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!

Serves 6
Write a review
  1. 1 pound kielbasa, sliced 1/4-inch thick, on the bias
  2. Vegetable oil, as needed
  3. 8 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 pound dried red kidney beans, soaked for at least 4 hours or overnight
  5. 2 quarts chicken broth
  6. 1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  7. 6 ounces fresh kale, washed, rinsed and torn into 1-inch pieces
  8. 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  9. 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

    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.

  2. 3
    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.

    • 4

      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.

  3. 6

    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.

  4. 7

    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.

  5. 8

    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.

  6. 9

    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.

  7. 11
    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.

  8. 12
    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!

  9. 13

    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.

  10. 15
    Suzanne H.

    Very yummy. I don’t like red kidney beans, and the store did not have white cannellini beans, so I substituted Great Northern Beans. Since I was using white beans, I wanted more red in the soup, so added a can of petite diced tomatoes, and used Yukon Gold potatoes, since I was out of Red Bliss. A delicious soup, but I thought that it could use some more herbs, so added a pinch of dried basil, marjoram, and oregano (seasonings in Jane Brody’s lentil soup). Just loved the kale. The vinegar at the end is a wonderful touch–but I let my family add their own dash to their soupbowls.

  11. 16
    Kathy E

    For those of you who don’t like kale…If you put it in the soup, it takes on the flavors of the rest of the ingredients. Don’t be afraid of kale! It’s delicious in soups! For all of us vegans out there, try substituting the kielbasa with a meat substitute.

  12. 18

    Really good recipe, I made it exactly like it’s written. It was heavy on the vinegar taste which I didn’t care for much so I added a little bit of water.

  13. 19

    To those asking Could I use this?, Wuddiff I use that?… This isn’t baking, y’all. Substitute whatever you want! That’s what makes cooking FUN!!!

  14. 28
    Pete Parks

    Did not have sausage so I used hamburger and I did not have any kale so I used celery. completely out of chicken broth so I used some fish sauce. Put it in a crock pot for 8 hours on low and it was very good. Sheesh! Make the darn recipe according to the directions first.

  15. 31
    Karen DelGrosso

    Thanks Alton, I am 66 yrs. of age & never had kale before I made your Christmas soup yesterday, excellent result. Used Cannellini beans instead of red kidney & white potatoes instead of red, 1/2 the amount of vinegar cause I wasn’t sure. next time making as written. It’s a keeper.

  16. 33

    Delicious only thing I substitute the kielbasas for andouille and the potatoes with cayenne gnocchi. Very good as is but a great quick meal.

  17. 34

    Love the idea of this soup and with Polish markets abound locally I love using fresh kielbasa but for Christmas Eve Polish people don’t eat meat so this will just need to be a winter soup.

      • 36

        It is a Catholic tradition to abstain from eating meat at certain times – Fridays, during Lent, and on holy days like Christmas Eve. Most famous of this is the Italian “feast of seven fishes” which families would have on Christmas Eve in addition to attending a midnight mass.
        I agree it is incorrect to claim that all Polish people do not eat meat on Christmas Eve.
        I think that observant Polish Catholics may have a similar non-meat meal tradition.
        (* note: I am neither Catholic nor Polish)

        • 37
          Divers Wife

          I’m 46 years Catholic and we don’t fast or abstain on Christmas Eve. We only fast/abstain during Lent (Easter). I know some Italian Catholics have their own traditions, but they’re not rules set down by the Church. That being said, I’m sure this soup will be added to our buffet on Christmas eve!

    • 38

      My entire Polish family and I will be engaging in meat eating this Christmas Eve, as well as Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and Louis Pasteur’s birthday. I highly recommend it.

  18. 40
    Joseph K.

    Made this tonight, love it! I only thought the large discs of sausage were a bit cumbersome for a soup so I will dice the kielbasa next time.

  19. 41
    Mimi Kerr

    Wow! This turned out so great! I followed the recipe exactly, as best as I could, given my pantry, my preferences, and our food restrictions. So, my only differences were: homemade chicken bone broth 🙂 , bye-bye fat rendered from sausage, 1 lb cooked canned kidney beans rinsed (1 can), and I was a little short on kale, I had to stretch it with some spinach. Will go full kale next time. This soup is awesome! I knew it would be good, but I was a little surprised at just how good! Hubby loves it too, we are soupers.

  20. 44

    Loved this soup, perfect for a cold winters day. I too had an issue with my kidney beans as I only soaked them for 5 hours as I was too eager to try this soup and not wait overnight for the beans to soak. This was remedied by extending the recommended cooking time of the beans by 15 minutes! Delicious, highly recommend this lovely hearty soup! Thanks Alton!

  21. 45

    Just made this tonight. I used turkey polka kielbasa. Then didn’t have enough fat to cook the garlic so I added a little bacon fat. Kinda negated using the turkey sausage, but oh well. I’m not a big fan of kale either but it works in this recipe. Great recipe Alton!!!

  22. 46

    Just made this soup. The only thing I did differently is instead of using solely chicken broth I mixed Chicken Broth, Vegetable Broth, and Beef Broth together. ( this was because I didn’t have enough of one.). I doubled the recipe so I could take it for lunch through the week. I absolutely love this soup! 🙂

  23. 48
    Roberta Hite

    I made this soup for lunch today with what we had on hand: smoked sausage and not kielbasa, canned white kidney beans and not red ones, yellow potatoes and not red ones, and had to double the smoked sausage (I couldn’t resist sampling the first). Added some red pepper flakes to spice it up for husband who LOVED this soup. It’s quite filling. I thought it was okay, not my favorite. I halved the recipe for just the two of us and it made 5 bowls full (but still used 1# of tasty sausage).

  24. 49

    This recipe is impossible to make. A pound of perfectly browned sausage sitting on the counter for 45 minutes without being consumed is too difficult.

  25. 51

    Haven’t made this yet, but it’s that much less likely when I can’t print a compact/print-friendly version of a recipe. Something for your web elves to work on?

  26. 54

    I am so glad you posted this recipe, Alton. I love a good soup, and these ingredients are just what I wanted to try in a soup. We have very similar tastes in food. I grew up in South Georgia.

  27. 55

    Sure, use canned beans. I would add the liquid. Everyone tells you to rinse and drain, but you’re throwing away the starch that adds a nice body to your soup.

  28. 56

    I don’t have time to soak and wait for beans to cook…any thoughts on using canned beans. I’m really wanting this for lunch lol.

  29. 58

    Not all of us eat Linguica because it it is pork or because of a sensitive system. A nice substitute is the 3 cheese italian chicken sausages from a well known maker of packaged sausages (yes, I notice no brand names on Good Eats). Turned out very good.

  30. 59

    We make this with Portuguese linguica – and for lower carb leave out the potatoes. the beans are hearty enough to keep you full. DELISH

  31. 60

    Made this last night and it’s awesome! This will definitely be something we make regularly.

    My thoughts:
    There ARE a lot of beans, but beans are good and good for you. We soaked them for around 12 hours and they cooked perfectly.
    “Bite-size” pieces of kale are smaller than you might envision when being put into a hot soup.
    If at all possible I would recommend using fresh kielbasa that you get at the butcher. You’ll probably get less fat rendered but the flavor is so far superior it’s not even the same thing.
    Lastly, I was going to double the recipe and I’m glad I didn’t, this makes a lot of food.

  32. 61

    Try adding a bit of heavy cream to this – it’s superb. Reminds me of zuppa toscana soup you used to be able to get (not sure about now) at a place that rhymes with Molive Gerdin.

  33. 62

    The only thing I changed is that I put a yellow onion in (diced) when I was frying the garlic in the fat. And I put in 3 more cloves of garlic. Best soup ever!

  34. 63
    Rick McMullen

    Made this tonight and my family loved it. I substituted Great Northern for the Red Kidney and baby kale for the torn up regular kale. This is definitely going into my soup rotation.

  35. 64
    Mike OBrien

    can’t seam to print this with out the ‘tour – the alton browncast’ frame printing over ever page – right over the ingredient list..

  36. 65

    Made this tonight and while the flavor was amazing, i agree with the comment about it being far too heavy on the beans. For that matter, our beans, despite soaking PLENTY long enough, were simply not cooked through, by half at least. Have the pot back on the stove at low heat in the hopes that they cook through for leftovers!

  37. 66

    Oh my gosh! I love you, Alton Brown :). This soup was delicious. Instead of chicken broth, I used stock I made from my Christmas turkey.

  38. 70

    I substituted the kielbasa for a pound of Italian sausage ground, it came out delicious. Everyone loved it and was going back for thirds!

  39. 72

    SO MANY BEANS. If I were to do this again, I would for sure half the amount of beans! Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather not have a mouthful of beans in every bite. Otherwise, it’s a pretty tasty soup. Happy Christmas, all!

  40. 73
    Bob Foley

    Made the Christmas soup tonight and it tastes great! I was thinking the garlic would be over powering but it was perfect. I have never have seen this soup in Alton’s cookbooks or shows.

  41. 76

    This soup sounds really good, so I will definitely try this for the holidays, would make a great lunch menu. I hope changing to spinach won’t hurt. Thanks for the recipe.

    • 79

      I just made it, and I think you need the acid from the vinegar to brighten up the flavor. Don’t use wine, but another vinegar should work. Try whatever tasty vinegar you have on hand!

  42. 84
    Helene Kale

    Having the last name of “Kale” suddenly got more exciting! But seriously, we have our own “Kale soup recipe”. When we make it for dinner, we call it “cannibalism night”.

  43. 87
    Barbara Main

    I used the print icon on the recipe and got 10 PAGES of ads, comments and finally the recipe, but it was OVERLAYED with boxes containing stuff about the Alton Browncast, so I COULDN’T EVEN READ THE RECIPE.
    Please don’t use a print icon that will not give a reader Just the Recipe.
    Thank you

    • 88

      After hitting the “print” button, it took me to the print preview page…I could see the recipe was only on pages 1-2 and comments and stuff I didn’t want were on pages 3-7. So I printed only 1 and 2. It came out fine. Perhaps something in your settings (margins or something) is weird that caused it to print all jumbled?

      • 89

        I stand corrected…this recipe worked fine but ads for the podcast popped up on another I tried to print. Temporary fix, I’m going to screen shot the recipe on my ipad and cook from the photo.

  44. 92

    I must thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this blog.
    I am hoping to view the same high-grade content by yyou in the future aas well.
    In fact, your creative writing abilities has
    inspired me to get my own, personal blogg now 😉

  45. 94
    Debbie Parker

    this sounds tasty, I am DEFINATELY cookingmthismfor my family!mthanksmformsharing Mr. brown! Do you think i could make this in my crockpot if I wait until the end to add the kale?

  46. 98

    I used to make this soup years ago but with cabbage instead of kale. Now I will have to try it with the kale. Stirs up good memories this soup does. 😉

  47. 99

    Jeff–on jars of garlic, they usually say what amount is equal to one clove. I’ve had ones that were 1/2 tsp = 1 clove, and others that are 1 tsp = 1 clove.

  48. 100

    Alton – I just love your recipes, but I live at almost 7,000 ft above sea level, and I still haven’t quite figured out the best way to make a bean soup that doesn’t end up with crunchy beans. I own a pressure cooker now, but I’m not sure how to adjust the recipe to either make the entire soup in the pressure cooker or to prepare the beans so I can make the recipe to your specifications. I’ve tried a great many things to prepare beans, and I don’t want to overcook them. Any tips would be appreciated!

    • 101

      Do you have hard water? How old are your beans? You might try adding a pinch of baking soda when you soak. Also, make sure you don’t add salt or acids too early in the cooking process.

  49. 102

    Foiled by auto correct… I should be working anyway, so it serves me right. Come to Michigan, Mr. B – Beer City USA has a lot of Good Eats.

  50. 103

    I cook Italian every Christmas for the family (27 people). Baked ziti, fettuccine alfredo, bakEd chicken, sause and peppers, spaghetti, gnocchi, etc. May have to add this to the repertoire this year. Thanks AB. Wish your tour would come to Michigan!

  51. 104

    I have a very similar recipe to this. Its a wonderful and filling soup. A good substitute for the kale is cabbage, spinach, chard, turnip or beet greens. <3 u Alton

  52. 105

    Those who are not a friend or fan of kale could try spinach or perhaps escarole. I’d lean towards escarole, because it doesent get as mushy as quickly.

  53. 109
    Kevin M.

    None of my family are very fond of kale. Any suggestions for tastier replacements (cilantro, etc), or thoughts on simply leaving it out?

    • 110

      Kale is a member of the cabbage family but it is more of a leafy green. I wouldn’t substitute it with cilantro in a dish like this. Cilantro is an herb, and a very powerful one at that. Instead, I would stick with spinach or swiss chard. Either would make an excellent substitution for kale in this soup.

    • 111

      What beautifulnightmare said. I had purchased everything a few days in advance, and for some strange reason my kale went bad (very strange for kale in such a short time, in my experience). I had spinach on hand as well and it worked well, though I think something more cabbage-ey would have been better.

  54. 112

    I make something very similar to this with beef broth. I add cooked barley seasoned with about a tablespoon of another chef’s seasoning (BAM) and bag of frozen vegetables. It’s a hit on campouts.

    • 114
      Dana Barrett

      Hm. Just a thought on the Coumadin. If you are avoiding Vitamin K because of it, you might want to check with a dietician/nutritionist. I have a friend who had to avoid all his favorite leafy greens for that reason and, come to find out, he should have been eating them for the past 10 years and his drs should have been adjusting his meds to compensate. He is having more health problems due, in part, to this dietary lapse. Definitely worth checking on.

  55. 115

    Allergic to a couple of ingredients but otherwise sounds delicious. I’ve got a couple ropes in the freezer I might have to thaw out and give an allergy free spin on this.

  56. 117
    Jeff Shultz

    How many tea or tablespoons is 8 cloves of minced garlic, for those of us who prefer to buy jars of the stuff (it’s not like cloves come in a standard size either)?

    • 118

      I believe one clove is equal to one teaspoon. Usually says it right on the side of the jar…

      But you should do yourself a favor and ditch the jarred stuff and get some fresh cloves. The difference in flavor is immense. You will notice how weird the jarred stuff actually tastes…

+ Leave a Comment