Spanish gazpacho is the ultimate summertime recipe. Like with most famous recipes, there are a million different ways to prepare it; some of them are right, and some of them are wrong. This post will tell you what essential ingredients you need to make an authentic gazpacho recipe, which are optional and which you should NEVER add to your Spanish gazpacho (spoiler: it’s jalapeño)!
If you’re looking for hints on making your favourite Spanish recipes, you’ve come to the right place. Since learning of the horror that is Americanized romesco sauce recipes, I’ve made it my personal mission to write complete and detailed recipes for all the Spanish classics that have made it across the pond (check out my authentic romesco sauce recipe and pan con tomate posts to learn how they’re really made in Spain).
Next up: gazpacho.
During the summer, we make gazpacho several times a week and, as I mentioned in the introduction, there is not just one set recipe for this Spanish classic. In fact, my husband and I make it quite differently and they’re both acceptable (but I prefer my way, of course).
The main differences come down to the proportion of the ingredients and how you combine them as opposed to which ingredients are necessary so let’s start with a rundown of the essential ingredients.
Okay, we all get that tomatoes are necessary. A lot of people swear by a fleshy pear-shaped paste tomato such as Roma but you can use other varieties as well.
This summer I experimented with all different types that I’m growing in my garden and my favourite for flavor turned out to be a yellow heirloom variety. Today I used a giant pink variety. I encourage you to try out this recipe a few times with different tomatoes until you find one that you like.
What’s more important than the type of tomato you use is its ripeness and freshness. Don’t get any pathetic mealy supermarket tomatoes. They should be very ripe and soft, almost to the point of being overly ripe with some super soft spots. If you buy some that are not quite there yet, leave them out on the counter for a few days (do NOT put tomatoes in the fridge!).
Next, green pepper. This is very important, pay attention. In Spain we usually use GREEN (not red) cubanelle peppers, also known as Italian frying peppers. You can see one in the photo I took of the ingredients. Most American recipes call for green bell peppers. They are different.
Italian peppers have a thinner flesh, are less juicy and more crispy. They are NOT spicy and they are more flavourful than a bell pepper.
I suppose that American recipes call for green bell peppers because Italian peppers are not as common in supermarkets. You can substitute a bell pepper if you have to but if you want to make a more authentic gazpacho, Italian peppers are the better choice.
Cucumber. Regular field cucumbers are what we usually use. I peel mine but I don’t bother seeding it.
Onion and garlic. Use WHITE, NOT RED, onion and as much garlic as you like. My husband and I are garlic fanatics. For that reason we don’t really like the bottled gazpacho sold in supermarkets as they try to make it “soft” in order to appeal to a wider public. For us it’s super bland.
If you don’t like a lot of garlic that’s fine. Start with one small clove in the blender and give it a taste. You can add more if you want to but do be careful as it’s easy to overdo it!
Finally, the seasonings. A lot of recipes market themselves as “healthy” or “low fat” gazpacho by reducing the olive oil to just a couple tablespoons. Sorry, it’s the emulsion of the olive oil that is key to the texture of gazpacho (not the bread, more on that below).
You’ll want to choose an olive oil that has some flavor but is not bitter, as some can be. You do want to be able to taste the flavor of the oil. It’s important to drizzle it in slowly and leave the blender running for a few minutes to get that creamy emulsion that I’ve been harping on.
For the most authentic flavor, choose sherry vinegar but if you don’t have it you can substitute white wine vinegar. Again, the amount is up to preference and you always adjust this, and the salt, after the soup has been chilled since chilling tends to mute these flavours.
That’s it. These are the principal ingredients for gazpacho. Each family makes their gazpacho differently by varying the ratios of the aforementioned ingredients. Next I’ll go over the things that you should never add to gazpacho and some optional ingredients that are acceptable.
What you should NEVER add to Spanish gazpacho
Tabasco sauce or jalapeño. Spain is not Mexico. I discussed this previously in my watermelon gazpacho recipe. Spanish cuisine is not spicy. Generally speaking, Spanish people cannot tolerate spicy food and do not use chili in their cooking. Nowhere in the large and cosmopolitan city of Barcelona have I been able to find fresh jalapeños. So no spice, got it?
Black Pepper. Sounds weird because you think salt and pepper always go together but I have never ever seen a Spanish gazpacho recipe that calls for pepper and we don’t put it in ours. A recipe calling for pepper (and there are a lot!) is a clear giveaway that it was made by someone who does not know gazpacho or Spanish cuisine.
Tomato juice or, even worse, v8 juice. No, it’s not a smoothie.
Worcestershire sauce and lime. No, it’s not a bloody Mary.
Celery, basil, parsley, chives, cilantro, mint, etc. We’re not making a green juice.
Sugar or honey. Some recipes justify that a pinch of sugar is necessary to counterbalance the acidity of the tomatoes. If you’ve chosen super ripe and fresh tomatoes as I told you to, they should not be sour. Also, we add vinegar because gazpacho should have a bit of a tang.
That being said, if your tomatoes just aren’t up to scratch, you can use fruit to sweeten it up a bit. In my family we add a chunk of Fuji apple for this purpose.
A lot of garnishes. A few sprinklings of finely diced tomato and cucumber are fine. Maybe an extra drizzle of olive oil or a couple of croutons but gazpacho is a poor man’s dish and should remain close to its humble roots.
Optional Gazpacho Ingredients
Cumin. Yes, some recipes call for cumin although we never add it to ours.
Water. Here is where mine and my husband’s recipes differ. He adds water, as do many other Spanish gazpacho recipes, and I do not, as do many other Spanish gazpacho recipes. I prefer my gazpacho thicker and creamier while he prefers it thinner. Both are correct.
Bread. I’ve read a lot of American recipes that swore up and down that bread is the key to the texture of an authentic gazpacho. Actually, it’s the emulsion of the olive oil with the vinegar and juices from the veggies that is key to the creamy texture of gazpacho. You’ll find just as many Spanish gazpacho recipes calling for bread as you will find not calling for bread. It’s totally optional.
In my family we do not use bread in our gazpacho. We do use bread in our salmorejo and white garlic soup recipes but for gazpacho we prefer to savor the fresh taste of the veggies themselves without the goopy, super thick texture that can occur if you add too much bread.
That’s it. Those are the only three optional ingredients that I could think of. As you can see, Spanish gazpacho is a very simple soup with minimal ingredients. Don’t be fooled by Americanized recipes calling for half your pantry. You only need a few fresh veggies, olive oil, vinegar and salt to make an authentic gazpacho recipe!
How to make Spanish Gazpacho
Simply blend up the veggies, feel free to vary the proportion of each one to your taste, and then slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it’s creamy and emulsified. Strain out the skin and seeds and chill for several hours. It’s very important to taste it once more before serving in order to adjust the salt and vinegar.
In Spain gazpacho is served as an appetizer. I’ve also had it served as finger food at a wedding and as a tapa at a bar. That means that we usually take it in a small bowl or in a small glass. Since it can fill you up if you’re not careful, a serving size should be about ¾ – 1 cup, not a huge honking bowl. However, if you want to take it as a main dish, I’m not going to stop you!
- 2.5 pounds / 1.15 kilos very ripe and flavourful tomatoes
- 10 oz / 290 grams (half a large) cucumber, peeled
- 6 oz / 165 grams (1 large) Italian frying pepper, also known as a cubanelle, seeded *(see note below)
- 5 oz / 140 grams (half a medium) white onion
- 1 - 2 cloves of garlic
- Optional: ½ medium fuji apple, peeled
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, or more if necessary
- 2 teaspoons salt, or more if necessary
- 1/2 cup olive oil
1. Feel free to adjust the ratios of the vegetables. If you want more or less cucumber, green pepper or garlic, for example, it’s perfectly acceptable to make it how you like.
2. Roughly chop all the vegetable and the apple, of using. Remove the cores of the tomatoes.
3. Place the vegetables in a blender and blend until liquefied.
4. Add the vinegar and salt.
5. With the blender running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Leave the blender running for a couple minutes to emulsify the oil. Taste and add more vinegar and/or salt if you think it’s necessary.
6. Pour the mixture into a strainer set over a bowl. Stir with a spoon until all the liquid has passed through and you only have the pulp left. Discard the pulp.
7. Chill for at least 2 hours.
8. Taste the gazpacho before serving and add more salt and/or vinegar if you think it’s necessary (this step is very important as chilling mutes the salt and vinegar!).
9. Serve in small bowls or glasses.
If you didn't read my preamble, in Spain we use Italian peppers, not bell peppers, to make gazpacho. They are different but if you can't find Italian peppers, go ahead and use bell peppers. I would suggest reducing the quantity as bell peppers are more fleshy and watery.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 232 Total Fat: 19g Saturated Fat: 3g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 15g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 1424mg Carbohydrates: 16g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 4g Sugar: 10g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 3g