A new baby. A big sports game. A rainy day. An impulse to stock the freezer. These are perfect occasions to make black bean soup. I’ve turned to this recipe repeatedly for the past several years, and it’s always reliable—like when we returned home after Thanksgiving weekend and I thawed a container to make dinner. Or when we watched the Los Angeles Dodgers lose to the Houston Astros. Or when my in-laws landed at LAX after a week in Texas and enjoyed a home-cooked meal while waiting for rush-hour traffic to pass. This is all to say that soup is an essential recipe, beautifully simple, a touch spicy, and always comforting.
It starts with a trifecta of sizzling onions, peppers and garlic. The heaping addition of chipotle powder (dried jalapeño peppers) lends a deep, smoky flavor, and the texture is just right. By puréeing a few cups of soup after the beans finish cooking, it’s no longer soupy, but thick and rich. The rest is up to you. Top it with toasted pepitas, avocado, minced red onions, sour cream, chopped cilantro, and crushed tortilla chips, as you wish.
Black Bean Soup
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped
- 2 bell peppers, any color, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon dried chipotle powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 pounds dried black beans, rinsed
- 12 to 14 cups water
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
- Fresh lime juice
- Chopped cilantro
- Toasted pepitas
- Queso fresco
- Sliced avocado
- Crushed tortilla chips
- Minced red onion
- Sour cream
- Lime wedges
Heat olive oil in a large (7 ½ quart) Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, and sauté until onions begin to brown on the edges just slightly, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and chipotle powder; stir one minute, until garlic is fragrant. Add beans and water; bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and cook for 2 to 3 hours, or until the beans are tender.
Cooking time can vary quite a bit, depending on how fresh the beans are. When checking for softness, eat 3 to 5 beans at a time to be sure they’re cooked consistently. Stop by the pot to stir it occasionally, adding water 1 to 2 cups at a time, as needed, if liquid reduces too quickly before the beans are finished.
Ladle 4 cups of soup into a blender and process until smooth; return to the pot and stir to combine. Add the salt, plus a squeeze of juice from 2 to 3 limes. Continue simmering for 10 to 15 minutes, until thickened slightly. Serve with a pile of toppings, or allow soup to cool before freezing it for another day.