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Portuguese Bean Soup

Portuguese Bean Soup is a traditional dish of Portugal and an important part of the Portuguese cuisine. Served as a starter, appetizer, main dish as well as a snack, the soup is a filling and hearty preparation known for its healthy ingredients and delectable taste. The cuisine of the country is characterized by full-flavored, filling and rich preparations and all these elements are found in the nation's traditional bean soup as well.

The soup is particularly popular in Hawaii, a country pegged as the 'new homeland' of the Portuguese. Locally known as sopa de feijão, the bean soup has become a staple of Portuguese immigrants in the Hawaiian island.

Since the ancient times, the bean soup has been an important part of Portugal's culinary tradition and references to the same have been found in ancient texts as well as cookbooks of the Middle Ages. It has been argued that the soup is not entirely a Portuguese invention and is, in fact, a carryover recipe from one of the country's erstwhile colonial possessions. Over the years, the dish has evolved in various ways and today, there are many recipes for the same.

Portuguese Bean Soup Recipe Ingredients

When made in the most traditional and basic way, the Portuguese Bean Soup is made with kidney beans, Portuguese sausage, potatoes, tomatoes and garlic. Garlic is an important spice in the Portuguese cuisine and is traditionally the only flavoring and seasoning agent used in preparation of the soup. There are various other recipes, like the Hawaiian Portuguese Bean Soups and Spanish Portuguese Bean Soups, in addition to many regional recipes, that call for the use of different ingredients. Vegetables like scallion, carrot, onion, cabbage and pea are commonly added to the traditional soup to make it fuller and richer. Pork, beef, ham hock, seafood and poultry are main ingredients in some recipes that mix these meats with kidney beans.

Oil, broth/water, bouillon, kidney beans, salt and pepper are, however, ingredients common to almost all bean soup recipes.

Preparation Overview of the Portuguese Bean Soup

The Portuguese Bean Soup is a fairly easy dish to prepare that is ready in about 30 to 40 minutes. While slow cooking is the traditional adopted and preferred method, modern chefs favor faster cooking and use modern equipment like stoves and hot plates. The soup is also sometimes prepared in an electric oven. There are, however, some recipes that require slow cooking (mostly due to use of hard meats) and these are then cooked in a slow cooker or Crockpot.

To make the soup, the ingredients to be used are first prepared as required (chopped, diced, cleaned, rinsed, sliced, etc.) and mixed together in a pot with the oil, broth/water, bouillon and seasonings. The soup is then cooked till it has reached the desired level of doneness. While the soup is mostly served without any topping, a mint leaf or a sprig of parsley can sometimes be used.

Popular Portuguese Bean Soup Recipe Variations

  • Hawaiian Portuguese Bean Soups - Essentially an invention of the Portuguese population in Hawaii, these soups give a local twist to the traditional recipe. Ingredients that are more easily available in Hawaii are used instead of those that are essentially Portuguese.
  • Spanish Portuguese Bean Soups - These soups, like the Hawaiian variants, are an invention of the Portuguese in Spain. More easily accessible ingredients are used instead of traditional ones.
  • Punahou Portuguese Bean Soup - This is the bean soup sold every year at the Punahou Carnival. The thick and creamy preparation is especially popular with tourists.

Sopa de Feijão Trivia

Portuguese Bean soup with rice, is not only a staple of the Hawaiian Islands but also a comfort food. Also, the soup is an important preparation during celebrations and on special occasions.