Caldo verde may not be fancy, but it’s one of the most beloved dishes throughout the country of Portugal.
In 2011, Portugal held a nationwide contest to determine which local delicacies would be deemed “the 7 Wonders of Portuguese Cuisine.” The list of 21 finalists included three entries in seven categories: soup, appetizers, shellfish, fish, meat, game, and desserts. Any recipe with a documented history of at least 50 years that “represented traditional Portuguese values” was allowed to be submitted for nomination.
Attempting to represent a national cuisine with just seven dishes would be a challenge for any country—but it was especially so for Portugal, where each region has its own unique specialties … and food-obsessed locals to defend them. Naturally, the issue was divisive. In the end, classics like pork with clams and salt cod failed to make the cut. Some argued against the inclusion of Serra da Estrela cheese over cod cakes as an appetizer. But one dish had an undisputable place on the list: caldo verde, literally, “green broth.”
People all over the country adore caldo verde, a potato and cabbage soup typically served as a first course or light supper. It has been immortalized in poetry and song—including a classic penned by poet Reinaldo Ferreira and sung by Amalia Rodrigues, Uma Casa Portuguesa (“A Portuguese House”): “It takes very little, very little to simply brighten a life … love, bread, wine, and hot caldo verde in a bowl.”
Portuguese Caldo Verde
The simple recipe is more like a blank canvas, to which you might add more meat, beans, or a different leafy green. In Portugal, a local cabbage called couve galega is typically used, but we’ve substituted easy-to-find kale.
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 pound chorizo, linguica, or kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
- 1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 6 cups stock or water
- 1 lb kale or collard greens, stems removed and very thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 5-quart pot over medium-high heat. Cook sausage until browned and fat is rendered.
- Add 2 tablespoons of oil to rendered fat and cook onion and garlic until softened. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add potatoes and stock or water to the pot, and simmer until potatoes are very soft, about 20 minutes. Mash some of the potatoes into the soup to thicken.
- Add kale or collards and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in sausage and simmer until heated through.
- Drizzle with remaining oil and season with salt and pepper.
Seek out a steaming bowl of caldo verde when you join O.A.T. for Backroads of Iberia: Spanish Paradores & Portuguese Pousadas.