Spicy Peruvian Stew (Carapulcra)

This rich, earthy Peruvian stew is packed with history: papa seca—dehydrated potatoes freeze-dried in the crisp Andean air—is an ancient ingredient. When simmered in pork and sofrito broth, the potatoes soften and soak up flavor while imparting their starchiness to the stew for a thick, creamy comfort dish.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 3 hr 45 min
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 6 servings
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Ingredients

Carapulcra

1 1/2 cups papa seca (Peruvian freeze-dried yellow potatoes), available at Latin markets or online

7 cups water, divided, plus more as needed

1 tablespoon canola oil

8 ounces pork belly

1 red onion, trimmed and peeled, about 1½ cups chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled, about 2 tablespoons minced

Kosher salt

1/2 cup aji amarillo (yellow pepper) paste, available at Latin markets or online

1/4 cup aji panca (Peruvian pepper) paste, available at Latin markets or online; reduce amount for less heat

1/3 cup red wine, any kind, dry or sweet

1 1/4 ounces 72% dark chocolate, chopped

2 teaspoons sugar

1 pinch cumin

1 sprig oregano, about 1 tablespoon chopped, leaves only

1/4 cup roasted peanuts (salted), toasted in dry pan over medium-low heat for 3?4 minutes

Steamed white rice, for serving (optional)

Salsa Criolla (optional)

1/2 red onion

1 lime

Cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

kosher salt

Directions

  1. Papa seca: In a dry Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the papa seca and toast until fragrant and light brown in spots, 5 minutes. (If you find small rocks or impurities while toasting, remove and discard.) Fill a medium bowl with 3 cups of water; add the toasted papa seca and stir to submerge. Set aside to soak, 30 minutes. Meanwhile, wipe the pot clean and prepare the pork belly.
  2. Pork belly: In the same Dutch oven over medium heat, add canola oil. Slice pork belly into 1-inch chunks, removing and discarding any skin. When oil is shimmering, add pork in an even layer and brown, 5 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, prep sofrito ingredients.
  3. Sofrito: Finely dice the onion; chop the garlic. When pork belly is brown on both sides, transfer to a plate and set aside, leaving the rendered fat behind. Reduce heat to low; add onion and garlic, along with a pinch of salt, and stir to combine. Sauté until brown and caramelized, stirring occasionally, 20–30 minutes.
  4. Add aji amarillo and aji panca pastes to the caramelized sofrito. Turn heat to high and toast, stirring continuously to prevent burning, 5 minutes. Add wine and deglaze the pan; reduce, stirring, until the moisture has been cooked out and the mixture is dark and paste-like, 5 more minutes.Add the pork and stir to coat; then add the papa seca, including the soaking liquid. Add enough water to submerge all the ingredients in liquid, about 3 more cups. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer gently, uncovered, until potatoes are soft and pork is tender, stirring occasionally. Total cooking time will be 1½–2 hours, but check stew after 1 hour. Add 1 cup water to thin the stew. Continue cooking, adding water as necessary, until pork is tender and potatoes are soft, 30–45 more minutes.
  5. After 1½–2 hours, stew should be thick and creamy; add a few tablespoons of water to thin, if necessary. Heat stew to a low simmer, then add chocolate, sugar, a pinch of salt, and cumin. Pick leaves from oregano sprig, roughly chop, and add to stew; roughly chop toasted peanuts and add to the stew. Stir to combine. When the chocolate is melted and fully incorporated, season to taste with salt and serve. Serving suggestion: Chef Ramirez serves carapulcra with white rice on the side, and tops each bowl of stew with salsa criolla: shaved red onions tossed in fresh lime juice, cilantro, and salt to taste.