sopaipillas de abuelita

by jani on October 15, 2012

When we were in Santa Fe, we had the best sopaipillas – translated, “sopa” for soup, “pillas” for pillows. They are so tasty with just plain honey – but most Santa Feans pour Christmas chile sauce in the sopas (as they are locally called) followed by the honey for just the right blend of picante and sweetness.

While in Santa Fe, we met the most delightful woman, Elice, at La Choza restaurant. She sat down and gave us a lengthy tutorial on Santa Feans and their pride in the chile sauces that have been passed down through many generations. They refer to themselves as “chile snobs”… I now know why!

Here is her great grandma Pelagia’s (I’m calling her Abuelita or little grandma) recipe for sopas  along with a recipe for red chile with or without meat.

Red Chile (no meat)


  • 1/4 cup cooking oil (vegetable, corn or olive)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2
  • cup red chile powder (finely ground)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped finely
  • 3 cups water (more or less depending on consistency)
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • pinch of cumin

Heat oil, add flour slowly – stirring rapidly with a wisk, until it just begins to brown. Immediately add chile powder and garlic, still stirring rapidly. When garlic and chile become aromatic, slowly add water – still continually stirring. When all ingredients are well incorporated and smooth, bring to a boil and lower to a low simmer. At this point you may wish to adjust spices or consistency to taste.

Covering the pan is optional; continue to periodically stir as it simmers for about one-half hour.

Red Chile (with meat)

Use the same ingredients listed above, plus one pound lean ground beef or thinly cut pork. Brown the meat in oil; reduce oil 1/8 cup. When browned, add the flour; continue to follow the recipe as above. Again, you may wish to adjust spices and/or water to bring to desired consistency.

Pelagia’s Sopaipillas


  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1-1/4 to 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 Tbsp shortening or lard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Canola oil for frying, at a melted depth of 3-4″ and a temperature of at least 375 F
Sift all dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening to be as evenly distributed as possible. Add the water to make a dough (the dough will not be as crumbly as pie dough, but should be very tender.
If time allows, cover and let stand for 1 to 2 hours. While the dough sits, begin heating the oil. Form the dough into a rectangle, about 1/8″ thickness. Cut into smaller rectangles, three by four inches. Slip gently in to the hot oil; which should start bubbling immediately. Fry each sopaipilla to a golden, puffy brown; turn over once. Approximate cooking time is one minute.
We just served our sopaipillas with dripping honey… a huge YUM!  We are excited to try this red chile sauce. It will be picante – and we love picante, so it’s all good. I decided to include the chile recipes as I already know just how great they are!
I’d love to hear what you think and if you decided to make this red chile with the sopas. Remember – as in the words of Elice, ” Don’t use any of that cayenne crap – only use the real red chile powder!”