Up and down the Andes Mountain Range, a traditional hearty stew simmers for hours on the stove, filling kitchens with sweet and savory aromas. Locro is a traditional Argentine soup full of beans and meat, but dressed in a spice profile that makes it quite special.
Spoonfuls of locro are enjoyed in the southern half of South America – and can be found in Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Argentina. It is a recipe that can be traced back to before the time of Spanish colonialization. Though each country interprets the recipe differently – adding vegetables, subtracting meats, changing spices – Argentina is known for its Locro Criollo, a recipe developed over centuries, blending the traditions and flavors of native inhabitants and immigrants from across Europe.
Locro is also the only soup traditionally served on May 25th, a national holiday that commemorates the Argentine Revolution and a critical step towards the country’s independence from Spain. The 25th of May is an occasion for large extended families to gather together to share a meal, meaning that quite a bit of locro is often made.
Because locro has been an Argentine tradition for several hundred years, the variations on the original recipe are infinite. However, there still remain a handful of unique characteristics that set this soup apart. The first is a few defining ingredients: corn, meat (beef, chorizo, tripe), and squash. As with any stew, the flavors combine and intensify over time and locro can cook for anywhere between 3 and 8 hours. Over the low heat, the squash softens into a puree, adding body and a beautiful orange hue.
It is also often accompanied by a special sauce known as quiquirimichi– something along the lines of a chimichurri, which is used to add flavor and heat. The sauce is typically prepared with olive oil, crushed red pepper, paprika and other spices. Argentine cuisine is no stranger to hot and spicy, but most natives prefer more subtle, mild flavors. For that reason, heat is often served on the side, a tradition that allows guests to choose for themselves how hot – or not – to enjoy the meal.
Dense in nutrients, hearty in flavor, and warm all the way through, locro is an Argentine necessity as the autumn arrives and families huddle indoors for warmth. It's well worth trying when you visit in Mendoza, and perhaps also recreating at home.