Callaloo (Caribbean Green Soup)

Callaloo is a Caribbean dish that originated in Africa. It is typically made with amaranth leaves (aptly called callaloo in the West Indies), taro leaves (dasheen), or water spinach; since these plants are somewhat hard to find in the United States, spinach is a common replacement stateside. There are many variations of this dish, and my recipe follows the Trinidadian version, which includes coconut milk and okra. In the Caribbean, Callaloo is often served as a side dish, but when I make it, it almost always turns into a main course. I’m not the type of guy that craves vegetables often, or vegetable soups for that matter, and I crave this dish. A lot.

I think I could eat my weight in Callaloo. I don’t know what it is about this dish that makes me go crazy about it. For one thing, I feel like a superhero after I eat it – like I’ve consumed a week’s worth of vegetables in one sitting. It’s also ridiculously delicious, and carries a unique flavor despite using fairly common ingredients. The only ingredient in here we don’t eat regularly is okra, since my wife isn’t a fan of okra’s slimy texture; luckily, the texture is cleverly masked in this dish.

Callaloo (Caribbean Green Soup)

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 40 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

1 tbsp olive oil
1 med onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
10 pieces okra, tops removed, sliced
1 cup chopped pumpkin or squash (if out of season use 1 can puree)
3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves (about 1/2 tsp), dried okay
1 tsp sea salt, more to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper, more to taste
1 can (about 2 cups) coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable stock to make vegetarian/vegan)
1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper (optional)
1 lb fresh spinach, stems included, coarsely chopped
6 chives, chopped

1. In a stockpot or large saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat for a minute, then add the garlic. Sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the onion; continue to sauté, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes.

2. Add the peppers and sauté until softened, another 4 minutes, then stir in the okra, pumpkin/squash, thyme, salt, pepper, coconut milk, chicken broth, and scotch bonnet/habanero pepper if you’re using it. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low; simmer until the squash is fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Be careful to not burst the scotch bonnet/habanero pepper when stirring the soup.

3. Stir in the spinach, in batches if needed (add more as it wilts and shrinks). Simmer until the spinach is soft and dark green, about 8 minutes.

4. Add the chives to the soup, and carefully fish out the scotch bonnet/habanero pepper. Using an immersion blender or food processor, gently blend the soup until it is smooth but still has a little texture. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

** Instead of using two bell pepper halves, feel free to use one whole bell pepper. I just like the bit of color that comes from using half of a red bell pepper.

** If you are lucky enough to find amaranth or taro leaves, use them as directed in this recipe, but bear in mind that they’ll take longer to soften than spinach – 30 minutes should be enough time.

** Many people add meat to this dish, including crab pieces, stewed chicken, or salted pork. Typically the meat is cooked with the vegetables, fished out before you blend the soup, then shredded and returned to the blended soup.


Callaloo before blending.

40 thoughts on “Callaloo (Caribbean Green Soup)

  1. Oh my gosh, I’ve loved Callaloo since dating a Trini man many years ago, and crave it often. But I always thought making it myself was out of the question because of those unattainable green leaves! Thanks for this!

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  2. I have never heard of this, but the unique set of ingredients totally has my interest piqued! Will pin and try this soon…just not sure I can get my hands on any okra..I have only ever seen it frozen, do you get it fresh?

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  3. OK, I’m trini to de bone, and you did a good job here, but this is the more traditional recipe for Callaloo, which is the national dish of Trinidad and Tobago

    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 tbsp. minced garlic
    2 tbsp. oil
    1 bundle callaloo bush, washed & chopped (spinach as substitute)
    2 cups coconut milk
    6 medium ochroes (this is how we spell it), chopped
    2 clean crabs cut in halves (or salt pork)
    ½ cup finely chopped pimento
    ½ cup finely chopped carrots
    1 tbsp. green seasoning ( http://www.cookingwithria.com/2013/03/trinidad-green-seasoning.html )
    2 scotch bonnet
    Salt, to taste

    1. Sauté onion, garlic & pepper in heated oil.

    2. Add ochro, pimento, carrot, green seasoning, salt, crabs, callaloo leaves & coconut milk, mixing together.

    3. Bring to a boil, lower heat & cook covered for about half an hour, stirring occasionally.

    4. When all ingredients are soft, swizzle (or use a blender or processor) to make a smooth pulp.

    5. Adjust salt & pepper.

    In my home we serve it with rice.and a good trini beef stew (paleo of course). .

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  4. That is gorgeous. The only time I’ve had callaloo was in a really authentic jamaican restaurant in Harlem with an old grandma making the food in the back. SO. GOOD. I actually think I’m going to try this at home. I’ve seen some red amaranth in the market. I wonder if that would work. It tastes like beets though.

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  5. Hi Russ,

    This was my first recipe from ‘The Domestic Man’ and as soon as I had discovered your blog last week, I immediately ordered a copy of your new book (using the link through your blog, obviously) through Amazon. The Calalloo came out a lucious green and it did have a good flavor, but I think it could be great. All ingredients were fresh from the farmer’s market that day.The flavor I felt was flat on the back end and I plan to tweak the recipe on my own to try to round out the flavor. I haven’t quite come up with what that added ingredient(s) would be and still adheres to Paleo guidelines AND honors the traditional recipe. I definitely will be trying it again.

    Tonight I’m fixing the Eye of Round, updated version from the book, for our dinner. Excited to try it!

    Thanks for the great recipes and sources of inspiration.

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    1. Hi Jon, adding a bit of salt pork may give you the flavor profile you’re looking for. Did you use a Scotch Bonnet pepper? I found that using the pepper definitely deepens the flavor, although it does make the soup a bit more spicy. Adding a few drops of Tabasco may also provide a bit of heat and its acidity will broaden the overall flavor to boot.

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  6. Wanted to let you know I happened on your Banana Cream Pie recipe while browsing my copy of TAC–yesterday on national Banana Cream Pie Day! I just happened to have all the ingredients, but not the time to make the crust as described. The custard set while the cookie baked and cooled. I broke up the cookie and I served it layered in stem glasses with the custard as a parfait. Perfect! (Every dish I’ve made from TAC has become an instant family classic, so Thanks!)

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  7. I can’t imagine the flavor of the finished dish, but I’m intrigued by it, and must try it.

    Russ I recently won a bundle of books from Chowstalker, and your book was included. I hadn’t heard of you, your blog, or book before and actually made my choice of bundles because I wanted The Paleo Approach. But, I’m thrilled now to have your cookbook as well. The recipes look wonderful especially the mouthwatering comfort food like Swedish Meatballs, Salisbury Steak; yummo. I’m new to Paleo but I’m really enjoying it so far due to such an incredible Paleo community.

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  8. I read that Malabar “spinach” is the main ingredient in this dish, and that it is very easy to grow in hot weather. I plan to try it this summer. In the meantime, pigweed amaranth had completely overtaken the five beds at the school where I am librarian and sponsor of the garden club. In the process of pulling it up, we put at least a million of the tiny seeds back into the dirt. I know that pigweed amaranth is commonly used for dying in parts of Africa, but is it also edible? I will have to research!

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  9. This turned out great. It felt so healthy to get a huge dose of greens and bone broth at once. Highly recommend! (I added smoked salmon for protein, and it was a nice add.)

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  10. This sounds amazing, Russ. I’m a big soup fan and have been having it for lunch almost daily lately. Can’t wait to try this one…..once as written; once with the addition of some crawfish (or shrimp). :)

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  11. I love your site! Great job. I lived in Trinidad for a few years and like the dish, although I find it has a baby food consistency and is somewhat slimy. Still ate my fair share :-). You should also try the Jamaican version, it’s not pureed.

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  12. Oh my goodness…talk about ‘calaloo’, that is how we Grenadians spell it. We use it a lot it is a good source of iron. A good crab and calaloo cooked in an iron pot is real finger licking. A calaloo soup with the ockras, some cassava dumplings, dasheen with pigtail, saltbeef, salt fish whatever meat of your choice it is tasty.

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  13. Everyone make their Callaloo differently. Nice recipe although my recipe is very different and I am from Trinidad. It’s a one pot dish, everything goes in the pot and simmer for 35 – 40 mins, then blended lightly and you have the best dish. lol. I will be posting a recipe on my blog soon. By the way, I love your blog.

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  14. I have to honestly say, your recipe for callaloo is absolutely delicious. I love that it does not have any meat or seafood included, just the chicken broth which could always be substituted with a vegetable broth for the true vegetarians. It helps me to go green and cleanse myself internally. thank you for sharing.

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