The Best Black Bean Soup?

Having some time and a bag of black beans, I thought I’d make a black bean soup. There were a couple of recipes that looked promising, but in the end the challenge of the “best” black bean soup won out. Makes about a quart.

The Best Black Bean Soup

FOR THE SOUP:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground corriander
  • 1 pound dry black beans (do not soak)
  • 2 quarts mild vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • Red wine vinegar, to taste

FOR THE PICKLED ONIONS AND GARNISHES (OPTIONAL):

  • 1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 2 limes
  • Salt
  • Sour cream or Mexican crema
  • Whole cilantro leaves
  • Thinly sliced fresh chiles
  • Sliced avocado

Put on a teakettle of water to boil, and keep hot.

In a large, heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add carrots, onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, 5 to 8 minutes.

Pour in wine and let simmer until pan is almost dry and vegetables are coated. Add jalapeños and cook, stirring, just until softened, 2 minutes. Add cumin and corriander, let fry for a minute and then stir together with the vegetables.

Add beans, stock, oregano and bay leaves. Stir, bring to a boil, and let boil 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, partly covered, stirring occasionally and adding the hot water as needed to keep the soup liquid and runny, not sludgy. Continue cooking until beans are just softened and fragrant, 1 to 2 hours. Add salt and pepper and keep cooking until beans are soft.

Meanwhile, make the pickled onions, if using: In a bowl, combine sliced onions, lime juice and a sprinkling of salt. Let soften at room temperature until crunchy and tart, about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze dry in paper towels and refrigerate until ready to serve. If desired, chop coarsely before serving.

Adjust the texture of the soup: The goal is to combine whole beans, soft chunks and a velvety broth. Some beans release enough starch while cooking to produce a thick broth without puréeing. If soup seems thin, use an immersion blender or blender to purée a small amount of the beans until smooth, then stir back in. Continue until desired texture is reached, keeping in mind that the soup will continue to thicken as it sits.

Heat the soup through, taste and adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper, and drops of red wine vinegars and/or lime juice.

Serve, garnishing each serving with sour cream, pickled onions, cilantro leaves, sliced chiles and avocado as desired and enjoy!

My Verdict:

If you garnish anything enough, it will be great. This is a good black bean soup if you have a couple of hours to keep an eye on it. For an equally good one that’s a lot quicker, this one only takes minutes and uses canned black beans. Still looking for the “best” one though. Any suggestions?

The original recipe called for puréeing a small can of chipotles in adobo but we were out so the substitution was the cumin and coriander. I also added some ground chipotle for the heat. Speaking of heat, we happen to have some extremely hot jalapeños in our freezer, so I only used one and it was plenty hot.

As soon as we restock the chipotles in adobo, I’m going to try puréeing them and keeping some in the fridge—makes sense as you usually use the chipotles and the sauce they come in.

 

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