Why I sometimes wake up thinking about “Swamp Soup,” a soul-warming Southern dish

Some people think Swamp Soup and Turnip Green Soup are the same, but I know them to be different — similar for sure, but each distinct in both flavor and appearance. 

If you put something called Swamp Soup on your menu, it is to be kitschy and fun. Granted, this soup is delicious — but it does look swampy.

The broth is a light mud color and the beans and floating clumps of green, along with the other ingredients, look very reminiscent of the kinds of plant matter you would see in a stagnant wetland. You will love how it tastes, but it very much lives up to its name, especially the first time you have it. 

Swamp Soup has became increasingly popular where I live in large part because of Fish River Grill, where this soup gets a lot of love all year round. With four locations scattered around lower Baldwin County, Alabama, this seafood-heavy, locally-owned, light-spirited, southern-style restaurant has shined the light on one of our down home favorites since they opened their doors many years ago; in fact, their slogan is “A Funky, Junky, Redneck Joint & Home of the World Famous Swamp Soup.   

In other parts of the country — if Swamp Soup even exists in other areas — it may be common to use chicken or some other type of protein, but Conecuh sausage is very much essential to ‘proper’ Swamp Soup in southern Alabama. (Although, I must interject that I have been known to make a vegetarian version that is exceptionally good.) 

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On the other hand, Turnip Green Soup is the non-swampy variation on the theme of greens and, in this case, peas. Resembling Hoppin’ John without the rice, it is a hearty concoction of collards, turnip greens (or a combo) and most often black-eyed peas, but lady peas, field peas, purple-hulled peas, crowder peas, cream peas, zipper peas also work — just not green “garden” peas. 

Unlike Swamp Soup, which uses sausage to season its base, bacon is the only protein in Turnip Green Soup. As you might guess; however, I have successfully converted it to vegetarian on a few occasions.    

I grew up with Turnip Green Soup, and I can remember craving it like you might Red Beans and Rice or Taco Soup or even Chili. The flavors are unique and satisfying. 

We do not have long, extended periods of freezing weather along the Gulf Coast, which is a good thing because we do not deal with it very well and neither do our pipes.

We do, however, get our fair share of chilly, dreary, overcast days, and our high humidity drives what cold we do have straight into my bones.

One of these soups served with a skillet of cornbread is soul food at its finest and the perfect accompaniment for sitting fireside. But like Fish River Grill, we do not relegate either of these to a certain time of the year. We find that the ingredients seem to call out every now and then. You just wake up thinking about how good a bowl would be for lunch or supper, regardless of the temperature.

Swamp Soup


6 to 8 servings

Prep Time

15 minutes


1 package Conecuh sausage

1/2 large sweet onion

1 package Knorr vegetable soup mix

1 to 2 boxes chicken broth or bouillon equivalent

2 to 3 cans seasoned turnip/collard greens, or fresh cooked equivalent

2 cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed

2 cans navy beans, drained and rinsed

Texas Pete hot sauce


  1. Slice sausage into 1/8” to 1/4” rounds and then quarter.

  2. Brown sausage and saute onions in drippings. 

  3. Remove some of excess fat, if desired, before adding the rest of ingredients (except the hot sauce).

  4. Bring to a low boil and simmer at least 30-45 minutes. 

  5. Serve an added dash or two of Pete’s accompanied with plain cornbread or jalapeno-cheddar cornbread.

Cook’s Notes

-To make Turnip Green Soup, substitute black eyes peas for beans and use bacon instead of Conecuh sausage.

-Shortcuts: turnip or collard greens – although it is common to use leftover, fresh cooked greens for both of these soups, Margaret Holmes brand or another preferred brand of canned “seasoned” greens can be used.

-According to individual preferences, there are number of delicious ways to make vegetarian and vegan versions of these soups. In addition to substituting a flavorful vegetable broth for the chicken broth, here are my current favorite sausage and bacon substitutes: 

-Quorn Grounds or your favorite neutral tasting, ground beef-like textured meat substitute, with the following for a sausage substitute: maple syrup, smoked paprika, sage, fennel seeds, thyme, Cayenne (optional), and tamari, soy Sauce, Bragg’s liquid aminos or coconut aminos. For a bacon substitute, omit the sage, fennel and thyme.

-Smoky Tempeh Strips by the brand Lightlife can be used as a ready made bacon substitute.

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