Ways & How

How to Make Sofrito

How to Make Sofrito

Sofrito is something a Spanish-inspired kitchen would always have on hand. The word “sofrito” means “to lightly fry something.” But sofrito (not to be confused with Italian soffritto) is actually a sauce used as a base in Spanish-influenced cooking. The Portuguese and the rest of Latin and Caribbean America have their own versions of sofrito. In the Caribbean, for example, sofrito is seasoned with lard and prepared with annatto seeds to give it a yellow color, just as the indigenous Tainos prepared theirs. Then the mix of herbs is combined with ham, and the sauce is simmered for 30 minutes. The Cubans add tocino, while the Dominicans add apple cider vinegar. In Jewish kitchens, sofrito is more a method of cooking than the ingredients used. Sephardi Jewish cooks favor sofrito with chicken. Instead of the typical ingredients most Spanish-influenced kitchens use, the Jewish use turmeric, garlic, and cardamom simmered in a small amount of water or lemon juice stock. The chicken is then sautéed with the simmered sauce. The same ingredients and method of cooking can also be used to prepare calves’ or fish brains and veal.



sh colonies farther afield, as in the Philippines, use three basic ingredients—onion, garlic, and tomatoes—to sauté chicken, pork, or beef. Adding coconut vinegar and fish sauce either preserves the meat or converts it into a ready-to-eat dish. If you would like to brush up your kitchen skills or go on a culinary adventure starting with Spanish cooking, here’s a guide on how to make sofrito.

  1. Gather ingredients. As mentioned, preparations of sofrito may vary, but typically, it will make the most use of aromatic herbs and spices. You can start with one sweet red pepper, two medium green peppers, two large tomatoes, two medium onions, one head of garlic, a bunch of cilantro leaves, and a half-bunch of parsley leaves. Depending on what influences your cooking, you may have a shorter list of ingredients: onions, olive oil, bay laurel leaves, and garlic are everything you need if you are cooking a Portuguese-inspired sauce; or peppers, garlic, onion, paprika, tomatoes, and olive oil if creating a Spanish version.

  2. Peel onions and garlic and remove seeds of peppers.

  3. Chop the ingredients finely. Or if you have limited time, slice the ingredients and throw them all in the blender. First, pulse the blender, and then add garlic and cilantro. Blend everything on low speed until all ingredients are mixed well. The result should be a semi-smooth texture. Sofrito is basically a puree of these herbs and spices. However, if you would like a more appetizing look where you can easily identify the ingredients, or if you want to highlight its color, chopping the ingredients by hand is the best way to go. This is how the abuelas (grandmas) did theirs, and the result was aromatic and eye-catching.

  4. Braise or sautée in cooking oil. This is where the “to lightly fry something” comes in. In Portuguese and Spanish cooking, olive oil is used. If you won’t use your sofrito right away, you can freeze the sauce. Store in small plastic containers so you won’t spoil the whole batch when taking out only small portions. If using immediately, store sofrito in a glass container since plastic absorbs the odor of garlic and onions.

Many who learn how to make sofrito also need to learn where it is best used. If you’d like a Puerto Rican twist to your sauce, use it in rice dishes and season soups with it. Flavor your stews and season your cheese sauces and batters or stuff sofrito in leftover breads to make empanadas. Peel leftover broccoli stalks, add slices of chicken or pork, and pan fry or brush with olive oil and bake.

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