Make this easy kale soup and discover why my family has deemed this the best soup in the world! Thick and creamy kale sausage soup has a unique combination of simple ingredients, resulting in a comforting, tantalizing and perfectly seasoned balance of flavors, ready to serve in only 25 minutes!
Easy Kale Soup in 25 minutes
Have you ever enjoyed a soup recipe so much, you literally wanted to lick your bowl clean? Or couldn’t stop going back for more? While kale soup may have never been the culprit, this recipe will change that!
Kale and sausage soup uses some unique flavor enhancers, such as fresh cilantro, lemon, and cream. When it is combined together it will make your taste buds sing! Kids love the bites of smoked sausage and tender rice in a creamy broth, while adults love watching them inhale fresh kale with gusto!
While the kale and sausage soup couldn’t be easier to make, the flavor is robust and complex, similar to another highly-reviewed favorite – stuffed pepper soup with ground beef – and equally adaptable!
The smoked sausage can be swapped out with chorizo, Italian sausage, or even omitted for a vegetarian dish. There are also various modifications for the rice. Use cauliflower rice for a low carb option, or chunks tender potatoes, beans, or gnocchi.
Read on to discover more recipe modifications, including a dairy-free alternative, various starch and protein options, and how to store and reheat creamy soups for the best results. It’s all here with simple step-by-step photos.
Easy soup recipes are ideal for modifying for varying preferences and diets. The kale soup ingredients below correlate with the recipe card, but the many components can be tweaked without adversely affecting the end result.
- Kale – Fresh kale is a popular addition in soups, but some varieties work better than others. For more explanation see the Best Type of Kale To Use in Soups section.
- Smoked Sausage – I use polish beef kielbasa, but there are plenty of options. See the Sausage Alternatives section for suggested modifications.
- Lemon – Adds a boost to citrus to enhance the kale and bring a light, fresh taste to the cream.
- Cream – If you are looking for a dairy-free modification, I recommend using something with a high fat content, such as coconut milk. To lighten the calories, the cream may also be replaced with half and half or whole milk.
- Rice – Typically kale soups have beans or potatoes, but I love how the rice makes the soup extra thick and creamy. Plus, unlike, potatoes, it requires no prep, making this fast meal to prepare. For alternatives, go to the Starch Options section.
- Cilantro – I know this is a little unconventional, but fresh cilantro paired with the lemon adds a great marriage of flavor. If you are worried about it overpowering, it is very subtle!
- Optional veggies – If you would like to add another vegetable or two, chopped celery, carrots, mushrooms, or peas would make excellent additions.
how to make Kale soup
(Below shows step-by-step photos and modified instructions. For the complete recipe, along with ingredient amounts, scroll down to the recipe card.)
- Begin by heating the oil in large saucepan over medium high heat. I recommend a 6 quart pot or dutch oven so there is enough surface area to saute. Add the onion and saute until tender.
- Next add the sausage, garlic, and red pepper. Cook and stir until the sausage starts to brown, then add the rice to coat with the oil.
- Add the broth, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
- Finally, add the remaining ingredients. Add handfuls of kale to wilt, then stir in the cilantro, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Lastly add the cream and serve with optional parmesan cheese for topping.
Best Type of Kale to Use in Soups
Depending on where you live and the season, you may have varying choices of kale in the produce section. When choosing a kale to use in soups, there are a couple varieties that work best, and some to avoid.
Lacinato kale, which includes Tuscan kale, Black and Dinosaur varieties, have broad leaves, soft stems, and holds up perfectly in soup bases, making them an ideal choice. However, this variety may be harder to come across than widely-available curly kale.
Fortunately, curly kale also makes a great option for soups. It has large leaves, but heartier stems. If using curly kale, I recommend discarding the stems, only adding the chopped leaves, because the kale and sausage soup cook time is so short.
Avoid using baby kale, which would be too delicate. This type of kale is best used in salads, smoothies, pasta dishes, and eaten raw.
Alternatives for Sausage
Unlike Zuppa Toscana, which traditionally calls for Italian sausage, kale sausage soup may be made with different types.
I prefer kielbasa because of the smoked flavor and it’s easy to prep. It’s precooked so it only requires a brief time to brown. Polish kielbasa can be made with beef or turkey, if you prefer to lighten the soup.
Other options include chorizo, sweet Italian, or spicy Italian sausage. These sausages would have to be cooked first, though. Since they release fat, omit the olive oil from the recipe and cook the sausage along with onions. Leave the drippings in for added flavor before proceeding with the recipe as directed.
If you love a thick, creamy soup then rice makes a great option because it absorbs some of the liquid. However, kale and sausage pairs with a variety of starches, such as any of the suggestions below.
- Potatoes – I recommend Yukon gold, which have a creamy texture and break down slightly to thicken the soup. Chop into 1/2-inch pieces and simmer for about 10 minutes before adding the kale.
- Gnocchi – After the broth comes to a boil, add the gnocchi and simmer for 5 minutes before stirring in the remaining ingredients.
- Beans – Another traditional option for kale soup. Mild white beans, such as cannellini beans, Great northern, or navy beans would be ideal. Stir in with the broth and simmer for 5 minutes.
- More rice options – Stir in 2 cups cauliflower rice after the broth has been added and simmer for 1 minute. Brown rice may also be substituted, but will have to simmer longer, about 35 minutes.
Storage and Reheating tips
Storing soups with starches, such as rice, pasta, or potatoes, will thicken upon standing as the liquid absorbs. If you would like to avoid this altogether, cook the starch on the side and dish into serving bowls. Then store the soup and starch in an airtight container separately.
Personally, I like the thickness the rice adds to the soup so I store it together. However, when it is reheated, it requires a little additional liquid to thin out to a desired consistency. More water, broth, or cream may be added, but adjust the seasoning to taste before serving.
Refrain from adding the extra liquid right after it’s pulled from the refrigerator. It will become very thick as it cools, but heat will loosen it up a bit. After it is rewarmed, then stir in the additional liquid.
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Quick Kale Soup with Sausage (Thick & Creamy)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 14 ounces smoked kielbasa sausage sliced and halved
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- ¼-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes depending on preferred spice
- ¾ cup white rice
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- 6 cups kale leaves chopped
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves chopped
- 1 lemon zested and juiced
- 1 cup heavy cream see recipe notes for alternatives
- Heat the oil in large saucepan over medium high heat. Tip: I recommend a 6 quart so there is enough surface area to saute. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 3 minutes.2 tablespoons olive oil,1 medium onion
- Stir in the sausage, garlic, and red pepper. Cook and stir until the sausage starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in the rice to coat with the oil, about 1 minute.14 ounces smoked kielbasa sausage,6 cloves garlic,¼-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes,¾ cup white rice
- Add the broth, water, salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender, stirring about halfway through.4 cups chicken broth,2 cups water,¼ teaspoon salt,⅛ teaspoon pepper
- Remove the lid and stir in handfuls of kale to wilt, then stir in the cilantro, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stir in the heavy cream. Serve immediately.6 cups kale leaves,1 cup fresh cilantro leaves,1 lemon,1 cup heavy cream
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Dairy-Free ModificationI recommend replacing the heavy cream something with a high fat content, such as coconut milk.
Storing and ReheatingThe soup will thicken upon standing as the liquid absorbs. If you would like to avoid this altogether, cook the starch on the side and dish into serving bowls. Then store the soup and starch in an airtight container separately. If storing with the rice added, extra liquid will have to be added when it is reheated. Add water, broth, or cream to reach the desired consistency, but adjust the seasoning to taste before serving. Refrain from adding the extra liquid right after it’s pulled from the refrigerator. It will become very thick as it cools, but heat will loosen it up a bit. After it is rewarmed, then stir in the additional liquid.
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