The term pepper pot soup is used to describe two regional soups, one from the American Northeast and another from the Creole community in the American South and Caribbean. Both soups have distinct flavors and lengthy histories which make them regional favorites. Both types are also very easy to prepare at home, and can be a good choice for the winter months, since the long stewing will heat the house, while the peppery flavor will clear out any clogged sinuses.
The version of this soup which is prepared in the American Northeast is sometimes known as Philadelphia pepper pot soup, referencing a city where it is particularly popular. This soup has been prepared since the Colonial era, and it features tripe as a star ingredient, stewed with vegetables and pepper in a rich broth. The soup utilizes offal and root vegetables to their best advantage, which would have made it a useful soup for people living in poverty in the Colonial era, and apparently people acquired a taste for it, since this soup can be seen on many regional menus.
The Creole pepper pot soup is quite different. The star ingredient of this soup is a dark green leafy vegetable, seasoned with garlic, scallions, thyme, and a hot pepper such as a Scotch bonnet. Most cooks also add in an assortment of available vegetables and meats, so the soup may include things like yams, crab, tomatoes, carrots, ham, and okra, among other things. This soup tends to be quite spicy, and it may be tempered with a rich broth and plenty of bell peppers.
Creole pepper pot soup is sometimes called “callaloo,” a reference to the dark green leafy vegetable which is involved in its preparation. “Callaloo” means “amaranth” in Jamaica, and amaranth is a popular choice of vegetable for this soup, although cooks can also use kale, chard, spinach, taro leaves, and a variety of other greens. This soup's origins lie in Africa, where such stews are common, and it reflects a blend of the Old World and the New which was common on many plantations in the American South and Caribbean.
In some regions, callaloo is actually a side dish of stewed greens which is served along with foods like cornbread, roast ham, rice, and so forth. Depending on regional tastes, the callaloo may be heavily spiced, or seasoned with ingredients like ham to make the flavor more complex. Generally the callaloo under discussion is clear from the context.