over medium high heat, and sear. Add in the onions, potatoes, and sweet potato. Sauté until veggies begin to show some color.
- Add the aromatics and bell pepper - Add the minced garlic, ground cumin, and ají amarillo paste. Stir to combine. Add the puréed cilantro and chicken broth plus an additional cup of chicken broth. Cover. Simmer 10-15 minutes until vegetables are almost tender.
- Finish the cilantro chicken soup - Add the cooked corn (choclo) and the lima beans (or peas). Add enough chicken broth to cover all of the solids. Return to a boil, and simmer an additional 10 minutes or so to allow the flavors to meld.
- Finish the soup - While the soup simmers, prepare any desired garnishes. I recommend avocado (palta), lime wedges, hard boiled egg wedges, fresh cilantro, chopped scallions, etc.
- Serve - Ladle into bowls, top with desired garnished, and enjoy
- Finish the soup - Stir everything together, add the cilantro purée, and finally, the chicken and beer (if using). Add the lima beans or peas. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender (10-15 minutes).
- Prep the garnishes - While the soup simmers prep the garnishes as desired. We like hard-cooked egg, avocado, chopped cilantro, and lime wedges. As shown in the new photos, I like to serve with a warm corn tortilla though it is Mexican not Peruvian!
- Serve! - Ladle into bowls, top with garnishes, and enjoy!
The soup keeps very well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can freeze it for up to 3 months.
💭 Helpful Tips
- If you meal prep (as I often do), pre-cooked chicken is a great option. Try rotisserie chicken too. Add cooked chicken as you add the Lima beans and corn to allow it to heat through!
- In bring Peruvian-inspired recipes to cooks outside the country, I default to ingredients used in Peru. We can't always get them. I would love to use tarwi beans, but I've never seen them in the US. I love both fresh and frozen English peas, and small and large limas are great too. You will find all of them in Peru. While the photos show small frozen lima beans, I have often used peas!
- Peru is the land of root vegetables, but I have not seen many outside of Peru. I love purple fingerling potatoes and sweet potatoes when cooking Peruvian-inspired food. They fit right in with the flavor profile. (See a few varieties at MIL restaurant in the Peruvian Andes). The photo below was taken at MIL in Moray, Peru... We celebrated our 39th anniversary at this fine restaurant, and the education was part of the experience!
- I hope to teach my readers to experiment, and not cling to a recipe. Soups are a perfect way to do this. Use your favorite vegetables, and make substitutions according to seasonal availability, and your budget. Add or substitute Peruvian giant corn, posole, carrots, butternut squash, etc. If your children hate peas, leave them out 🙂
If you're looking for a chicken soup recipe with "a twist," this is a great one to try! You can definitely get this on the table in 30 minutes or less...
Peruvian Cilantro Chicken Soup (Aguadito de Pollo)
- 1 bunch cilantro - stems removed
- 4 cups chicken broth/stock - divided use
- a drizzle of olive oil - about 2 tsp.
- 1 pound boneless chicken (thighs or breasts) - cubed; see Ingredients in post
- 1 onion - chopped
- 1 medium sweet potato - diced (about 2 cups)
- 3 small yukon or red potatoes - diced (about 2 cup)
- 1 teaspoon garlic - minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons aji amarillo paste - provides heat - more or less to taste
- 1 red bell pepper - diced
- 1 cup Lima beans (fresh or frozen peas) - see Ingredients in post
- 1 cup choclo or hominy - see Ingredients in post
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- lime wedges
- poached or hard-boiled egg
- Combine cilantro and 1 cup of chicken broth in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture is pretty smooth.
- In a heavy dutch oven or soup pot, drizzle olive oil. Turn heat to medium-high. Add cubed chicken, onion, sweet potato, and cubed potatoes. Sauté until it begins to brown.
- Add the aromatics (cumin, ají amarillo paste, garlic) and bell pepper followed by the cilantro and broth mixture, and another 1 cup of broth or stock. Stir to combine.
- Cook 10-15 minutes until root vegetables are almost tender before adding peas or lima beans. Add the remaining broth or stock to cover the chicken and vegetables. Cover the pot and simmer another 5-10 minutes. Check to make sure potatoes and sweet potatoes are tender.
- While soup cooks, prepare any garnishes. We like lime wedges, cilantro leaves, avocado, and sometimes a hard-cooked or poached egg.
- To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish as desired.
NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.