This is the ultimate one-pot meal that feeds many and comforts all. By far, my favorite traditional main course. Essentially a soup made with meat (a combination of beef and pork) or seafood and root vegetables, the dish varies from home to home and town to town.

A whole book could be written about this dish, since it has been adapted and appropriated by many countries across Latin America and the Caribbean. Hence, sancocho recipes are personal, unscripted, often use locally available ingredients, and can be watered down if unexpected mouths show up.

Serving and eating sancocho is particularly personal. I go with how it was always served at my mother’s home: Once the soup is ready, the roots, corn, and meats are taken out of the broth and divided onto large platters. The broth is then strained, skimmed, and reheated to be served on the side along with lime wedges, avocado slices, white rice, and ají.

Each person gets a plate and a bowl, and they assemble their own sancocho as they wish. Some cut the roots and meats up to add back into the broth, while others eat it separately and sip the broth between bites. Whichever way you choose is fine.

Regardless, there is a lot of silverware involved.


  • 3 pounds lean brisket

  • 3 pounds beef back ribs, fat cap removed

    TST-Colombiana Book Cover Colombiana Mariana Velásquez
  • 3 pounds pork ribs Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 garlic cloves, grated

  • 4 tablespoons canola oil, divided

  • 5 ripe plum tomatoes, grated

  • 6 large scallions, white and light green parts only, chopped (2 cups)

  • 2 yellow onions, chopped

  • 1 yuca, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces (14 to 16 ounces)

  • 2 large green plantains, peeled and cut into 2 inch-thick rounds

  • ½ bunch cilantro, both stems and leaves

  • 20 small Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed

  • 4 large ears corn, shucked and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces

  • 4 to 6 cups white rice

  • 4 ripe avocados, cut into wedges

  • Ají (see below)

  • 4 juicy limes, cut in half (optional)


Rinse the brisket, beef ribs, and pork ribs, and pat dry. Season liberally with salt and pepper and rub with the grated garlic. Allow the meats to marinate for at least 30 minutes as you prep the vegetables and make the guiso (tomato and onion base), which is the pillar to flavor the soup.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the canola oil in a medium skillet over low heat. Add the tomatoes, scallions, and onions and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften and the juices thicken slightly, 8 to 9 minutes. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat, and in batches, sear the meats until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes per side, without moving them in between turns. Once all the meats are seared, return the brisket, beef ribs, and pork ribs to the pot. Cover with water, add the tomato and onion guiso, and simmer covered for 1½ to 2 hours. Check the meats for tenderness—the ribs will still adhere to the bone but a bit more tender. Add the yuca, plantains, and cilantro and cook for 25 to 30 minutes. Add the potatoes and corn and simmer until the potatoes are tender but still hold their shape, 20 to 25 minutes.

This is the ideal moment to get the rice going. Taste for salt and adjust the seasoning.

Remove the vegetables and meat from the broth and add to serving platters. I like serving the plantains, potatoes, yuca, and corn separately from the meat. Cut the ribs off the bones and the brisket into chunks. Skim any fat off the broth—cooling it a bit makes it easier to have a clear soup. Discard the cilantro stems.

Reheat the broth. Serve in a soup terrine or ladle directly into bowls. Accompany the soup with the meat, vegetables, rice, avocado, and ají. I love adding a squeeze of lime right before devouring.


The mother sauce of my country. Jars of this green, sour, and spicy condiment sit at the center of the table to be dolloped and drizzled over just about any dish.


  • 1 bunch cilantro with stems, finely chopped

  • 4 jalapeños, seeded, deveined, and finely chopped

  • 4 ají dulce or 2 small red bell peppers, seeded, deveined, and finely chopped

  • 8 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 6 tablespoons white vinegar Juice of 1 lime

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Mix the cilantro, jalapeños, ají dulce, scallions, salt, black pepper, vinegar, lime juice, and red pepper flakes in a medium-size bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes to allow the ingredients to release their liquid and meld together.

Transfer the ají to a glass jar and store in the fridge for up to 10 days.

“Reprinted with permission from Colombiana: A Rediscovery of Recipes and Rituals from the Soul of Colombia by Mariana Velásquez Villegas, copyright © 2021. Published by HarperCollins. Photography copyright © 2021 by Gentl & Hyers.”

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