Cuba is the intersecting of different cultures from the indigenous Taino people, the Spanish explorers, African slaves, and Asian and Arab immigrants. Ajiaco is the illustration of that confluence of cultures, in one bowl. My grandmother came from this region of Cuba that was known for this amazing soup and it not only tells the history of Cuba but also the history of my family, the mixing of cultures, the heartiness of survivors, and the flavor of new and old traditions.
This soup has been through some stuff and if you know anything about Cubans, we know how to adapt to anything and this soup shows the adaptations of an island that has gone through changes, good and bad. When one set of ingredients were restricted, Cuban adapted and used something else. That’s exactly why it is the perfect soup for the home cook. Even though it is perfection the way it is, it can be changed up, adding affordable ingredients you have on hand, to create a delicious and filling meal. It’s also the best way to use up those leftover frozen meats (Yes, I cooked them from frozen! How awesome is that? No thawing.) that you might have laying at the bottom of your freezer or those lone veggies and potatoes you need to use up in your pantry.
Instant Pot Cuban Creole Soup (Ajiaco)
Recipe by Lana Horruitiner Perez adapted from my abuela Rosa Esmeralda Horruitiner with a little help from my dad 🙂
**This is based on my family’s recipe and what we use as well as what I had on hand. But you can substitute proteins and starches based on what you have or like. That said, normally when this soup is cooked on the stove, ingredients are added and different times based on how long they need to cook. I wanted to make the recipe easy as possible by adding all the ingredients to the Instant Pot at one time. The way to do this is by cutting the various ingredients into different sizes so they can all cook together. So if you add different ingredients, make sure to think about the cook time it needs and use pieces that are sized appropriately. To help you out, I will add a chart at the bottom of the recipe of other ingredients you can add and what size pieces they should be cut into.**
- 3 Tbl Olive Oil
- Bone-in Chicken pieces (I used 5 chicken legs, but you can use thighs, legs, or a mix)
- 1/2 lb Country Pork Ribs, boneless cut into 1 inch pieces (you can use pork roast or boneless thick chops)
- 1/2 lb Beef Tenderloin, cut into 1 inch pieces (you can use beef stew meat or loin)
- 1 Yellow Onion, chopped
- 1 Green Pepper, chopped
- 1 – 2 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Ground Pepper
- 4 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 tsp Cumin
- 2 cups Water
- 1/2 Yucca, peeled and cut into slices then quartered (see thumbnail below)
- 1 Boniato, peeled and cut into 2 inch thick pieces
- 3 small Russet Potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1 Acorn Squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 Corn on the Cobs, cut into 2 or 4 equal pieces
- 1 Green Plantain, peeled and cut into 4 equal pieces
- 2 – 8 oz cans Tomato Sauce
- 4 cups Chicken Broth
- 2 Bay Leaves
First prepare the vegetables. (As I stated before, it is important to cut everything in a specific size in order for it to cook all at once and have all the ingredients done at the same time. Ingredients that take longer to cook should be cut smaller, and those that cook quicker are cut larger.)
Use your mouse to hover over the picture to get description of how to cut each vegetable.
Set aside vegetables and cut Beef and Pork into 1 inch pieces. Sprinkle meat with Salt.
Press “SAUTE” button on your Instant Pot and adjust to “HIGH”. Add 3 Tbl Olive Oil. When it reads “HOT” add the Chicken and saute and turn until all sides are browned. Remove and then add Beef and Pork and saute until all sides are browned. Remove from heat.
Press “CANCLE” button. Then press “SAUTE” and adjust to “LO”.
Add chopped Yellow Onions, Green Peppers, and 1 tsp Salt and Pepper. Stir and saute until soft. Then add minced Garlic and 1 tsp Cumin. Stir.
Add 2 cups Water and with a wooden spatula, scrape off the browned bits on the bottom of the Instant Pot. (Make sure to scrape it off completely or else you will get the “BURN” notice.)
Now add the ingredients to the Instant Pot in this order…
- Beef and Pork
- Boniato (if you are adding Carrots/Parsnip/Sweet Potato, cut in large chinks and add now)
- Acorn Squash (if you are adding other kinds of squash or pumpkin, cut inot chunks and add now)
Pour the 2 – 8oz cans of Tomato Sauce over the Vegetables.
Pour the 4 cups of Chicken Broth over the Vegetables and add 2 Bay Leaves to the top. (It’s ok if they are not completely submerged, however don’t go past the “MAX” fill line.)
Lock the Instant Pot Lid into place and make sure the valve is set to the “SEALED” position. Pressure Cook for 25 mins on High. Once it’s done, allow pressure to Natural Release for 30 mins. If the pressure has not completely released, you can do a Controlled Quick Release which means you release the pressure manually in small 2 second intervals. (This keeps the soup from foaming up and spewing out of the vent.)
Serve with a side of bread or if you want, which is how my husband likes it, you can serve over rice. It keeps in the fridge really well and is even better then next few days.