A quick and simple black bean soup.


As a kid, beans didn’t make many appearances on my family’s dinner table. On occasion, my father would request a can of barbecue baked beans with his hotdogs, but, apart from those rare instances, I can’t remember eating a single home-cooked bean. Even when, as a young teenager, I cut meat from my diet, beans still hadn’t shown up for the party — occasionally one or two may have snuck into the processed packaged veggie burgers I ate like life-sustaining manna, but those were consumed only incidentally. (It might be important to note that I was the worst kind of vegetarian — I survived on Boca Burgers, potatoes, and Power Bars. Oh, and peanut butter sandwiches.)

These days, though, I just love beans. White beans with tomatoes, rosemary, and ham. Chick peas in coconut milk and curry. Bright red kidney beans on top of big green salads with little chops of nuts and hard boiled eggs. Nom. Swoon. Yum. Beans are great.

The story of how I came to this great discovery is an odd one. It has none of the sentimental frills of a glossy-covered memoir. Nothing about watching my grandmother slave away over the well-seasoned cast iron pans she brought over from the old country. This story does not involve a recipe that was passed down “from generation to generation.” No, none of that.  It’s the story of the first time I found a bean to be simply and utterly delicious.

It’s the story of my first trip to Chipotle.

[Leaf Parade. Quick and simple black bean soup {vegan, gluten-free}.]

(I know. Not very gourmand of me. Good thing I have a good day job, and all this chopping and simmering I do is only for my own entertainment.)

Make no mistake, though — simply because my story lacks the usual saccharine frills does not mean that it is not an important one. Like all food memories great and powerful, it is gilded by the formidable underpinnings of nostalgia, and so is something I will never forget.

My legume love affair began with Chipotle — and a big, fat, sizeofmyhead vegetarian burrito. About a decade ago, when I was shipping off to college in Chicago for the first time, the great Chipotle burrito empire had not yet broken ground in New England. And so my first Chipotle burrito was enjoyed when so many foods are enjoyed during one’s first year of college — mid-afternoon on a Sunday, unshowered and recovering (piece by piecemeal) from a particularly grievous hangover.

[Leaf Parade. Quick and simple black bean soup {vegan, gluten-free}.]

I ordered the vegetarian burrito, which was full of black beans, cilantro-jasmine white rice, pico de gallo, corn relish, sour cream, grated cheddar, and a small mountain of guacamole. It was the dream team. Never before had a bean been in such good company. Never before had a bean tasted so good, so nourishing, so essential to my happiness. That burrito fed me better than I had been fed all semester at the dormitory dining hall. It had grace, it had flavor, it had unmatchable dimensions. And it had beans — so many pretty little beans.

That year, I relived that first supper so many times that the manager of the Chipotle near campus came to call me Veggie Burrito Girl. Which was. Well. Kind of embarrassing. Nevertheless, it was the dawn of a new age.

After my freshman year, I transferred back east, where Chipotle still had yet to divide and conquer. That summer, I ate black bean after black bean, stirred up in my mother’s kitchen with white rice, buckets of cilantro, canned corn, and chopped cherry tomatoes. And I haven’t slowed down since. Chipotle is all over Boston now and, while I have stopped in now and then, the big flour tortilla is a bit of a buzzkill for my gluten-free ways. But a black bean soup? Yes, I can do with that. I can do with that quite well.

I love a good black bean soup, and I was hopeful that my somewhat on-the-fly method would be great. I admit (and I hope that you believe me) that this soup is singularly the very best black bean soup I have ever had. And I have had many. I was going to use fresh tomatillos, but when I found half a jar of Trader Joe’s salsa verde in my refrigerator, I thought I’d let it play a round or two. And, oh boy, I’m so glad that I did. Trust me on this.

[Leaf Parade. Quick and simple black bean soup {vegan, gluten-free}.]


Quick and simple black bean soup {vegan, gluten-free}

Serves: 4


  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 8 cloves roasted garlic, chopped (reduce to 3 or 4 if using fresh garlic)
  • 1 medium poblano pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • a splash of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, undrained
  • 3/4 cup salsa verde (Trader Joe’s brand works well!)
  • 1 medium tomato
  • chopped cilantro for serving


  1. Warm a stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the coconut oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions, garlic, poblano, salt, pepper, and spices. Cook until the onions are soft and become semi-transparent.
  2. Pour a little apple cider vinegar into the pot to deglaze it, scraping at the bottom with a wooden spoon to pick up all the crispy cooked bits.
  3. Add the beans (undrained!) and salsa. With your hands, rip the tomato up into chunks and add it as well. (Alternatively, you could chop it, but this is pretty fun.)
  4. Stir well and bring the pot to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove about 2 cups of the soup from the pot. Using an immersion blender, blend the remaining soup until smooth and velvety.
  6. Add the reserved soup back to the pot and stir well, reheating if necessary. Serve and garnish with cilantro.

2 thoughts on “A quick and simple black bean soup.

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