Chase away winter with this warming soup
Here in the US, arctic weather has elbowed in. Time for hot soup!
This Cuban-style black bean soup is particularly tasty and nutritious. And you can make a vegan version, so no one gets left out in the cold.
Recipe: Cuban-Style Black Bean Soup
There are hundreds of recipes for black-bean soup. Cuban-style recipes tend to use green bell pepper as an ingredient. They also finish with a bit of vinegar, which adds crispness and acidity.
We use chicken stock in this recipe, but it’s easy to substitute water or vegetable stock for a vegan version. Or if you want a different meat-take, try ham stock.
We use dried black beans for this soup, which need to be soaked – preferably overnight. (But see the Notes if you prefer to use canned beans). Once the beans are soaked, this recipe requires about 20 minutes of prep time, plus about 1½ hours cooking time (largely unattended).
This recipe yields a big batch – at least 10 servings (depending on how much liquid you add). Leftovers freeze well.
- 1 pound dried black beans
- 6 cups chicken stock (may substitute ham or vegetable stock, or water)
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 bell pepper
- 2 jalapeño peppers (or to taste)
- 4 cloves garlic (or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (may substitute vegetable oil)
- salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- additional 2 cups stock or water (more if needed)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons vinegar (we like to use wine vinegar, but white works too)
- optional cooked rice as garnish (we recommend 2 cups cooked for this dish)
- optional slices/dices of jalapeño pepper as garnish
- The night before you want to make the soup, soak the beans: Sort through the black beans to remove any dirt or grit. Place the beans in a bowl and cover them with cold water by at least 3 inches. Allow the beans to sit overnight.
- When ready to make the soup, drain the beans and add them to a 4-quart cooking pot. Add 6 cups of stock or water. Bring the beans to a simmer, then set a timer for 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, peel the onion and chop it into dice of about ½ inch. Set aside.
- Wash the bell pepper, core it, and chop it into dice of about ½ inch. Set aside.
- Wash the jalapeño peppers and cut them lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the ribs and seeds (careful – the oil on these is hot, so avoid touching your eyes). Cut the jalapeño peppers into fine dice and set aside. Then wash your hands with soap and water to remove the hot oil from your skin.
- Peel the garlic and cut it into thin slices or mince it finely. Set aside.
- Place the oil in a frying pan and heat it. When hot (it’ll shimmer), add the chopped onion, bell pepper, and jalapeño pepper. Add salt to taste. Cook until the onion is translucent and soft (5 to 8 minutes). Add the chopped garlic, and cook for an additional minute or two.
- Set the onion mixture aside until the 45-minute timer goes off (from Step 2). When it does, scrape the onion mixture into the cooking pot with the black beans. Add the cumin, coriander, and oregano. Add more water or stock if needed. Set a timer for another 45 minutes. After the soup has been cooking for a few minutes, taste it and add more salt if necessary. If you’re using the optional rice garnish, start cooking the rice now (cook according to package directions; set aside if it’s finished before the soup).
- When the second 45-minute timer goes off (from Step 8), test the black beans for doneness. They should be soft. If not, cook until they are.
- Right before serving, add the cooked rice (if using) to the cooking pot. Add a tablespoon of vinegar and stir it in. Taste the soup, then add another tablespoon of vinegar if necessary.
- Ladle the soup into serving bowls, adding a slice of jalapeño pepper to each bowl as garnish if you wish. We usually put a bottle of hot sauce (such as Tabasco) on the table for those who want to add more heat to their soup.
|Cuban Black Bean Soup without rice garnish|
- Want to use canned beans instead of dried? Use three 15-ounce cans. Drain the beans into a large colander, then rinse them to remove the gunk they’re stored in. Sauté the onions, peppers, and garlic as directed in Step 7. Then add the onion mixture to a large cooking pot, along with the canned beans and 6 (or more) cups of liquid. Cook for 45 minutes.
- The amount of liquid we call for makes a reasonably thick soup (if you’re adding the optional rice). For a thinner soup, add more stock or water.
- Black beans go well with ham, so we sometimes use ham stock rather than chicken when we make this soup. If we happen to have leftover ham on hand, we might cube up a cup or two and add it to the soup.
- You could also cook the beans with a ham hock. Remove the ham hock from the cooking pot at the end of cooking. Cut off the meat (and dice it), then return the meat to the pot.
- We sometimes garnish this soup with diced hard-boiled eggs, red onions, or scallions. Crispy bacon bits make a nice garnish too, as does a dollop of sour cream.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It has larger flakes than regular table salt, so it’s less salty by volume. If using regular table salt, start with about half of what we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
“Tasty,” said Mrs Kitchen Riffs. “And nice to have a touch of the tropics on a cold day like this.”
“Yup, we could free arroz in this weather,” I said.
“Too bad we can’t fly down to old Havana for a mojito in the sun,” said Mrs K R.
“That would be great,” I said. “The idea inflames my heart with thoughts of romantic deeds!”
“Are you going full Fidel here?” asked Mrs K R.
“Just channeling the macho allure,” I said. “Call me Che Guevara!”
“Or Desi Arnaz,” said Mrs K R.
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