How to cook Sopas Secas – a simple Portuguese Christmas dessert

Sopas Secas (it translates to Dry Soups) is a traditional Christmas dessert from Northern Portugal, specifically from the Douro, Tamega, and Ave regions. It’s a simple sweet which uses few ingredients and is very easy to make. Despite falling into disuse, this typical dessert is very comforting and typical. We will explain how to make traditional Sopas secas so in this Christmas you can try or relive this tasty sweet.

Sopas Secas is a dessert made with bread, more precisely, stale bread. The bread is soaked in syrup made from sugar and port wine. And it goes to the oven to brown, traditionally in a wood oven. Some nostalgically say that the best dry soups were made in a wood-fired oven as in the old days. But, even without a wood oven, they are delicious.

In the past, it was a dessert consumed by the poorest families, since it used few ingredients and leftover bread was used. It is a typical Christmas Eve dessert, eaten after Bacalhau com Todos. Nowadays, despite being less traditional, it continues to be part of the Christmas repertoire of many families – cooked by grandmothers or mothers who propagate the tradition.

Provided by my mother-in-law, this recipe belongs to our family, and it follows what her mother used to make, Grandma Rosa. We are very grateful for this culinary legacy and have the opportunity to share it with anyone who wants to try this very comforting sweet.

How to cook the traditional Sopas Secas from Portugal
Sopas Secas – traditional Portuguese dessert from northern Portugal

Sopas Secas Ingredients

Sopas Secas Syrup

(by using order)

  • 1,5 liters of water;
  • Lemon zest (only the yellow part);
  • 500 g of brown sugar;
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 125 ml of Port Wine
  • 1 pint of salt

Sopas Secas

(by using order)

  • 10-15 pieces of bread or one large baguette
  • Cinnamon powder
  • Brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of honey
  • Deep clay bowl or deep pot/plate that can go into the oven
Cooking the Syrup used in Sopas Secas
Syrup used in Sopas Secas

Portions: 8-10;

Cooking time:

  • 20 minutes to prepare;
  • +/- 30 minutes in the oven;

Sopas Secas recipe

1. Combine all the ingredients for the syrup in a saucepan and let it boil for a few minutes until everything is well dissolved.

2. Cut the bread into 1 cm slices. The bread must be old and have a hard consistency, do not use fresh bread; otherwise, it will fall apart more. The amount of bread will depend on the size of the bowl; the bread must fill the entire bowl and be very compact.

Ingredients used in Sopas Secas
Sliced bread used to cook Sopas Secas

3. Put some of the syrup in a tray or deep dish. Place the slices of bread on top of the syrup to absorb it. Rotate the bread so that each side is well-soaked.

Tip: Let the syrup cool down a bit before adding the bread, or it could burn. And don’t leave the bread in the syrup for too long otherwise, it will fall apart.

Sopas Secas Recipe
Let the bread absorb the syrup. Shower the bread with the syrup if necessary

4. Place the bread in an earthenware bowl suitable for the oven. Flatten the bread well so it has a well-stocked layer, and load it a little so it is well flattened.

5. Generously sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top of the bread. Repeat the process, adding layers of bread soaked in the syrup. Between the layers, put sugar and cinnamon until you make a bowl. The bread must be well-flattened and compact.

Tip: Leave a margin of 2 cm from the top of the bowl

Easy-to-do steps to cook Sopas Secas
The bread must be flattened when placed in the bowl

6. Pour the remaining syrup over the bread. It should be moist, don’t worry if it looks too runny.

7. Sprinkle the last layer with cinnamon, sugar and/or honey.

8. Bake in a preheated oven at 180º C until caramelized. The time will depend on your oven, but as soon as you start to see the brown sugar and the crispy bread, turn off the oven; it may take 30 to 40 minutes.

Tip: It is advised to put a base under the bowl, the syrup liquid often overflows and makes the oven dirty.

How to cook Sopas Secas
Sopas Secas right of the oven

Sopas Secas should be allowed to cool down a little before serving. When coming out of the oven, this dessert will be a dark brown color, with a burnt appearance but don’t worry, that’s normal. When coming out of the oven, the bread will be slightly risen/inflamed, however when it cools down it is normal for it to collapse.

One of the most important aspects of making Sopas Secas is using the right bowl. The traditional ones are the bowls that we show in the photo below, but as a rule, it should be a very deep clay bowl (in Portuguese it’s called an “alguidar“). Generally, oven rice is also made in this type of bowl. But any tray or dish that goes into the oven can be used, though it has to be deep.

Alguidar used to cook Sopas Secas in Natal
Alguidar used to cook Sopas Secas

This sweet Portuguese dessert should be crunchy on the outside but very moist on the inside. It should melt in the mouth and leave a sweet aroma with a taste of cinnamon and the aftertaste of port wine. You can eat Sopas Secas hot or cold, but we like them warm.

Try making Sopas Secas this Christmas, it’s not complicated, it used only few, easy to obtain ingredients, and there’s not much to go wrong.

While it might not be the best Portuguese dessert you’ve ever have, there’s something very comforting about eating warm, Christmas-flavored sweet bread. It tastes like tradition, comfort, affection and family… It takes like Christmas.

Sopas Secas in Christmas

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