Portuguese Bean Soup

Portuguese Bean Soup is an iconic local Hawaii (not Hawaiian – here’s the difference) dish made from a stock of smoked ham hocks, combined with other hearty and flavorful ingredients like Portuguese sausage, red kidney beans, potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage, and macaroni noodles. It’s a simple, hearty soup that really warms you up all the way.

I based my bean soup on two of my favorite recipes from Hawaii- Oahu local favorite Punahou Portuguese bean soup and Carol Choy’s bean soup recipe from “The Choy of Cooking” (written by Carol’s husband, Hawaii celebrity chef Sam Choy). A bowl of this soup makes for an ideal easy weekday lunch or dinner- make a big batch on the weekend, and you’ll have soup for the week. This recipe makes about a 12 large servings (a full-size bowl) or 18 small servings (cup or small bowl).


  • one 16 oz. bag dried beans (kidney, pinto, or small red)
  • 2 smoked ham hocks or ham shanks
  • 4 cups chicken stock (one 32.oz carton)
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 linguiça (Portuguese sausage, 10 ounces)
  • 2 large potatoes, diced
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 cup celery diced (about 2-4 ribs celery, depending on size)
  • one 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups passata (tomato puree)
  • 1 cup macaroni, uncooked
  • 1 small or 1/2 medium head cabbage, cubed
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


Soak beans in water overnight. Drain.

In a stockpot, combine soaked beans, ham hocks, chicken stock, cilantro and water to cover (about 6 cups). Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until meat and beans are tender.

Remove skin and bones from ham hocks; shred meat and return to stock.

Slice and fry Portuguese sausage, and blot with paper towels. Add cooked sausage to stockpot along with potatoes, carrots, onion, celery, diced tomatoes, tomato puree, and dry macaroni. Cook until potatoes are fork-tender and macaroni is cooked (al dente); if soup becomes too thick, add a little water to thin.

Stir in cabbage, cook just until softened or “wilted.” Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Cook’s Notes:

  • I prefer using dried bean in this soup, as they have better flavor and hold their texture longer (they’re also usually cheaper than canned beans, and don’t have any unwanted flavor or color additives). However, if you’re pressed for time, you can make a fast version of this soup by substituting three 14.5 oz. cans of kidney beans. Rinse and drain the canned beans before adding them to the soup, and keep an eye on the pot so you don’t overcook the beans.
  • Smoked ham hocks are preferred for this recipe, as they impart a deep, smokey flavor to the soup. If you have to use ham shank, you can add a little liquid smoke or smoked paprika to compensate; if using liquid smoke, start with a very small amount, and adjust as needed (a little liquid smoke goes a long way).
  • Portuguese sausage, or linguiça, is a type of smoke-cured pork sausage, seasoned with paprika and garlic, that is popular in Hawaii. It was first brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants in the 1800s, and has become an important part of everyday local food in Hawaii. Redondo’s Portuguese Sausage is probably the most popular local brand, but outside of Hawaii, you may find other brands available. On the mainland, you can sometimes find Portuguese sausage for sale at Japanese or Chinese supermarkets, or you can order it online (which is what I do). In a pinch, you can substitute kielbasa or andouille, but the final soup probably won’t taste quite the same, so you will need to adjust the seasoning by adding some garlic (either minced fresh, powdered, or granulated) and smoked paprika to approximate the flavor of linguiça.
  • Waxy potatoes work best in this and other soup recipes where you want the potatoes to hold their shape. Red Bliss, New Potatoes, French fingerling, baby potatoes, creamers, Red Adirondack, and Russian Banana are some of the most common types of waxy potatoes you’re likely to find at the grocery store. Starchy varieties (think Russets, Idaho, or “baking potatoes”) will fall apart in a soup; this is great for mashed potatoes or pureed potato soups, but it’s not what you want in this recipe.
  • Savoy cabbage has great flavor, and would probably be my first choice for this recipe, but plain green cabbage or Napa cabbage also work well and are easier to find.
  • If you’re picky about the texture of your pasta, you can cook the macaroni separately and then add the cooked pasta into the soup at the end of the recipe (stir it in around the same time you add the cabbage); this will keep the noodles from absorbing too much liquid and turning mushy.
  • To cut down the fat in this soup, cook the ham hocks a day ahead and refrigerate the stock. The next day, you can easily remove the hardened layer of fat atop the stock. Return stock to stove top, bring to simmer, and then complete the rest of the recipe.
  • This soup tends to thicken overnight in the fridge; when reheating, you may find it helpful to stir in a little water to thin the soup.