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Pepper pot soup is traditionally a sub-tropical dish that includes hearty pieces of tripe and a wide array of vegetables and spices. This soup is very popular in Jamaica, but is growing in popularity in colder places, like the northern United States and Canada. The slow-simmered vegetables, spicy richness, and layered flavors of this soup make it an especially delicious winter dish. It also works well for the hot summer months because it generally requires the cook to heat only one pot. Many pepper pot soup recipes may also be made in slow cookers or in soup pots placed inside lidded barbecue grills.
Though honeycomb tripe is the traditional protein included in pepper pot soup, those who don’t like it may replace it with a number of other options. Shrimp is often tasty, as is chicken, cubed beef steak, stew pork, and chorizo sausage. Smoky ham and bacon may also be used. Vegetarians may replace animal products entirely with chickpeas, black or white beans, pinto beans, or even very firm tofu.
Usually, vegetables make up the bulk of most pepper pot soup recipes. Onions, celery, carrots, leeks, bell peppers, potatoes, yams, chili peppers, and kale may all be included in one recipe. The cook may also select just a few of these veggies, or replace some of them with something else. For instance, carrots could be replaced with parsnips, and onions might be traded out for chopped fennel bulbs. All of these veggies are typically chopped into 0.5 inch (about 1 cm) cubes so that they cook at an even rate. Chopping may take a long time, so cooks in a hurry may want to recruit helpers or purchase vegetables that are already cut into bite-sized pieces.
The liquid part of pepper pot soup is generally quite rich. It usually features chicken or vegetable stock, a few spoonfuls of flour to thicken it, heavy cream, and a long list of spices. Thyme, basil, marjoram, oregano, salt, garlic, black pepper, bay leaves, and hot pepper sauce may all be included as flavorings for the broth. It is usually best if the cook chooses up to four of these seasonings to go in the soup. Too many spices could muddle the flavor or overpower the other ingredients.
Typically, pepper pot soup begins with the cook searing the protein and adding the chopped vegetables. When the vegetables begin to soften, the cook should add the stock and spices. Everything generally needs to simmer, either on a stove or grill, for one or two hours before the meat is fully cooked and the vegetables are fork-tender. Cooks making this soup in a slow-cooker should assemble it in the morning and allow it to simmer for about eight hours. To finish the soup and add richness, cooks usually add a splash of heavy cream and a spoonful or two of butter.
I like to add green scallions to pepper pot soup. I think they have more flavor than regular onions, and they add nice hint of color to the soup.
Pepper pot soup is a great choice for vegetarians because it is so hardy that you do not miss the meat when you make it with a vegetable protein.
A great way to make a hardy, rich pepper pot soup without any type of meat is to not only choose one type of bean, but use a variety in the recipe. You can find pre-mixed bags of dried beans that often consist of 12 or more varieties. If you prefer, you can choose as many of your favorite types of beans as you like for the soup instead.
When I make this soup, I use dried kidney, black, navy, pinto, and garbanzo beans. I place a small handful
of each kind into a colander and rinse them before soaking them overnight. The next day, I cook them for about an hour while mixing the other ingredients for the pepper pot soup in a separate pot. Finally, I mix the variety of beans with the soup and simmer them together for a great vegetarian soup with all of the flavors of the traditional meat-based recipe.
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