Lena is a foodie and home cook from the SF Bay Area with a passion for Spanish flavors and traditional cooking with a modern touch!
Ajoblanco is a chilled Spanish soup featuring almonds and garlic. You may see it on a menu as "white gazpacho," but unlike a traditional gazpacho recipe, it contains no fruit or vegetables...although it is often served with halved fresh green grapes, which add a pleasant "pop" of sweet, acidic juice that really brightens up the creaminess of the almonds and cuts through the sharp raw garlic. Slices of melon are sometimes used to the same effect.
Sometimes, "ajo blanco" is written as two separate words, giving you a hint to how this dish was named. Ajo means "garlic" and blanco means "white," describing the flavor and color of the soup. But when you know how it is made, you can also see why people call it "white gazpacho," because you employ the same technique as the tomato-based version: emulsifying olive oil and sherry vinegar with garlic and thickening with stale bread.
Some recipes do call for apple or cucumber, but here I've offered a more authentic rendition which you can customize as you see fit. Personally, I love simple, classic Spanish dishes with a ton of fresh garlic, but your preferences or needs may be different, so I have some suggestions for how to modify the basic ajoblanco recipe, following the instructions.
Authentic Ajoblanco Soup Recipe
|Prep time||Ready in||Yields|
- 4 thick slices day-old bread
- 1 cup whole almonds, blanched
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2-3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 2 1/2 cups cold water, plus additional for soaking bread
- salt, to taste
- green grapes (optional), halved
- additional almonds (optional), for garnish
- Tear the stale bread into pieces, removing any hard crust, and place them in a bowl or dish. Pour in enough water to saturate the bread and let it sit for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, blanch your almonds (if you did not buy pre-blanched) and peel the garlic. Give them a rough chop and then add both to your food processor or high-speed blender and puree.
- Squeeze as much water out of the bread as you can, then add to the almond and garlic mixture. Blend.
- Slowly pour olive oil through the lid of the appliance, while it continues to run.
- Add 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar and then taste. Add more vinegar one tablespoon at a time, to your preferences, blending after each addition.
- Add cold water, blending constantly, until the soup achieves your desired consistency. (You may use more or less than indicated, depending on the saturation of your bread.)
- Add salt to taste, then cover and chill until ready to serve. (I recommend at least 3 hours, for the flavors to blend and meld.)
- Serve in a small drinking glass or in a bowl with halved green grapes, toasted chopped almonds, and/or top with fresh herbs.
Why Blanched Almonds?
Blanching almonds only takes a few minutes, as you can see in the video above. You can also buy whole or slivered almonds that have already had their skins blanched off.
It is totally fine to use whole almonds with the skin still on, also, but you will not get a perfectly white soup. You can see in the photo below the results of an ajoblanco recipe without blanching, which is still very beautiful, but not traditional.
Reduce the amount of cold water and substitute a watery fruit or vegetable. A few suggestions that have worked well for me in the past:
- Green melon
- Green grapes
Cucumber and apple should be completely peeled to avoid green flecks in your final dish. All ingredients need a rough chop before they go into the blender or food processor to ensure that everything will pureé smoothly.
Add Egg Yolk
If you want to eat the dish as it is made in Extramadura, add an egg yolk or two to your almonds and garlic in Step 2 of the recipe.
Add More Garlic
If you're like me, you simply cannot get enough garlic. (I literally wake up in the morning craving it, I kid you not.) Add more fresh garlic, or try roasting a few cloves and adding them to the fresh cloves.
Have a Gazpacho Tasting!
I love throwing tapas parties (with plenty of sangria!) in my back yard, especially during the summer months. Chilled soups are wonderful when it's hot out, so I sometimes make both red and almond gazpacho and serve them side by side in little shooter glasses.
You could take this idea further by having several different varieties. In addition to the traditional tomato and ajo blanco, use the same process to make a green gazpacho with tomatillos and cucumber. Make one with a seafood broth or meat stock to change the flavor profile. Add jalapeños or ñora peppers. The possibilities are endless!