Pierre Thiam’s Moringa and Kale Supergreens Soup

published Feb 1, 2022
Moringa and Kale Supergreens Soup

Pierre Thiam's Moringa and Kale Supergreens Soup is packed with nutrients and makes for the perfect meal on a chilly day.

Serves8

Prep15 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook35 minutes to 40 minutes

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Credit: Photo: Kelly Marshall | Food Stylist: Micah Morton | Prop Stylist: Gerri Williams

Soups are an endlessly riffable way to experiment with preparing vegetable-forward dishes. Pierre Thiam’s Moringa & Kale Supergreens Soup is a beautiful way to do just that. With ingredients that you’ll find in kitchens across the diaspora, and that are available in most major U.S. cities and online, this soup is highly nutritious and features simple techniques that allow the produce to shine.

The recipe comes from Thaim’s wonderful book, Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl, where he tells the stories of growers, producers, chefs, and home cooks from across this coastal West African country and focuses on the methods at the heart of Senegal’s rich culinary heritage. 

Moringa, sometimes called “the miracle tree” because of its medicinal properties, lends this luscious soup its beautiful color and plenty of nutrients, including high levels of calcium, potassium, iron, and antioxidants. Through his brand Yolélé, his Harlem-based restaurant Teranga, and a collection of cookbooks, Thiam is on a mission to center “revolutionary African foods” in conversations about climate change and food security. These foods include fonio, an ancient grain, and of course moringa itself, which is available dried or fresh and can be eaten cooked or raw. Here, moringa leaves (or moringa powder) are paired with kale, fresh cilantro, and lime juice to create a soup with both brightness and depth. 

This dish gets much of its heft from yuca, which is a tuber also called cassava, manioc, or tapioca, depending on who and where you may be. Yuca is native to Brazil and serves as a staple throughout Latin America and the Caribbean — though it’s not to be confused with yucca, which is an entirely different plant in the agave family. In the Supergreens soup, the root vegetable creates a starchy base for the other elements to embrace. Then, once you’ve built some flavor in the pot, everything gets blended together into a gloriously earthy green hue. Red palm oil, which is used as a color-contrasting garnish here, has appeared in cooking on the continent for thousands of years, and it’s referred to as “red gold” in Senegal.

Credit: Photo: Kelly Marshall | Food Stylist: Micah Morton | Prop Stylist: Gerri Williams

These days, palm oil is at the heart of a heated climate debate, but Thiam dedicates pages in his book to describing how red palm oil, which is distinct from palm kernel oil, can be processed using the whole fruit, preserving the flavor and nutritional benefits without degrading huge swathes of forest. It’s a versatile, flavorful plant-based alternative that can replace bacon fat or butter for vegan cooks.

This soup, with a drizzle of red gold punctuated by the floral heat of a striking hibiscus-chile salt, results in a super healthful and tasty meal made from ingredients that have been enjoyed and relied upon across the African diaspora for generations.

Tester’s Note

It’s almost impossible to talk about Pierre Thiam’s Moringa & Kale Supergreens Soup without beginning with its gorgeous color. This soup has the most beautiful, earthy, deep green hue, and its appearance is only enhanced by a drizzle of red palm oil and sprinkle of the pinkish-reddish hibiscus-chile salt. While it’s a knockout visually, it’s also a powerhouse from a taste perspective.

Moringa has a very strong flavor, and for some it can be a bit overpowering, but this soup allows the moringa to shine without completely stealing the show. The lime juice and cilantro introduce brightness and acidity, and the kale balances out the moringa. I also love the way the yuca thickens the soup. I thought the soup was delicious on its own, but when I added a bit of palm oil and the hibiscus-chile salt it was brilliant. I’m looking forward to making it again and again.

—Nicole, January 2022

Moringa and Kale Supergreens Soup

Pierre Thiam's Moringa and Kale Supergreens Soup is packed with nutrients and makes for the perfect meal on a chilly day.

Prep time 15 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes to 40 minutes

Serves 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil or light vegetable oil

  • 1

    yellow onion, coarsely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon

    peeled, chopped fresh ginger

  • 1 tablespoon

    chopped garlic

  • 3 cups

    peeled, coarsely chopped yuca

  • 2 quarts

    vegetable stock or water

  • 2 cups

    packed moringa leaves or fresh spinach or 5 tablespoons moringa powder

  • 1 bunch

    kale, trimmed and coarsely chopped

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Juice of 2 limes

  • 2 tablespoons

    chopped fresh cilantro

  • 2 tablespoons

    red palm oil (optional)

For the Hibiscus-Chile Salt (optional):

  • 1/4 cup

    fine or flaked sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    coarsely ground dried red hibiscus flowers

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    sweet paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    chile flakes or ground chile

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, until soft but not browned. Add the yuca and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes, until the yuca is soft.

  2. Add the moringa and about two-thirds of the kale. Season with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the kale softens.

  3. Working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender along with the remaining one-third of the kale, the lime juice, and cilantro, filling it up no higher than halfway. Blend the soup until very smooth. (Make sure to firmly hold down the lid or else the trapped steam may cause the soup to explode.) Alternatively, blend the soup in the pot with an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a little more stock or water if you want your soup less thick.

  4. Serve hot with a few dots of red palm oil and a tiny pinch of hibiscus-chile salt, if desired.

For the Hibiscus-Chile Salt:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. The recipe makes about 1/4 cup salt, which can be stored in an airtight container for up to a year.

Recipe Notes

Reprinted from Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl by Pierre Thiam with Jennifer Sit, Lake Isle Press 2015.