Caldo Gallego – Galician Soup

by Elena on January 29, 2015



This has been the month of soups, and we have churned out many different flavors and broths from our small Queens’ kitchen. The busy season at the restaurant and in catering is over, and things are starting to slow down for myself, Jon, and everyone around me. When I come home after work I want to take advantage of this time to rest and not get overly complicated in the kitchen. I need to recharge and empty my brain as I sit on the couch with Jon and root for Thomas Shelby and the Peaky Blinders, Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy both incredibly beautiful and equally creepy, while sipping on some homemade soup.

I admit that when the temperature started to drop, my Netflix binges started to rise as I hid away inside my warm apartment. The good news is between the binges and spurts of freezing weather also came the creation of some hearty soups.  Soups are warm and comforting, and in regards to preparation they are fairly hands off. Once you finish all your chopping and sauteing, you can let the soup do it’s thing on a low simmer while you listen to Pandora with your feet up. While you don’t need to constantly watch over the soup while you’re cooking it, the general rule is that a flavorful soup, in particular ones made from bone broth, take a long time to make. On the opposite side of the spectrum, vegetable soups are much faster, seeing as a vegetable stock can be made in under an hour, whereas veal stock takes about 10-11 hours. The great thing about soup however, no mater how long it takes to cook, is that you can freeze it and use it later. And that is why winter cooking is so damn wonderful. You can make a large batch of soup or stew and then quart it up and freeze it. Then you are ready for a quick meal in the future.

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I write a lot about Galicia because I’ve been so influenced by the region of my grandparents. My dad cooked a lot for us growing up and we also ate a lot at his restaurants. As a third grader I was eating white anchovies, sauteed chorizo and boiled potatoes with greens as much as I ate pizza. I was envious of the kids who got snack packs and luncheables while I ate sandwiches of jamon serrano and salchichon. Back then I felt cheated. Now I’ll take the jamon sandwich any day, with a smear of Dijon mustard and a slice of Manchego cheese, I’m in salty, gluten, and dairy heaven.

Galician food is very hearty because Galicia is the coldest and rainiest place in Spain, as evident by the green filled hills, as opposed to the dry plains in the middle of the country. The many stews and soups in the region reflect the cold winters, and people eat popular dishes like caldo Gallego, a white bean, collard, and chorizo soup made from salted pork bones.  This soup simmers for a couple of hours and it thickens from the starch in the beans and potatoes. In Spain they use berzas, a plant similar to the collards we have here in the States. Every home in the Galician countryside has these huge stalks growing in their yard, where they can pick from the leaves whenever it’s time for a meal. Berzas are sturdy and the crops can last longer in colder temperatures, unlike other plants that begin to die soon after a cold spurt. Even the collards my dad grows in New Jersey are the last plants standing before Winter.


Part of the reason why Caldo Gallego is full of flavor is because of all the pork. A Gallego will find any excuse to add pork to anything and this soup is extra porky. To make the broth you can use salted pork bones or a ham hock. You also add salted pork fat or unto as it is called in Spanish. To top it all off, you add chorizo at the end. That’s a lot of pork. The pork fat is used to give the soup flavor and then you remove it at the end. I think that many people are afraid of fat, but in small doses and in moderation it can provide a lot of flavor. People in Galicia have been eating like this for quite some time, in addition to a large amount of home grown vegetables of course, and it is common to see people in the old towns live to be 90 years old or above.  My great grandmother lived past 100. I can’t say that I know their health secrets, but I do know that I love their food.

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Caldo Gallego - Galician Soup
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Spanish
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 3.5 quarts
For broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, diced
  • 1 ham hock or knuckle
  • 2 oz salt pork
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 quarts (12 cups) water
For soup
  • 2 cups dried white beans (cannellini, navy, or great northern beans), soaked overnight and then drained
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and large dice
  • 1 pound collard greens, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • ½ pound soft chorizo, ½ inch slices
For broth
  1. In a large pot heat up the olive oil and then saute the onion, ham hock, and salt pork until the onions are soft and the ham hock starts to brown.
  2. Add the garlic and bay leaf and saute until fragrant.
  3. Add 3 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Cover pot, lower to a simmer and cook for 1 hour.
For soup
  1. Add the white beans and cook for an additional hour on a low simmer. The beans will start to get tender.
  2. At this point remove the ham hock. The meat will be falling off the bone. Shred the meat, discard the bone, and return meat to the broth.
  3. Now add the potatoes, soft chorizo, and collard greens. Cook until the potatoes and collards are tender for about an additional 30 minutes. As the potatoes and beans break down the soup will thicken.
  4. At this point remove the ham hock. The meat will be falling off the bone. Shred the meat, discard the bone, and return meat to the broth.
  5. When finished remove the salt pork and discard.


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