This vegan main-course soup is a meal in a bowl
Kale is wonderful any time of year, but it always seems best when there’s a chill in the air (as there is in much of the US about now). That’s because cold weather sweetens the flavor of kale, making an already great-tasting vegetable even better.
Cold temps also make many of us crave warm, hearty dishes—especially homemade soup.
You can see where we’re going with this: Just mix some of that delicious kale with quinoa (a nutritional powerhouse) and white beans for a tasty dish that is dinner all by itself. Of course, you could add a salad and some bread too, if you insist.
Easy, tasty, hearty. Who misses summer?
Recipe: Kale, Quinoa, and White Bean Soup
Ingredient quantities are flexible in this recipe. You can also substitute ingredients if you choose. For example, I’m using dried beans in today’s soup, but you can substitute canned—I include instructions in the Notes. If you don’t have quinoa on hand (or prefer not to use it), you could also substitute rice or a small pasta shape (like ditalini). But quinoa and kale do make a dynamite combo (just sayin’).
Cooking tenderizes kale (though you can also eat it raw—it’s particularly tasty when chopped finely or “shaved”; for example, see our post on Chopped Kale Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing). But cooking too long causes kale to lose its vibrant green hue (in fact, if you really overcook it, kale eventually turns grey).
I suggest you cook kale for about 10 minutes (it stays green that way, and is plenty tender). Cooking for 20 minutes will improve tenderness somewhat, although the color will be less attractive. In any case, to cook the kale, add it to the soup for the last 10 to 20 minutes of cooking time. Note that even if you wait until 10 minutes before the soup is done to add the kale, it will continue to cook (and become less bright green) if you leave the soup pot simmering on the stove before serving.
If using dried beans, you need to soak them overnight (or do a quick soak—see Notes). Cooking time for this soup is an hour and a half when using dried beans (or about half that time if you substitute canned). Prep time is about 20 minutes, but part of that can be done while the beans begin cooking.
This recipes yields about 3 quarts or so. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for a few days if stored in airtight containers, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- 8 ounces dried white beans, soaked overnight (see Notes for a “quick soak” method and for information on substituting canned beans)
- 10 cups water (may substitute vegetable stock; see Notes)
- 2 medium onions
- 2 - 3 cloves garlic (to taste)
- ½ to ¾ pound carrots (exact quantity not critical—this is your ballpark figure)
- 1 - 2 tablespoons pure olive oil
- salt to taste (start with ½ teaspoon of Kosher salt if in doubt)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (start with 5 or 6 grinds if in doubt)
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- ~1 cup quinoa
- 1 bunch of kale (¾ pound or so)
- Sort through the dried beans to pick out pebbles or dirt; then soak the beans overnight (or for at least for 8 hours) before you begin to prepare the soup (see Notes for a “quick soak” option).
- When ready to make the soup, drain the beans and pour them into a large cooking pot, such as a Dutch oven (you want something that holds at least 6 quarts). Add 10 cups of water (you may need more later). Bring the beans to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Set a timer for one hour.
- Peel the onions and cut them into dice of ½ inch or less. Peel the garlic and dice fine, or slice thinly (I usually slice garlic because I like relatively large pieces).
- Scrape the carrots and cut off the ends. Cut the carrots in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into half rounds, maybe an eighth of an inch thick (exact sizing not critical here).
- Heat a skillet (preferably nonstick) on the stovetop on medium heat. When heated, add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot (it’ll shimmer), add the onions, garlic, and carrots.
- Add salt and pepper to season, and sauté until the onions begin to brown (8 to 10 minutes).
- Add the red pepper flakes and thyme to the onion mixture, then add the can of tomatoes. Cook for a minute, then add the mixture to the beans. Continue cooking the beans until the timer goes off at the hour mark.
- Meanwhile, measure out the quinoa and prepare the kale. Wash the kale and remove center stems (just pull them out as you would when cleaning spinach). Chop the kale roughly—smallish pieces are better than fine ones, but a mix of sizes is OK.
- When the timer goes off, add the quinoa to the bean-and-tomato mixture. Check the water level and add additional water if too much has evaporated. Set the timer for another 20 minutes.
- When the timer goes off, add the kale (you could actually add it in Step 9—but see headnote for why I suggest you don’t). Set the timer for another 10 minutes (at which time the soup should be done).
- When the timer goes off, taste the soup, adjust seasoning if necessary, and serve.
- Need to “quick soak” beans? Here’s how: Sort through the beans, discarding any dirt or stones; then rinse off the beans and pour them into the 6-quart (or larger) pot that you’ll use to make the soup. Fill the pot with water so that it covers the beans by 5 inches, then place the pot on the stove and bring it to a boil. Boil for two minutes, then turn off the stove and cover the pot; allow it to sit for an hour. Once the hour is up, drain the beans and proceed with Step 2 of the recipe.
- If you prefer to substitute canned beans, skip Steps 1 and 2 of the recipe; instead, drain the canned beans and rinse off the gunk they’re stored in. Prepare the onions, garlic, and carrots (Steps 3 and 4). Don’t use a skillet to cook them (as instructed in Steps 5 and 6); instead, sauté the veggies in oil in a 6-quart or larger cooking pot, such as a Dutch oven. When the onions are brown, add the pepper flakes, thyme, and tomatoes and cook briefly. Then add the drained canned beans and the 10 cups of water. Bring the pot to a simmer, set a timer for half an hour, and proceed with Step 8 when the timer goes off.
- BTW, you can use any white bean that you like in this dish. Cannellini or Great Northern are what I usually use, but Navy beans work too.
- I think water works well in this dish, but if you want to amp up the flavor a bit, you could use vegetable stock. Or chicken stock (but of course then the soup will no longer be vegan).
- Note that quinoa does absorb some of the soup’s liquid when it cooks, so you may need to add a bit more water right before serving. Just simmer for a minute or two to let it blend in with the soup.
- We’ve talked about quinoa before, but I’ll repeat myself for those who may be new to the blog: Quinoa has become deservedly popular over the past decade because it’s highly nutritional and gluten free (it isn’t a true cereal grain because it isn’t part of the grass family; rather, it belongs to the chenopod family, a pseudocereal). Quinoa has more fat than most cereals, including small amounts of omega-3 fatty acid.
- Because of its popularity, demand for quinoa has exploded—as has its price. Alas, the price probably won’t drop anytime soon. In a recent Washington Post article, Lydia DePillis explains that quinoa will likely remain in short supply because although the world’s major producers (Peru and Bolivia) are increasing output, demand is growing even faster. And though quinoa can be grown in North America, the market isn’t yet large enough to tempt farmers to plant it here—especially since it can be a difficult crop to cultivate.
“Kale is so delish,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, sipping her bowl of soup. “And I love its looks.”
“It’s nice,” I agreed. “Particularly good with quinoa.”
“Yes, they do make a keen combo,” said Mrs K R.
“And the soup isn’t all that kale-oric,” I said.
“Groan,” said Mrs K R.
“Well, you started it,” I said. “But I’ll declare a truce. No more veggie puns, promise.”
“Good thing,” said Mrs K R. “And I promise not to bean you.”
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Lentil and Tomato Soup
Tuscan Bean and Pasta Soup
Easy Lentil Soup
Sweet Potato Soup with Chilies and Corn
White Bean and Potato Soup
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