Delicious and healthy Caribbean callaloo soup recipe featuring green leafy vegetables slowly simmered with fresh okra, peppers, and coconut milk.
What is Callaloo Soup?
Callaloo Soup or just the shortened Callaloo is a national dish in many Caribbean countries, but particularly Trinidad and Tobago. Callaloo is of African origin, and as part of the African Diaspora via slave trade made its way to the Caribbean. Traditionally it is made with young dasheen leaves or Amaranth.
WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE CALLALOO
- Callaloo Leaves – baby spinach is a suitable alternative
- Olive oil
- Garlic cloves
- Red bell pepper
- Scotch bonnet peppers – habanera can be substituted
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Fresh pumpkin
- Fresh thyme
- Vegetable stock
- Coconut Milk
CALLALOO COOKING INSTRUCTIONS
Bring a large pot to medium heat and add the oil. Add onions and saute 3-4 minutes. Add the diced red peppers, garlic, and scotch bonnet peppers sauteing another 1-2 minutes.
Add the pumpkin cubes and sliced okra, saute 2-3 minutes. Season with paprika, salt, and pepper stirring as necessary.
Add callaloo leaves, coconut milk, stock, and water to the pot. Bring all to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let the callaloo cook for 20-30 minutes until are soft.
Use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the mixture for a more traditional Trinidadian creamy texture. This is my preferred way. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Pour the soup into bowls and garnish with the hot pepper.
CALLALOO COOKING CONSIDERATIONS
Here in the U.S., unless you live in cities with large Caribbean populations, you’ll be hard-pressed to find callaloo leaves. Some specialty grocery stores may have them, but if not baby spinach makes for the best more readily available substitute.
Callaloo Soup has many regional and local varieties to it. It has its core ingredients (callaloo leaves and scotch bonnet peppers), but certain areas will include items like okra, pumpkin, or coconut milk. Some recipes will feature pork in some form or seafood like crab.
Pumpkin adds color and makes this dish more hearty. If you can find it, use it!
Stay true to the traditional way of using the scotch bonnet, i.e. using the whole pepper vs. chopping it into pieces so as not to let any one spice/ingredient dominate. I like to cut a few slits into the pepper and let it simmer in the soup.
Be careful when handling the chilis as they are fire. If you plan to chop them up wear gloves!
Callaloo is not meant to be rushed. Slow simmering allows the ingredients to come together and brings an out of this world aroma to your kitchen. I find the longer it sits the better it gets.
Once the cooking is complete, you have a big decision to make. The question is – do you puree or not? My family likes the chunky stew like texture/consistency similar to how it’s served/eaten in Jamaica. I personally am more partial to the Trinidadian way of pureeing the finished dish into thick and creamy goodness.
MAKE THIS SOUP
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- 1 bunch callaloo leaves or substitute baby spinach
- 10 stalks okra chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup diced onions
- 3-4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 large red bell pepper chopped
- 1 whole scotch bonnet pepper deseeded and chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
- 1 cup fresh pumpkin peeled and cut into small cubes
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup coconut milk
- Bring large pot to medium heat and add the oil. Add onions and sauce 3-4 minutes. Add red peppers, garlic, and scotch bonnet peppers and sauce further 1-2 minutes.
- Add pumpkin and okra saute for 2-3 minutes before. Add paprika, salt, and pepper and stir occasionally.
- Add callaloo leaves/spinach, coconut milk, stock, and water bring the callaloo to a boil. Reduce to simmer and let the callaloo cook for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
- Use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the mixture if you prefer traditional Trinidadian creamy texture, otherwise leave as is. Taste and adjust by adding more seasoning if necessary.
- Pour the soup into bowls and garnish with the hot pepper.