Black Bean Soup

Soup and StewComfort FoodBlack Bean

This hearty black bean soup is what you need on a cold and dreary day! Made with ham shanks, sweet potatoes, bell pepper, onion, cumin, and chili.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

The best remedy for cold and wet stormy weather? This hot and hearty, Black Bean Soup.

The Ingredients for Black Bean Soup

Soup like this is mostly an improvisation. The foundation ingredients are black beans, smoked ham hock or shank, onions, and spices. But even the ham hock or shank you could substitute with some good bacon or a thick cut of ham.

Starting out with dry beans means that you can cook them (after a good soaking) for a long time with the smoky ham, allowing the flavor to really infuse the beans.

You can use either a smoked ham shank or a ham hock for this soup. Ham shanks typically have more meat on them. If you can’t find shanks or hocks, you can use a half pound ham steak, cut into chunks, to flavor the beans, or a quarter pound of bacon, cooked first to render the fat.

Thick Black Bean Soup

I love black bean soup when it’s thick, almost stew-like. If you like yours thinner, feel free to add water or more chicken stock to this recipe.

Black Bean Soup in Bowl

Have a pressure cooker? Use it to save some time

Do you have a pressure cooker or Instant Pot? If so, you can easily cook the black beans and the ham hock using a pressure cooker, greatly reducing the total time it takes to make this soup. No need to pre-soak the beans if you are using a pressure cooker.

We’ve covered the topic of pressure cooking beans in a separate article (see How to Make Fast, No-Soak Beans in the Pressure Cooker). For this black bean soup recipe, just add the beans, ham hock, bay leaves, baking soda, salt, and water to the pressure cooker. Cook on high pressure for 20 minutes, with 10 minutes of natural release.

How to Freeze Black Bean Soup

This black bean soup freezes well! Just freeze it in individual portions (here’s how) for up to three months.

If you remember, place however many portions you need in the fridge the night before to thaw, then reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave. If you forget, you can also transfer the frozen soup directly into a saucepan and warm, covered, over low heat.

Black Bean Soup

What to Serve with Black Bean Soup

Serve bowls of this soup topped with fresh cilantro, sliced avocado, and a scoop of sour cream. Include homemade tortilla chips on the side for dipping into the soup!

More Soups to Warm You Inside and Out

Updated November 26, 2018 : We spiffed up this post a little to make it sparkle! No changes to the recipe.

Black Bean Soup Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 8 cups, serves 6

Do you have a pressure cooker or Instant Pot? You can easily skip the bean soaking step and cook the black beans more quickly using a pressure cooker. See instructions in step 1.

Prep the onion, sweet potato, carrot, celery, garlic, and red bell pepper while the beans are cooking in step 1.


  • 1 pound dried black beans (about 2 cups), rinsed, soaked in 4 quarts of water overnight or 6 hours, drained
  • 1 pound smoked ham shank or hock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cups water
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped fine (2 cups)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (2 cups, chopped) (can substitute 2 large carrots)
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine (1/2 cup)
  • 1 celery rib, chopped fine (1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 cups chicken stock (add 2 teaspoons of salt if using unsalted stock)
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons lime juice (can substitute lemon juice)
  • Salt

To serve:

  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Sour cream
  • Avocado, peeled and chopped


1 Cook the beans with the ham hock/shank: Place beans and ham shank or hock in a 4-quart, thick-bottomed pot. Add 5 cups water, bay leaves, salt and baking soda. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and let cook 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, until beans are tender. Remove bay leaves.

Pressure cooking instructions: If you have a pressure cooker, you can save time by putting the un-soaked dry beans and the ham shank into a pressure cooker. Add 5 cups of water, 2 bay leaves, baking soda, and salt. Cook at high pressure for 20 minutes, do a natural release of pressure for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure. Remove the bay leaves.

2 Remove ham shank, cut up ham meat: Remove ham shank or hock from the pot. Cut ham meat away from the bone and cut into small, bite-sized pieces, set aside.

3 Cook onions, celery, carrot sweet potato, add spices: While the beans are cooking, heat olive oil in a large 6- to 8-quart thick-bottomed pot on medium high until the oil is hot, but not smoking.

Add the onions, celery, carrot, sweet potato, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and softened, 10 to 15 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium, add the cumin, chili powder, and garlic, cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

4 Add beans, liquid, molasses, bell pepper to onion mixture: Once the beans are tender, add the beans, their cooking liquid, chicken stock, molasses, and bell pepper to the pot with the onion mixture.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes.

5 Purée a third of the soup: Using an immersion blender, purée about a third of the soup. Or remove about 3 cups of the soup to a blender and purée it, return it to the soup.

6 Serve: Return the reserved ham pieces to the soup to serve. Add 3 tablespoons of lime juice. Adjust seasonings. If on the sweet side, add a bit more lime juice. Add more salt to taste.

Serve with garnishes.

Note that the soup may continue to thicken. If you would like it thinner, just add some water to desired consistency.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

86 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Ann Baker

    This soup is FABULOUS! Lovely complex flavors and texture. I did add a little ground smoked serrano pepper for an added kick. Will definitely be making this again!


  2. Trish

    Can you make this soup in a slow cooker with canned beans?
    Please advise with changes, Thank you!

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Christy

    Can you make the whole thing in the instant pot? Or so you need to take the beans out once they are cooked and cook the rest on the stove? Thanks!!!

    Show Replies (1)
  4. Elkzabeth

    I’ve made this twice, first with ham hocks, too much fat not enough meat. Today with leftover (frozen) Christmas ham, much better. Followed the recipe with only an exchange of corn for sweet potato because of what I had on hand and family preference. It was wonderful! The balance of seasonings is lovely. I have a firm belief that food shouldn’t hurt but still have lots of flavor! This is a winner.


  5. Elizabeth

    This is a great recipe…the second time I’ve made it. First time used ham hocks and found too much fat and not enough meat. Today I used leftover Chritmas ham and it was great. The other only change I made was because of what I had on hand and my husbands preference. Subbed corn for the sweet potato. The balance of seasonings is lovely. I have a firm belief that food shouldn’t hurt, but still have lots of flavor. A simple suggestion, if you don’t have a blender or an immersion blender, an old fashioned potato masher works just fine. Just mash a bit in the pot.


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