Hearty Vegan Polenta and Kale Soup With Miso and Toasted Sesame Oil

A thick polenta and kale soup flavored with miso, soy sauce, and scallions. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Why It Works

  • A homemade vegetable stock is the best base for a tasty soup.
  • Miso paste, soy sauce, and scallions add depth of flavor to a very simple soup.

This easy one-pot polenta and kale soup hails from Italy, but we give it a distinctly Japanese twist: In place of the Parmesan called for in a traditional recipe, we finish ours up with the addition of miso paste, soy sauce, and scallions. It's savory, rich, and 100% vegan.

February 2015

This recipe was cross-tested in 2022 and lightly updated to reflect test results; it no longer calls for Better Than Bouillon, a stock product that contains salt. Its removal (and the added specification that any stock used should be unsalted) should address comments about salt levels in the recipe.

Recipe Facts



Cook: 50 mins
Active: 15 mins
Total: 50 mins
Serves: 6 to 8 servings

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  • 6 tablespoons (90ml) extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 large leek (about 10 ounces; 283g), white and light green parts only, finely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced

  • Large pinch red pepper flakes

  • 2 quarts (1.9L) homemade unsalted hearty vegetable stock, easy vegetable stock, or dashi

  • 1 cup dried polenta (5 1/2 ounces; 156g)

  • 3 1/2 ounces (99g) stemmed and roughly chopped lacinato kale (about 1 packed quart, from one 8-ounce bunch)

  • 2 tablespoons (30g) white miso paste, plus more to taste

  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) soy sauce, plus more to taste

  • 4 medium scallions (about 3 ounces/85g total), thinly sliced (about 1 cup), divided

  • Toasted sesame oil, for serving


  1. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil, leeks, and a pinch of salt over medium-low heat, stirring often, until very soft but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add vegetable stock.

  2. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the polenta. Stirring frequently, bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until polenta is tender and the soup is thickened, about 15 minutes.

  3. Stir in kale, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in miso, soy sauce, and half of scallions until miso is fully incorporated. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and/or additional miso and soy sauce, if desired.

  4. Serve, drizzling with sesame oil and sprinkling with remaining scallions. Extra soup can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 5 days.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
240 Calories
14g Fat
25g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 240
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 14g 19%
Saturated Fat 3g 13%
Cholesterol 3mg 1%
Sodium 1173mg 51%
Total Carbohydrate 25g 9%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 31mg 154%
Calcium 87mg 7%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 319mg 7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)