Mama Elsa’s lentils soup

Today would have been the 88th birthday of my grandmother, Mamá Elsa. To honor her memory, I’m re-posting this recipe that brings so many memories from my childhood. This is the way she used to do it, and this is the way I like it!

This is for you, Mama.



  • 500 grams of lentils
  • 500 grams of beef diced
  • 1 medium yuca
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 green plantain
  • 1 pork bone
  • 3 medium potatoes (If you are able to find these, it is better to replace the potatoes with one otoe and one ñame)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1 handful of cilantro / culantro
  • Salt


Soak the lentils for a few hours before cooking. Drain, place in a large pot and cover with fresh water.

Cook along with the onion and garlic, for about 45 minutes or until tender.

Once soft, puree the lentils with a stick blender or in a food processor until smooth. Put them back in the pot and over the fire, adding more water if they are too thick.

Add cilantro, beef and bone. Cook until meat is tender, about one hour.

Add the yuca and the diced potatoes (or otoe and ñame)

Fry the plantains as if to make patacones* (but fry only once) and add to lentils too.

Pour some olive oil, correct the salt if it is necessary, and cook over low heat until the yuca and the potatoes are tender.


* Patacones: For those of you not familiar with patacones, is a way of cooking plantains, very popular in Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica and Ecuador and, under other names, also in Puerto Rico or Dominican Republic. To make patacones plantains must be green (unripe). It is cut into thick slices, about 5 inches, and fried in hot oil for a short period of time (until they are golden in color), then crushed (with a glass, cup, cutting board, pataconera, roller …) The plantains are then fried once again until they are crisp. You have the recipe here.


37 thoughts on “Mama Elsa’s lentils soup

  1. Shall certainly try this tho’ yuca may just have to be omitted here in Australia unless you can come up with an alternativo 🙂 ! May the memories be warm and happy!!

    1. Hi Eha! Yes, I can imagine that it is hard to find… I can’t think of any substitute for it, but if I come up with something I’ll let you know. Thanks a lot for your comment 😉

  2. This looks like a very tasty dish, Giovanna, and I bet you could almost feel your Grandmother in the kitchen with you as you made her soup. This was a wonderful way to celebrate her birthday.

  3. I tried this recipe and it was so delicious. It reminded of the same soup my mother used to make, and also of the same soup I ate as a child when I attended school at la escuela Republica de China. My family loved it. Thanks for bringing back part of my heritage to me.

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