Recipe: Ecuadorian Chicken Quinoa Soup with Aji Sauce


Hearty meals in Ecuador always begin with soup, and chicken quinoa soup is a staple of the high country. Corn, chunks of yuca, fresh fava beans and quinoa are added to a rich, garlicky broth. The soup is topped with slices of avocado and fresh crumbled cheese. Aji, a hot pepper salsa, is always served on the side. You’ll find lots of uses for leftover aji; it is the chimichurri sauce of Ecuador.

Ecuadorian Chicken Quinoa Soup with Aji Sauce

Yield: Serves 6, with leftovers


    For the chicken stock:
  • One whole chicken, cut up, about 3 1/2 pounds
  • 8 cups chicken broth, preferably organic and low salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 whole black peppercorns
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, or 2 teaspoons dry sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 3 pieces star anise
  • 3 ribs of celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • For the soup:
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup peeled and cubed yuca (or sweet potato)
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen fava beans (or lima beans)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh white cheese (such as queso fresco), crumbled
  • For the aji sauce:
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves and stems
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
  • 3-4 small, fresh hot chilies (such as Thai bird chilies), stems removed
  • 3 tablespoons white onion, finely chopped


  • In a 7 quart stockpot, place chicken pieces, chicken broth, sage, thyme, peppercorns, minced garlic, celery and carrot pieces, onion and bay leaf.
  • Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered, skimming off fat now and then, for about an hour.
  • While the chicken is simmering, prepare the quinoa.
  • Rinse well under cold water, then place in a fine mesh sieve to drain.
  • Shake out as much water as you can.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, then add 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  • When simmering, add the quinoa.
  • Sauté quinoa until it starts to pop, then add the cup of water and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium, and cook quinoa for 15 minutes.
  • Cover and set aside until the chicken is ready.
  • To make the aji Sauce, place cilantro, water, garlic, lemon or lime juice, and chilies in a blender or a food processor and blend on high speed.
  • Remove and add the white onion, set aside.
  • Remove the chicken from the broth with a slotted spoon, and set aside on a plate to cool.
  • Drain the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl.
  • Discard the solids.
  • Return the broth to the stockpot and bring to a boil.
  • Add the yuca or sweet potato, corn, fava beans and quinoa.
  • Cook until the vegetables can be pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, pull the chicken from the bones, and add to the soup.
  • Taste for salt.
  • Depending on the broth you used, you may want to add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon kosher salt and several turns of freshly ground pepper.
  • Serve your soup topped with avocado slices and crumbled fresh cheese.
  • The spicy aji sauce is served on the side.

About Author

A retired gynecologist turned food writer, Annie Fenn writes about food and life in Jackson Hole. Lately, she has been struggling to keep up with the caloric needs of her two soccer- and skiing-obsessed teenage boys. Find more of her recipes at and follow her on Instagram @jacksonholefoodie for more frequent foodie inspiration.

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