Chowders, Soups and Stews · Kale

Caldo Verde – Portuguese Kale Soup

When I was growing up our next door neighbors were the Plymessers.  Mr. Plymesser worked as (I think) a typesetter at the local paper, and Mrs. Plymesser always had popsicles on hand in her freezer.

They had two sons and a daughter, and their daughter, Linda, was my babysitter when I was, well, a baby.  I don't remember her sitting for me – I was way too little and she was probably such a constant in my life that she blended in like the rest of the family. 

They had a little white dog, some sort of terrier, I think, named Yogi.  I remember Yogi had to have some sort of pills, and the pills had to be hidden in some other food or he wouldn't take them.  Yogi, if I remember right, had pointy ears and a curly tail like a pig's.  That part's probably inaccurate.  It was a long time ago.  I remember Yogi once nipped my sister's fingers.  I think she was reaching through the white picket fence (yes, really, a white picket fence) that separated our yards, and Yogi, like a lot of small dogs, probably felt threatened. 

Despite the nip, our families have remained friends to this day. 

I mentioned the popsicles because Mrs. Plymesser DID always have popsicles.  At least that's how it seemed.  And she used to offer us popsicles in the summer if my sister and I were outside when she was, "as long as your mother says it's okay."  Well, one day I was hanging out by the fence, chatting my 6 or 7 year old chatter (however old I was – I know I was little) with Mrs. P.  I was waiting for her to offer me a popsicle, and since she apparently had forgotten that part of her job, I thought I'd give her a little hint.  And so in the very transparent casual manner of a small child who thinks she's subtle, I asked,

"So, how are your popsicles today?"

My mother heard me from inside the house with the windows and doors closed, because suddenly she was outside and just as suddenly I was inside, in the living room, crying and popsicleless.  Hinting for food did not meet with her approval.

And today, "how are your popsicles" is one of those family phrases that conjures up childhood and family and summertime and our wonderful neighbors.

I also remember Mrs. Plymesser took a pottery class, or maybe many – I was a kid; I was in my own little world most of the time.  But anyway, she made my sister and I each a lovely, squat pitcher in that pottery class.  I used mine to hold pencils or paint brushes over the years.  I still have it.

I also remember Mr. Plymesser used to love to fish for tautog (blackfish)…and I have wispy memories of him making a lead typeset thing (I don't know what they're called) of my name.  It was a piece of metal with the letters of my name sticking out along the bottom.  And if I remember correctly, they were backwards, because of how the paper got printed way back when.  Sorry this is all so hazy, but like I said before, this was a long time ago.

The Plymessers are some of the handful of people in the universe who may call me "Jaynie."  I remember them always smiling.  They were more than neighbors.  They are family.


When I was engaged to be married, my mother started putting together a cookbook for me.  She contacted family on my side and Bill's, on this continent and "across the pond" where we have family in England, and she also talked to family friends who had known me all my life, or even before that.

Of course, there are recipes from the Plymessers.

And this soup, the Portuguese Kale Soup, is one of them.

Bill's been wanting to make a kale soup for ages – it's one of the reasons he planted kale in the garden.  And with the season drawing to a close, and the temperatures dropping, now seemed to be the time to make it.  So yesterday I went out in the drizzle and wind and cut down the kale, the swiss chard, and some of the remaining pak choi.  I needed about 2 lbs of greens, and I had more than enough, even after I got rid of a few really bug-chewed leaves and the heavy stalks.


Before I go on, here's Mrs. Plymesser's recipe, as my mother typed it into my wedding cookbook:

Portuguese Kale Soup

Jean Plymesser says that, if using fresh kale, you should put a little vinegar in the rinse water to kill any little bugs.  Rinse kale very well to remove sand, too.


2 lbs fresh kale or 2 pkgs frozen kale

1/2 medium head of cabbage, chopped

3/4-1 lb , cut linguiça  into 1/2" slices

2 large potatoes, diced into 1/2" cubes

1 can shell, kidney or lima beans

1/2 stick (4 T) margarine

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

Salt & pepper, to taste

Cut thick stems from kale and then cut up.  Rinse very well, as described above.  Put kale into a large pot.  Add the remaining ingredients and press them down.  Add enough water to barely cover.  Cover.  Bring to a boil then lower heat to a simmer.  Cook 1 1/2 to 3 hours. 

This soup may be frozen.


Pretty simple, right?  Just slice and chop and put everything in a pot with some water.

(oops – the butter (I didn't use margarine) isn't in the picture)

I rinsed all the greens leaf by leaf by leaf in a big bowl of water.  Here's the dirt that got left behind:

Next task – remove the center stalk, or rib, from all my leafy greens and then chop them up.

And into the pot they go.

Next, I chopped up the cabbage.  I used a whole very small head instead of half of a medium.

And then the linguiça, which is a delicious, hearty cured pork sausage flavored with garlic and spices.

And then the potatoes.  The recipe didn't say to peel them, but I did.

I tossed the potato in the pot and that's about when I remembered the butter. 

Kidney beans – I used the white ones.

And the onion…


Some cumin…

I tossed in some salt and pepper, and then, according to the directions, I pressed the whole mass down.

 And then I poured in just enough water to barely cover all the ingredients, put the lid on the pot, and put the pot on the stove.

I've certainly got plenty to compost. 

I brought the soup to a boil, and then turned it down to a simmer and let it cook away for close to 3 hours, when Bill finally got home from a long day of work.

While the soup was simmering, I decided to make some rolls.  I'd made a double batch of pizza dough the night before, but I only made pizza with about half of the dough, so I thought I'd use up the rest of it rather than making something else.  I'd done half whole wheat flour/half all-purpose.  I'll post that recipe for you tomorrow.

The soup was great.  Bill thought it would be even better using chicken stock in place of the water.  But we both agreed that for such a simple soup, the flavor was wonderful.

You could also use chourizo instead of the linguiça, if you wanted a spicier soup.  I might try that next time, just for fun.

And since we were strolling down my memory lane earlier in this post, I thought I'd share one more bit from my childhood…

See this picture? 

(It's the same as the one at the beginning of this post; I just didn't want to make you go all the way back there.  It's pretty far.)

Well, when I was planning the photo, I had the placemat and napkin, the bowl and little plate, bht spoon and knife, but I didn't want to just lay all that on my kitchen counter like I so often do.  I took the finished pictures this morning, because the light was better than last night, but still not great due to the clouds and rain.  The window above my sink let in really nice Northern light, which I like for my food pictures.

Anyway, I wanted a different surface besides the countertop, but I didn't want to layer placemats or dig out a tablecloth.

So I used this:

It used to be the top of my parents' free-standing dishwasher.  Mom used to roll out pie dough on it, or cookie dough.  She'd pull it over into the center part of the kitchen area and stand at this work surface with the fridge and stove to her left and the sink to her right.  I'd stand on a chair on the other side of the dishwasher, or I'd sit on top of the clothes dryer, which stood beside the washing machine in our kitchen for many years.  (You can view a floorplan here, if you'd like.)

When the dishwasher finally needed to be replaced, Dad took the nice, thick wooden top off of it and eventually I ended up with it years later, when I was living on my own, and it's come in quite handy in apartments or houses with limited counter space.  I haven't used it much in this house, but now that I've brought it out of retirement, that could change.

Anyway, go on and make up a big pot of this soup.  It's easy to put together, and it's hearty and good for you.  Perfect for chilly, rainy October nights. 

I'm thinking a popsicle might taste pretty good afterward.  


23 thoughts on “Caldo Verde – Portuguese Kale Soup

  1. We go to Madeira quite a lot on holiday, which is Portuguese of course. In the markets there you find little stalls that only sell cabbage for Calo Verde, the vendors have a little machine that cuts the cabbage into a fine chiffonade, which is how they serve the soup over there, and you buy it by the bagful. The housewives all queue up of a morning for their cabbage.

    I would think it would make the texture somewhat thicker, you might like to try very finely sliced cabbage next time and see what you think.

  2. Hey There!

    I’m portuguese and I couldn’t help to check your blog! It’s interesting this version of the portuguese Caldo Verde, but in fact, the original, or traditional, recipe is a little different… traditionally you should make it with portuguese kale, which I imagine is difficult to find, which is dark green and with huge leaves, than you use chouriço, not linguiça, potatoes (which after boiled with salt and pepper you should reduce to kind of a puree with the boiling water), it DOESN’T have beans at all, nor butter!! It’s made with olive oil! And the kale has to be cut in very fine manner…

    So it’s even simpler! You just have to boil water and the patotoes, with onions and garlic, with salt and pepper and the chouriço, after 20 to 30 minutes, you take the chouriço off and cut in slices, than you reduce the potatoes/ onions/garlic to a “puree”- if you want it thicker you put less water, than you add the chouriço slices, add the kale, and let it boil! Check the salt and pepper, and add the olive oil! And that’s it!

    Hope you enjoy it!!

  3. In some regions of Portugal, instead pf the chouriço, “presunto” is used, cut in fine slices… “Verde” means green, because the “Caldo” (for soup we say “sopa”, “caldo” is different because usually it’s simpler, with less ingredients!) after it is done, acquires a beautiful strong green colour due to the portuguese kale!

    Portuguese Kale Soup

    Caldo Verde
    by John Villa
    Recipe adapted by Irene Sax
    Serves 6 to 8

    Considered by many to be Portugal’s national dish, caldo verde is found everywhere — in the dining rooms of Lisbon’s most luxurious hotels to the humblest of country homes. It’s a versatile dish: Serve it as a one-course meal at lunch or as a light supper in the evening. What’s crucial when preparing it is that the kale is cut into extremely fine slices; that’s what creates the soup’s distinctive character.

    convert Ingredients
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1 large Spanish onion, diced
    2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    10 ounces chouriço, diced
    6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
    8 cups cold water
    1 pound kale or collard greens, cut into very fine julienne
    Salt and pepper to taste

    1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent. Add the garlic and half the chouriço and cook for 2 minutes. Add the potatoes, cover everything with the water, bring to a boil and lower the heat, simmering until the potatoes are almost done, about 15 minutes.

    2. When the soup is cool enough to handle, purée it in the food processor and return to the pot. Add the greens, bring everything back to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, ladle into bowls, and garnish with the remaining cubes of chouriço.

    Here you have a closer version of the original one! ;D

  4. Hi Ana,

    Wow, thanks for all your input! Ive had plenty of other input from other Portuguese friends, too, and one thing Ive realized – not just with this recipe but with a lot of national dishes – there are many, many variations because every family that makes it over the years tweaks it here and there. I think things get changed, and new ingredients added, depending on whats available or how they remember their mother or grandmother (or father or grandfather) making it…or depending on the likes and dislikes within the family. I think thats the beauty of dishes like caldo verde. If its something you grow up with, it becomes more to you than just a food,just a soup. Its part of you, its in your blood, the smell of it cooking on the stove evokes memories of childhood and family. Its personal. A friend of mine called me today to let me know how his mother made it – hers had half chourico and half
    linguica. His mom used beans, but not onions. Or cumin.

    Im so glad you commented – Im definitely going to make caldo verde again, and since youve given me an entire recipe to work with, Ill use yours. Im really looking forward to it.

    Thanks for all this information!

    Anyone else out there care to share the version they grew up with? Id love to hear from you!

  5. Hi Jayne!

    I didn´t mean that that’s the only way to make Caldo Verde! That’s why I used the words “original” and “traditional” because that’s how the recipe started in the northerner region of Portugal! Of course it spreaded all over our country, and all over the world! ;D I just thought it would be interesting for you to know that!

    Of course, cooking is an art that we should adapt to our own ideas, taste, and most of all, our creativity! I didn´t mean to sound in any way pretentious or anything like that, so I’m sorry if that was the message my previous posts sent!

    In my family we keep the recipe very similar to the original one, except in one detail, the amount of kale! We tend to use LOTS of it!! With little water and a thicker “caldo”, precisely because that’s the way we like it best! eheh 😀 I hope you have the opportunity to cook and experiment with other marvelous portuguese dishes because fortunately our gastronomy is extremely rich and varied!

    Take care!! 🙂 and keep those delicious posts of yours!

  6. Ana, you didnt sound pretentious at all! And Im looking forward to making different versions of caldo verde through the winter, along with other Portuguese dishes. Im in Rhode Island, and weve got a lot of Portuguese influence on the cuisine here and in parts of Massachusetts.

    What other dishes do you think I should try? Im up for anything!

    And really – thanks so much for writing – youve made my day!

  7. melrose,

    Yes, you see some swiss chard. Ive also got kale and pak choi. As I wrote in my post, I used a combination of all three – we had them all growing in the garden. I also didnt have enough kale alone, so I needed other greens to make up the balance of the required 2 lbs.

  8. Hello Jayne!

    First of all, I’m sorry for this late reply, it’s just that I’m having some problems with my internet connection! But now, everything is working fine!

    I’m so glad to see that you’re so eager to try some of the portuguese goodies!! ;D And I should also mention our wonderful wines, cheeses, bread… nhammmiii!! I hope someday you’ll have the oportunity to come here and have the chance to taste some amazing things!

    I did some research and I came across this simple website where you can find some of our traditional dishes, and the recipes are translated to english! 😀 it’s all pretty similar to the things we cook at home, so I strongly recommend you take a look!

    If you have any questions concerning any of the recipes, please don’t hesitate in emailing me so we can exchange some ideas 😀

    Take care and good luck with everything!

  9. Hi Ana! Thanks for that link! I can’t wait to explore it!

    And I’ve tried wines and cheeses from Portugal – I’ve eaten foods from all over the world, even if I haven’t quite traveled everywhere yet! But someday….

  10. I used leftover smoked ham instead of linguisa, substituted more kale for the cabbage, and omitted the butter. I made it in the crockpot and it still turned out great. Thank you!

  11. Youre welcome! Im glad you enjoyed it! Im planning to make another version at some point this month- apparently a more authentic one – that another reader sent to me. Ill post that one, too, when the time comes.

  12. I lived in Portugal for a couple of years and fell in love with this soup! I beleive the traditional ingredient, mentioned in a previous response as “Portuguese kale”, is actually what we know in the U.S. as collard greens. (very similar to kale but a little different flavor, and yes it was always very finely chopped) It has been several years since I have made any caldo verde and I stumbled across your recipe after having also read your post on Portuguese Broa. Thanks for the reminder of a great and simple soup.

  13. Hi! I enjoyed reading your recipe and the comments that followed. I think caldo varies by region. My family came from San Miguel in the Azores and do not believe in pureeing the soup. They also use linguica. Just FYI

  14. Hi! I was just reading the post on caldo verde is a puree of patatoes with thin slices of choves witch are collard greens, Sopa de choves is a simple soup with your basic left overs of meat, potatoes and what knot! just had it when i went back to cali to vist my father who is from San JOrge, topo the acorzes island. loved every bit of you alls blog great to know there is different kinds! happy eating

  15. Boas Festas! I am a Rhode Island Portugese Cook too! Our family recipe starts with just enough water in the pan to cover a Beef Shank or two. Boil to flavor the water then add ingredience as you have listed, kale and or cabbage, onion etc. and Bay Leaves. Sometimes mom would chop carrots and dark red kidney beans. Potatoes of course. Chop Beef shank, cut to be same size pieces as the chourico. Serve with Portugese round white bread. Enjoy. Thank you for this site!

  16. I’m Azorian Portugese and we make this different still!

    I start with beef shank and/or short ribs, or a tough old beef roast. Cover with water and add garlic and onions. Stew until it is stringy and tender. Take the ribs out of the kale, then stack the leaves. Roll them tight lengthwise, and chiffonade. Add the kale, then cook until it is tender.

    We never add any other spice except salt and pepper.
    We never add beans.
    Occasionally, I add some sliced linguica but have never heard of adding chourico.

    And remember people, Portuguese chourico is MUCH different than Mexican chourico. The spices are completely different.

    I think sometimes, the immigrants just used what was at hand in their new country.
    In the spring, we used to go down to the river and pick watercress for this soup and I still love that!

    I will post my recipe on my blog at

  17. Hi my mom and my self make kale soup with beef shank kale cabbage white beans potatoes salt and crushed red pepper for Taste and chourico & onions. &olive oil . My mother in law adds macaroni instead of beans we are from Azores also every village makes it a little different .But it all tastes good but I love it with the SHANK AND BEANS BEST . And beef broth is better then water there is no Measurements it’s all by eye you know when it the right amount .We start by Sautéing the beef shank with onions and olive oil and the chourico then add your broth or water let boil then add cabbage & kale &your beans salt &pepper to your taste let boil add potatoes maybe 15 or 20 min all done and it so good !

Leave a Reply