This traditional Portuguese Caldo Verde is served in restaurants around the country year-round. It is comforting and flavorful and nutritious. And in this recipe, I’ve made it vegetarian without the signature smoky cured chouriço sausage. But the crispy, spiced potato rounds on top ensure you get your money's worth in flavor.
Meat is not a dominant part of most caldo verde recipes, but the Portuguese cured sausage is often sliced into three rounds and served on top of a bowl of soup before it’s brought to your table.
For this recipe, we are using smoked paprika – the key ingredient in Portuguese chouriço – to spice crispy fried potato rounds. And then we're serving up this dreamy soup up for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Ingredients you'll need for this recipe:
Before we get to the step by step directions, a few notes about the ingredients:
Greens: in Portugal, couve is the green of choice - a kind of leafy cabbage. In the US, I use shredded kale. Curly or tuscan works well.
Potatoes: small Yukon golds or fingerling potatoes work well, but use what you have.
Stock: for this vegetarian soup we use vegetable stock. If you're cooking for meat-eaters, chicken stock is a great option.
Smoked paprika: a key ingredient in this vegetarian recipe, the smoked paprika and garlic combine to add a similar flavor profile as the cured sausage used in traditional caldo verde. It's worth your time to track it down (will be in the spice aisle at your local market or available widely online).
Piri-piri: this spicy red pepper (commonly called peri peri in the US) is of African origin but popular across Portugal. Substitute cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes, if desired.
Full ingredient list and measurements included in the printable recipe card below.
Step by step instructions:
1. Cook aromatics
Heat a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the large diced onion and 6 cloves of minced garlic for about 5 minutes, until tender and fragrant.
Add 1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt, ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika and the peri peri or red pepper flakes to taste, if using. Cook for about a minute to allow the spices to toast. Add diced Yukon gold potatoes and two bay leaves.
2. Add liquids and greens
To the Dutch oven, add 6 cups of good vegetable broth and raise the burner to medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes to ensure the potatoes are fully cooked. Remove the pot from the burner and fish out the two bay leaves.
Use an immersion blender to liquefy about half the bulk of the soup. I like to leave plenty of potato chunks and diced onion in the soup. (If you don't have an immersion blender, use a potato masher to smash some of the potatoes, or use a slotted spoon to transfer half of the potatoes to a regular blender to mix until creamy.)
Return the soup to the heat and add 12 ounces of shredded kale. Cook for an additional 6-8 minutes, or until kale has cooked through. Taste and adjust seasoning.
3. Fry chips
For the crispy potato rounds, slice the baked and cooled potatoes into thin (¼ inch) rounds. Season liberally with salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet and fry potatoes about 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown and very crisp.
4. Serve and enjoy
Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with crispy potato rounds.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions:
I have recommended Yukon Golds because they are similar to the yellow potatoes you find here in Portugal. Russet potatoes are starchier, but would work in this recipe. Red potatoes are on the other end of the spectrum in the waxy category. If you're looking for a different starch altogether, a jar of white beans would be a delicious substitute for the potatoes.
I have learned that Portuguese caldo verde is the national dish of this great country. Caldo verde is literally translated as "green broth" and when you visit Portugal (and I know you will), every restaurateur you meet will tell you that their green soup recipe is the best.
This caldo verde recipe calls for thin slices of kale or collard greens. Here in Portugal, every grocery store in Lisbon sells bags of couve galega - a local green already washed and sliced into thin strips and ready to add to that large Dutch oven of hearty soup. But feel free to use whatever batch of leafy greens you have at hand. Turnip greens, Swiss chard and even spinach would be delicious here. Spinach will take just 60-90 seconds to wilt (not 8 minutes), so adjust the cooking time.
Crusty bread works beautifully here. The Portuguese often serve their traditional cornbread (broa) with this comforting soup, and it would be ideal. Add a fresh cucumber gazpacho salad on the side for a light lunch or dinner. If you're hosting a dinner party and want to serve the soup as a starter, stuffed flounder florentine and Mediterranean lemon dill rice would complete a lovely menu.
The origins of Caldo Verde can be traced back to mid-15th century. It was first created in the Minho region in northern Portugal (Braga is in Minho, if you're familiar with that region).
To store, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or transfer to an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days (this delicious soup gets even better the next day). To reheat, warm in a small saucepan over medium heat until warm.