Make Ahead

Abuela's Sopa de Avena con Pollo (Grandma's Chicken and Oat Soup)

September 22, 2013
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

While living in Spain, I dated a man whose best attribute was his grandmother's cooking. She had been a naturopath and good heavens, she made Sunday lunches an absolute joy! I remember once when I had a cold, my-once-upon-a-time prince pulled a couple of containers of her "Avena" from the freezer, thawed them out and served them for dinner. I was never able to procure the recipe from his grandmother, but this is a pretty good approximation. I love the density of this soup--its heartiness--and the fabulous mix of spices that recalls the melange of cultures that have contributed to Spain's cuisine. One might almost forget that oats can be used for savory cooking. What a fantastic reminder! —nycnomad

Test Kitchen Notes

The aroma of the unusual spice pairings with the olives (I used a green unpitted olive, as I couldn’t find arbequinas) smelled absolutely intoxicating. I ran short of green beans, so I used kale to very good effect; in fact, you could use many different vegetables in this. The groats swelled up considerably and provided a chowder-like consistency to the broth. This is a comforting and hearty cool-weather soup and it makes a lot! I would definitely make it again, perhaps reducing the amount of groats and increasing the spices. —Lynn D.

What You'll Need
  • Chicken and Vegetable Stock
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 whole stalk of celery
  • 2 organic whole chicken legs
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • The Hearty Goodness
  • 1 1/2 cups whole oat groats
  • 6 roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup green (string) beans
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3/4 cup arbequina olives (stone-in)
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  1. Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a deep cooking pot.
  2. Coarsely chop the onion, garlic, and celery. Add them to the pot and sauté over a medium flame until the vegetables have softened. Stir frequently.
  3. Cut the chicken legs in half at the knee joint and add to the pot. Sauté until lightly browned, stirring frequently.
  4. Coarsely chop the carrots and add to the pot. Add the 4 cups of water and let simmer over a medium flame. When it comes to a boil, turn down the flame and allow to simmer until the chicken has cooked through and the meat is falling off the bone, about 1 hour.
  5. Remove the bones and cut any remaining meat from them. Add the meat back to the broth and discard the bones.
  6. Chop the tomatoes into eighths. Snip off the ends of the beans and cut them into 1-inch pieces. Add both to the soup.
  7. Rinse the groats in cold water 3 times, or until the water drains away clear. Drain and then add them to the soup base along with 2 more cups of water.
  8. Add the spices and the olives.
  9. Cook, covered and over a low flame, for an hour before adding the salt.
  10. Add salt to suit your taste. Feel free to modify the vegetables and spices as well. I happen to like more cumin, and sometimes I add mushrooms at the very end. This is sort of an anything goes recipe. ;)
  11. Enjoy.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Natalie Chin
    Natalie Chin
  • nycnomad
  • aargersi
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore

23 Reviews

Ascender February 23, 2014
In response to a question about whether the oats are cooked before being added, you replied: "The beauty of the recipe is that as the groats cook down, the gluten thickens the broth."
I think that was a typo, as you'd already mentioned that pure oats are gluten free. What thickens the broth is the soluble fiber in the oats.

Soluble fiber is incredibly healthy, helping lower cholesterol by binding to bile-emulsified fats so they aren't reabsorbed. It also normalizes elimination and nourishes the healthy bacteria in your gut.

Too bad the guy wasn't as cool as his gran.
ksschapp January 11, 2014
I definitely want to try this recipe. It sounds very fragrant. Do you think I can use steel cut oats instead of groats?
nycnomad January 11, 2014
Hi! Yes I think you can but it will cut the cooking time and I would use less than the recipe indicates, perhaps 1/2 cup or 3/4 cup because they will release their starch faster than the groats. It will also change the cooking time. I would just watch it and when it gets to the desired thickness, I would take it off the flame. You can also just add more water :)
Loreleis October 19, 2013
Made this tonight and found it a extraordinary soup to add to the collection of soups I can make given the GF and acid free diet I must eat. Substituted roasted red peppers for the romas and Wow. This soup was liked by all.Thank you nycnomad for introducing me to oat groats and for this gift of flavor.
nycnomad October 19, 2013
I am so glad! There is nothing better than sharing good food :)
Natalie C. October 14, 2013
Do you think you could substitute pearled barley or bulgar for the oat groats? I have some of both in my cupboard that really needs to be used! Thanks for sharing your recipe!
nycnomad October 14, 2013
Hi! I absolutely think you can add pearl barley. In fact one could substitute many different grains, each with a slightly different effect. Barley will not thicken the soup as oats or rice might and it will give a slightly nuttier flavor than the oats. Bulgar and quinoa being smaller grains will require larger amounts to contribute in substance to the soup and as with the barley neither will thicken the broth, but they will add their own character. You may want to modify the spices to balance the grain of your choice. Quinoa has a slightly bitter taste for example that clash with the olives a bit. Play with it. I would personally go for pearled barley over bulgar, but that's just me. Let me know how it turns out.
Lynn D. October 2, 2013
The starch in the oats definitely thickens the soup and the next time I make it I will use fewer oats, but oats are pretty much gluten-free unless they are cross contaminated at the mill. This is a great dish for the gluten sensitive.
nycnomad October 2, 2013
It seems that as I was typing in the directions to this recipe I may have deleted a box accidentally, possibly while searching for the, "add a step button". Based on the recipe as written I can see how the density of the soup might have been more than expected, and it is a rather precipitous change. Originally, as you can see from the ingredient list the stock calls for 4 cups of water and then another 2 are added later on. Both the addition of the groats and that of the water must have been in the box deleted. I will rectify the error as soon as I get the edit button back. As for the gluten free, yes oats generally are and is therefore a generally safe option provided that it isn't contaminated and the person doesn't also react to oats. I also like that it achieves a creamy base without dairy, making it a viable option for the lactose intolerant, as well.
Kristen M. October 8, 2013
nycnomad, I just noticed the editing issue -- if you send us your edits at [email protected], we can update the recipe for you (editing closes while the contest is in testing mode). Thanks!
nycnomad October 8, 2013
Yes please! If you could integrate a text box between steps 6 and 7 with the following directions, " Rinse the groats in cold water 3 times or until the water drains away clear. Drain and then add them to the soup base along with 2 more cups of water." I would be greatly appreciative!
Kristen M. October 8, 2013
All fixed!
nycnomad October 8, 2013
Thank you so much!
nycnomad September 30, 2013
I'm so glad you enjoyed it! And yes his grandmother definitely knew what she was doing. She used to make an after dinner infusion of fresh sage leaves, juice from 1/2 a lemon and honey that was incredible. She always left me in awe. Simple and yet sophisticated. Thank you again for your feedback.
nycnomad September 29, 2013
Just an added note, if you aren't used to eating dished with olives (with pits) then you might want to choose olives without the stones or be sure to remind your family to take care with them.
nycnomad September 29, 2013
My sincerest apologies. The groats should be added at stage 6. I would modify the recipe but the edit button seems to have been removed. I will try to modify it. Thank you for letting me know. So sorry for the confusion.
aargersi September 29, 2013
Thanks! Are the groats cooked when you add them?
nycnomad September 29, 2013
Rinsed but uncooked. The beauty of the recipe is that as the groats cook down, the gluten thickens the broth. Just as with oatmeal, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour. If you prefer a thinner broth you can serve it earlier, just as the hulls open (45 minutes). If you'd like to try the thicker broth, then let it cook a little longer. I really hope you enjoy.
aargersi September 30, 2013
Love it! So fragrant and delicious
nycnomad September 30, 2013
Oh I'm so glad!
Lynn D. September 28, 2013
I signed up to test this as I just bought some locally grown oat groats at the farmer's market. I won't make this until I know when to add them to the recipe!
aargersi September 28, 2013
I am wondering about the groats as well - also do you cook them separately or let them cook right in the soup?
GPeaslee September 27, 2013
When do the oat groats go in? I don't see them in the instructions. (Otherwise, looks great! Can't wait to try this.)