Learn how to make Portugal's most quintessential soup with a special, easy-to-follow recipe from our Portuguese grandmother.
The Most Iconic Portuguese Soup
There’s nothing quite like a piping hot bowl of caldo verde to warm the soul on a cold day. But as the most quintessentially Portuguese soup, it’s eaten year-round, rain or shine. Originally from the Minho region of Portugal, caldo verde even made the list of Portugal’s Sete Maravilhas de Gastronomia (Seven Culinary Wonders).
And as a Portuguese culinary wonder, the Portuguese people sing its praises — literally. Amália Rodrigues, the Queen of Fado music, sang the following refrain in Portugal’s unofficial anthem, “Uma Casa Portuguesa:”
Basta pouco poucochinho pra alegrar (Little is needed to rejoice)
Uma existência singela (a simple existence)
É só amor pão e vinho (Just love, bread, and wine)
E um caldo verde verdinho (And caldo verde)
A fumegar na tigela (steaming in a bowl)
Perhaps caldo verde is so beloved because like the Portuguese people, its roots are humble. The foundation includes nothing more than water, potato, onion, and couves (a cabbage most similar to collard greens or kale). The result? A subtle tasting broth with slivers of sharp greens often topped with pieces of linguiça, a Portuguese smoked sausage.
Making Caldo Verde Your Own
Though it may be simple, tweaks are added here and there to create unique variations. Most restaurants serve the iconic soup but as every Portuguese person knows, the best caldo verde is the one that vovó (grandma) makes.
Perhaps caldo verde is so beloved because like the Portuguese people, its roots are humble.
But if your vovó hasn’t taught you how to make her famous caldo verde yet, here’s a recipe you can try from our vovó. This is one of the purest of recipes because it keeps to the basics. Once you’ve mastered this, experiment with the recipe to make it your own. Some add garlic. Others top it off with pepper. And yet others add shallots to build a more complex flavor profile in the broth.
When served in a small bowl, caldo verde makes for the perfect appetizer. Or if you’re in the mood for a light dinner, fill up a large soup bowl and enjoy with a slice of bread (even better if it’s Portuguese white corn bread).
P.S. We did our best to provide exact quantities and cooking times. If you’ve tried getting a recipe from a Portuguese grandmother, you’ll know that they never measure anything. Everything is added by feel and by look — true soul cooking if you ask us.
Looking for a new soup bowl to serve your homemade caldo verde? Add these Portuguese soup bowls from Etsy to your dish ware. As an affiliate partner, we may receive a small commission if you make a purchase. Thank you for supporting us!
Caldo Verde Recipe
Servings: 4 - 6 servings
Prep & Cook Time: 10 minutes prep time; ~ 30 min cook time
1 head of lacinato/dinosaur kale (you can use any kind of kale or collard greens but this is the most similar to couves in our opinion)
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled
1 yellow onion
olive oil (optional)
1. Boil 4 cups of salted water in a large pot.
2. Peel the russet potatoes and chop into squares. Peel the onion and chop into fourths.
You can leave the potatoes whole but this will increase the cooking time.
3. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add potatoes and onion. The water should just cover the potatoes and onion. If you have too much water, empty out the extra amount. This is also a good time to add a little more salt. Cover the pot and lower the heat a little while maintaining a boil. Cook until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork (about 10 - 15 minutes).
4. While the onions and potatoes are boiling, rinse the kale and chop off the thickest part of the stems. Roll the kale (like a fruit roll up) and slice as thinly as you can. Then, roughly chop into smaller chunks so you don't end up with long string of kale. To this day, my great grandmother says I don’t slice the kale thinly enough.
5. Once the potatoes and onions are done cooking, blend until smooth with a hand blender. Or, add the broth to a blender for an ultra smooth broth. It should be a little thick (you'll feel slight resistance when you run a spoon through it).
6. Once fully blended, taste the broth. If it’s bland, add a hefty dash of salt and taste again. Continue until the broth tastes more full-bodied.
7. Return broth to the stove over medium heat (not a rolling boil). Add kale and cook for 7 - 10 minutes until kale is wilted and no longer tough.
8. Once kale is cooked, top off the soup will a dash of olive oil. This step is optional but our vovó always does it, so we do it.
9. To make your caldo verde a little heartier, add thinly sliced linguiça on top. If the slices are thin enough, the hot soup will warm them up. Or you can lightly fry the linguiça in a pan before adding to the caldo verde, adding even more flavor!
That's it! You’re done! Serve as an appetizer or as a meal with some Portuguese bread. To get the best taste, store in the refrigerator and serve the next day. The flavors really build overnight. And freeze any leftovers to defrost on a rainy day!
Do you have a zest for Portuguese culture? An unbridled joy for the charisma of Portugal's people and traditions? Become a Patron of Portuguese Culture and join those who share your passion to support liveLUSO, the first online Portuguese community.