Recipe: Rancho Canario (Canary Stew-for-an-army)

We recently picked up a cookbook “Las Recetas de las Abuelas” (Alfonso Lopez Alonso)

It’s all in Spanish (why we bought it. To practice). It’s hard to figure what Spanish food even is. Sure there’s paella but what else? When we get tapas they’re just tapas – not meals. We don’t have the patience to stay up until 9pm to start eating dinner slowly. So we’re bringing Spanish dinner into our house but at a more reasonable dinner time for us.

We picked the recipe “Rancho Canario” you would think this would just be Canary Island “Ranch” stew but rancho can actually translate to “mess.” As in mess hall. It’s a recipe designed to feed a small army (or a large family). So Canary Stew-for-an-army. “Rancho” evokes the idea of scarcity or shortage. You needed to be a genius to feed the family – whatever you had would go into the stew. 

Obviously this dish is traditional to the Canary Islands. But what is traditional to the Canary Islands? Their foods were probably influenced by everyone living and colonizing the island. The majority of colonists came from from Andalusia and Castilla. There were also other Europeans and Africans there as well. Also, there is a surprising amount of influence from Latin America (from people returning to Spain from their adventures in the new world).


Like all grandma recipes it has no real recipe. Everyone’s grandma makes it differently but here’s the recipe we followed. This is a hearty stew-y thing. It has a triple dose of carbohydrates (garbanzo beans, potatoes and pasta) as well as a triple dose of proteins (sausage, beef, and chicken). By “ranch” they could also be referring to literally everything growing and living on a ranch go into this stew.

It would be great in winter but we’ve been enjoying it on rainy spring days when the weather can’t make up its mind. It reminds us of a non-Italian version of Minestrone.

Time: About an hour

Serves: About 4 (or two people get two dinners. Or one person gets four dinners!)


If you have a family member who really likes broth (I live for broth) add a bit more water and/or cook without a lid.

The great thing is this can be served very stew-y or more soupy.

Yes, this has three carbs and three proteins. Cut anything out if you feel it’s necessary.


There will have to be a couple adjustmets for our North Americans. Namely saffron and chorizo.  Chorizo is extremely extremely different than the chorizo you can buy in the USA. That chorizo is from Mexico and will be absolutely wrong for this dish (too spicy and oily). Andoule, kielbasa, or just a normal chicken or beef sausage (not italian or breakfast) will work.

Also – saffron. Saffron can be stupid expensive in the USA. Some people swear by 1/8 teaspoon of tumeric mixed with a strong flavorful paprika. Others say cardamom is a fine substitue.

  • 2 cans of garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 can of diced tomato or one fresh tomato (if in season) diced
  • 1/2 lb of stewing beef chunks
  • 1/2 lb chicken breast or strips/chunks
  • 1 sausage (see note above)
  • 1/2 cup of macaroni noodles
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1-4  garlic cloves (depends on how much you like)
  • 1 onion
  • Parsley based on your preferences
  • A pinch of saffron (or a reasonable substitute)
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 chicken/beef/vegetable broth (boullion cube or otherwise)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Make the stew

  1. Chop up more than half of your garlic (up to 3 cloves) and chop your chicken and beef into stew chunks (aka bite sized pieces).
  2. In a stew pot lightly saute parsley, the garlic, meat chunks and whole sausage.
  3. Add enough water or broth to cover all the meat. If using water, add a bouillon cube.
  4. Raise to a boil
  5. Add the garbanzo beans (un-drained) and salt
  6. Peel and chop up your potatoes. Add now or later (depending on how cooked you want them) If the water doesn’t cover it add more water/broth.
  7. Lower to a simmer – simmer for around 30 minutes (make the sofrito during this time! See below!)
  8. About 10-15 minutes before your traditional dinnertime add the sofrito and the noodles.
  9. Simmer. Fish that hunkin’ sausage out and chop it into bite sized pieces. Return to stew.
  10. Serve

Make the Sofrito

Sofrito is a very common recipe-starter in Portuguese, Latin American, Italian and Spanish cooking. Everyone does there sofrito differently based on cultural flavors but you theoretically want to do it to activate flavors and create a base for your stew.

  1. Chop up the onion and 1 clove of  garlic.
  2. Put a bit of oil in a frying pan and saute for about 10 minutes (until onions are cooked)
  3. Add the paprika, saffron, thyme, and the bay leaf.
  4. Cook for 5 minutes more.
  5. Add the diced tomato (fresh or canned)
  6. Simmer for 5 minutes
  7. Set aside

I don’t care about sofrito. I want to make this a one pan wonder


  1. In a big pot saute all of the garlic and onions until the onions are cooked.
  2.  Add the bay leaf, parsley, thyme, salt, and saffron. If using a fresh tomato add now and saute
  3. Add all the bite sized meats and saute until lightly browned.
  4. Throw potatoes in
  5. Cover with broth or water (and add a broth). Bring to a boil.
  6. If using canned tomato add it now as well as the garbanzo beans
  7. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  8. 10 minutes before you want to eat add the macaroni noodles and chop up the sausage.
  9. Serve


Her bowl -mostly liquid

His bowl:

2 thoughts on “Recipe: Rancho Canario (Canary Stew-for-an-army)

  1. This looks AWESOME. At first I was thinking it would take a boat load of canaries to make a stew and wondered how you would catch them all.


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