Around here we make a lot of different meals. I rarely use the same recipe twice. Not that the recipes aren’t good, it’s just that I love to try new things. However, I definitely have a stash of cherished recipes that I have made time and time again. This black bean soup is one of them. Flavorful, filling, creamy, and comforting, this soup is a favorite in our house. It is extremely versatile as well (good on its own, fabulous with all kinds of toppings, leave the beans whole and eat with rice, use in nachos, etc) and keeps in the fridge wonderfully. It’s just the thing to make on Sunday and eat all week. The original recipe comes from my beloved Cooks Illustrated and uses a massive ham hock to cook with the beans to impart flavor. I obviously leave out the meat and taste absolutely does not suffer. However, since this soup is so simple, it is imperative to only use very fresh and flavorful broth, spices, and vegetables. Bonus: cooking this will fill your house with a wonderful, subtle scent of cumin and bay leaf.
Favorite black bean soup
This recipe is cooked in two steps, the beans and the aromatics/soup.
For the beans you will need:
5c water, plus extra as needed
1 lb (2c) dry black beans, rinsed and picked over for debris
2 large bay leaves
1/8t baking soda
Place water, beans, bay leaves, and baking soda in a large pot with lid. Bring to boil over medium high heat. Stir in the salt, reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer briskly until beans are tender, between 1 and 1.5 hours (this depends on how old your dried beans are) Start checking the beans for doneness at 1 hour and add extra water during this time if necessary to cover the beans. After they are done discard the bay leaves but DO NOT drain the beans. Set aside and start the second step: the soup!
For the soup you will need:
3T oil of choice
2 large yellow onions, chopped finely
1 very large carrot, chopped finely
4 celery ribs, chopped finely
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2t red pepper flakes-
*note: this amount does not make it spicy, it is for flavor only. I LOVE it spicy but I have small children so I add extra into the adults bowls as needed. If you like spicy, you may want to either increase the chili flakes, add chopped fresh hot peppers to your aromatics, or add in some canned chipotle chiles.
1.5T good quality ground cumin
2T lime juice
Heat oil in your pot/dutch oven until shimmering. Add in your onions, carrot, celery, and salt and cook until they are soft and very lightly browned, approximately 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and add your garlic, pepper flakes, and cumin and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in the beans, bean cooking liquid, and broth. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes to all the flavors to develop.
Ladle 1.5 cups of beans and 2c of liquid into a blender and puree, then return the puree to the pot. Stir together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl until combined, then gradually stir half of the mixture into the pot. Bring the soup to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, to fully thicken. If the soup is still not sufficiently thickened after boiling, add in the remaining cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil again. Pull the soup off the heat and stir in the lime juice. Ladle into bowls and top with any desired toppings. It will keep in the fridge for about 5 days.
Suggested toppings to pass at the table: (choose as many or as few as you want!)
crumbled tortilla chips
dollops of cashew sour cream
thin slices of green onions
diced red onions
diced bell peppers
fresh hot tortillas
diced fresh chile peppers