Sancocho - Panama's Chicken Soup

Sancocho is a traditional Panamanian chicken soup flavored with culantro, oregano, onions and garlic.

Rice and Sancocho cooking over fagóns in Panama. Photo from Cooking in Panama

The Panamanians say you should eat Sancocho for lunch on hot days because it will help cool you off. Also if men are drinking at a house, it is the responsibility of the housewife to make sancocho for them. It is supposed to prevent a hang over. I assume this is because the salty soup works like an electrolyte. Just call it Panamanian Gatorade.


4 chicken thighs and legs with bone
2 big potatoes, cut into large chunks
1 large carrot, cut into chunks
2 large onions, cut into chunks
Other Panamanian root crops if you can get them (yuca, ñame, otoe)
1 green plantain, cut into chunks
2 cobs of corn, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
2 liters water

  1. Start by killing the chicken - no I'm kidding, but that is the way the Panamanian women start. All you have to do is take your chicken out of the package and cut the thighs from the legs.
  2. In a big pot add water and chicken pieces bones and all. Bring to a boil. Then add all the veggies and spices and continue boiling.
  3. When the chicken is cooked through and the veggies are soft, it is edible. This is about one hour. However, if you can, let the soup simmer for a while and the flavor will improve. Keep adding water so the veggies stay about an inch under water.
  4. Serve the soup with a plate of white rice on the side.
I am working on writing up how to cook some of the classic Panamanian dishes. Food is very much a part of culture. If you want your own little slice of Panama try some of the recipes here Recipes from Panama.


  1. MMMM. Now I just gotta grow me some culantro. Are you going to bring some seeds back? Is that legal?

  2. Sounds awesome! Also, I think I remember either when we talked on the phone or in a letter you mentioned a herb called espazote. True? Or did I imagine this. I remember you saying it may be hard to find. However, Penzey's spices sells it... so, I have found a source and am thinking of trying it sometime. :) Hope you guys are doing well: Miss you!

  3. Patricia (Lustgraaf) Townsend2/17/2009

    That looks great! I saw the link to your blog on the AHS Reunion Facebook page and thought I'd check it out!

  4. so excited to find your blog! and your Panamanian recipes! I spent a week in Panama in college working with another PCV & LOVED the food. So excited to try some of them out!

  5. It's raining here and I want this soup! It sounds so delicious!

  6. Wow - we could use that here - too hot!

  7. Anonymous7/28/2010

    panama sure has a yummy gatorade version :)

  8. sounds so good! great post

  9. Hi Foy,
    saw your friend reuest in Foodbuzz. You have a very nice blog ! the soup looks equally delicious...
    iam following u :)

  10. Panamanian food is very interesting and not very common. This looks very good.

    If you grow epazote, it is like a weed and very invasive. It is very prolific too.

  11. I know that Sancocho is a traditional Panamanian chicken soup, but I have been in Colombia , I have eaten a recipe called sancocho too, It is so delicious, excellent recipe! 22dd

  12. Panamanian here...

    Colombian Sancocho is different. Panamanian tends to be lighter, and a true Colombian Sancocho will come in colours because of the spices they add to them (this makes the flavour different because we use mainly culantro).

    Ingredients are similar, though. Hope this helps :)

  13. I tried to find the recipe on eHow and it seems it is no longer there. Has this recipe been posted anywhere else? I lived in Panama for a year back in the 1980s and would love to make this soup! I'm also looking for a good tamal de olla recipe (similar to the one served at El Trapiche in Panama City).

    And to those looking for culantro, try an Asian market, especially Vietnamese and Thai. It is known as ngò gai in our local Vietnamese market. Not sure what it is called in Thai but they do use it in their cuisine too.