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Hawaiian Style Portuguese Bean Soup

Updated on November 19, 2015
Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

June is from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, but is currently residing in N.Y. She loves to cook and heal naturally with the plants from her garden.

The Best Hawaiian Style Portuguese Bean Soup Recipe

Portuguese Bean Soup and rice are pretty much island staples for comfort food in Hawaii, and there are as many different varieties of the Hawaiian Style Portuguese Bean Soup as there are cooks.

The recipe was originally brought to Hawaii by the Portuguese immigrants that arrived to work on the sugar cane plantations.

This Portuguese Bean Soup recipe that I make was passed down from my Aunt and has been in our family for a very long time. It is, in my humble opinion, the very best Hawaiian Style Portuguese Bean Soup ever.

And the good thing is that it can be altered any way you happen to like to make it the best for your own family. The recipe is our basic, but just like Italian Minestrone it can be changed to whatever you happen to have in your own kitchen pantry and refrigerator.

The Basic Ingredients for Hawaiian Style Portuguese Bean Soup

Hawaiian Style Portuguese Bean Soup does have some basic ingredients that are used by all island cooks.

These basics include smoked ham hocks, Portuguese sausage, onion, potato, carrot, cabbage, red beans with some type of tomato base. I prefer canned whole tomatoes while others prefer canned tomato sauce, and still others use canned tomato paste.

Often the Hawaiian Portuguese Bean Soup will be made according to what you may have on hand in your pantry and refrigerator. Traditionally russet potatoes are used in Hawaiian Portuguese Bean Soup, but if all you have on hand are red potatoes; then red potatoes it is.

If you don't have red kidney beans, use pink, pinto, white or black beans. Add a combination of beans if you want. It's all good.

Everything in Hawaiian Style Portagee (pidgin English for Portuguese) Bean Soup is adjustable and according to your taste. Try the way I make it the first time, then adjust it to the way you like it the next time.

Start with Smoked Ham Hocks

All amounts in this recipe are approximate. You may want to add more or less of any ingredient depending on your own personal taste and the number of people you are going to feed.

The smoked ham hocks and the Portuguese sausage is where most of the soup flavor comes from, so you must use them both in the soup, (there is no substituting here) or you won't have the right smoked flavor nor the spicy flavor from the sausage.

Often, I will only use 1 ham hock for the flavor and add more vegetables. When I make the soup for my in-laws in New York, I use 2 or 3 ham hock, depending on the size, because they really like the chunks of meat from the smoked ham hock in the soup.

We found a German Smokehouse in the Catskills that has HUGE meaty ham hocks almost as big as my head. In a case like that, only one is needed. (Grin)


Hawaiian Portuguese Bean Soup Ingredients

This recipe serves: 8 - 10


2-3 medium sized, meaty smoked ham hocks or 1 very large

About 3 qt. water to cover

1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes (or 2 14.5-oz cans)

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 celery ribs with leaves, diced

4 or 5 med carrots, chopped (I like a lot of carrots)

1/4 med. head cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped

1/2 bunch cilantro (Chinese parsley), stems minced and leaves, chopped and divided

1 large bay leaf or 2 small

1/2 teaspoon Hawaiian Salt

2 Tablespoon Hawaiian chili pepper water, (or Louisiana hot sauce to taste)

1 - 2 Tablespoon Aloha Shoyu (soy sauce)

1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

4 medium sized potatoes, peeled cut in bite-size chunks

2 15.5-oz. cans kidney beans with liquid, or a 1/2-1 lb. bag of kidney beans, soaked overnight

1 pound hot Portuguese sausage (also comes in mild if you can't handle spicy, but not as good)

4 c. watercress chopped (2 c. chopped spinach, kai choy - Chinese mustard cabbage, Swiss chard, or any bitter green may be substituted)

1 can chicken broth (if needed to thin soup)


1. Cover the Ham Hocks with Water

Put ham hocks in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. If using beans that you soaked overnight, add to the pot with the ham hocks. Cover with water; bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Simmer covered until the ham hocks are done; about 1 -2 hours. Remove the ham hocks to a bowl to cool.

Note: I usually just use canned beans for convenience. The canned beans will not be added at this point.

You Will Need at Least a 5 Quart Soup Pot

The recipe can be cut down for a smaller family, but I have found it easier to make a large batch and freeze half for a quick, healthy, weekly dinner when you're short on time.

When the size of my family dropped from 6+ down to just us 2 empty nesters, I found that the soup just didn't turn out as well when I tried to cut it down to just enough for the 2 of us. Instead, I make the regular amount and feed a couple neighbors who love it and freeze the rest; some for us and some for them.

2. While the Cooked Ham Hocks are Cooling

Add Vegetables and Seasoning to the Hawaiian Portuguese Bean Soup
Add Vegetables and Seasoning to the Hawaiian Portuguese Bean Soup

Meanwhile, add the canned tomato, chopped onion, garlic, celery, carrots, cabbage, all of the minced cilantro stems, 1/2 of the chopped cilantro and all the seasoning; bay leaf, Hawaiian salt, pepper, Aloha Soy Sauce and Hawaiian chili pepper water to the ham hock broth, Simmer for about 30 minutes. As it is simmering, skim any fat or foam that rises to the surface and discard.

Note: Louisiana hot sauce can be substituted for Hawaiian chili pepper water. If you don't like food real spicy, wait 'til the soup is pau (finished), taste it, then add the hot sauce to your taste.


Hawaiian Salt

This is the brand of Hawaiian salt that I use in Hawaii and here in the Mainland. I order it from Amazon at a much more reasonable price than I have found it elsewhere online.

I use Hawaiian salt for all of the Hawaiian dishes I make here in New York. I also keep some in a salt grinder for everyday use. We don't eat a lot of salt anymore so a 2-pound bag of Hawaiian salt will last us a long time.

It is one of those pantry items I have to keep stocked at all times for our culinary needs.

3. Once the Cooked Ham Hock Has Cooled

When the ham hock has cooled enough to touch, remove the bones, skin and fat. Chop the meat into bite-size chunks and add back to the pot of soup. Add the potatoes; simmer until potatoes are done; between 20 - 30 minutes.

Chop Portuguese Sausage and Add to Portuguese Bean Soup
Chop Portuguese Sausage and Add to Portuguese Bean Soup

4. Next Add the Portuguese Sausage

Add the Portuguese sausage and canned beans (if using). Continue to simmer for about 20 more minutes; until the beans and sausage are heated through.

I have tried substituting Polish Kielbasa for authentic Hawaiian Portuguese sausage, but it just doesn't work. The Kielbasa is too bland; just not enough flavor.

I now buy my Hawaiian Portuguese sausage online line at 1stLuau. In fact, I now buy all of my Hawaiian ingredients on their site except for my Hawaiian salt and Aloha Soy Sauce. I buy them from Amazon because I get a better price. Every once in a while I can find the sausage on Amazon.

My last resort is to call KTA Grocery Store on the Big Island and order a case from them.

Portuguese Sausage

If I don't have any Hawaiian Portuguese sausage left in the freezer from Hawaii, and I don't have the time to order any to make the soup, I substitute either Chourico sausage from Brazil, Linguica Sausage from Venezuela or Andouille Cajun sausage.

Chourico sausage is similar to Hawaiian Portuguese sausage, but not as good, in my opinion. The texture is different, kind of mealy, and the taste is similar but not as spicy as the ones made in Hawaii. Hawaiian Portuguese sausage is made with Hawaiian chili peppers.

Linguica is similar in texture, but a smaller sausage and not as spicy.

A hot Andouille Cajun sausage is a better substitute than Kielbasa, but not as good as authentic Hawaiian Portuguese Sausage. It is packed with flavor and spice, but a much smaller size, so you will need more sausage.

5. Add Your Greens If Using

Hawaiian Style Portuguese Bean Soup
Hawaiian Style Portuguese Bean Soup

If you can't find any watercress where you live, you can substitute 2 cups of chopped spinach, kai choy (Chinese mustard cabbage), Swiss chard, or any bitter green will do. They can be added at this point as they will take a few minutes longer to cook than watercress. Simmer until just wilted, but still bright green.

May Be Prepared Ahead of Time

If you would like to prepare Hawaiian Style Portuguese Bean Soup ahead of time, at this point the soup can be left to cool down, and then refrigerated, or put into containers to freeze.

If refrigerating, when ready to serve, remove any grease that may have risen to the top and hardened, then reheat.

Serving Options - Time to Eat!

Hawaiian Portuguese Bean Soup on Rice
Hawaiian Portuguese Bean Soup on Rice

1. Before serving, if using watercress instead of greens, add about 1/4 cup (or a small handful) of chopped watercress to each bowl and top with hot soup. Garnish with some chopped cilantro leaves.

2. In Hawaii, we put our soup on a scoop of white rice before serving. Put one scoop of white rice in the bottom of the bowl; top with the watercress; pour the hot soup over this then garnish with cilantro on top.

3. Some people like to add cooked pasta. If you want to use pasta, add the cooked hot pasta to the bowl; top with the watercress; pour the hot soup over this then garnish with cilantro.

4. Pass the Aloha Shoyu and the Hawaiian chili pepper water.


1. Since Hawaiian Chili pepper water is home made in Hawaii from the little hot Hawaiian chili peppers, it is not possible to get in the mainland. Instead substitute your favorite hot sauce.

2. If using pasta, it is best not to add directly to the soup as it can get mushy if over cooked.


Aloha Shoyu

This is the only shoyu (soy sauce) the locals use in Hawaii and the only soy I ever use, no matter where I live. As we say in Hawaii, "So ono going broke da mouth!" (So good it can't be beat).

I have a prime membership on Amazon so I buy 4 bottles at a time and I don't have to pay the shipping from Hawaii to New York. For me that is a bargain!

It is the shipping that always kills me when i have to order my Hawaiian food supplies and pay shipping.

Do NOT get the low sodium. It has no flavor at all and is much too light. The original Aloha shoyu is all ready lighter than a brand like Kikkoman, so the low sodium isn't needed.

A Soup Poll for You

What is Your Favorite Homemade Soup?

See results

A Plain Hawaii Portuguese Bean Soup

Frank DeLima's (Hawaii's Loved Comedian) Talks About His Christmas Show and His Favorite Portuguese Bean Soup

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    • profile image

      Melanie Freitas 7 months ago

      Aloha June,

      Mahalo for sharing! Just made this for my family & it was sooooo good. I'm a Maui girl living in CA & it was delish. Reminds me of when I was a little girl. Luckily my local safeway carries Silva brand Portuguese sausage. I called ahead to make sure they had it & they told me no, but I went anyway & found it! BIG MAHALOS.

    • KawikaChann profile image

      KawikaChann 15 months ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

      Aloha June, I gotta try your recipe! One of my favs is Chicken Sabao - chicken, bok choy, and other Ono elements. I agree with you on your selection of shoyu - but I also utilize kikoman to adjust if salt is needed. Keep up the great work! Kawi.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 22 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      What a hearty soup for the winter. That smoked ham hocks look really good. I wonder if we can get it where we are. That is an interesting bit of history on the Portuguese workers in Hawaii's plantations.