Black Bean Soup

This is a spicy, hearty soup that is good for a weekend meal when the weather is cool.
Based on a recipe from Cook's Illustrated, winter 2010.
Prep Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs
Course: Soups
Servings: 13 cups
Author: Catherine Christiano


Soaking Beans

  • 1 pound dried black beans
  • 8 ounce ham steak
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cups water preheat in microwave to save time
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups yellow onions finely diced, about 2 large onions
  • 1/2 cup carrot peeled and finely diced, about 1 medium-large carrot
  • 1 cup green bell pepper seeded and 1/4" diced, about 1 medium pepper
  • 2 tablespoons garlic minced, about 6 medium cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth preheated in microwave to save time
  • 29 - 32 ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • chopped fresh cilantro

Garnish Options

  • lime wedges
  • diced avocado
  • sour cream
  • shredded cheddar cheese


To Soak Beans

  • Add all ingredients to 6-quart stock pot. Add ham steak in one piece. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer covered until beans are tender, 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare remainder of soup in next step. When beans are cooked, remove bay leaves. Remove ham steak, dice 1/4" and set aside.


  • In large 8-quart stock pot, over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add onions, carrots, green pepper; cook until tender and light brown, approximately 12 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and cumin; cook until fragrant, approximately 3 minutes.
  • Stir in beans with liquid, chicken broth, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
  • To finish soup, puree a portion of the beans and vegetables. To do this using a blender, use a slotted spoon to transfer 1 1/2 cups beans and vegetables and add about 2 cups of broth from soup. Alternatively, use an immersion blender by transferring 1 1/2 cups beans and vegetables and 2 cups of broth to a medium sized bowl. Return puree to soup.
  • Stir in lime juice and reserved ham. Ladle into bowls and pass garnishes separately.


Serve with tortilla chips.
Pairs well with a tossed salad or Spinach Salad with Radicchio and Mango.