Portuguese bean soup takes an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach by filling a brothy base with nearly everything you can imagine–including beans, sausage, ham, tomatoes, potatoes, and cabbage. Serve with a sweet, warm roll. Perfection.
On the Big Island, this “everything but the kitchen sink” soup is one of our favorite rainy day comfort foods (and in Hilo, it rains a lot). The foundation of the dish is smoked Portuguese sausage flavored with warm spices like cinnamon and cloves. Dad always kept a few links stashed in our freezer just in case the weather called for it.–Sheldon Simeon
CAN I MAKE BEAN SOUP IN LESS TIME?
We strongly suggest that you give this soup the time it deserves–in the pot and in the fridge. You’ll find that the long cook time makes the broth unbelievably rich and flavorful. Not only that, but the overnight rest in the fridge brings it all together in a way that takes the soup from good to incredible. Sheldon Simeon himself has this advice for you–“I’ll leave you with two golden rules for Simeon-style cooking. First: The magic happens in the pot, don’t rush it. Second: No matter how good the stew is now, it will only taste better the next day.”
Portuguese Bean Soup
- 2 pounds (2 to 3 hocks) smoked ham hocks
- 1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
- 3/4 pound Portuguese sausage (chouriço or linguinça) sliced or crumbled
- 1 large (10 oz) sweet onion diced
- 1 large (3 1/2 oz) carrot sliced
- 3 stalks (4 oz) celery diced
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
- 1 large (13 oz) baking potato peeled and cut into 1-inch (25-mm) cubes
- 1 can (15 ounce) tomato sauce
- 1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes
- 1 can (15.5 ounce) kidney beans undrained
- 3/4 cup elbow macaroni
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal (or 3/4 teaspoon Morton) kosher salt plus more if needed
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more if needed
- 1 teaspoon store-bought or homemade pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 medium head green cabbage cored and chopped, or 1 bunch kale, trimmed and chopped
- Tabasco sauce or piripiri sauce for serving
- Portuguese Sweet Rolls for serving
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, combine ham hocks and 3 quarts of water to cover the hocks. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently, partially covered, until hocks start to fall apart when poked with a spoon, 2 to 3 hours.
- Remove hocks from the pot and pour the broth into a separate container (the broth should have now reduced to about 2 quarts; add water if necessary to get to this amount). Once hocks have cooled enough to handle, pick all the meat from the bones and reserve.
- Wipe out the pot you used to simmer the ham hocks. Add the oil and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add sausage and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Add 2 quarts of the reserved broth, the potato, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, kidney beans (with liquid), macaroni, sugar, salt, pepper, and pumpkin pie spice and stir. Increase heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook at a gentle simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Stir in reserved meat from the ham hocks after 30 minutes.
- Stir in cabbage and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours before serving. Even better, let soup chill in the fridge overnight. Reheat until warmed through, and adjust with more salt and pepper as needed. Serve with Tabasco and Portuguese sweet rolls, if desired.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This Portuguese bean soup is one of the heartiest, most soul-satisfying soups I’ve made or eaten in a long time. I’m a soup fiend and let me tell you, this soup hits all the marks. The texture is thick, almost stew-like.
The beans play an almost supporting role here; since the recipe makes such a huge amount it ends up not being super bean-forward amidst all the other elements involved. The choriço imparts a wonderful garlicky, red-wine-y, smokey flavor. The shredded ham hocks boost the smokiness even more and add a good textural element.
The cabbage retains some bite, but the potato, macaroni, and aromatic vegetables almost melt into the soup. Flavors and textures galore, and enough to feed 10 people. A fall or winter dinner party in a pot! And it’s even better if it’s made a day ahead. I served this with thick slices of homemade sourdough bread.
This Portuguese bean soup is the big batch of comfort you make to warm your spirit or to make a busy week easy with a stash of soup that is hearty and satisfying, yet completely easy on the budget and your kitchen time. I try to always have a selection of sausages in the freezer, including some Portuguese-Hawaiian ones if I can, because they can make a meal so easy to pull together.
I did pick up smoked ham hocks–the broth is a bonus! In fact, that part is even easier if you want to do it a day ahead, chill it, remove any solid fat from the top, and the flavour of the smoky meat is hard to beat. This is a pantry-freezer kind of magic solution, and the soup does indeed improve overnight.
While completely doable in one relaxed day, I like to make broth ahead so I can see how it jells and remove any extra fat. The day we made the soup, we might have been a little impatient and hungry, so we had a bowl after just an hour, which was lovely, with fresh-baked Portuguese rolls, but the next day the flavours had indeed developed and it was even better (even for breakfast!). The cabbage was just right–not overcooked at all. Even though the macaroni swells a bit (and this may be counterintuitive to those who always cook their pasta al dente), it absorbs just the right level of the spices and doesn’t fall apart.
If you were using a GF pasta, you might cook it separately and only add per serving, since some gluten-free pastas tend to fall apart more than wheat will.
Originally published October 15, 2021