Soups and Stews

 Gumbo, Sancocho, Pepper Soup, Pepper Pot and Groundnut Stew

There’s nothing like a good hot bowl of soup or stew to warm your body if you’re cold or if you need help to get over a long night of too much partying. Here are five of my favorites. I’ve chosen these recipes because as I was introduced to them and mastered the techniques, I couldn’t help but see and taste similarities.  Puerto Rico, Louisiana, Liberia, West Africa, and Guyana, South America.

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For several years a family friend would host a New Year’s day gathering for all those who might have hangovers from New Year’s Eve. Of course you could come even if you didn’t have a hangover. Her offering was a huge pot of gumbo.  We would all bring something to the meal, but her gumbo was the anchor.  Her family hailed from Louisiana. She eventually moved to Dakar, Senegal, as a media consultant/trainer to women across Africa wanting to pursue a career in media.  I took it upon myself to continue the tradition and have learned to make a mean pot of gumbo. I like to include several varieties of seafood, andouille sausage, and chicken. The word gumbo is said to mean okra in some west African languages. Gumbo is often eaten over white rice. But you don’t have to. Click here for recipe.

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Root Vegetables and Meat Soup

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My first bowl of  sancocho was served to me by my mother-in-law, who hails from Puerto Rico. This stew goes back at least 400 years to when enslaved Africans were brought to the Caribbean islands. It is a very hearty, rich soup made with tropical root vegetables native to the islands and others originally from Africa.  Different types of meat (beef, pork and poultry) make each spoonful a pleasant surprise.  Corn, green beans, and cabbage lighten up the stew to provide relief from the starchy root vegetables. A huge pot would stew all day to provide a meal after a long day of labor. Over time, sancocho became a popular dish enjoyed by everyone. Variations on this recipe flow throughout the spanish Caribbean islands and South American mainland. This soup is guaranteed to make you feel better if you’re ailing or fortified if you’re not.

Pepper (Peppa) Soup

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After my daughter gave birth to her first child, our family was invited to the home of my son-in-law’s aunt in a suburb outside of Atlanta for a celebratory meal. We had pepper soup.  His family hails from Liberia and I learned this is the main staple in the Liberian home for any and all special occasions. This soup also contains many meats (beef, cow’s foot, goat, and chicken) and seafoods. The key to this soup is the heat. Thus the name pepper or peppa soup. Each family puts their own twist to the recipe and I have learned to do the same.

Pepper (Peppa) Soup
Pepper (Peppa) Soup



Pepperpot is the national dish of Guyana. It is a stew not a soup. I was introduced to this dish by my friends from Guyana, South America. When visiting Toronto, Canada to attend Carabana, pepperpot was always on the stove.  Our host would just add additional meat when needed. Like gumbo, sancocho and pepper soup, this stew also has a variety of meats, i.e. cow’s foot, oxtail, stew meat, and salt beef. One can use only ox tails if you prefer.

The signature ingredient is cassareep. This sauce is made from grated cassava and flavored with cinnamon and brown sugar. The next important ingredient is scotch bonnet peppers. Thus the name pepperpot.  The recipe I provided uses wiri wiri peppers, but scotch bonnets are more readily available. The cassareep originated with the native peoples of South America as a way to preserve meats and was adopted by the enslaved Africans brought to that country. With this dish you do not refrigerate leftovers. It develops flavor when left on the stove over a period of days, but you must reheat it to a boil every day. We would eat pepperpot with Jamaican bread, roti or with rice.  

Follow this link to an authentic recipe with great instructions and photos.

Groundnut Stew

Several years ago I owned a catering service named “Here’s Cookin’ for You”. One of my most popular meals was Groundnut Stew. Groundnut is another name for peanut. Popular throughout Africa, this dish is simple, quick, and very tasty. For more information about the history of the peanut and Africa click here

My recipe on this website uses cut-up chicken as the protein, but I’ve used ground turkey, lamb, or fish. It comes out delicious every time. Click here for recipe .


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Main Dishes and Vegetable Dishes

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