Redeeming Green Soup with Lemon and Cayenne

Redeeming green soup with lemon and cayenne -

I hit a wall last week, figuratively speaking. I’ve been so utterly consumed with projects on my to-do list that I’ve neglected the basic necessities. You know, important stuff like sleep, food and time with friends. A person can only neglect that stuff for so long before she breaks down and calls her mama and cries. And by “a person,” I mean me.

In hindsight, I’ve been trying to do way too much at once and I’ve been trying to do it all myself. Examples: applying for a trademark, installing my new light fixture, hemming and hanging curtains, redesigning this website, taking my dog to the vet three times a week, obsessively baking brownies, like, six times until they are just right, and, well, SEND HELP.

kale and cooking greens

If there’s ever a time to hunker down and work on some projects, though, it’s during the depths of winter. Now that the weather is warming up and my to-do list has fewer ambitious projects on it, I’m ready to take it easy. For starters, I’m forcing myself to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

I also invited my friends over for girls’ night last night. I made them this redeeming and restorative green soup, which our friend Tessa had made for us at a girls’ night past. The recipe came highly recommended from her coworker. I liked it so much that I thought I’d share it with you all.

caramelized onions

I’m well aware that this soup is mossy green and won’t win any beauty pageants. However, I’m gonna do my best to sell you on this soup because it’s truly delicious. Slow cooked, sweet caramelized onions contribute tons of flavor and balance out any bitterness present in the greens. A small amount of starchy arborio rice blended into the greens helps thicken up the soup and makes it a little creamy (without any cream). Finally, cayenne pepper and lemon really punch up the flavor.

If you’ve ever experienced kale belly, which is what I like to call that glowy, life-is-good feeling that emanates from your belly after you eat a bunch of kale salad—this soup does the trick, too. Maybe it’s all the vitamin C.

arborio rice and cooked kale

There are a couple of ways to serve this soup. As a simple bisque, this soup would be a great side for a sandwich or avocado on toast (serving it with a salad might be a little redundant on the greens). If you want to turn it into a full meal, I suggest serving the soup on a bed of brown rice (I like basmati) with chickpeas. My friends and I really liked the chickpea addition, which adds both texture and protein.

You can also swirl a little olive oil on top to add some richness and up the satiety factor. Definitely sprinkle it with freshly ground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. This soup is just crazy good and crazy good for you.

greens and cayenne pepperspinach soup with cayenne pepperRedeeming kale and spinach soup - cookieandkate.comRedeeming green soup with lemon and cayenne recipe -

Redeeming Green Soup with Lemon and Cayenne
5.0 from 10 reviews
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
A super fresh and healthy soup filled with greens and seasoned with lemon juice and cayenne pepper. This recipe is vegan and gluten free. The soup requires some multitasking; you'll be caramelizing the onions in a skillet while you cook the rice and greens in a pot. If you're cooking additional rice as a garnish, you'll need one more pot on the stove (see notes for rice cooking instructions).
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons plus 3 cups water, divided
  • ¼ cup arborio rice, rinsed (I used brown arborio rice)
  • 1 large bunch kale or green chard, preferably organic (about 1 pound)
  • 14 cups gently packed spinach or baby cooking greens, like chard, preferably organic (about 12 ounces)*
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • Big pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste (I used over ¼ teaspoon)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, or more to taste
  • Serve with (optional): cooked brown basmati rice and cooked chickpeas
  1. First prepare the greens: Remove the ribs from the chard/kale and discard or save them for another recipe. Coarsely chop or tear the kale leaves. Trim any tough stems from the spinach/baby greens and roughly chop the leaves.
  2. Caramelize the onions: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, add 2 tablespoons water and cover the skillet (I used a baking sheet to cover mine). Cook until the onions are greatly reduced and have a deep caramel color, 25 to 30 minutes. Stir frequently while the pan is still hot and occasionally once the pan has cooled down (always recover the pan after stirring).
  4. Cook the arborio rice: While the onions are cooking, combine the remaining 3 cups water and ¾ teaspoon salt in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add rice and bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  5. When the rice has cooked for 15 minutes, stir in the chard greens or kale. Return to a simmer; cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  6. When the onions are caramelized, stir a little of the simmering liquid into them, then add the onion mixture to the rice along with the spinach/cooking greens, broth and cayenne. Return to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring once, until the spinach is tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes more.
  7. Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender until perfectly smooth or in a regular blender in batches. Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice, sea salt or cayenne pepper, if desired. Garnish each bowl of soup with a drizzle of olive oil.
  8. Divide the soup into bowls if you're serving it as a bisque, or serve in bowls over cooked rice and chickpeas for a more complete meal. Garnish soup with a swirl of olive oil if you'd like. Serve with lemon wedges and freshly ground black pepper on the side.
  • Adapted, not a whole lot, from Eating Well.
  • I used store-bought, washed baby greens for ease of preparation (more specifically, ¾ths of a giant container of OrganicGirl's Super Greens). Organic greens are always best because conventionally grown greens tend to absorb a lot of the pesticide used on their crops.
  • How to cook brown rice to serve with soup: Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove. Rinse the rice (1½ to 2 cups should be plenty to go with the soup) in a fine mesh colander. Once the water is boiling, pour in the rice and give it a stir. Boil the rice for 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and drain the rice. Return the rice to the pot and cover the pot. Let the rice steam for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork and season with sea salt to taste.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1⅔ cup



  1. says

    Kate, this is just the kind of meal I need in my life right now. Delicious, yet healthy and nourishing. I’m going to stop on my way home from work to pick up the goods to make this soup tonight. Can’t wait! Take care of you!

  2. cheryl says

    My husband will love this recipe. I have everything to make this for tomorrow. I so understand the 3 time weekly vet. trips for therapy, my dog just completed it and is only going once a week now. He loved the deep walking treadmill. Love your site

    • says

      Cheryl, I hope you both love the soup! Cookie is finally done with therapy and she is almost back to 100 percent. Hydrotherapy really worked wonders for her! I hope your dog is feeling better now, too.

  3. says

    “You know, important stuff like sleep, food and time with friends.”
    Yes, I’d say that stuff is pretty important! Glad you got some time with some girlfriends. I definitely could use more time with girlfriends.

    I actually think the deep green color is pretty. I know my kids would think otherwise…but, I’ve always been a fan of green foods & it looks delicious (especially with addition of caramelized onions–yum!)

    • says

      Totally important! I easily start to feel isolated since I work from home and I’m single. I have to be careful about that. I think you would enjoy this soup!

      • says

        Ah, I think anyone who is at home for most of the day (single or married, kids or not) starts to feel isolated after a time! I try to get together with a friend at least once a week. Of course I have my kids to keep me company, but that doesn’t totally ease the isolation factor of working from home.

  4. says

    Kale belly :) You are so cute. Take her easy there sister! I’m also easily caught up in my to-do list and sometimes, a little tv, wine, and a snooze is much-needed. Not as restorative, though, as this lovely soup would be! I LOVE the color! And your moody new lighting situation……. :)

    • says

      Kale belly is the real deal! :) I was struggling with these photos… weird green soup, diminishing natural light and my favorite lens stopped working (whyyy?) so I am glad that you like the photos! Thanks, Sophie.

  5. says

    Wow- now that is a gorgeous moss green soup! Beauty pageant winner for sure. Don’t sell her short. Love the addition of rice and especially the chickpeas because I could eat those plain all day everyday.

    • says

      Thanks, Jessica! The rice and chickpeas are really complementary flavors and make for a much more filling soup. Hope you’ll give it a try soon!

  6. says

    I am currently the queen of trying to do too much myself, so I know all too well about the break down. Hoping you really do get a break soon and enjoy the warmer weather! :)

    This soup is gorgeous to me. Sound delicious too!

  7. says

    I think this soup is beautiful. I love that green colour.
    Soup always seems magical to me. It just takes a few simple ingredients to produce something utterly wonderful! Pinned this one.

  8. says

    I’m glad you had a much-needed girls night with your friends! A little friend time can go a long way. I am going to need a big bowl of this soup after my birthday week ends! I love your idea of serving it with brown rice and chickpeas.

  9. says

    i really love how this soup comes together here – all the ingredients and flavors, from the caramelized onions to the cayenne, seem to be super complimentary to one another. and yay for green soup, something bright and fresh for spring!

    • says

      Thanks, Lindsey! It’s amazing how how much more flavor onions have once they’ve been slow cooked and caramelized. I think you would love this soup. Happy first day of spring!

  10. says

    Kate, this looks like the most delicious way to take care of yourself I’ve seen all week! I know that “too much too fast” feeling, and I’m glad to hear you are trying to take it a little slower.

    Glad to see Cookie looking well! Did she actually eat that leaf, or play with it? My dog always stares at me like she wants greens, but won’t actually eat it unless it’s a Brussels sprout :)

  11. says

    So if you figure out this whole trademark thing, you can share your secrets with me. I’ll bake you cookies in exchange!

    And you don’t have to tell me twice to make this soup! I love the mossy green-ness.

    • says

      I figured it out! First you have to make sure your brand name is copyrightable. Then you can look up a bunch of other food bloggers’ trademarks to see how they filled out their trademark forms. You basically just have to pick the right category (google can tell you which one to pick for blogs) and write a one to two sentence summary of your business. It costs a few hundred dollars.

  12. says

    Hey you, take care of yourself. I know that feeling when you just need to call your mom and cry a bit…. I still do that too;)
    Your soup looks just right – full of flavor and nourishment – good for the soul:))

  13. Alison says

    Kate, your recipes are so satisfying and healthy! I am not a true vegetarian but will often make one of your dishes weekly. I love anything with black beans and kale!

    Anyway, if one did not want to take the time to carmelize the onions, would simply cooking them in olive oil maintain the basic flavor of the soup?

    • says

      Hey Alison, thank you! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the recipes. You could cook the onions for 5 minutes instead of going to the trouble of caramelizing them, but I do believe you’ll miss out on some wonderfully complex and sweet flavors. Up to you!

  14. says

    I’m a big soup fan myself, I love trying out all different types of soups – experimenting with different types of ingredients. I love the look of this soup, I would love to give this a try some time – looks delicious :)

  15. says

    I’m feeling roasted seasoned chic peas as a garnish. I like to use cumin and cinnamon or any Indian or Moroccan spice mix with a little olive oil. I have a cauliflower curry soup with chic peas that I’m working on. Not nearly as fun as having to make 6 batches of brownies. Sounds like you are finding your balance. Be well

  16. Renee says

    Have you made this without adding the rice into the blender? This seems like an odd thing to do, to me. I’ve never tried!

    • says

      No, I haven’t tried that. Arborio rice is starchy, so by blending in the cooked arborio rice, it helps thicken the soup and make it creamier. You can omit it if you want, but I really think it improves the texture, and you can’t even taste it.

  17. says

    What a ridiculously beautiful, wholesome meal for any night of the week. I actually want to make this for dinner tonight but I know that my meat-loving husband will protest (hm, maybe I should add some sliced chicken on the top?). It’s both visually enticing and guaranteed to be delicious with that gorgeous lemony green goodness and cayenne pepper! Another beautiful recipe Kate. Sorry that you’ve been bombarded with busyness recently. Hope that Cookie is continuing to get better swiftly xxx

  18. says

    I swear we are on the same brain wavelength. I was just dreaming up a soup full of pureed greens last week when I was feeling the need for Spring refresh BIG TIME. Then just days later you post this. Seriously?! So cool. Can’t wait to try this.

  19. K.Coombes says

    Ever since this posted I have been dying to try this soup. I made it tonight and it was perfectly wonderful. I am already craving leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

  20. Sandra says

    I hope you are feeling better Kate. They always say you feel better when you cry in front of someone (or in your case, on the phone with someone).

    I made this soup yesterday. I used brown rice because I didn’t have brown arborio rice. I also added fresh cilantro, parsley and mint and it’s delicious!

    Your recipes never disappoint!

    • says

      Sandra, thank you. I seem to be going through a bit of a rough patch lately. I’m so glad you enjoyed the soup. I bet the added herbs were lovely!

  21. Sarah says

    This soup was pretty good when I first served it, but I had to add a bit more seasoning for my tastes (extra garlic and cayenne, salt, some coriander, lots of lemon). It also quickly got ‘filmy’ when I removed it from the heat, and later in the fridge, though well-covered. I just tried to eat some tonight and it had gotten so gloppy and texturally weird that I couldn’t finish it. Perhaps this isn’t a great soup for leftovers?

    • says

      Hey Sarah, I’m sorry the soup didn’t turn out just write for you. This soup isn’t as boldly flavored as most of my recipes, but I thought the caramelized onions add a lot of flavor. My soup never got filmy or gloppy so I’m a little baffled by that. My Blendtec blender is pretty great at blending soups smoothly. I wonder if your soup never got super smooth, so the particles separated? Not sure what else it could be.

  22. says

    I made this just now… and I was skeptical that a lot of not so cheap greens would go to waste into some disgusting concoction… BUT IT’S SO GOOD. Amazing. Thank you for sharing :) So excited for my kale belly.

  23. says

    I got home from a loooong weekend of having way too much fun with old college friends and was craving something healthy and homemade. I found this recipe and immediately went to the store to buy the ingredients. Loved it! I served with short grain brown rice and a extra squeeze or two of lemon juice. Delish!

  24. says

    Ooooh – Kale Belly in a good way? Sounds just like my Gluten Belly (which is not in a good way!) I have a lovely bunch of organic kale in my kitchen right now, that I have been wondering what to do with and. this will be my lunch today, thank you! I hope you get some more you/friend time over the Easter long weekend.

  25. Terriah says

    The first time I made this soup, I put it in my food processor, and it exploded all over me and all over my kitchen. I got some great disaster photos!……. But!!!!!!!!!!!!! The end result tasted great, so explosions aside I was pleased. The first time around I subed the rice and just put in chickpeas to add the thickness. Tonight I made the soup again and went with the brown rice, tried to play by the rules. No mess….. but honestly the chickpea thickener was much more to my liking, I guess I’m just not a fan of the flavor of rice but love chickpeas….. all together great super healthy soup. I always love new ways to eat tons of KALE! My fav! Thanks for the creation.

    • says

      Oh no! I’m sorry the soup made a mess of your kitchen. Good idea to add chickpeas—that’s easier, too. Some people don’t love chickpeas (crazies!).

  26. Ella says

    DUDE THIS SOUP. love love love. We just got back from a 10 day trip where we were eating out at least twice a day (ackkkk way too much heavy food!). This was the perfect thing to cleanse our systems! I realized far too late that we were out of brown rice, so I stirred in 2 cans of chickpeas to serve. I think it would have been even better with some rice, but the chickpeas added some really nice texture! I also added a lot of lemon juice, which made it so bright and refreshing. Thanks so much for the consistently delicious recipes, Kate! You are much appreciated :)
    P.S. My dad asked what cookbook/site this recipe was from as we were making it (he was a little skeptical of the sheer volume of spinach going in the pot). I said “Kate… Slaw Lady.” He perked up right away and said “Oh! I bet it’ll be good then.” Haha! So now you’re Slaw Lady. Just thought you oughta know ;)

    • says

      Ella, your comments are the best! Thank you. So glad you guys loved the soup. I bet it’s great with extra chickpeas. xo, Slaw Lady

  27. Christianna says

    Hi Kate!

    First of all, your recipes and your site is my go to. Thank you for helping me transition to a mostly plant based diet.

    Second, I’m making this soup now and perhaps I’m just missing this, but I see that veggie broth is listed in the ingredient list, but I don’t see where to use it in the instructions? In place of the water?

  28. Kate says

    love this recipe, and the beautiful photos! I’ve made it twice now and the second time I simplified it a bit – I didn’t bother with arborio rice, I just boiled the kale in a little less water, added the caramelised onions, broth and spinach, then blended it as instructed, and it tasted just as thick and delicious but required fewer stages. I also used cumin instead of cayenne pepper and that worked well. Thanks for the wonderful recipes!

  29. scarlett says

    I made this last night and it was so delicious! We ate it with baked halibut as our main course. Thank you for highlighting the recipe.

  30. Courtney says

    Hi Kate!

    First, I have to say that I love your blog and am constantly making your recipes- they are all devine and perfectly done! This particular one I had some trouble with, however. I couldn’t see where to use the 4 cups of vegetable broth so I ended up blending it in with eveything at the end. Did I miss a step? I thought it needed something sweet at the end so I ended up reducing some red wine and adding at then end to the blended soup. It turned out delicious but I’m stumped on the broth part- let me know when you added this!
    Thanks and I hope you had a nice weekend!!


    • says

      Hey Courtney! I’m glad you enjoyed the soup. Your version sounds great. I specified to add the broth in step six but it would be easy to overlook that part. Sorry about that!

  31. Cecilia says

    Absolutely delicious, very smooth and delicate flavor. My husband loved it too. Caramelized onions make a big difference:)
    Thank you!

  32. Jennifer says

    Hi Kate,

    This recipe looks delish! I just have a question about this instruction in your recipe.

    “When the onions are caramelized, stir a little of the simmering liquid into them…”

    What “simmering liquid” are you referring to? The liquid from the rice/kale/chard pot?


  33. Trish says

    I pride myself on my soup-making skills. I love soups and I make them often.
    Now to this soup: A M A Z I N G!
    I was so blown away by the taste of this soup. Perhaps the risotto and onions? Or all the array of healthy, tasty greens? Perhaps just the combo. You have to try this soup. My husband LOVED it and he’s not a fan of thick and hearty soups.
    I made everything in one big pot. Cooked onions, then added arborio rice, then made a risotto then added more water when I added greens. Final step was to blend. Simple and nutritious with flavor over-load!
    This is a keeper for sure. THANK YOU for a super recipe!!!!!

  34. Holly says

    This may be the first online recipe review I’ve ever done but I had to show my appreciation – your soup is that good! Seriously, if anyone reading is skeptical of this soup, JUST TRY IT!! Thank you, Kate, for making healthy so delicious :-)

  35. Dinah says

    Hi Kate,
    My doctor recently took me off all grains and told me to eat green veggie soups. Your recipe seems yummy, but I’m wondering if I can substitute something for the arborio rice?

    • says

      Hi Dinah, that’s a good question. I can’t think of a replacement that isn’t a carb/starch. I think you could just omit the rice completely. Your soup won’t have quite the body that mine had, but I think it will still be great!

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