Everything You Need To Know About Sopas
This hearty Filipino comfort food is a meal in one hearty, creamy, delicious bowl!
There is nothing quite like a hearty bowl of sopas when you're feeling under the weather, or simply when the weather is rainy and cold. This Filipino version of the chicken noodle soup dish not only has a rich, creamy broth; it comes complete with carbs, protein, and veggies in a bowl.
What is Sopas?
Sopas is a chicken noodle soup dish from the Philippines that has a creamy chicken broth, usually due to the addition of evaporated milk. It also features elbow macaroni noodles, chopped or shredded chicken, and vegetables like onion, carrots, and cabbage. It can also include sliced hotdogs or sausages.
The word "sopas" comes from the Spanish word "sopa", and it simply means "soup." In the Philippine context, however, while "sopas" can be used interchangeably to mean "soup" in general and specifically for macaroni soup, in most cases it will usually refer to the latter. This is because the more common Filipino word for soup (in general) is "sabaw".
How To Cook Sopas
Sopas is cooked by making a light but rich broth with chicken, onions, and garlic. Once the chicken is tender, it is cooled and shredded or chopped, ready to be added later on. The broth is set aside. Then, the macaroni is cooked, drained, and set aside as well. To bring the sopas together, garlic, onion, celery, and carrots are sauteed until tender; to that, the chicken broth is added and brought to a boil. The shredded or chopped chicken and the pasta are then added. If preferred, this is also when the sliced hot dog or sausage is tossed in. Finally, after seasoning with salt and pepper to taste, evaporated milk is added to finish off the soup.
How to Serve Sopas
Sopas is usually served hot, as it is considered by most Filipinos as a comfort dish: it is best enjoyed on cold, rainy days or it is served to someone who is sick. However, sopas can also be an everyday ulam (viand) dish and is an easy soup course to serve at dinner parties.
While sopas can be eaten by itself (after all, it is a complete meal with macaroni as carbs, chicken as protein, and veggies for fiber), in the Philippines, it is usually served as an ulam and is eaten with rice. However, sopas also pairs well with puto or Filipino steamed rice cakes, pan de sal or Filipino bread roll, toasted bread slices, or saltine crackers.
A variation of sopas, called calandracas in Cavite, used to be served primarily at funerals, but it has since been transformed into a celebratory soup dish that is also served during the Christmas and New Year seasons.
Regional Sopas Recipe Variations
Calandracas - Province of Cavite
Calandracas is a kind of sopas dish that originates from Cavite, Philippines. While it is similar to the classic sopas in that it has the same basic ingredients: some form of pasta or noodles, chopped or shredded meat, and veggies. However, what makes calandracas different from sopas is the addition of chorizo bilbao, potatoes, squash, and pechay Tagalog.
In other parts of Cavite, this hearty soup dish can be made with sotanghon instead of macaroni, beef instead of chicken, and can also include other vegetables like ampalaya, talong, okra, sitaw. Others also add garbanzos and sweet potatoes.
Other Sopas Recipe Variations
Much like most classic Filipino dishes, each household has its own version of sopas, and each family will have their own preferences when it comes to what ingredients go into this creamy soup dish, aside from the basic sopas ingredients mentioned above.
Most Filipinos have had this at some point in their lives, and it's made with the addition of one ingredient: red hot dogs! To make it, you can use any of our sopas recipes (it is usually paired with the classic chicken sopas recipe above) and simply add it with the macaroni during the last few steps of cooking. If you don't want to make your sopas pink, you can substitute the classic red hot dogs with other, less brightly-dyed sausages.
Here are other ways you can cook sopas:
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Tips for Making the Best Sopas
1 Don't overcook your macaroni.
Macaroni noodles will keep absorbing the liquid it's in, so take this into account when you add it to the sopas. To avoid mushy macaroni, you can undercook the pasta at the beginning by about 1 to 2 minutes, and then make sure to consume the sopas as soon as it is done cooking.
2 The broth makes all the difference.
Whether you're using chicken or beef to make sopas, it pays to pay attention to the flavor of your broth. Make sure it's seasoned well and has a light but rich flavor because the broth is what ties this delicious soup together. If you do not have the time to make your own broth using the chicken pieces you'll add later on, there's no shame in using chicken powder or bouillon cubes to enrich it and using leftover chicken as the meaty components!
3 You can substitute evaporated milk with other dairy products.
To make your sopas creamy, you are definitely not limited to using evaporated milk. You can also use fresh milk or this simple hack to make your sopas extra creamy! Alternatively, if you do not want to put dairy in your soup, you can also skip it altogether to preserve the flavor of the chicken broth you just made.
Here are more ways you can take your sopas recipe to the next level:
Sopas Storage Tips
Sopas is best served freshly cooked, but we understand: it's so easy to cook sopas that you can definitely make too much! Here are the best ways to store sopas:
1 Let it cool for a maximum of 2 hours before you store it.
This step is crucial, not so much for the soup but for the other food in your refrigerator. Heat will always transfer from hot to cold, and if you put the piping hot sopas in the refrigerator, the heat from the hot soup can warm the other ingredients in your refrigerator. This can be dangerous if it warms other food to unsafe temperatures, which encourages bacteria to grow.
2 Refrigerate it, but strain the broth from the rest of the sopas and store separately.
It's an extra step, but as mentioned, the macaroni will keep on absorbing liquid, even when it's stored in the refrigerator. Without separating the broth from the macaroni, you'll end up with really mushy macaroni in your sopas the next day with barely any soup left!
3 We don't recommend freezing leftover sopas.
This is because of two things: the pasta and the dairy. Pasta soup dishes don't freeze well as freezing destroys the pasta's texture. (It turns mushy.) On the other hand, dairy tends to separate or curdle when it is reheated after being frozen, so it's really best to eat it the day it's made.
4 Bonus tip: prepare parts of your sopas ahead of time instead!
Specifically, we're talking about the broth here: you can make a delicious chicken, chicken bone, or even beef broth ahead of time, and when you're ready to make sopas, you can simply defrost it and add it to the pot. If you like your meat shredded or chopped, you can strain it from your broth as soon as it's cooled, shred or chop it, and likewise freeze it with the broth. This make-ahead prepping tip will make cooking sopas quicker, and you will thank your past self for making this effort!
Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!
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