This cheesy, savory cornbread is called Sopa Paraguaya. Now, if you have the slightest Spanish knowledge this will utterly confuse you – because this cornbread looks definitely like bread and not a Paraguayan soup at all!
There is a legendary story about the origin of this dish and name dating back to the founder and first president of the Paraguayan state. One day his cook was preparing one of his favorite meals, a soup made with cheese, onions, eggs and corn flour.
Once it was too late to start over, the cook realized she had added too much corn flour. In an attempt to salvage the dish and have something ready to serve, she baked the thick ‘soup’. Her employer was delighted with the result and named the dish ‘Sopa Paraguaya’.
Another explanation goes on to say that the first European settlers were calling a dish the natives prepared in clay pots ‘soup’. ‘Paraguaya’ was a distinguishing adage in order to tell it apart from the liquid soup Europeans made.1
Either way this is a very popular and common food in Paraguay. We found it for sale as snack food right alongside empanadas pretty much everywhere.
The texture of this cornbread is more dense and not fluffy like the North American cornbread due to the addition of cheese. Many people in Paraguay make their own cheese, which is like a white Farmer’s cheese. For this adapted version I use a mixture of cottage cheese and any kind of grated, mild cheese.
- 1 large onion, sliced
- ¼ cup (55 g) butter
- 1 cup (100 g) grated cheese, any mild variety
- 1 cup (230 g) cottage cheese
- 1 cup (250 ml) milk
- 5 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 cups (320 g) corn meal
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large pan (can use a cast-iron skillet) melt the butter on medium heat and soften the sliced onions for 3-5 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat and stir in grated cheese (it will melt), cottage cheese, milk and eggs.
- Sprinkle with salt, baking powder and corn meal and stir to combine everything.
- If you used a cast-iron skillet bake the corn bread right in there, otherwise transfer the batter to a lined 8-inch square baking dish. Bake for 45-60 minutes until top is golden-brown.
1 Source of both stories: Wikipedia