Black Bean Soup

I still haven’t blogged about the GREATEST CHRISTMAS GIFT EVER. But, it’s got to be photographed and I just haven’t gotten around to it. That’s next.

On Sunday, I made soup #2. Half of it is in the freezer with all of Soup #3 . I can’t eat two huge pots of soup on my own in a week!  This is from Cooks Illustrated. Honestly my bible when it comes to cooking. I’m always hesitant to repost recipes. If we do that, what will happen to cookbooks and magazines? But, this one is so good it must be shared with the world!  This is one of my favorite soups — and the one that will make me re-think the ‘no repeats’.

First, I should mention: I don’t eat pork or shellfish. So, for below I use a thick slice of turkey ham, a smoked turkey leg or often nothing. I also run the veggies through the food processor. I’m not much for mincing. And, I use a full tablespoon of red pepper flakes. Sister likes it spicy!

From Cooks Illustrated:

Makes About 9 Cups, Serving 6.   Published January 1, 2005.

Dried beans tend to cook unevenly, so be sure to taste several beans to determine their doneness in step 1. For efficiency, you can prepare the soup ingredients while the beans simmer and the garnishes while the soup simmers. Though you do not need to offer all of the garnishes listed below, do choose at least a couple; garnishes are essential for this soup as they add not only flavor but texture and color as well. Leftover soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 or 4 days; reheat it in a saucepan over medium heat until hot, stirring in additional chicken broth if it has thickened beyond your liking.

1 pound dried black beans (2 cups), rinsed and picked over
4 ounces ham steak , trimmed of rind
2 bay leaves
5 cups water
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions , chopped fine (about 3 cups)
1 large carrot , chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
3 ribs celery , chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
5 – 6 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons lime juice , from 1 to 2 limes
lime wedges
minced fresh cilantro leaves
red onion , finely diced
avocado , diced medium
sour cream


  1. 1. FOR THE BEANS: Place beans, ham, bay, water, and baking soda in large saucepan with tight-fitting lid. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; using large spoon, skim scum as it rises to surface. Stir in salt, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer briskly until beans are tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours (if necessary, add another 1 cup water and continue to simmer until beans are tender); do not drain beans. Discard bay. Remove ham steak (ham steak darkens to color of beans), cut into 1/4-inch cubes, and set aside.
  2. 2. FOR THE SOUP: Heat oil in 8-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking; add onions, carrot, celery, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic, pepper flakes, and cumin; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in beans, bean cooking liquid, and chicken broth. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors, about 30 minutes.
  3. 3. TO FINISH THE SOUP: Ladle 1 1/2 cups beans and 2 cups liquid into food processor or blender, process until smooth, and return to pot. Stir together cornstarch and water in small bowl until combined, then gradually stir about half of cornstarch mixture into soup; bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, to fully thicken. If soup is still thinner than desired once boiling, stir remaining cornstarch mixture to recombine and gradually stir mixture into soup; return to boil to fully thicken. Off heat, stir in lime juice and reserved ham; ladle soup into bowls and serve immediately, passing garnishes separately.


  1. Heh – my husband made black bean soup over the weekend – his is a little bit different as he does not mush up the beans. But I’m going to show this to him – new ideas!!! (lime wedges? that’s definitely a new one)

  2. I love anything with black beans! My 2010 goal is to be vegetarian at least 80 percent of the time, so I’ll be relying on legumes much more. I make Mexican pizza with black beans all the time. This soup looks yummy.

  3. Oh, yum, I LOVE soup! I stink at making it – I think I need a cookbook. Thanks for sharing this recipe. It’s freezing down here this week and some spicy soup would be wonderful.

  4. OMG. After much trial and error with other (disappointing) recipes, this is the ONLY black bean soup recipe I ever make any more. SO delicious. Cooks Illustrated is never wrong. Yummo!

  5. This recipe looks like a winner! The only thing I’d suggest is that the beans won’t cook unevenly if you soak them first. Soaking before cooking beans gives them such a creamy texture! No crunchy ones!

    Overnight is my preferred method, but 2 minutes on the boil, followed by two hours standing, works just fine. You drain off the soaking water, thereby reducing the um, special effects that beans tend to have. A bit of the beautiful color is lost but I think it’s worth it, and if you use a pressure cooker, it literally makes short work of recipes like this.

  6. I love soup and especially black bean soup but I’m the only one in my house that will eat it so I too use the freezer. I do plan to try this one. Thanks for sharing. I’ll print it quick just in case you decide to take it off your blog:)

  7. Looks yummy! I made a similar soup a couple of weeks ago, using navy beans instead of black beans. I will definitely try this version the next time I have a weekend at home (blasted business travel is taking up the next couple of weekends). I’ve always soaked beans overnight, so making bean soup is a weekend project for me.

  8. Soups are a great cheap way to have a great meal. I love them for filling me up without a lot of calories. The first time my ds made soup on his own, he had to call and tell me how easy it is to make. A lot of bang for your time.

  9. Thanks for the recipe! I tried this and it came out great. My toppings of choice are “cultured” sour cream and a dollop of guacamole. A definite keeper 🙂

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