Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup)

March  5, 2014

If you're like us, you look to the seasons for what to cook. Get to the market, and we'll show you what to do with your haul.

Today: Meet Spain's fluffy, pungent sopa de ajo, a peasant soup that will carry you through the last stretches of winter. 

Garlic Soup on Food52

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When winter persists, shooing us back towards our pantries and away from the outside world, we turn to peasant food: to beans, to porridge, to pasta. To cabbage, and potatoes, and cabbage and potatoes. To warm things that make the gnarliest of roots palatable and soften our hard, icy souls.

But you cannot look at another brassica. You've maxed out all of the combinations and permutations of cans in your cupboards. Your wooden spoon is permanently stained from Marcella's red sauce. You've become a resentful hybrid of an Italian nonna and a Polish babcia, and you're looking for a reincarnation, but spring isn't coming anytime soon.

To solve this problem, I suggest that you traipse through France, over some mountains, and into Spain, where abuelas everywhere are waiting for you with large, warming bowls of sopa de ajo. Garlic soup. Which sounds about as bare-bones and are-you-kidding-me as it gets, but is also alchemical in its transformation of ingredients. It is magic.

Sopa de Ajo on Food52

Grandmothers tend to receive most of the credit for the brilliance of peasant food, but sopa de ajo is more like an old Spanish man in its identity: It starts out very brash, with the biggest garlic cloves you've got, the stalest bread you can find, the smokiest paprika. It is yelling in public, cigarette in hand, gesticulating wildly. It is covered in olive oil. Its smell is pungent. 

But, like even the roughest of codgers, this soup holds teddy bear potential. With a bit of coaxing, it relaxes and becomes soft. Add water and the bread puffs up, almost disintegrating, spreading all the flavor it has adopted back into its environs. 

Spaniards use meat or poultry stock here, but I abstain from both, and instead use salty, bay leaf-infused water. The stock in your freezer is likely dwindling; I won't ask you to make more.

After a brief simmer, your pot will be full of wisps of bread, swimming in a broth tinted red from paprika and swirled, lava lamp-style, with olive oil. And then you will whisk in beaten eggs to turn everything fluffy and cloud-like, creating a cosmos of garlic specks and egg ribbons and bread mush. This will not remind you of the pantry soups that you've tired of; it creates and inhabits a genre all its own, revolutionary in its ability to comfort.

Sopa de Ajo on Food52

So suck it, winter. You stay as long as you like. We'll be over here, eating garlic soup while abuela dances the Flamenco.

Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup)

Serves 6

2 generous tablespoons olive oil
8 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cubed, stale bread, crusts removed
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
6 cups water
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
4 bay leaves (fresh ones are ideal, but dried is fine, too)
3 eggs, beaten well

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Eric Moran

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



Alex T. March 10, 2014
It looks real good and I do love garlic.
Going to make it soon,and will post the result.
Paloma C. March 9, 2014
It's a winter delicious recipe, typical from Madrid and Castilla in general, not flamenco area;). It remembers me my granny's home, and some cold Christmas in Madrid, when i was a child. Today my son loves it.
e.l. March 6, 2014
How does this soup reheat? Does it store at all?
Marian B. March 6, 2014
It doesn't reheat or store very well, since you've got so much soggy bread and egg going on. If you wanted to make two batches, I'd consider making it without the whisked egg and instead adding soft-boiled or poached eggs when you serve.
LauriL March 5, 2014
Thank you for conveying my feeling to winter!!! I have to say tho that I tend to try many more new recipes when I'm snowed yay for that. And, as I write how wonderful this one sounds there are more fluffy flakes falling!! Definitely will try this one and close my eyes while I transport myself to sunny places. Oh and I always find myself smiling while reading your submissions!! Thanks!
A. March 5, 2014
Only half a tsp of smoked paprika? That seems rather tame.
Marian B. March 5, 2014
Add more if you like! Go ahead and get crazy with your soup.
mbbeard March 5, 2014
Aptly written! One of my fondest memories of Spain, back in the early 80's, was a warm bowl of garlic soup dining el fresco near Malaga. YUM!
Marian B. March 6, 2014
Sounds lovely!
Daniel March 5, 2014
Great recipe! I grew up enjoying it :-)
Judy March 5, 2014
I meant to be notified if there was a comment
Judy March 5, 2014
Do I leave the garlic cloves whole? Smash them? Slice them?
Marian B. March 5, 2014
Sorry for not clarifying! The garlic should be minced. I've updated this in the recipe.
aargersi March 5, 2014
and yum, on the to-try list it goes
Marian B. March 5, 2014
Yay! Let me know how it turns out. Enjoy your Texas weather, also.
Marturello March 5, 2014
I have made garlic soup before but never used smoked paprika, though a half teaspoon doesn't seem like enough to overpower the dish. I like the addition of the egg. Nice touch.
Haven't made garlic soup this winter, and it definitely has been a winter that deserves/requires a dish like this. I will try your recipe, Marian.
Marian B. March 5, 2014
Yes, a little goes a long way, especially with the good stuff! I've seen recipes that use more, but I find it can take over the rest of the ingredients.
petitbleu March 5, 2014
I love sopa de ajo so much! I usually put an egg on it to make it a meal.
Marian B. March 5, 2014
Yes, a lot of the recipes I've seen online add a poached or soft-boiled egg at the end, but in Spain I always ate it egg-drop style -- both ways are great!
Sarah J. March 5, 2014
This is going straight to the top of my list of recipes to make over my spring vacation.
Marian B. March 5, 2014
Yay! And then hopefully after that it will get warm again. (Maybe??)
Lourdes March 30, 2014
This is a great soup my grandmother used to make it all the, you need good crusty bread and good quality olive oil.