Hawaiʻi Comfort Food: Portuguese Bean Soup Recipe

What happens when you combine two family recipes in one pot? A simple, hearty version of this favorite dish.


Photo: Christi Young



One of my and my family’s favorites is Portuguese Bean Soup. I like it thick, almost like a stew in a bowl. When I moved to the Mainland, I took my mom’s easy-to-make recipe with just eight ingredients and five steps. In just one hour, I could be ladling it out over rice. Once I returned home, I tackled my grandmother’s version which required more than a dozen items, took all day and almost filled the 10-quart pot my mom bought specifically for it. I loved the added flavors, but was soon looking for a shorter route to my craving.


So one day last year, I took a look at both recipes and tried incorporating steps and ingredients from each. In less than two hours, I was slurping up the best of both of my worlds.


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Serve this with a scoop of rice or, if you’re a fan of macaroni, I separate out about two cups of broth and boil the noodles it in. It gains the flavor of the soup but I can store it separately so it doesn’t break apart into an unappetizing layer of pieces during reheating.


Portuguese Bean Soup

  • 5-6 pieces of smoked ham shank
  • 2 10-ounce Portuguese sausages, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes
  • 2 8-ounce cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 cans of kidney or garbanzo beans, drained
  • 2 potatoes, cubed
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 small head of cabbage cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch of watercress cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces


  1. Combine first eight ingredients, through the water, in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour.
  2. Remove ham shanks. Remove skin and fat and dice the meat.
  3. Add beans, potatoes and carrots and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Add diced ham, cabbage and watercress and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Add salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste.