Black Bean Soup Recipe – With Mild and Intense Variations

 Black_Bean_Soup
Black bean soup with orange-jalapeno salsa

Years ago I used to make a (supposedly Cuban) black bean soup that included a fair amount of orange juice. I have no idea how authentic that is; I think the recipe came from the Moosewood cookbook so it may well have been hippified. As far as I can remember, it tasted pretty good.

I was struck by the urge to make that soup again, but I knew that flavor profile wasn't going to work for the rest of my family. So I decided to make a straight-ahead bean soup with mild but complementary flavors that everyone would like, and then offer a very flavorful orange and jalapeno salsa for those who wanted it. You could also offer grated cheddar for those who would prefer to think of it as vegetarian chili.

For me, I liked the contrast with the orange salsa. The soup was perfectly comforting for a cold, rainy Seattle night, and the salsa was a little reminder of warmer days ahead.

I find that home-cooked beans are far better than canned. They just seem to have more flavor and a better texture. Canned beans sure are convenient though, if you haven't thought ahead to soak and boil a batch. You can certainly do this with canned, just be sure and rinse them well. Or get a pressure cooker and you can decide to make beans in the late afternoon and still have them beautifully cooked for dinner that night.

There are several ways to puree the soup. Always remove it from the heat first. If you have an immersion blender (aka stick blender),  put it in the pot well below the surface and whiz a little bit at a time. Or use a potato/bean masher in the pot.

Or use a regular blender.  But you have to be very careful when using a blender with hot liquids. Never fill it more than half full. Always leave the vent open and use a doubled up dish towel to cover it. And always start on low speed. If you don't feel comfortable with this, please use the potato masher! I'm not saying this just to cover my own butt – I've seen some pretty scary (and very messy) incidents in professional kitchens when people didn't take these precautions. (Of course, always follow the manufacturer's safety recommendations when using any of these tools).

Black Bean Soup with Optional Orange-Jalapeno Salsa
Vegetarian, vegan if you omit the sour cream, and gluten-free
Serves 6

  • 6 cups cooked black beans (reserve cooking liquid if homemade)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried cumin
  • 1 teaspoon or more smoked paprika (optional, adds a bit of smokiness without much heat)
  • 6 mandarin oranges (or fewer, larger oranges)
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1 (or more) jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 handful cilantro leaves
  • salt to taste
  • Mexican crema or sour cream
  1. Heat the beans and bay leaves in a soup-sized pot, with not quite enough liquid to cover. If you boiled them at home and have the reserved cooking liquid, use that. If not, just use water and optionally add a little vegetable broth powder. Bring to a simmer.
  2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and a big pinch of salt, and saute for 5 minutes until starting to brown. Add the oregano, cumin and smoked paprika and cook for 1 more minute. Remove from heat.
  3. Pluck the bay leaves out of the beans. Stir the onion mixture into the simmering beans.
  4. Turn off the heat, and lightly puree the beans. See the discussion above for safe ways to do this. I like it about 75% pureed, with some significant texture left.
  5. Return to the heat, and taste and adjust for texture and seasoning. It will almost certainly need salt unless you used pre-salted canned beans. You may also find you want more cumin or smoked paprika. Allow to simmer for at least 10-15 minutes for the flavors to develop and marry.
  6. Meanwile, make the salsa. Do this as close to serving time as possible, or at least reserve the cilantro separately, as it dies quickly. Cut the oranges into supremes and combine with the red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and a healthy pinch of salt. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  7. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and either garnish with the salsa and some cream, or pass them separately.

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Thursday, December 17th, 2009 in Gluten-Free or modifiable, Kid Friendly, Recipes, Soups, Vegan or Modifiable.

26 Responses to “Black Bean Soup Recipe – With Mild and Intense Variations”

  1. December 17, 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    I love bean soups. In many Italian recipes we also puree only part of the beans and leave some ‘whole’ (well, chuncky). :-)

  2. December 17, 2009 at 4:00 pm #

    I have the same book and i’ve bookmarked the same salsa :) Great looking soup, looks so chocolatey ;)

  3. December 17, 2009 at 6:36 pm #

    Great photo! Colors are gorgeous. This looks delicious.

  4. December 17, 2009 at 9:49 pm #

    AWESOME! I’m constantly searching for vegetarian diet recipes and I stumbled your site. This recipe looks absolutely delicious! I’m gonna try it right away! Thanks for providing this awesome recipe. This is a nice blog and will be looking forward to read more from you.

    - Shane

  5. December 18, 2009 at 7:58 am #

    Intense version please! That looks amazing! Tis the season for comforting soups for sure.

  6. December 18, 2009 at 12:36 pm #

    Great recipe, thanks for sharing!

  7. December 20, 2009 at 7:35 pm #

    YUM! Loooove black bean soup.

  8. December 21, 2009 at 1:25 pm #

    Great dish, any soup with beans tastes good.

  9. December 23, 2009 at 6:48 am #

    It’s hard making bean soup look appetizing, but you’ve succeeded brilliantly! The orange salsa sounds awesome with it too.

  10. Jennifer
    December 29, 2009 at 9:53 am #

    Thanks for the recipe, Michael! I made it for my extended family Christmas Day and the salsa put it over the top. It was my first time using smoked paprika–normally I’d use chipotle. Excellent!

  11. Michael Natkin
    December 29, 2009 at 12:59 pm #

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    That's awesome, I'm glad you made the salsa too!

  12. January 6, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

    Wow, I love your blog! Great recipes and great photos, too. Thanks!

  13. January 7, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    The black bean soup was delicious, but the salsa was incredible!

  14. John
    January 18, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    Rave reviews from the whole family. I split the salsa in two: 1/4 Jalapeno for the first half, 3/4 for the other half. Worked well. Used a large hypodermic (perhaps for cattle injections? I use them for epoxy!) ca. 1″ diam, to spread the sour cream, which was very pretty. I *did* manage to foget the oranges, which would have been good, but it was still great without them. Even though the salsa is hot, overall the soup-plus-salsa was quite mild.

  15. Elisa
    January 31, 2010 at 8:09 am #

    Does the soup really come out as dark and rich-looking as in the photo? My black bean soups keep turning a lighter brownish color once I puree the beans. Can’t wait to try this!

  16. Michael Natkin
    February 1, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    @Elisa – yep, that was a pretty accurate color. There may be some sub-species of black beans that look a little different. Also, I think homecooked beans have a better color than a lot of the canned ones. (Not sure which you did).

  17. February 1, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    This looks fantastic, so pretty. The salsa sounds delicious. Also, I really love cilantro and would use it so often if only it was easy to find (in Italy it’s not common at all and almost nobody uses it…I used to plant it and have it during the summer months but it has a really short life cicle every time… I’ll try again this spring to enjoy it in the summer).

  18. February 22, 2010 at 7:26 am #

    Thanks for this fantastic orange salsa! I made it with a naval orange from my tree and it really brought the black bean soup to life! Almost ate the rest of the salsa for dessert it was so good!

  19. Caroline A.
    March 6, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    How many cups of beans do you need to cook to end up with six cups of cooked beans?

  20. Michael Natkin
    March 6, 2010 at 9:50 pm #

    @Caroline – 2.5 cups of dried beans should yield about 6 cups cooked

  21. June 18, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    This looks amazing! The orange jalapeno salsa is such a nice touch.

  22. Paige Turner
    September 25, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    The salsa is NOT optional! Incredible. I made this soup as stated but ‘amped’ up the spices for more intensity… simply divine. It’s chilly here in the Midwest and soups scream to me…I too struggled with the color as Elisa noted… I disappointingly did not achieve the rich ‘coffee chocolate’ color represented in your photo. I used high quality dry beans not canned.

    • September 25, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

      Well, then the color remains a mystery. May just be down to the exact variety of beans, I couldn’t say. But I’m glad to hear you loved the flavor and the salsa!

  23. October 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    I love the addition of mandarin oranges, just the right touch of sweetness! I am going to try this recipe this week, thanks so much, I am sure it will replace my usual bean soup!
    link to cookeatdelicious.com

  24. Holly
    November 12, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    This is by far the best black bean soup I have made, and I’ve made a lot of black bean soups in my time. I love your recipes but I’m desperately trying to lose weight, so I always struggle with the calorie content. Does your book contain nutrition info? If so, I’ll certainly get it for the holidays rather than mooching off of the freebies you graciously give us.

  25. Nicole
    November 20, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    So disappointed. I made this recipe tonight thinking I had found “The” black bean soup. I made this with beans from the bag and did not get anything like this picture. I know your picture is color corrected but I did not get even the same consistency or hue. Not only that but there was no flavor. I had to add a million and one different spices just to get some flavor. I don’t think the yellow pepper did anything for the taste either. I have tried a great deal of black bean soup recipes and I was so sad that this didn’t do anything for me. High hopes = busted. Thank you for posting it though, I am still on my quest. I may just have to make up my own to satisfy my taste buds.

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