Spanish Comfort Food: Caldo Gallego

Spanish Comfort Food: Caldo Gallego

Is there anything better than a big pot of bubbly soup on a Sunday afternoon? Yesterday, I made some classic Spanish Comfort Food — Caldo Gallego. The name translates to Galician Stew, and the soup originates from the Northern Spanish region of Galicia, which also happens to be where my great-grandparents were born and raised.

This traditional white bean soup comes in many versions. With chorizo and without, with turnips and without, with bacon and without. My version uses slab bacon and a lot of smoked ham hock to create a smoky, salty ham stock. Add cannelini beans, potatoes, onions and lots of collard greens for soup full of flavor, texture and healthful goodness. Sop everything up with a fresh baguette and you’ve got comfort food at its best.

Make sure to make a whole bunch because it tastes even better the next day. You can also freeze individual portions for easy portable lunches or emergency week night meals.

Caldo Gallego (Galician Stew)

1 thick slice slab bacon (or 2 slices regular bacon), thinly sliced
2 lb. smoked ham hock, bone-in (or 3/4 lb. boneless smoked ham hock)
10 cups water
2 large russet potatoes, diced into small pieces
1 lg. yellow onion, finely diced
1 lb. collard greens (or kale, or turnip greens), washed, stems removed and coarsely chopped
3 15 oz. cans cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
good olive oil for drizzling
baguette for dipping

Place your biggest pot over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon until the fat renders a bit, then add the ham hock and cover with the water. Bring to a simmering boil, cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 1 hour.

Remove the ham hock to a cutting board, but leave the pot on the heat. Discard the bones and any additional fat, then cut the ham into small, bite-sized pieces. Return the ham to the pot.

Raise the heat to medium-high, then add the potatoes and onions. Bring to a slow boil for 20 minutes.

Add the greens and beans to the pot and simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Serve and drizzling with good olive oil. Eat with a big piece of fresh baguette.

Makes 8 servings.

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21 Comments

  1. Yum. Looks lovely. I like the idea of turnips in it, too. And we all need some comfort food. (My company started layoffs today.)

  2. This soup looks really outstanding. I always have my eye out for good greens recipes and I definitely think this would be a huge hit over here! LOVE your blog, by the way. You have such wonderful, creative recipes!

  3. I’m loving all of these ingredients – looks great!

  4. I am a BIG fan of your blog– your goat cheese tartlets are absolutely my new favorite appetizer! Keep the wonderful food and photos coming!
    Now, this may be off topic (the topic being soup), but I’m curious if you’ll be preparing Christmas dinner, and if you have a menu planned that you’d be willing to share.

  5. Fantastic soup for a winter day!

  6. Thanks everyone!!!

    Nuala – Since my family is Cuban, we do something a little different (and difficult!) for Christmas Eve. We roast an entire pig in the backyard and serve it with black beans, rice and yucca. It’s so so so good, but I have nothing to do with it. The men cook that day :)

    My Mother-in-law makes a really good Christmas dinner of Beef Tenderloin, Twice Baked Potatoes, Green beans and salad. Other than that, I have no experience with traditional Christmas dinner!

    Good luck and let me know what you end up making :)

  7. Mel- think you could sub in some smoky sausage for the hock?

  8. Deb – I’m sure it’ll be delicious with smoky sausage, though I’ve never had it with anything but ham :)

  9. just got a whole batch of collard greens from my CSA so this is perfect. mmmm chorizo

  10. That looks sooo delicious!!!

    May I ask, where did you get the bowl? I love the shape!

  11. Thanks for the recipe. My favorite Caldo Gallego is at Versailles on 8th street. I never get down there much anymore. I’m hoping to be able to make my own just as good.

    PS… I love your site. We are a lot alike!
    Erin
    Coral Springs, FL

  12. Erin – Hi! I’ve never had the Caldo Gallego at Versailles. I need to get back over there soon :)

  13. Jane – OOOPS! I just realized I never got back to you! I’m a terrible host! If you ever check this blog again, here’s where I got the bowl:
    It’s part of the Nambe “Butterfly” collection, which I just found out is discontinued! SO sad :(
    It’s our wedding fine china and I absolutely love it. The plates are great too!

  14. I stumbled across this blog and recipe while searching google for a Caldo Gallego recipe and this is the best americanized version of the recipe I’ve found! I am from Madrid and have family in Galicia where I’ve spent time every year of my life so I am very familiar with this soup (one of my all-time favorites) and I want to send BIG THUMBS UP to Melissa for her write up!

    thank you!

  15. Barbara – Thank you! My mom’s family is very Spanish, even though my grandparents were born in Cuba. My dad’s family is more Cuban-ized :)

    Spanish food might just be my favorite kind of cuisine!

  16. Rick Noriega says:

    I really like the recipe. I like to drop a potato and 1 can of beans and add

    green pepper (1 or 2 sliced)
    2 cloves of crushed garlic
    Italian sausage usually 1/2 and 1/2 turkey and regular, brown first
    1 chorizo sausage for flavor

    The result is a little lower carb and meatier. The chorizo, garlic and green pepper all make it taste a bit more like my grandmother used to make it.

  17. Pingback: Spanish Collards w/Chorizo, Sherry & Almonds | bitchincamero

  18. Hi, I love this photo. I’m editing a cook book and would love to have permission to use this photo. Is there a chance you could give us permission to use. You will receive attribution in the book.

    Thanks for considering this, Mia

  19. Hi Mel,

    Just found your blog while searching for a recipe for traditional Caldo Gallego. My grandmother makes the most amazing one I’ve ever tasted, but she hasn’t given me the recipe yet, and I am having a huge craving for it. Even in the thick of this hot summer. Your recipe is the closest one I’ve found to my gram’s. And judging by the beautiful photo, I think I’ve hit the jackpot :)! I’m also in Miami, so very glad to have found you!

  20. For a real spanish caldo gallego, try “unto” instead of beacon (now available even in Publix) and turnips (no potatoes) and do add a spanish chorizo (Palacios) and make it soupy.
    The one at Versailles is not that good, try it at any of the smaller spanish restaurants now throughout Miami, or better yet in Galicia.
    Happy New Year!

  21. Meli, I know that I’ll find Caldo Gallego recipe in your site, I used to use Olga’s recipe but i lost it, what about “unto” because I remember to get the unto in publix or sedanos for her recipe, any way I will use your in today’s dinner, I’ll let you know later how was my caldo gallego , besos llamame se me perdi tu telefono…

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