This Bolivian inspired soup is a delicious, hearty meal for anytime. In Bolivia, it is a traditional soup to make for Christmas Eve dinner to celebrate Nochebuena. Bolivian Picana might be one of the first Bolivian dishes I cooked at home.
My husband is from Bolivia but we live in Miami, FL. Often times I try to make Bolivian inspired food for our family. I can’t always find all the ingredients as in Bolivia, but I come pretty close. Hope you enjoy this recipe:)
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What is Bolivian Picana?
Bolivian Picana is a slow cooked soup with a variety of meats, vegetables and even beer/wine to make the best Christmas Eve stew. Different regions in the Bolivia have slightly different recipes for this soup. Picana also has a special type of potato, which is called Tunta.
What is Tunta?
Tunta or white chuño is a freeze dried potato in the Andean region of Latin America, mainly Bolivia and Peru. The potatoes go through a process of natural freeze drying for several days in high altitudes, where it is freezing at night and warmer during the day which allows for dehydration to take place. White chuño or tunta is obtained by washing the freeze dried potatoes.
In Miami you can find tunta or chuño in some Peruvian stores. Latin American section in my grocery store doesn’t have this product. It’s not an easy product to find. If you can’t find it, I would add more potatoes to the soup.
Christmas Soup (Bolivian Picana) Recipe Notes & Tips
I have cooked this stew so many times and with slightly different versions each time. This is how I cook it in Miami because I can’t really find some ingredients like I would be able to in Bolivia. So this recipe is the closest I can get to the recipes handed over to me from my husband’s family.
- Give yourself time to cook this soup. It is rich in ingredients and some of them have to cook separately.
- That said, you don’t need to slave all day in the kitchen. Use Instant Pot or a pressure cooker and extra pots to cook some ingredients simultaneously. This will help shorten the cooking time.
- For example: I start cooking the beef in Instant Pot, then put the chicken in a pot to boil. While both chicken and beef are cooking, start peeling, chopping and cutting the vegetables. Start sauteing them one by one. At that point meat is cooked in IP, so you can naturally release the steam then add meat to the pot where you are sauteing the vegetables and take it from there. This step helps ensure that you cut down on time by overlapping some prepping steps.
- Several Bolivian recipes call for lamb meat too, so the soup usually has 3 different meats: beef, chicken and lamb. I love it with all 3 but my husband is not a big fan of lamb, so this time I didn’t include lamb. If you were to add lamb to this stew, cook it separately like the beef and chicken and put everything together after sauteing.
- Soup calls for both beer and wine as ingredients. I have tried the soup with red wine and white wine, I personally prefer it with white wine but you might want to try it both ways and see which one you like yourself.
I took some process pictures as I was cooking the soup, just to clarify some of the recipe steps.
Let’s start by putting all the ingredients together just as a big picture. If you’ll do this, keep them a bit more spaced out. I had to squeeze them together just for the picture purpose. Picture is missing olive oil and tunta.
Proceed by handling the chicken first, add it to a big pot, cover it with water and set it on the stovetop in high heat until it boils, then lower heat and cover the pot.
Then cut the beef in big chunks, saute in olive oil in the Instant Pot then add 3 cups of water to Instant Pot, set it to meat/poultry setting, close the lid and cook for 30 minutes.
Once beef is cooking in IP and chicken in the pot, clean and chop all vegetables as instructed in the recipe card below. Pick the biggest pot of all. Saute the onion in olive oil, then add carrots, red bell pepper, jalapeno and turnip to the pot. Saute all together.
Once beef has finished cooking in Instant Pot, let the IP depressurize naturally, then transfer the beef to the soup pot. Drain the stock through a fine mesh and add the stock to the pot as well.
Finally add seasonings, mix well. Then get the chicken, cut it in small pieces (portion sizes) and add to the soup. Add slowly some chicken stock to fill the pot up (few inches from the rim). Let cook for about another hour or so, then add beer and wine. Cook for a bit longer to let the alcohol evaporate and the flavors really meld together.
Boil the potatoes, tunta and corn separately. Add to plate as needed then pour soup with a ladle on top. Decorate with parsley and serve hot. Tunta when bought in Bolivia is processed like a potato, you usually boil it. The one I was able to find here in Miami, it’s canned and didn’t need additional boiling.
Cooking Tip: If you plan for no leftovers, cook the potatoes in the pot with everything else. But if you think you’ll have lots of leftovers, it’s better the cook the potatoes separately and just add them to plate as needed. Their taste tends to get bitter if they’re not freshly cooked, so it might make your leftovers taste different.
I love this stew so much but can’t prepare it often because it is time consuming so I plan for lots of leftovers. We freeze some in air tight containers. When I plan to use the stew again, I thaw it first then warm it up on the stovetop. I then boil corn and potatoes separately to add to plate.
Christmas Soup Inspired by Bolivian Picana
- 1 medium size whole chicken
- 2 lbs beef for stew
- 1 red onion
- 1 turnip
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 jalapeno
- 1 tomato
- 1.5 cup lager beer
- 2 cups white wine
- 1 cup green peas
- 1 lb potatoes
- 12 carrot sticks
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp dry oregano
- 1 tsp sugar
- 12 corn halves
- 3 tbsps olive oil
- tunta (if you can find it) calculate 1 small chunk per serving
- 0.5 tbsp white pepper
- 1 red bell pepper
- Cut beef in chunks and saute in 1 tbsp of olive in instant pot.
- Once sauteed, add 3 cups of water, close the lid, pressurize and cook for 30 minutes in the meat setting.
- Then add chicken to a medium size pot, cover in water and set to boil, Once the water boils, then lower heat to medium and cover the pot.
- In the meantime as beef and chicken cook, peel the onion, turnip and chop the vegetables. I like to dice onion, turnip, jalapeno, tomato and julienne the red bell pepper.
- Get a big soup pot where you'll finish making the soup. Saute in 2 tbsps of olive oil the onion until translucent. Then add carrots, celery, red bell peppers, parsley, turnip and green peas. Saute all together. Add the diced tomato at the end of the sauteing process.
- Once beef is done cooking for 30 minutes, let the IP depressurize with the natural release option. Get the beef and transfer it to the soup pot. Then drain the stock in a mesh, and pour the stock in the soup pot too. Keep heat in medium setting in the stovetop.
- Handle the chicken carefully because it will still be hot. Cut in pieces and transfer to soup pot too. Add enough chicken stock to fill up the soup pot (few inches from the rim). Let cook in medium heat for almost 1 hour.
- Boil potatoes, corn and tunta separately. You can add the sugar and some salt to the corn pot.
- Add salt, oregano, bay leaves and white pepper to soup. Stir everything.
- Finally add beer and wine to the soup. Let it cook for another half an hour. Then low the heat to the lowest setting.
- When serving, add corn, potatoes and tunta to the plate. Then use a ladle to pour soup over them. Also, make sure to add a piece or meat and a piece of chicken to the plate as well. Garnish with parsley and serve hot. Enjoy and Merry Christms /Feliz Navidad:)
- Please note that I add more red bell pepper and parsley than what is traditional. Same might be true for celery and carrots, I love lots of vegetables in my stew.
- Instead of a whole chicken, you can use several pieces of chicken, 3-4 lbs. It makes the process a little easier.
- Some people might cook this soup with up to 4 different types of meat, including lamb and pork too. The more options, the richer the stew. But a simpler version with just beef and chicken works great too:).
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Other Bolivian Inspired Recipes
Please see below some more Bolivian inspired recipes: