Chicken Soup: Peruvian Chicken Quinoa Soup – Caldo de Gallina con Quinoa

2010 went out with a bang. A big one:  I ended the year with a nasty cold (that has just finally run its course) and then injured my foot, which will take longer to recover.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been feeling a bit blue inside and out. So, what better a remedy than chicken soup? It’s not poshy. It’s real food – food you eat when you need something nutritional and comforting.

Caldo de gallina con quinoa (chicken soup with quinoa) was the first meal I ate in Cuzco, Peru. The city is the primary entry point for all the folks like me who set out to visit Machu Picchu and sits at about 11,000 feet in altitude, which means it gets chilly at night. The chicken soup was memorable, however, the alpaca that I also ordered was not.

This Peruvian chicken soup is a brothy fix that will take away the chill, clear the head and sinuses, and soothe your soul. It’s also packed with protein since it has chicken and the “Mother Grain” – quinoa. Read more about the history of quinoa and its nutritional benefits in my previous post.

It’s the perfect time of year for chicken soup. Have a happy and healthy 2011!

Also, if you love the outdoors or if you appreciate architecture, Machu Picchu is a must see. If you’re up for it, I’d also recommend hiking the Inca Trail to get there. It makes the journey to this sacred place – even more spectacular. My husband and I, along with two friends, made this journey in 2006 – with some unexpected adventure (but, that’s another story).

Peruvian Chicken Quinoa Soup – Caldo de Gallina con Quinoa

Serves 4 – 6


1 1/2 tablespoons oil

1 small onion, diced small

3 celery stalks, diced small

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 1/2 teaspoons ground aji amarillo*

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 1/2 pounds chicken (2 large breasts), skin removed and cut into large pieces

10 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

2 medium potatoes or sweet potatoes, skin on, diced 2” pieces

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

3 carrots, peeled and diced 1” pieces

2 small zucchini, diced 1” pieces

Juice 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

*Aji amarillo is a Peruvian chile with mild to moderate heat. It is standard to Peruvian cuisine and can be found ground in spice stores or in Hispanic markets. Substitute with jalapenos or other chiles.


  1. Rinse quinoa well and drain; prepare and measure all other ingredients in advance.
  2. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, sauté onion and celery in oil for 3 minutes. Add garlic, aji amarillo, cumin and oregano; sauté 1 minute. Add chicken, water, salt, potatoes and quinoa. Bring to boil, cover and reduce heat to medium. Skim off foam.
  3. After chicken has cooked (about 20 minutes), remove it and shred with two forks, set it aside and keep warm. Add carrots to soup and continue to cook for 15 minutes until potatoes are tender but intact and quinoa is fluffy with germs separated. Add zucchini and lemon juice; cook 10 minutes or until zucchini are al dente. Return shredded chicken to pot and heat throughout.
  4. Serve hot garnished with fresh cilantro.
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13 Responses to Chicken Soup: Peruvian Chicken Quinoa Soup – Caldo de Gallina con Quinoa

  1. This. Just. Got. Bookmarked. Looks incredible — perfect for 2011 Year of the Soup!

  2. Bob whitson says:

    I am going to make this soup this week
    What better for a cold snow day

  3. Dear Andrea, Thank you for this wonderful recipe. I LOVE Quinoa. I am sure it goes great with the flavors of the soup. I will bookmark your recipe.
    Sorry to hear you aren’t well. Hope your foot is better soon. Looking forward to our meet up.
    P.S.: Machu Picchu is also on my list to visit!

  4. @Meister: I like the Year of the Soup. I toyed with calling this blog the Soup Queen.

    @Bob: We’ll it looks like there will be plenty of snow in Colorado -soup’s on the menu for the next 4 months. More recipes to come. You might also like the Mexican beef soup with cabbage on my site.

  5. Lea Ann says:

    I love a good chicken soup and have some quinoa in the pantry that I didn’t know what I was going to do with. Hope to see you on the 22nd?

  6. Karen Harris says:

    Machu Picchu is on my husband’s bucket list and he’s not going without me! Your soup looks delicious. I love quinoa.

  7. kirby says:

    this certainly puts a delicious spin on the tired chicken soup menu. one of my favorites! a very, very close second to the soup recipe andrea is posting next – really yummmmmm! but you’ll have to wait. ah, the privileges of being a food blogger’s test taster/husband/sous chef/dish washer (well, it can’t be ‘all good’).

  8. @Kirsten @Lea Ann @Karen and anyone in the Denver-area: I found aji amarillo at Savory Spice.

  9. Hey Andrea,
    I guess we both went out with a bang. Unfortunately; I’m starting mine with what you left off with, minus the hurt foot. I will be trying this soup. This is exactly what I need. Maybe Herron will help a “poor sick girl” feel better with this soup. I first tried Quinoa with one of your other recipes, so I know this one will be great. Miss you Guys La T

  10. @La Tanya: Hope you feel better soon. Tell your husband, Kirby makes me soup when I’m sick. Hope to see you soon.

  11. This looks lovely. When I was in Peru, my brother got a whole chicken foot in his bowl of soup! I told him to eat around it. I also remember having quinoa for the first time there. It was about 12 years ago, before it was the “it” grain in the States—or anyone here had even heard of it, for that matter!

  12. What a wonderful soup, I love quinoa and enjoy that this has potatoes as well :)
    Hope your foot is getting better.

  13. Lynn Kister says:

    Looking forward to making this weekend with Michael. We can break in our new enameled iron soup pot! Hope the foot is better!
    Thanks for all the good cookin!
    Xo Lynn

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