Love a creamy soup but don’t want the heaviness? I have two words for you: Caldo Verde. This buttery, brothy soup gets its velvety texture from the natural starch in potatoes, but the real stars of the show are spicy chorizo sausage and leafy kale. Piqued with just a touch of red pepper flake, this is one winter warm-up you won’t want to skip!
I stumbled upon Caldo Verde years ago after a few attempts at upgrading a family recipe for Italian Wedding Soup. Some people add pasta, some don’t. Some people use meatballs, some use sausage. Heck, beans, carrots, cheese… there’s a long list of things people will toss in to improve on the classic.
Anyway, I googled myself down a windy rabbit hole and stumbled upon this traditional Portuguese recipe. And I was instantly hooked. What struck me was its simplicity: potatoes, greens, and broth, topped off with smoked sausage. Reminiscent… similar, even. But also totally new.
More “main” soup than “side” soup, tuck into a bowl of this spicy green goodness to stave off the winter blues or beat back a cold. Or just to feel really, really cozy from the inside out.
What is caldo verde?
The zesty Portuguese alternative to Italian Wedding Soup, literally translated “caldo verde” means “green broth,” a reference to the leafy greens used in this dish. There are as many “traditional” ways to make caldo verde as there are kitchens in Portugal, but the mainstays are very thinly shredded kale and potatoes cooked until they disintegrate for creamy-without-cream, velvety smooth broth.
Pro Tip: While the soup itself is gluten-free, it’s traditionally served with corn bread or rye bread as a complement.
What kind of sausage should I use?
If you can source traditional Portuguese sausages like chouriço and linguiça, please do use them. They bear the same traditional spicy vs. mild characteristics as sausage in any other culture, but what really excited me was learning that the secret to the heat in chouriço is piri piri – also known as peri peri, also known as that damn fine spicy seasoning on Nando’s Peri Peri Chicken. (If you don’t have Nando’s or haven’t had Nando’s, do yourself a favor, as conditions permit, and get some. And do NOT skip the Natas for dessert.)
There’s a not so pleasant history of colonization behind this pepper, and while the Portuguese developed it, its origins are in Africa, so credit where credit is due. Bottom line, it’s difficult to find Portuguese smoked sausage (and I live in a major metropolitan area) so if you can get your hands on it, do it! In the meantime, its Spanish cousin – a nice, spicy chorizo – will do just fine to add the necessary kick.
It’s all about the texture
Now, now…no need to call for a welfare check – I’m fully aware there’s no dairy (or dairy imposter) in this soup and that seems a bit out of character for me, but hear me out. ‘Cause this soup feels rich. And it’s glorious.
Finely minced onion, shredded potatoes, and very thinly shredded greens are gently simmered to create a velvety broth and creamy without cream texture. You should cook the potatoes until they’ve released all their starch and start to fall apart. Thinly shred the kale and simmer until it’s completely cooked through. Feel free to puree a third or so of the soup using an immersion or stand blender to break down the plant fibers even further.
Tips for making this recipe perfectly
- Use russet potatoes for their high starch content – make sure to peel first.
- Shred the potatoes using the largest holes on a box grater – they’ll disintegrate more efficiently.
- Thinly julienne the kale. To do so, run a knife along the ribs to release them. Stack several kale leaves, then thinly slice using a sharp knife.
- If you can source it, seek out Portuguese smoked sausages.
- Homemade bone broth will make a huge difference when it comes to creating a velvety, smooth consistency in the broth.
- For a Whole30 and Paleo compliant soup, be sure to use compliant chorizo sausages (I can easily find sugar and nitrate/nitrite free chorizo at my local grocery store).
Other regional soup recipes you’ll love
- Spicy Chicken Taco Soup
- Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup with Kale
- White Bean Kale Soup
- Swedish Meatball Soup
- Winter Minestrone Soup
Did you make this recipe for caldo verde? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
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Caldo Verde (Portuguese Green Soup)Print Recipe Rate this Recipe Pin Recipe
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb chorizo sausage links, or Portuguese sausage
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and shredded
- 6 c chicken broth, bone broth preferred
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 bunch kale, stems removed, thinly julienned
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the sausage links and saute 3-4 minutes per side, until well browned. Remove using tongs and set aside.
- Add the onion and garlic and toss to coat in the fat. Saute, stirring occasionally, until soft, 8-10 minutes.
- Add the potatoes and broth, then season with salt and pepper. Adjust the heat to maintain a brisk simmer. Cover and simmer 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are releasing their starch and starting to fall apart.
- Add the kale. Simmer 15-20 minutes more, or until the kale is very soft, the potatoes are disintegrating, and the soup takes on a thickened, slightly creamy consistency. Optional: use a stick blender to slightly puree the soup (just a few quick rounds) or remove ⅓ of the soup and puree in a blender.
- Slice the sausage links into coins and return them to the pot. Simmer 5 minutes, or until the sausages are cooked through.
- Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with red pepper flakes for a spicier finish. Serve immediately.