Salmorejo is a Spanish cold soup similar to the better-known gazpacho, but even simpler and creamier (though there's no cream). It's easy to make with common ingredients and perfect to cool down on a hot day.
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I'm not really sure why gazpacho is so much better known outside of Spain that this or other cold soups. Don't get me wrong, I like it a lot, but I love variety as well.
For me, I will always associate this soup with sitting outside at a cafe in Granada, looking up at the magnificent alhambra. If you're not familiar, the alhambra is a palace build during the Morrish occupation of the region and has wonderfully elegant carved walls and decorative geometric tiles.
This soup is actually from Cordoba, another town also in Andalucia. The two cities have a certain amount in common. They both have an architectural and culinary legacy that has many influences, including Moorish, and they both get incredibly hot in the summer.
As a result, it's no surprise that cooling soups like this originate and are popular in the region.
Tomatoes are part of both, and if you're familiar with Spanish food you'll know they are an incredibly important part of Spanish cooking (pan con tomate is another simple favorite that lets them shine).
But relatively speaking, they're a new addition to Spanish cuisine. Columbus brought them back from the Americas and they were gradually adopted. Then, tomatoes were added to many dishes, including much older simple cold soups inherited from Roman times. (like ajo blanco).
What's the difference between salmorejo and gazpacho?
Both are cold Spanish soups that include tomato and day-old bread. But salmorejo is much simpler and thicker. It has a higher proportion of bread in it, and is typically just bread, tomato, garlic, olive oil and a little vinegar.
Gazpacho, meanwhile, includes other vegetables like pepper and cucumber, making it more of a mixed vegetable soup.
Both are definitely worth a try as they are both delicious in their own right. This thicker soup has a kind of creaminess as the bread, tomato and oil emulsify. It's a little more filling but still light and perfect for warmer weather.
Since it has so few ingredients, it's important to use good quality ones. Look for really good tomatoes - they should be properly ripe and ideally on the vine or heirloom so they have plenty of flavor. Use a good quality olive oil and bread.
Traditionally, you would use a white bread like a baguette or country bread. Don't use a coarse wholegrain bread as you don't want seeds in there texture-wise. You'll find day-old bread easier to chop up and blend (plus it's a great way to use leftovers).
How do you serve this?
This cold soup makes a great appetizer or light lunch in the summer months. The typical way to serve it is topped with cubes of hard boiled egg and serrano ham. Here I admit I cheated a little as I didn't have any ham so used chorizo instead, which is also good.
As it is thicker, you might also see this used as a sauce in some Spanish restaurants. It's definitely something you could play around with, if you're feeling creative!
The main thing, though, is that salmorejo is incredibly easy to make, as you simply whizz everything up in a blender or food processor. Give the mixture some time to chill, then serve it with the traditional garnishes, or not, as you prefer. It's delicious, and cooling, either way.
Try these other Spanish favorites:
- Spanish tortilla (tortilla Española)
- Blistered Padron peppers
- Spanish pizza (Catalan coca)
- Plus get more Spanish recipes and summer recipes in the archives.
- 1 lb tomatoes 450g - very ripe, vine or other good quality if possible
- 1 clove garlic (small-med)
- 1 cup cubed bread 66g, day-old white eg baguette/country-style, amount without crusts
- ½ tsp sherry vinegar
- 1 pinch salt
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 hard boiled egg
- 2 slices serrano ham (approx, ideally thicker sliced - or can use chorizo as I had here)
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil (approx)
- Roughly dice the tomatoes and remove any green/tough core. Peel and roughly chop the garlic. Put the tomatoes, garlic, cubed bread, vinegar and salt in a blender or food processor. Blend a minute or two until well broken up and smooth. If the tomatoes are not very juicy, add a little water to make it slightly easier to blend but it should be relatively thick.
- If you are able to, add the olive oil gradually while the blender is still running. If not, add some at a time then blend. Either way, blend a couple minutes so the mixture is very smooth and looks silky, almost creamy.
- Chill for around 30 minutes so that the mixture is well chilled. You can also leave it overnight, if this suits better.
- To serve, divide between two bowls. Dice the hard boiled egg and ham into small pieces and top the two bowlfuls. Drizzle over a little oil and serve.
I've drawn on various sources for this recipe, but particularly José Andrés' recipe in Food and Wine. Not only is he a great Spanish chef, but I admire his amazing work through World Central Kitchen (do take a look!).
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.