How to make Spanish sofrito

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    A sofrito, is a base for a lot of delicious dishes in Spanish cooking. Growing up in my grandmother’s kitchen, the aroma of caramelized onions, garlic and peppers filled her kitchen nearly every day.

    When I was old enough to properly handle a knife, she taught me how to chop onions to help her prepare her daily sofritos. She used to tell me that a good sofrito is a basic step in Spanish cooking that a good cook needs to master. And it’s really not that difficult to prepare but there are a few key rules that I got from my abuela.

    Rule #1: Good olive oil, right temperature. The base of a good sofrito is the quality of the olive oil heated at the right temperature (medium heat) and not over-heated.

    Rule #2: Add the ingredients in order of toughness in texture. Typically, we add the finely chopped onions first and cook them until golden brown. If the oil is too hot then you are frying the onions not caramelizing them. After the onions are golden, add the garlic and peppers (red or green depending on the recipe). Finally, add the softest ingredient, in this case the tomatoes.

    Rule #3: Stir often and be patient. After you add the tomatoes, the sofrito must cook for at least 15-20 minutes on medium heat. Remember to stir often to avoid sticking or burning.

    Spanish sofrito



    For a spicier sofrito, add a chopped habanero pepper to the mixture while cooking.

    (Yields about 3 cups)


    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 1 large pepper, chopped
    • 1 (15-0unces) can diced tomatoes
    • olive oil
    • pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
    • 1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika, optional


    Heat oil on medium heat. Add onions until caramelized. Add garlic and pepper until soft. Add tomatoes and simmer for 15-20minutes. Season to taste, add Spanish paprika. (Make sure to add at the end so the paprika doesn’t turn sour.)

    Let the sofrito cool and add to stews, beans, paellas…the recipes are endless.

    Come on, fry it up and make la abuela proud!

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