Christmas Soup

Christmas Soup

Without fail, I make this Christmas Soup for the holidays every year. In other words, it’s a tradition. Kids love traditions, so I say, let them make the soup so they can leave a bowl for Santa. Sneaky!



  • 1 pound kielbasa (sliced 1/4-inch thick, on the bias)
  • Vegetable oil (as needed)
  • 8 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 pound dried red kidney beans (soaked for at least 4 hours or overnight)
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 pound red potatoes (cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
  • 6 ounces fresh kale (washed, rinsed and torn into 1-inch pieces)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground)


  1. Brown the kielbasa in a 7-quart Dutch oven and set over medium-low heat until it has rendered most of its fat, about 15 minutes. Remove the kielbasa from the pot and set aside. If you do not have a least 2 teaspoons of fat, add enough vegetable oil to make 2 teaspoons.
  2. Cook the garlic in the fat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent the garlic from burning. Add the beans and chicken broth and cook, covered, for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, stir in the potatoes, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Toss the kale into the pot, cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes, or just until it is tender, but not mushy.
  4. Sprinkle with the vinegar and pepper and stir to combine. Return the kielbasa to the pot and cook just until heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot.


Add yours
  1. 1
    Deborah Manos-Guletsky

    We love this simply delicious soup. Have it year round as long as we have our favorite kielbasa (Blue Seal) on hand. I’ve shared this recipe many times.

  2. 2

    This soup is now a classic at my house. I do add a little extra vinegar to my bowl because until this soup, I had no idea that I loved sour soups! So good and reminds me of my grandparents polish recipes.

  3. 3

    Thank you Mr. Brown for this wonderful recipe. Even though it is June – this is a beautiful soup with all the fresh kale in season. It also has become my go-to soup to take to new parents. Again, thank you.

  4. 5
    Melinda Jones

    Alton Brown: I have made your Christmas Soup several times and I love it. My family does, too. I’m making it again tomorrow, a double batch, to be eaten on Christmas Eve when we all get together. While standing in line to pay for the ingredients, the lady ahead of me asked what I was going to do with them and I sent her to your recipe on your site. Thank you, Alton Brown.

  5. 6

    Polish former Catholic school girl here….poles only abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during lent….my Grammy always made Czarnina (duck blood soup) on Christmas Eve…delicious as long as you don’t know what it is

  6. 7
    Lindsay Udom

    Love this recipe! I get so many complements when I make it for people and seeing their faces when I call it “Christmas Soup” is a bonus!

  7. 8

    This is a family favorite, but we’re on WW this year so we substituted northern white beans for potatoes. Still tasty and only 3 FP per serving.

  8. 10

    Made this soup exactly as written. Incredibly tasty! Ended up adding more sausage to the leftovers, cut up a little smaller to make the pieces more manageable. I also find I like a bit more of the vinegar kick, but I do it at the table as most people aren’t into acidity as much as I am. Will definitely be making every year!

  9. 11
    Chelsie Braden

    We love this recipe. Tried it last year for Christmas eve and loved it. It has now become our Christmas eve dinner tradition. Love it.

  10. 12

    I love how people come onto recipes sites like Alton’s, and post their own recipes, tell him how it ‘should’ be done, etc. It’s not that recipes are infallible. It’s disrespectful. It’s rude. It’s tasteless. (see what I did there?) Did I mention it’s rude? I would love to sit at the table in one of these persons kitchens, and micromanage the flavors and techniques they use. I bet you could not take it as well as you dish it out. (see what I did there, again?) Be nice, people. The work that goes into creating a real recipe, can seem insurmountable. Have some respect.

    • 13

      Are you new to the internet? If not, are you new to recipe comments? It’s extremely normal for people to post their own versions of recipes. since taste is subjective, it helps people decide substitutions, and ideas, to make it suit their personal preferences. Some people also may not like Alton’s recipes at all, and it’s reasonable for them to state as much. It can help both the blogger determine successful dishes (Alton, in this case), and others looking to try it out. You seem unreasonably defensive over comments that aren’t even directed at you. Food for thought, eh?

    • 14
      Tammy Tabor

      Nobody is criticizing Alton’s recipe here. People just like to share their thoughts and ideas about a recipe. It’s called a conversation. There’s nothing “to take” and nothing being “dished out”. Just friendly people talking. Half the fun of cooking is adjusting and modifying a recipe to your own tastes, cultures, budget, and availability. There’s nothing disrespectful intended, and I’m sure Alton doesn’t consider it rude when we comment on our own family recipes that are similar to his. I love to hear how others change things up.

  11. 15
    Tammy Tabor

    This is very similar to a soup I came up with. I call it Beans, Greens and Sausage Soup. I sauté whole spicy Italian sausage slowly, covered, until cooked through, cool slightly, slice and set aside. Reserve a tablespoon or two of the drippings to sauté a chopped onion and diced celery. Then add soaked cannellini beans, chicken broth, a couple bay leaves, and a good bit of fresh ground black pepper. Simmer gently until beans are tender, and add 3/4 inch diced potatoes, I use russet because they help to thicken soup as they break down, and the sliced sausage. When potatoes are tender add an entire bunch of de-stemmed, rough chopped kale (any type of kale, or other sturdy greens like chard, will work). Cook until greens are tender, remove bay leaves and serve with crusty sourdough bread, preferably on a cold, blustery day!

  12. 16

    I make this delicious soup EVERY fall when the weather starts to turn and shadows get longer. Best soup in my recipe binder. So comforting.

  13. 18
    Linda R

    I read down some and saw the “some say this is bland” comments. You can make it a little more flavorful by taking a big pot, poke some fork holes in the kielbasa casing, cover with just enough water and simmer for 45 minutes. ( longer if the kielbasa is not already cooked.) SAVE THE KIELBASA WATER. I repeat. SAVE THE KIELBASA WATER. Combine this with the chicken broth when making the soup. My Babci made white borsch for Christmas every year … Similar recipe. Kielbasa. Kielbasa water. I think she used lemon juice instead of vinegar. She would cut up the kielbasa and some hard boiled eggs in it. She also did something with rye flour ( which I had to treck to the Polish bakery to aquire every year). I tried to repeat her recipe once and ended up with a science project. If anyone has any hints – comments/tips welcome.

    • 19

      The rye might have been for making Bors. Pronounced just like borscht but more SE Europe in origin I think. It’s a fermented grain liquid, usually you can treat it just like making barley malt if you can get rye berries, except keep the liquid. Halfway through, pulverize the rye seeds. Allow it to make a “vinegar” for you. You can cheat by using rye flour and either sourdough starter or a bit of yeast. But the malt option is tastier and has more amylase in it. I suspect it became a tradition on Christmas because that’s the only time most people ate a lot of cookies and cakes and the extra amylase helped with the sudden digestion of so much starch. Our ancestors weren’t dumb. 🙂

      I suspect a GF version could be made with millet. Ask some homebrewers if they are GF and if so, which grain malts the best for them.

  14. 21

    The Washington Post had a similar recipe that i made last week, except it calls fir double the kale, half the broth, and also it adds onion. I also used potatoes instead of beans, but that’s a less significant sub. I think less water made it heartier and more flavorful than this recipe. Some reviews are saying this recipe was bland.

  15. 22

    Different slant on the same soup, using smoked sausage, chick peas, vegetable broth, and spinach. All around the world, people love soup! It’s good eats.

  16. 23

    My mom always made & called this Kale Soup. I always call it Refrigerator Soup. I use whatever is on hand.Some things will not change for me and that is always using olive oil,a bit of garlic,always broth,never just water. Your recipe is good and its great you have a tradition w/your kids.They’ll remember it when they are older and hopefully will also make it.

  17. 24

    I have not made this soup. Reading everyone’s comments is hysterical! I will have to make this soup just so that I fit in with all the insanity.

  18. 26
    Jeff W

    Very similar to Olive Garden’s Tuscan Soup, which I am a fan of. Essentially potatoes, sausage and kale in broth. Will try this take on it.

  19. 27
    Sean D

    I saw this a couldn’t stop grinning. I threw together a variation of this to get me through college back in the day. I love that! This soup is awesome! If your not a fan of Kale (my spouse isn’t) cabbage is a great substitute if you don’t cook it too long. Fantastic!

  20. 28

    I followed this recipe to the letter. It was just ok. Certainly edible but not up to the expectations of the wonderful AB recipes I have cooked before. I don’t think I’ll make it again without modifications.

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