Saturday, January 26, 2013

Basic Black Bean Soup

I love the Black Bean Soup recipe from Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins' Silver Palate Cookbook. It was the first soup I learned to make as a child (not counting the Lipton instant variety). I remember thinking it was pretty incredible I could put together so many ingredients to make something so tasty.

For this soup, I wanted something inspired by the Silver Palate soup but stripped down to be simpler and healthier. In that vein, I limited the ingredients to the minimum I thought needed to make it delicious--just 11, not counting the water.

An essential element of this soup is using dried beans. Of course, in a pinch, you can use canned, but the dried beans provide such better flavor. Plus, the liquid the beans soak in gets infused with black bean flavor, so I use that for the broth instead of a chicken or vegetable stock. Thus, instead of adding those flavors, you get just more bean flavor with this soup. Plus it makes the soup a nice inky black, rather than brown.

The other key flavors here are cumin and oregano. I ditched some of the Silver Palate recipe's extra flavors which are good but less essential: sherry, brown sugar and red bell pepper. I retained the citrus, although I use lime instead of lemon, since I think the acid provides a necessary balance. I dialed back on the olive oil (the original recipe, which is double the volume of this dish, calls for a full cup of olive oil for sweating the onions, so in using just 2 tablespoons, I've basically cut that but three-fourths). And I swapped out the fussy ham hocks for leaner and easier turkey kielbasa.

Basic Black Bean Soup
Inspired by Black Bean Soup, The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

1 lb. dried black beans, picked over and rinsed
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups of diced onion)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tbsp. dried oregano leaves
1 tbsp. ground cumin
2 bay leaves
Seasoned salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 14 oz. turkey kielbasa, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice

1. Add beans to a large bowl (an 8-cup glass measuring cup works best) add enough water to cover the beans by a couple of inches (about the 6-cup line on the 8-cup measuring cup). Soak beans overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven (6 quart) over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add oregano, cumin, bay leaves, seasoned salt and pepper and stir, cooking a couple more minutes.

3. While sautéing onions, heat a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the kielbasa slices and cook until lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Set aside.

3. Drain the beans and reserve the drained liquid, which should be about 4 cups. Pour reserved soaking liquid into pot with onions and add additional water to total 8 cups of liquid. Add beans and kielbasa to pot and increase heat to medium-high to bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 90 minutes to 2 hours until the beans are cooked through and softened.

4. Ladle soup into bowls and serve as is or garnish with a dollop of sour cream, slices of avocado or fresh herbs like cilantro or flat-leaf parsley.


  1. Your black bean soup is always great -- and I love that it's actually black too. Your pic of the beans is really cool.

  2. Thank you. I like the color too. You don't get deep dark color using canned beans and adding the soaking water from the beans helps too.