Cocido-style Nilaga

Cocido-style Nilaga is a soul-warming soup perfect for cold weather. Made of tender beef shanks, Chorizo de Bilbao, saba bananas, and vegetables, it’s a hearty and tasty soup the whole family will love.

I was initially going to call this recipe cocido, but that would have been a bit of a stretch as the traditional Spanish dish is a little more complex than the simple soup we have here.

Cocido Madrileno involves a variety of fresh and cured meats such as pork, beef, chicken, ham, and sausages along with vegetables and legumes such as cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and garbanzo beans. It’s usually presented at the table in parts, with the meat and vegetables on a platter, the broth in a separate soup tureen and a spicy eggplant sauce called berenjena served on the side to round up flavors.

This cocido-style nilaga is less complicated but just as delicious. Like our classic boiled soup, the beef shanks are cooked low and slow in a large pot until fork-tender.

The Chorizo de Bilbao added for a smoky taste along with meaty potatoes, verdant pechay, sweet saba bananas, and garbanzo beans to complete the dish. A simple seasoning of salt and pepper rounds off the flavor.

Cooking tips

  • I like to use boneless beef shanks but chuck roast, round, brisket, or beef ribs are also great options. These tough, sinewy, or bony cuts break down in the low and slow cooking process and become really tender while infusing the soup with flavor.
  • Cut the meat across the grain for an easier chew and into uniform size to ensure even cooking.

  • Pan-fry the saba bananas prior to adding to the stew to help them hold shape. If unavailable in your area, plantains are a good substitute.
  • To ensure a clean and bright broth, tend to it closely, especially during the first initial minutes it is brought to a boil, and religiously skim the scum that floats on top.
  • Feel free to add other available vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, and green beans.

How to serve

  • Enjoy cocido-style nilaga for lunch or dinner with steamed rice. Serve patis on the side as a condiment.
  • For leftovers, let cool completely and transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate for 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
  • To reheat, place in a pot and warm over medium heat to 165 F.  Or heat in the microwave at 2 to 3-minute intervals, stirring after each interval.

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