Caldo de Oso or Bear Soup recipe by Pati Jinich

tomatolimejalapeno

Caldo de Oso

There is no bear in this soup. Nor is the soup named after any bear. In fact, there are zero bears to be found in the state of Chihuahua, where this soup comes from. Yet, I admit Pepe was right, it is a spectacular soup, and it is called caldo de oso (or bear soup).

I met Pepe a few months ago at a Telemundo news interview, while on book tour in Denver. He was the producer. As he walked me out of the building, we got caught up in a long, detailed conversation about soup, even though I was in a hurry to catch a plane. I don’t know what hooked me more in wanting to know every little thing about this soup: its curious name, how much he seemed to adore it, or the fact that I’ve never tried it although I’ve been to Chihuahua many times.

Well, here we go again. Another story, out of hundreds and hundreds of incredible stories and recipes I have learned while traveling the US. It turns out, each and every single Mexican I have met here is as passionate as I am about the Mexican food we grew up with. We are all a bunch of nostalgic food fanatics.

Anyway, back to the soup.

It turns out caldo de oso is insanely popular in Chihuahua. The thing is, it is not to be found in restaurants, but in homes. One reason I may have missed it all the times I visited. And considering how dearly loved it is, it makes the origin of its name even funnier.

Here goes the true story:

Almost a century ago, workers building the La Boquilla Dam, on the Conchos River in Camargo, used to make a fish soup every day with catfish, which were bountiful in that river. After eating it so often, instead of calling it caldo de pescado (or fish soup), they started calling it caldo odioso, which translates to hateful soup.

From saying caldo odioso again and again, the soup got the nickname caldo de oso – from the shortened odi-oso to oso. It is a common Mexican practice to make words smaller and use them in their diminutives or cute nicknames. And the name stuck: caldo de oso! However, other than the workers at the dam who ate it everyday, people in Chihuahua absolutely adore this soup.

So, Pepe gave me some tips, and he told me in detail how his mom makes it. I thoroughly researched it and tested it in my kitchen. And let me tell you, caldo de oso is totally worth the heavy nostalgia for it that Pepe carries around.

Bear Soup

Caldo de Oso

Recipe Yield

6 to 8 servings

Cooking time

55 minutes

Rate this recipe

5 from 4 votes

Ingredients

  • 2 dried ancho chiles stemmed and seeded
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup white onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes chopped
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 8 cups seafood or fish broth or water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 whole pickled jalapeño diced
  • 2 tablespoons vinegary sauce from pickled jalapeños
  • 2 cups carrots peeled and diced
  • 2 cups potatoes peeled and diced
  • 2 pounds catfish fillets cut into 2" pieces
  • 2 limes cut into wedges, to serve
  • 1/4 cup cilantro roughly chopped, to serve

To Prepare

  • Place the ancho chiles in a bowl, cover with 2 cups boiling water, and let them sit for 10 minutes until they plump up and rehydrate.
  • In a soup pot, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Once the butter is melted and bubbly, add the onion and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until softened and the edges begin to brown. Add the garlic, stir and cook for a minute until fragrant. Increase the heat to medium-high and incorporate the chopped tomato, cook for 6 to 7 minutes, until softened. Sprinkle the flour on top of the cooking vegetables, stir well, and let cook for another minute or so, stirring frequently, until the flour starts to brown and smell toasty. Pour in the broth or water and bring to a simmer.
  • Meanwhile, place the ancho chiles along with a cup of their soaking water into a blender, and puree until completely smooth. Add the chile puree, along with the thyme, marjoram, oregano, cumin, bay leaf, salt, pepper, pickled jalapeño and its vinegar to the soup, and mix well. Once it returns to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium, and let it cook for 15 minutes with the lid ajar.
  • Add the carrots, potatoes, and fish pieces and continue to cook for 10 more minutes, until vegetables and fish are completely cooked through.
  • Serve hot, along with lime wedges and chopped cilantro for people to add to their taste. I like it with crusty bread, such as a baguette, on the side.

Comments

95comments inCaldo de Oso

  1. Ren

    Apr 10

    I spent many summers in La Boquilla, swimming in the swimming pools they made out of the water that filters through the mountain. Dad always had this soup, and I would get a little bowl for me with lots of saltine crackers because it was spicy. As I grew older, it was something we had in the winter, and it would taste especially good when you had a head cold or the flu. The spiciness clears you right up and the liquid rehydrates you. Thanks for posting this. Now that I live in DC, I’ll have to make it myself.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Apr 11

      So happy this recipe brought back sweet memories Ren, thanks so much for sharing. Enjoy it now in DC 😉

  2. Martin

    Dec 28

    Howdy!

    Please do a caldo de res o caldo de pollo recipe! We can’t remember if u add cabbage to the caldo de res only or if u use chayote or regular zucchini for the caldo. Thank you for bridging the gap to our culinary history. Our family calls each other when ur show’s on so we can learn and see all of our childhood dishes being made! BTW, do u have recipe for buñuelos de viento?

    ¡Saludos desde San Antonio!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 30

      I’ll try to work on a recipe soon, Martin. And I don’t have a buñuelos de viento recipe, but I have a regular buñuelos recipe, https://patijinich.com/pati_2020/bunelos_worth_it_all_the_way/

  3. Almendra

    Oct 17

    My mother is from Chihuahua but spent her summers in La Boquilla. Even though the state is landlocked she has always made the best caldo de pescado and now I know why. My favorite is her caldo de oso which people from Chihuahua always “get” and others think it’s bear soup! The original recipe calls for the soup to be bubbling hot with a beer poured over it. Thanks for putting it out there!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Oct 18

      Thank you for sharing, Almendra!

  4. Joseph

    Sep 02

    goin Cat fishing next week ,can’t wait to try this ,one , I usually make mine FraDiablo. again thank you for teaching me Mexican cooking ,being from da east in da 70s we had only one mex.resturant and I had caspacho for the first time haven’t had it since ,how do you prepare it ??????

    1. Pati Jinich

      Sep 03

      Here’s my take on Mexican Gazpacho, Joseph: https://patijinich.com/pati_2020/morelia-style-gazpacho-salad/

  5. Lena

    Jan 21

    Hi Pati, this recipe sounds delish, I want to try it with cod only because catfish scares me.. My mother is from Chihuahua and I don’t recall her making this but she does make the most delishus caldos with either pollo or res, which is what first attracted me to your recipes. The first video I saw was where you made the alphabet soup and I was hooked.. I luv luv luv a good soup! I will see my mom soon and will be asking her about it.. thank you for sharing your wonderful recipes.. I

    1. Pati

      Jan 23

      Oh I love a good soup too, Lena! Say hi to your mom for me.

  6. Irma

    Nov 25

    Hola Pati. Being from San Antonio Texas I’m always looking for authentic Mexican food. My husband Sal brought home fresh catch from Corpus Christi Texas. Love Sopa de Oso. Gracias Pati. Saludos a tu familia y saludo especial a Juju de Texas😘

    1. Pati

      Nov 26

      Oh enjoy the fresh catch, Irma!

  7. Patty

    Mar 09

    Hola Pati, my husband is from Camargo Chihuahua when I told him that I found the recipe of el caldo de oso in your program he got so excited… gracias por tus recetas y felicidades en tu programa, lo disfruto mucho 😉

    1. Pati

      Mar 09

      Oh that’s awesome! I hope you both enjoy the soup.

  8. Scott Guthrie

    Nov 02

    I travel to Chihuahua all the time and have many very close friends here in Arizona from Chihuahua. I have stayed and visited their families for over 15 years and over 20 times in the period. I never have heard anyone talk about this soup.

    That is until I start asking if they know of it, and of course they all have. It was like a secret they where keeping from me.

    Oh, Chihuahua, you are like an onion. I keep peeling and I discover new layers!

    1. Pati

      Nov 03

      I’m glad you discovered the secret soup 🙂

  9. Bincente

    Oct 31

    I found this recipe while looking for a good Caldo De Res or Mexican beef soup recipe. My mother learned how to make it from her mother but she no longer cooks and does not remember the recipe. The closest I found to hers comes from Los Galanes restaurant in Mexican Village Detroit but I did not ask for their recipe. Pati what seasonings do you think I need to get the flavor right, maybe just some chillies?

    1. Pati

      Nov 30

      ​Oh I will try to add some recipes for Caldo de Res soon… there are so many versions!​

  10. Meg McAlister

    Sep 20

    I made this last night and it was delicious, light but filling. I live in the southern US and fresh catfish is readily available, so I’ll be making this again soon. Thanks, Pati!

    Also, I pray that your loved ones in Mexico City are alright after the disastrous earthquakes there in the past week. My heart goes out to all the victims.

    1. Pati

      Sep 20

      So happy you liked the soup! And thank you for your message…thankfully my family is ok.

  11. Julia

    Aug 08

    Sounds awesome. Will surely have to try this soup. I always love a good soup. Especially if it is authentic.

    1. Pati

      Aug 09

      Hope you love it Julia!

  12. Ana

    May 19

    I’m from Chihuahua, and this suop make me remeber mi childhood… I need to tray this recipe with my family soon

    1. Pati

      May 19

      Ana that’s amazing! I hope it brings back wonderful memories and that you love it.

      1. Ana

        May 19

        Si, muy buenas memorias de la infancia… ?
        Me encanta tu TV show, cuando me mude a USA hace 5 anios lo descubri y me encanta, lo disfruto, y me hace sentir cerca de Mexico ???

        1. Pati

          May 19

          Gracias por tu mensaje tan lindo…significa mucho para mí.

  13. Samuel

    Mar 20

    My wife is out skinning the bear i bagged last evening. Now that i have read the complete history and all of the ingredients how am i going to tell her i have to go fishing tonight for “catfish?” She makes me clean the catfish. Maybe we will make two versions. I am so in trouble.

    1. Pati

      Mar 23

      Hahaha!

  14. Chava

    Mar 16

    This sounds sooo delicious, I’m going to have to make it. Thanks Pati!!!?

    1. Pati

      Mar 17

      Yay! Let me know how it goes Chava.

  15. SPIRIDION

    Mar 11

    thanks for you time this so good resepie

    1. Pati

      Mar 13

      Thank YOU!

  16. Lily Brinkmann

    Mar 10

    I did it! Y me encantó! ?
    My husband loves everything I cook from your recipes. He is very happy I watch all your shows. ☺

    1. Pati

      Mar 10

      Super duper Lily!!!

  17. Glenda

    Mar 02

    Que rico Pati, especial para la cuaresma

    1. Pati

      Mar 06

      Gracias Glenda!

  18. Ivanna

    Mar 02

    You are my inspiration, I love all of your recipes and I love your tv show. Out of all of the Chefs on create TV you are special because you have such a warm sweet personality, and you seem so kind. My husband is from Hidalgo, Mex. and I am Italian, so since I began watching your show I’ve learned so much about the culture and have fallen in love with cooking Mexican cuisine.

    1. Pati

      Mar 06

      Ivanna…this is so sweet and kind. Thank you so much!

  19. Rose De La Rosa

    Mar 01

    Thank you Pati for the recipe for this soup. I love making soups and having them when we want a light dinner!!! I also like the stories that you tell with the recipes that you post.

    1. Pati

      Mar 02

      Gracias Rose!

  20. Araceli Martinez

    Feb 27

    HOLA P♡TI

    1. Pati

      Feb 27

      Hola Araceli!

  21. Araceli Martinez

    Feb 27

    Hi pati,Tu” Caldo de oso ” se ve delicious

    1. Pati

      Mar 02

      Gracias Araceli!

  22. Susan

    Feb 26

    By adding the carrots and potatoes along with the fish, I would think that the fish would be overdone and the carrots and potatoes would be undercooked. It seems giving them a 5 minute head start would be better. No?
    You and your show are a wonder filled event! Many thanks for the inspiration from which I draw many a delicious meal. Between you and Rick Bayless, I have a very well stocked Mexican kitchen (e.g. epazote. Mexican oregano and many dried chilies etc.) which is saying a lot from first born German girl!

    1. Pati

      Mar 10

      Susan thank you so much for your lovely comment. I’m so happy to hear you have a well stocked Mexican kitchen! I timed the recipe and the cooking, and it worked great for me like this, but you are super welcome to adapt to your liking for sure. ​

  23. Celia Ramirez

    Feb 26

    Thank you, Pati! This is the perfect recipe for lent! I am looking forward to trying it.

    1. Pati

      Feb 27

      Hope you enjoy it Celia!

  24. Anonymous

    Feb 25

    Never heard of it until today. Thank you for the history and the recepie, It looks delicious! I can wait to make it.
    Gracias Pati

    1. Pati

      Feb 27

      Thank YOU!

  25. Gina V

    Feb 25

    Hi Patti, we love you!!
    Can I substitute salmon for the catfish?

    1. Pati

      Mar 02

      Hola Gina, I recommend substituting the catfish for any firm white fish, but you are welcome to try with salmon!

  26. Nora Rodriguez Ponzio

    Feb 25

    Voy a hacer la receta inmediatamente! He escuchado hablar sobre el caldo de oso pero no lo he probado. Gracias Pati por la receta. Saludos desde Chihuahua 🙂

    1. Pati

      Mar 02

      Gracias Nora!

  27. Victor M Negrete

    Feb 25

    I grew up knowing that pulque was another caldo de Osos !!!

    1. Pati

      Mar 03

      Haha yes!

  28. Mely Reynoso

    Feb 24

    My mom makes this I’m pretty sure.

    1. Pati

      Mar 02

      Yay!

  29. Rosy Vega

    Feb 24

    Voy a hacer esta sopa, se ve sabrosa y facil. Gracias Pati por compartir la historia de la sopa de oso, jijiji.

    1. Pati

      Mar 02

      ?

  30. Sandra Díaz

    Feb 24

    Yo soy de chihuahua y lo conosco un poco diferente. Es con pescado descarnado (dsmenuzado) pero igual en salsa de chile ancho y si ay algunos restaurantes trdicionales que venden este platillo. Y ortos tradi cionales como el caldo abijio que es con carne seca. Saludos paty.

    1. Pati

      Mar 02

      Que interesante Sandra, gracias!

  31. Tom

    Feb 24

    Hi Pati! Love your show. I live in Sydney and access to all the lovely chillies you use in your cooking is so limited. If I wanted to make this dish, what would you recommend as a good substitute for the ancho chillies? I can get jalapeño but that’s about it 🙂 love your show and your work!

    1. Pati

      Mar 10

      Hi Tom, ​You can add a chipotle in adobo sauce or just skip the ancho chiles. It will be fabulous as well. ​

  32. Lewis

    Feb 24

    Love your show and your books. It’s always a pleasure to tune in.

    1. Pati

      Feb 27

      Lewis thank you so much for watching the show and reading the books…it means a lot.

  33. Diane Araujo

    Feb 24

    I love your show Patti its one of my favorites. I have learned so many things from watching.

    1. Pati

      Mar 02

      I am so happy you are learning Diane…that means a lot.

  34. velia

    Feb 24

    Suena muy sabroso y como tengo pescado fresco y esta haciendo frio, es una magnifica idea para que haga esta sopa de oso hoy. Mig racias por la receta.

    1. Pati

      Mar 06

      Yay!

  35. Joan

    Feb 24

    this doesn’t have to do with the soup, but I love it when your son’s cook with you.
    You have a truly beautiful family. Thanks for all the cooking shows !

    1. Pati

      Feb 24

      Aww thank you so much Joan.

  36. Robbi

    Feb 24

    Thank you so much Patti !!! I love your show !!!

    1. Pati

      Feb 24

      Thank you Robbi for tuning in!

  37. Mucho Miguel

    Feb 24

    Bedda Patti,
    There is a similar soup made in Sicily mainly in coastal towns each with their own little variation but the main ingredient is always Spada, Swordfish. The spices and vegetables are much the same except they would use fennel instead of cilantro and mild to hot red pepperoncini flakes in place of Jalipenos, or in some towns they would simply add a couple tablespoons of giardineria with it’s juice.
    I am going to try your soup ASAP. My mouth waters just reading the recipe. Muchas Gracias.

    1. Pati

      Feb 24

      Fascinating! Thank you for sharing Miguel.

  38. Martha M.

    Feb 24

    This soup sounds delicious. I will be trying it soon!

    1. Pati

      Feb 24

      Yay! Martha I hope you enjoy it.

  39. Marie

    Feb 23

    Can you use another type of fish for this recipe?

    1. Pati

      Feb 24

      Yes Marie you can use whichever firm white fish is your favorite.

  40. Judy Wright

    Feb 23

    Hi Pati, can you make this with any other type of fish to get that same flavour? Catfish is not available to purchase here in Canada.

    1. Pati

      Feb 24

      Hi Judy, you can use red snapper, halibut, swordfish, shrimp….or any firm white fish.

      1. Anonymous

        Feb 24

        Thank you Pati! By the way, we love your show!

  41. Carmelita Fish

    Feb 23

    I want to try this recipe Patty. It sounds good. Since I’m s lover of fish and other seafood nothing can go wrong with fish.
    Don’t say I made up my name here
    but its true my last name is Fish.

    1. Pati

      Feb 24

      Carmelita I’m laughing so much…what a perfect last name…love it!

  42. Lori Cole

    Feb 23

    This recipe has a lot of the same ingredients as one of the versions of sopa de mariscos that we used to get at a restaurant called El Torito when we lived on the Texas/Tamaulipas border (in Brownsville), 1999-2002 — minus the shrimp, of course: the potatoes and carrots, the tomatoes, the flour for thickening, etc. Can’t wait to try it!

    1. Pati

      Feb 24

      Lori, I hope you love it!

  43. Jason Salazar

    Feb 23

    En vez de usar catfish, se puede usar halibut o posiblemente red snapper?

    1. Pati

      Feb 24

      Sí los dos

  44. Argelia Artalejo

    Feb 23

    Enjoy your shows n recipes

    1. Pati

      Feb 24

      Thank you so much Argelia!

  45. Candice Rizzuto

    Feb 23

    Can’t wait to try this – sounds heavenly! Will update with results! Thanks Pati!

    1. Pati

      Feb 24

      I look forward to your update Candice…hope you love it.

  46. Israel Rodriguez

    Feb 23

    If no catfish available is there a close second choice you would recommend?

    1. Pati

      Feb 24

      Hola Israel, you can try any firm white fish or even shrimp.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.