Revisiting the Egyptian Sofrito: Test 3 is the charm.

had neither tasted nor even heard of a sofrito until one year while visiting family in France, my husband and I were invited to the home of Dinah Franco — a Sephardic Jew of Egyptian descent. Sofreír in Spanish means to sauté or “lightly fry,” and in Spanish, Portuguese, Caribbean and Latin American countries, a sofrito is a type of sauce made by cooking a lot of garlic, onions, and spices with various vegetables for a long period of time over low heat, so that it can be used as a base for cooking meat, other vegetables, beans or rice dishes.

The following recipe is one that I recreated after having tasted Dinah’s, which combines nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and turmeric, with a lot of garlic and onions. When I was first developing this dish I focused on getting the right balance of seasonings and ingredients down on paper, and when I later tested my recipe I found that the result was more like a soup than a stew. In this most recent third attempt I used a lot less liquid to braise the meat and cooked it over a lower heat for a longer period of time. The overall result was a thick, rich sauce that took on the flavor of the meat, and more of what a true sofrito should be.


STEP 1: Gather and prep your ingredients (3 pounds beef stew pieces, 4 cups onions, parsley, 1 to 2 cups coriander leaves and/or parsley leaves, 4 to 5 tablespoons garlic, spices, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, black pepper).


THE SPICES: 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1 teaspoon ginger, 2 teaspoons turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.



STEP 2: Brown the meat in a large heavy-bottomed pot with a little oil over high heat, then pour into a separate bowl along with all of its liquid.


STEP 3: Add a few tablespoons of oil to the same pot (no need to wash) and cook onions over medium-high heat until soft and transparent, but not browned. Add the garlic and while stirring, cook for 30 seconds.


STEP 4: Add the spices, salt, and pepper, mix, and cook over medium heat for about 1 minute.


STEP 5: Return browned meat and all of its liquid plus about 1 cup cold water to the pot. Add the chopped herbs and mix well. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a medium-low heat, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and cook an additional 1/2 hour until sauce has reduced and meat is so soft it can be easily cut with a spoon. (Note: If you like, you can scatter a few cups of potato pieces over the top and cook it with the meat for the last 1/2 hour as well.)


STEP 6: Dinner is served.






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7 thoughts on “Revisiting the Egyptian Sofrito: Test 3 is the charm.

  1. Beebe February 3, 2016 at 12:55 pm Reply

    Hi Jennifer,
    The sofrito beef stew looks delicious! I’ll definitely try it with the spices you’ve listed. As you know, my husband is of Puerto Rico decent, and his family makes a sofrito that’s more like a condiment paste. They add it to season stews and other dishes.

    • Jennifer Abadi February 3, 2016 at 12:59 pm Reply

      That’s interesting Beebe, thank you for sharing. Do you happen to know what basic ingredients are used to make your husband’s Puerto Rican sofrito paste?

  2. Helena Piñer February 3, 2016 at 3:54 pm Reply

    Hi, in Andalucía, south of Spain we used to say “refrito”. We use it in a lot of preparations since 1492 (no tomatoes before 1492). The word “sofrito” is better used in north or middle Spain. In the XIV century the word was “sosenga” and nowadays it turns to “sofregit in catalán , and “sofrito” but in the XIV century it was used to prepare a meal with meat, oil, onion, parsley, herbs, honey, vinagre and bread and meat broth. But we can found this kind of prepartions (with coriander and not parseyl, not honey but other herbs) in arab andalusian manuscripts of cookbooks since the XII century.

    • Jennifer Abadi February 3, 2016 at 4:07 pm Reply

      Wow, that’s fascinating Helena! Thank you for more in-depth information.

  3. Nina Lehman February 4, 2016 at 4:16 pm Reply

    you give no quantities for the spices, etc. would you?

    • Jennifer Abadi February 4, 2016 at 5:48 pm Reply

      Although my recipe is not finalized for the book, I have added some of the amounts of the spices for those of you who have been asking. Please let me know how it comes out, if you should prepare it, and share my blog with others! I would love to hear back from all of you.

  4. Steve Salloom February 29, 2016 at 11:57 am Reply

    I have made this recipe several times. I use lamb meat (Colorado raised, organic) instead of beef meat. I also marinate the meat with Shawarma Baharat spices and olive oil. The rest of my preparation follows along the same line as in recipe. And believe me, it tastes very good.

    I use the Colorado lamb meat because we can eat it raw, like in Kibeh Nayyeh, and when it is cooked it has a lovely flavor. We also love lamb burgers (I grind my own burgers.) Australian and especially New Zealand lamb meats have a gamey flavor. We don’t like that.

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