What is Shrimp Asopao?
Asopao is a rice stew popular in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. What is shrimp asopao? It’s akin to gumbo or Jollof rice. All three are comforting, cool weather dishes with a rice base. When you think about Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic, cold days probably don’t come to mind. Let me tell you, they happen! Travel up to the mountainous regions and you’re going to be hit with a few 40-50 degree days. When the temperatures drop, people get out their soup pots and make a big batch of Asopao.
But don’t wait for a cold day to enjoy a warming bowl of asopao. You can cook it and enjoy it all year round. Today I’m making a shrimp asopao or asopao de camarones. However, you will run into many different versions with chicken being the most popular. Some variations of asopao will have ham added into the dish for flavor no matter the base protein. I’m skipping it today, but if you want to add a ¼ cup of ham to your asopao, by all means I am not stopping you!
Dominican Asopao vs Puerto Rican Asopao
As I mentioned before, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic both have their own take on the delicious rice stew. I spent time time investigating the differences and a few things turned up:
The Puerto Rican version of shrimp asopao is less likely to have a DIY seafood stock
The Puerto Rican asopao often has olives and/or capers. This adds a nice tangy bite to the hearty flavor profile.
The Dominican version has a DIY shrimp stock and it has more broth and doesn’t often have cumin or sazon.
What are gandules?
The best part about asopao is you can get creative and substitute ingredients to suit your tastes. My recipe calls for pigeon peas (gandules) but if you love green peas, go ahead and use them in place or do half and half. What are pigeon peas or gandules? They’re a small bean native to Africa or India. They’re small and often green or a yellow-ish brown. In many countries, people eat them with rice. But the uses don’t stop there. Gandules can be fermented into tempeh, ground into flour, or pureed into soups.
Fresh gandules come in a pod and need to be individually peeled out. (So much time!). I buy mine canned at the grocery store in the international foods section. These gandules are canned fresh. Goya makes a great one that you can find in your hispanic foods section. There is also the option to buy them dried.
Base for Asopao
Dominican and Puerto Rican Asopao both have a sofrito base to give it a nice, rich taste without being spicy. What is sofrito? It’s a quintessential Latin American ingredient that is popular in beans, soups, stews, and meat recipes. You can buy sofrito ready made in jars on Amazon ready made or you can use my recipe for homemade sofrito. The fresh herbs really make a difference in flavor so I definitely recommend it. The base ingredients in sofrito are tomatoes, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, cumin, and paprika. It’s a warming, earthy flavor and one of the reasons that I love Latin cuisine so much.
How to Make Asopao De Camarones
Today we are making Dominican Asopao so get your stock pots ready. I highly recommend buying your shrimp fresh with the shells and tails still on. If you are not into deveining and peeling a bunch of shrimp, I get it! Just get the one with tails only. Your shrimp tails are going to be key to making a delicious, flavorful broth so you’ll want to have them.
Now this part of the recipe will take some effort but it will be worth it, trust me. After you’ve peeled and deveined your shrimp, set the shells and tails aside. You’ll add chopped onion and olive oil and let them cook for a minute over medium-high heat before adding your other water and homemade sofrito. If you don’t have the tails, a seafood bullion will do.
Rice For Shrimp Asopao
You can really use any rice you would like to make your perfect asopao. When you make it I highly *highly* recommend giving it a good rinse. Hey, maybe twice. When rice is in a bag and the grains are all together, it creates a starchy powder that can make any rice-based dish thick. Rinsing your rice gets rid of these pesky starches and ensures that your asopao does not get too thick before the rice is fully cooked. That said, feel free to use long grain, medium grain, or short grain. I like Carolina rice if you can find it.
Flavor hack: After your rice is rinsed, soak it in the pigeon pea liquid for 45m before cooking. It will soften and speed up the cooking time. Plus, extra flavor! Hello!
How to Serve Shrimp Asopao
Ahh as with many comfort dishes, there are endless options for enjoying your hearty bowl of Dominican asopao. You can add a few thin slices of avocado to the top for a pop of color and creaminess. There is also the option to get out some crusty bread and add butter. If you’re gluten-free, never fear, tostones are perfect for dunking. Need to add some flavor contrast? Squeeze a wedge of lime over it or throw on some chopped parsley or cilantro which in my opinion, is the best asopao recipe.
Step by step photos:
- Gather all the ingredients for your shrimp asopao and have them measured, chopped and ready to go.
- Heat a Dutch oven on medium, add the olive oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the sofrito then stir to combine.
- Add in the shrimp shells.
- Stir the shells around until they all turn pink.
- Add 8 cups water and the cilantro sprigs. Simmer and reduce by ⅓.
- Ladle the stock through a strainer to separate the solids.
- You should end up with 5 cups of shrimp stock.
- Strain the gandules and save to liquid from the can.
- Rinse the rice until the water runs clear then pour in the liquid from the gandules and allow to soak.
- Heat a Dutch oven on medium then add the onion, garlic and parsley. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Add the shrimp, tomato purée then stir to combine.
- Stir in the gandules, salt and chili powder.
- Pour in 5 cups of shrimp stock.
- Drain the liquid from the rice then stir to combine. Bring to a boil on medium then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the rice is soft. This should take about 17-20 minutes.
- Add salt to taste then squeeze the juice from one lime.
- Serve with lime wedges.
Frequently asked questions:
- How long can I store shrimp asopao in the refrigerator? Once it has completely cooled you can store this in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave on medium power until hot but stop and stir every 30 seconds to fluff it up.
- Can I freeze this dish? Yes, once it has completely cooled you can pack into zip top freezer bags packed flat to save space and expel all the air. This will keep for 6 months in the freezer.
Do you want to explore more Latin food?
Ropa Vieja is a slow cooked pulled beef, Cuban style.
Authentic Mexican pork carnitas are are easy to make in the slow cooker and made crispy under the broiler.
Latin style black beans are seasoned with sofrito, recaito and other spices can be made in the microwave!
Sofrito is a flavor base for many Latin dishes and it easy to make and freeze into cubes.
Recaito is another key ingredient in many dishes from Latin America and can also be frozen into cubes.
Shrimp Asopao Recipe
You will love this rice and shrimp stew popular in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Shrimp Stock Ingredients
Make the Shrimp Stock
Heat a Dutch oven on medium, add the olive oil and sauté the onion until translucent.
Add the sofrito and the shrimp shells. Stir until the shells turn pink.
Add 8 cups water and the cilantro sprigs. Simmer and reduce by ⅓.
Ladle the stock through a strainer to separate the solids. You should end up with 5 cups of shrimp stock.
Make the Asopao
Strain the gandules and save the liquid.
Rinse the rice of all the starch the add the liquid from the gandules to the rice and let it soak in the liquid while preparing the dish.
Heat a Dutch oven on medium then add the onion, garlic and parsley. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent.
Add the shrimp, tomato purée, gandules, salt and chili powder to the Dutch oven.
Pour the shrimp stock into the Dutch oven.
Drain off the gandules liquid from the rice and add it then bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the rice is soft. This should take about 17-20 minutes.
When the rice is soft add more salt to taste then squeeze the juice of one lime. Stir to combine.