Black Bean Soup Recipe

Castanospermum australe (Black Bean)
Image by Arthur Chapman via Flickr

Perfect Party Food for Cinco de Mayo

Sunset Bay’s party planners recently threw a Cinco de Mayo party and we decided to attend.  Everyone was to bring a covered dish and I decided to experiment and try a new recipe.  I found this Black Bean Soup recipe from my America’s Test Kitchen cookbook and knew it would be good as I have not been disappointed yet.  The added bonus is that this is also low-cal and heart-healthy.

I enjoyed making it, but the next time, I think it would be worth bringing out the food processor as it requires a lot of chopped vegetables, although my Santoku Knife (with dimples) really did make the chopping much easier.  I am 100% sold on it. (Victorinox 47529 Fibrox 7-Inch Granton Edge Santoku Knife)   Also, I made a double batch, as there were 45 people attending, but a single batch would have been sufficient as there was soooo much food.  But nothing will go to waste, as we love the convenience of leftovers and I simply put it into the freezer.

Black Bean Soup
(serves 6)


  • 1 pound (2 cups) dried black beans, rinsed and picked over
  • 4 ounces ham steak, trimmed of rind
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, minced
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped fine
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 5-6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lime


  • Lime wedges
  • Minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • Red onion, diced fine
  • Avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced medium
  • Sour cream

Dried beans tend to cook unevenly, so be sure to taste several beans to determine their doneness in step 1.  For efficiency, you can prepare the soup ingredients while the beans simmer and the garnishes while the soup simmers.  Though you do not need to offer all of the garnishes listed below, do choose at least a couple; garnishes are essential for this soup, as they add not only flavor but texture and color as well.  Left over soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 days;  reheat in a saucepan over medium heat until hot, stirring in additional chicken broth if it has thickened beyond your liking.

Cooking Dried Black Beans for Soup
Cooking Dried Black Beans for Soup

1.  FOR THE BEANS:  Place the beans, ham, bay leaves, water, and baking soda in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; using a large spoon, skim the foam as it rises to the surface.  Stir in the salt, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer briskly until the beans are tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours (if necessary, add 1 cup more water and continue to simmer until the beans are tender); do not drain the beans.  Discard the bay leaves.  Remove the ham steak (ham steak darkens to the color of the beans), cut it into 1/4-inch cubes, and set aside.


Santoku Knife (with dimples) Makes Easy Work of It
Santoku Knife (with dimples) Makes Easy Work of It

2.  FOR THE SOUP:  Heat the oil in a large Dutch over over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking;  add the onions, celery, carrot, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 3 minutes, Stir in the beans, bean cooking liquid, and chicken broth,  Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, to blend the flavors, about 30 minutes.

Lots of Veggies in this Soup
Lots of Veggies in this Soup

3.  TO FINISH THE SOUP:  Ladle 1 1/2 cups of the beans and 2 cups of the liquid into a food processor or blender, process until smooth, and return to the pot.  Stir together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl until combined, then gradually stir half of the cornstarch mixture into the soup; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, to fully thicken.  If the soup is still thinner than desired once boiling, stir the remaining cornstarch mixture to recombine and gradually stir the mixture into the soup; return to a boil to fully thicken.  Off the heat, stir in the lime juice and reserved ham; ladle the soup into bowls and serve immediately passing the garnishes separately.

Sauteeing Veggies to Maximize Flavor
Precooking Veggies to Maximize Flavor
Ham Steak After Removed from Beans
Ham Steak After Removed from Beans