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February 10, 2011

Recipe for Portuguese kale soup (a.k.a. International Institute of Rhode Island lunch room soup)

Portuguese kale soup

My friend Jessica, who works at the International Institute of Rhode Island, brought this soup to our Soup Swap a few weeks ago, and I was lucky to snag a quart for my freezer. During the "pimp your soup" portion of the evening, she had us all in tears of laughter as she described how this Portuguese kale soup came to be. Here's the backstory, in Jessica's own words. 

"I work with a number of immigrants, many of them Portuguese. They all like to eat, to talk, and to talk about eating. So the lunch room conversations often revolve around food. When I told them about Soup Swap, they insisted I had to make kale soup. There are many variations depending on where in Portugal or the Azores you or your ancestors hail from. There was heated discussion about the addition of “elbows” which gives it an Azorean twist. Or chopped cabbage (the northern part of Portugal). But all agree the key elements are kale, chorizo, and beans!"

Portuguese kale soup

Serves 6-8; can be doubled.


1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 bunch kale, stemmed, washed and chopped (aprox. 1 lb.) (fresh is best, but frozen is o.k.)
1 lb chorizo sausage (turkey or chicken chorizo is widely available)
2 qts chicken broth
4 large potatoes, cubed
1 (15-oz) can dark red kidney beans
2 cups tomato sauce
Fresh ground black pepper
Kosher salt (optional)

a) 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
b) 2 cups shredded cabbage
c) Any veggies you need to get rid of in the fridge – turnips, squash, etc. (This is my favorite variation from Alda, who has been an immigration casework for IIRI for over 35 years – she likes her vegetables and she HATES waste!) Add these during the cooking so they will be done before you add the beans.


In a stock pot or Dutch oven, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Once the vegetables are softened, add the chopped kale and sauté for another few minutes. (Lucy strongly suggested sautéing the kale – her sister Olga just puts hers into the broth with potatoes. I think the sautéing helps tenderize the kale. Ricardo sautés his chorizo first to cook off some of the fat since he and his wife are dieting – this is sacrilege to those who think it lessens the flavor. Fortunately, the turkey and chicken sausage are not very fatty.) Add the sausage, broth, tomato sauce and potatoes (and cabbage if you are going for option (b). Simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Add pasta now if you are going for option (a) and simmer until cooked. Add the beans.

Season with salt and pepper – but taste first – chorizo will add a fair amount of salt and flavor and different brands vary, as do different palates. (Alda suggests running an immersion blender into the soup a few times to add a creamy texture. But most of the group prefer a brothier soup.)

All agree – serve hot with a nice crusty bread!

Print recipe only.


Posted by: Pauline | February 10, 2011 at 02:33 PM

Nothing like a good "caldine". A really good one can last the week with daily addition of left overs from dinner.

Posted by: Kalynskitchen | February 10, 2011 at 05:14 PM

I love kale in soup!

Posted by: Alta | February 11, 2011 at 06:19 AM

This sounds tasty. I love kale and beans in soup.

Posted by: chris | February 11, 2011 at 11:22 AM

i didn't see when to add the tomato sauce..sure sounds good!

Posted by: Lydia | February 11, 2011 at 11:34 AM

Pauline, I love the idea of continuing to add leftovers during the week!

Kalyn, Alta: I'm learning to love it.

Chris, thanks for the catch. I've fixed the recipe; the tomato sauce goes in with the broth.

Posted by: Damaris | February 11, 2011 at 06:10 PM

I love kale and beans together, it remind me how we eat feijoada. I'm making this!

Posted by: Lydia | February 11, 2011 at 11:48 PM

Damaris, I've only had feijoada one time. I can definitely see the similarities -- both are "big" soups.

Posted by: Donadela | December 4, 2012 at 06:33 PM

I make this using Linguica - the Portuguese sausage.

Posted by: Nancy | March 28, 2015 at 01:50 PM

Don't remember how I came across your recipe, but I've made it several times since then. Love it! I was excited to have a Portuguese recipe, as that was my mother's heritage. Thanks so much.

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  • I'm Lydia Walshin, a longtime food writer who lives and cooks in a real log house. If I could, I'd eat Chinese noodles, grapes, ice cream and soup every day.
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