Gazpacho is a soup made of raw vegetables and served cold. Modern gazpacho is typical of
Spanish cuisine, originating from the southern region of Andalusia. But the dish has
ancient roots. One theory is that it arrived in Spain and Portugal with the Romans as
a soup of bread, olive oil, water, vinegar and garlic. However, to understand how this
Roman dish evolved into the modern gazpacho we eat today requires the understanding of
modern Spanish history. To understand the source of the modern gazpacho one needs to understand
how its essential ingredients, the tomato, the cucumber, and the chile pepper made it to Spain.
The tomato (Solanum Lycopersicum) came to Spain in the mid-sixteenth century from the New
World, specifically from the Aztecs. The region of Castilla was the first place to adopt it,
because it had a monopoly on the transport of products from the New World. By the late
seventeenth century, growing tomatoes in large quantities was common in southern Spain.
However, gazpacho did not incorporate tomatoes into its recipe until the early nineteenth
The second ingredient of modern gazpacho is the cucumber (Cucumis sativus). It is believed
that the cucumber came to Europe from India. It was introduced to Greece and was later
extensive cultivated during the Roman times. It spread throughout the Roman Empire including
the province of Hispania. The Spanish later brought this vegetable to the New World when they
started colonizing it. There is evidence of the cucumber having been commonly used in Spanish
cuisine already before the sixteenth-century.
The third of the main ingredients of modern gazpacho are peppers, namely of species
Capsicum annuum. Peppers are native of Mexico and were introduced to Spain from
its colony of New Spain, which included modern-day Mexico. In Europe, predominantly the
sweet varieties were cultivated and in Spain they became known pimento.
Like other vegetables brought to Europe from the New World, peppers mushroomed in Spain
and subsequently spread to the rest of Europe.
The rest of the ingredients of the modern gazpacho (olive oil, garlic, and bread) are
typical Mediterranean ingredients that have been in use in the mainland since the time of
the Roman Empire.
In Spain, gazpacho became a part of Andalusian cuisine, particularly Córdoba and Seville,
using stale bread, garlic, olive oil, salt, and vinegar. During the 19th century, the red
gazpacho evolved when tomatoes were added. This is the version that spread internationally.
There are many modern variations of gazpacho, often in different colors with and without
tomatoes and bread. Beside cucumbers, they may include avocados, and even watermelon or grapes.
Within Andalusia, eventually every region developed its own variety of gazpacho. They are of
the red variety (containing tomato), white (no tomato, but including dried fruits),
and green (white gazpacho containing spices making them green). However, all these regional
variations have their basic ingredients in common: garlic paste which works as an emulsifier,
bread, olive oil, vinegar and salt.
Arranque roteño is a popular Andalusian recipe from the town of Rota in the province
of Cadiz. It contains tomatoes, garlic, red and green peppers, onion, hard bread, vinegar,
oil and salt. It uses less water, giving it the consistency of a dip.
There is Gazpacho extremeño, coming from the autonomous Spanish community of Extremadura,
a mountainous region situated in western Spain comprising the provinces of Cáceres and Badajoz.
This is a thinned gazpacho with a soup consistency. It is made of tomatoes, onion, green pepper,
cucumber, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, thickened with hard bread.
Gazpacho manchego only shares its name with the cold gazpacho soup. It is mainly
a game meat stew eaten with bread cakes. The only relation between the two is the the use of bread.
While gazpacho is original from Andalusia, Gazpachos Manchegos originates in La Mancha,
a region on the elevated plateau in central Spain. It is cooked in a cauldron and served hot.
The Spanish brought gazpacho to the New World when they colonized Mexico. Mexican gazpacho,
like its Andalusian ancestor, is a cold soup with most of the same ingredients but a few
typically Mexican ones added, such as mango or chile powder. To make things a bit complicated,
however, there is a dish with a very similar name "gaspacho".
In Mexico, "Gazpacho Moreliano" is a sweet and sour salad made of coarse cubes of fruit
and vegetables, mixed with grated cheese, served in a glass. Some of the mixed ingredients
show a relationship to the Andalusian gazpacho soup. These include cucumber and onion,
but others are typically Mexican: jicama, mango, lemon or orange juice, pineapple,
watermelon, and chile powder. It originates from the city of Morelia, the capital of
the central Mexican state of Michoacán and a colonial city with narrow streets lined with
well-preserved 17th- and 18th-century buildings.
In the United States, Gazpacho may be served as a starter, main dish, or tapa.
More of a drink than a soup, served in frosted glasses or chilled tumblers, gazpacho
is perfect when it is too hot to eat or cook. American gazpacho is often a watered-down
salsa or grainy vegetable purée. This recipe published in the New York Times comes from
Seville. It follows the typical Andalusian gazpacho but omits the bread. It is creamy with
an orange-pink color rather than red. This is achieved by a large quantity of olive oil,
creating an emulsion of red tomato juice, pale green cucumber, and golden olive oil.
American Gazpacho from the NYT.
- 2 lbs ripe red tomatoes, cored and roughly cut into chunks
- 1 Italian frying (cubanelle) pepper or another long, light green pepper,
such as Anaheim, cored, seeded and roughly cut into chunks
- 1 cucumber, about 8 inches long, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
- 1 small mild onion (white or red), peeled and roughly cut into chunks
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tsp sherry vinegar, more to taste
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste, plus more for drizzling
- Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic in a blender or,
if using a hand blender, in a deep bowl. If necessary, work in batches.
Blend at high speed until very smooth, at least 2 minutes, pausing occasionally
to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
- With the motor running, add the vinegar and 2 teaspoons salt. Slowly drizzle
in the olive oil. The mixture will turn bright orange or dark pink and become
smooth and emulsified, like a salad dressing. If it still seems watery, drizzle
in more olive oil until texture is creamy.
- Strain the mixture through a strainer or a food mill, pushing all the liquid
through with a spatula or the back of a ladle. Discard the solids. Transfer
to a large pitcher (preferably glass) and chill until very cold, at least
6 hours or overnight.
- Before serving, adjust the seasonings with salt and vinegar. If soup is very thick,
stir in a few tablespoons ice water. Serve in glasses, over ice if desired.
A few drops of olive oil on top are a nice touch.
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Last updated: February 11, 2017
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