Black Bean Soup

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

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


  • 1 pound dried black beans (about 2 cups), rinsed, soaked in 4 quarts of water overnight or 6 hours, drained
  • 1 lb smoked ham hock or shank
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cups water
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tbsp 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 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chile powder
  • 2 cups chicken stock (add 2 teaspoons of salt if using unsalted stock)
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp lime juice (can substitute lemon juice)
  • Salt
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Sour cream
  • Avocado, peeled and chopped


1 Place beans and ham 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.

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

3 While the beans are cooking, heat olive oil in a large 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, about 10-15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add the cumin, chili powder, and garlic, cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

4 Once the beans are tender, add the beans, their cooking liquid, chicken stock, molasses, and bell pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes.

5 Remove 4 cups of the soup (about half of it) to a blender. Purée until smooth and return to the pot of soup. (You may need to purée the soup in smaller portions, depending on the size of your blender. Don't fill the blender more than half way at a time and hold the lid while blending.) Or use an immersion blender to purée just half of the soup.

Add back the ham pieces to the soup. Add 3 Tbsp of lime juice. Adjust seasonings. If on the sweet side, add a bit more lime juice. 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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  • Deanne

    Best black bean soup ever. I took the advice of others and used chipotle peppers instead of the ham hock and it added a nice smokey flavor. SO yummy! Thanks Elise!


  • Ellen

    I’d like to try this using canned black beans. How many cans should I use?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Ellen, 1 pound of dry beans cooks up to close to 4 15-ounce cans of beans.

  • A reader

    Black bean soup is different from black beans and rice. For the soup, the celery and sweet potato add incredible amounts of fiber and vitamins making this a very restorative soup.

  • It's almost winter

    I don’t soak the black beans. I pick them over for debris and rinse them and then just cook them in the appropriate amount of water. It takes longer, of course, but I like the color of the beans better this way.

    Also, I grate the sweet potato and sometimes grate the onion.

  • Christine

    Katy, the soaking doesn’t make any dried bean soft. Dried beans, after soaking, usually take about 30-45 minutes of cooking on a simmer. I tried cooking black beans once without soaking overnight, and *that* took hours. I hope you tried again with beans that are pre-bagged in the legume section. Once you experience beans this way, you will never want to go back to canned. Especially garbanzos–what a difference in flavor and texture. I definitely feel it’s worth the time. . . . I’m trying this recipe for the first time today. Just started the soak at 6:30 in the morning.

  • Meredith

    Made this for the first time today and can’t wait to eat it tomorrow! One question – I read the recipe several times and don’t see when I should have put the carrots in? I ended up adding them with the bell pepper because I looked at my counter and thought “uh oh, the carrots probably should have gone in with the other root veggies…” Can you please clarify for next time – since I already know there will be a next time!


    • Elise

      Hi Meredith, the chopped carrots go in with the sweet potato. Thanks for pointing out the omission! I missed that. It’s fixed now.

      • A guy who cooks

        I grate the carrot and the sweet potato and I sautee the red pepper with the other veg. Actually, I put the red pepper in first and let it go for a couple of minutes before adding the rest.

        Also, I use good bacon instead of a ham hock…easier to find and less hassle.

  • Carolyn

    Elise, this soup was really, really good. I doubled the recipe and subbed carrots for the sweet potato. I ate it for work lunch for a few days and froze the rest. I love black bean soup, but have never found a recipe that fits me. Yum! As always thanks for the great food!

  • Mary Ellen

    We LOVE this soup, although I made it vegan by eliminating the ham and using veggie stock instead of chicken stock. And it is actually a quick meal in the pressure cooker.

  • Candace

    The family declared this to be the best soup ever! For anyone who is curious, this was perfect in the crock pot. Soaked beans overnight, chopped up all veg and tossed everything in crockpot/slow cooker with ham hocks in the morning before work. Left the lime for the end and briefly buzzed with the immersion blender. Topped with cilantro, sour cream, and guacamole (had no avocados but this was great!) Easy weeknight supper and a big hit. Thanks, Elise. :)

  • iain42

    Oh yeah this one is awesome.

    Only tweaked it a little. Cooked the beans in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes then finished them according to recipe. It really cuts down on the time.

    I also added black garlic that I found in the grocery store . It was really good and a nice addition.

    Thanks for posting this recipe.

  • Silvia

    I just made this soup with some editions. I needed to make a vegan/vegetarian version of the soup. Replaced the ham hock for 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Came out amazing =) Thanks Elise! You’re the best

  • Elena

    Fantastic! I followed all your instructions and the result is perfect. I love this soup. In Finland, we don’t have molasses. Instead, I used honey. So delicious! Tks!

  • Eric

    That. Was. Amazing.

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

    I was quite intimidated by the ham shank, but the end result was one of the best dishes I’ve ever tasted.

    Thanks again!

  • Monica

    This soup looks great, and I’m making it right now….one note though:

    Don’t use old black beans!

    My black beans WILL NOT soften…they’ve been cooking for 6 hours! Looked it up and apparently dried black beans that have been on the shelf for a long time will never soften well. Bummer. :(

    Other than that, I’m sure the soup is amazing! Just don’t make the mistake I did :/

  • V G Fields

    What is the baking soda for? What does it do?

    You can leave it out if you want. Baking soda is sometimes used to help dry beans cook more quickly. In this recipe, that pinch of soda also acts as a counter to the acid from the lime juice. ~Elise

  • robbit

    I added chipotle pepper powder and it was fantastic!

  • Beth

    I made this soup last night for a family gathering and everybody loved it–my kid too! I used a kielbasa instead of a ham hock and it turned out great. Both grandmas asked for the recipe; it is is a real keeper.

    Will definitely make again and again! Thanks for sharing!

  • Zach

    Those are old wives tales regarding the baking soda. If you really want something to help eliminate the gas, try a bit of espazote or asafetida.

  • Krystle

    This recipe bested me twice, so I decided to lick my wounds and move on! Both times were my fault. The first time, I let the beans soak too long (mmm, my house started to smell fermented! Awesome!). When I soaked batch number two, everything else seemed to go wrong. When I sliced the sweet potato, it was orange with white spots on the inside (it’s not supposed to look like that, right?), and the chicken broth smelled funny, even though I bought it fresh. I decided to take a few days off, regroup, and try a different recipe. Black Bean Soup and I were not meant to be!

  • Krystle

    Hi Elise!

    I want to try this recipe next, but I only have a pot that’s 5 or 6 quarts. Do I really have to have the 8 qt pot to make this recipe? It didn’t seem like it, just by reading the recipe through, but I’d hate to be in the middle of it and discover that my pot is overflowing! Thanks! :)

    Hmm, if I suggested an 8 quart pot, then it’s probably because I thought the recipe required it. (Haven’t made if for a while). The beans expand and take up a lot of room. But why don’t you try it anyway? Or cut the ingredients down by a quarter. ~Elise

  • Alice

    I had prepared black beans (2 lbs) two nights ago, so I used the leftover beans for this soup. My beans were soaked then cooked with only a bay leaf. I used the rest of the ingredients from the recipe and I have to say, this soup was incredibly delicious! So, even without the ham or bacon as extra flavor, my family loved it! Thanks!

  • Bob in Redding CA

    I followed this recipe to the T last night and found that it was missing something in terms of flavor. It was bland. Any suggestions?

    Check your spices, if they are more than a year old you need to replace them. Once I used paprika in a recipe only to find that the paprika had completely died. No flavor whatsoever. The box had simply become too old. Also make sure you are salting enough. ~Elise

  • Kath Phelps

    I made your black bean soup recipe about three weeks ago and it was unbelieveably good. It is the perfect combination of sweet and heat…it is truely fabulous. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful recipes with all of us..what a blessing.

  • Maho

    It’s been a few years since I found your blog and been following ever since, tried many of your recipes and loved them, too!

    I’m from Japan but live in the US, married to an all-American man. Although he loves most of the Japanese food I make, he appreciates it when I try something new.

    I’ve learned a great deal about American (I guess I can call it that) ways of cooking from your website.

    I’m not really a big fan of beans at all, and I’m pretty much the only one who cooks in our house so beans had never appeared on our dinner table until I found this recipe.

    My husband loves black beans so he was excited when I told him I was making some black bean soup. I wasn’t sure how it was gonna taste at first(sweet potate? lime juice? really?) but I’m so glad I picked this recipe as my first black bean recipe.

    It tasted heavenly, especially the next day. I think I made hubby fall in love with me all over again with this one. Thanks for sharing!!

  • rachdiggity

    Absolutely scrumptious!

    I substituted the following:
    1. lemon for apple cider vinegar
    2. apple smoked-wood bacon for ham
    3. pureed only two cups vs 4 cups (I like more whole beans)
    4. browned veggies in half bacon fat and half olive oil.

    Thank you for a tasty recipe!

  • Duffy

    I used raw sugar instead of molasses and a bit of corn syurp. I added a bit more cumin also. I also blended together cream cheese, a bit of milk, and salsa verde and cayenne and used it in place of sour cream. The green salsa added a bit of acid that was really nice.

  • CHAR

    Excellent flavor and texture… easy recipe. Yum!!!

  • Tracy

    I just wanted to say that I have been making Pea and Ham soup at least once a month during the colder weather for 15 years or so – it’s my favourite soup. I had a hankering for something a little different a month or so ago and tried this one.
    When my hubby smelled the smoked hock that was already on for the stock that I was going to make P&H soup with this weekend – he asked if I could do ‘that black bean one’ instead. We both loved your soup, and I readily agreed to change my plans.
    Thanks for the inspiration – I had never heard of black bean soup here in Australia before, but I am a convert. I still love my P&H soup, but the layers of flavour in this soup make it quite special.

  • Diana

    Really liked this soup, even though I didn’t have molasses or squash. Used leftover ham juices from making ham that I had frozen, canned beans and instant soup. Delish! Next time I will try adding carrot and corn, too. Great flavors.

  • Everyday Cook

    I took a crack at this recipe after seeing Bittman’s encouragement to stock up on winter provisions, including dry beans. I’ve made this twice now and i have a few notes.

    I wasn’t a fan of the ham hocks, too much work not enough flavor and meat. The second time around, I went with good bacon. Cook it well and hold it in reserve.

    Don’t skimp on the carrots/sweet potatoes.

    I puree all the veggies together with a good amount of the beans. I caught a glimpse of the comment about blowing the lid off the blender. My blender has a cap on the middle of the lid, take that out to let the steam and pressure escape. Protect your hand with a towel.

  • Jenna Woodul

    Lacking molasses, I substituted a tablespoon or so of brown sugar. My daughter is leaning away from meat, so I kept it vegetarian except for the chicken broth. Still delicious! Thanks Elise.

  • Donna

    OMG! This soup is unreal! I did do some variations – to keep it vegetarian, I cooked the beans in water with some BBQ sauce, Steak sauce and Worcestire sauce. Nice, smoky flavor- the baking soda really comes through!

    I sauteed 2 finely diced onions, a red, a green and 2 long chili peppers – also finely diced, and 2 diced sweet potatoes. (Had fun chopping and talking on the phone while the beans cooked!)

    I had some fresh oregano which I threw in – was going to use date syrup instead of molasses, could have sworn I had a jar, but couldn’t find it so I through in some real maple syrup and pomegranate redux.

    It’s spicy, sweet and savory all at one! I also used an immersion blender – it was so soft that it didn’t take very long – soooo good! Thank you!!!

  • Maria

    Wow!! This soup was so delicious. My family really loved it. I had company over (what was I thinking trying a new recipe out on guests) and she left with a copy of the recipe!! I did do a few substitutions (vegetarian) and it was so flavorful. I made some brown rice and poured the soup on top, YUM. Thanks for sharing.

  • T. Mac

    This is the best black bean soup I tasted and the only one I have made. The recipe is right on. I’ve always loved good black bean soup. The operative word being GOOD. My colleague at work started looking for recipes. She printed out several, this one being one of them. Everyone that tasted the soup I made from this recipe was in love with it. Even my finicky son loved it. Many times recipes do not turn out well when you follow it exactly. I followed this one to a tee and it was MAGNIFICENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • jenny

    whoa that soup was good! I couldn’t find ham hocks or shank at the shops so I substituted whole chorizo sauasage and it was delicious! Couldn’t find molasses either, so I substitued brown sugar. Have been living in Australia for 2 years now and didn’t think molasses and black beans would be hard to find! I’ve always had my eye out for black beans and finally found them at a health food shop in the bulk section (black turtle beans). You can’t find them in cans out here either!

  • Eldon Braun

    This recipe is excellent. You’ll definitely want to add some sweet Port or Sherry wine. Don’t worry if you’re a purist; the alcohol quickly boils away.

    If you’re a vegetarian, try some Maggi (yeast) seasoning instead of the pork.

  • Mom2Schnauzers

    Made this, my 2nd meal from Simply Recipes, yesterday and O-M-G it was beyond tasty! (Made Chicken Curry in a Hurry the other day…W O W!)I can’t tell you how many recipes for BB Soup I’ve tried over the years and NEVER had anything turn out as I expected. THIS is delicious! I’m so glad I found you. THANKS!

  • Ann

    I just made this soup and it is wonderful! I substituted 10 strips of bacon for the ham hock and fried the onion ect. in the bacon fat. Thanks for the awesome recipe. It’s snowing AGAIN here in northern Illinois and is below zero again so we will be making this again and again!!

  • OB

    Spectacular recipe and I did not even read the users’ comments! I made mine like a stew by skipping the blender route. Also, I substituted some nice meaty spare ribs and did the carrot substitution over the sweet potatoes. The molasses was a brilliant addition and I am skeptical about the baking soda but its in there and they came out 100% perfect so I am sold. Thanks again for the recipe and everyone’s comments (my sister recently became the courageous vegan of the family and I will pass along those tips)

  • Lisa S.

    My favorite Cuban recipe site recommends adding 1 Tbsp of olive oil to the bean water when simmering to prevent foaming. Sounds like the advice is worth a try.

  • Sonia


    From an old post at the Yahoo Cocina Cubana group

    “In Cuba, black beans and white fluffy rice are a tradition. You can also cook them ahead and then mix them with the uncooked rice and cook them together. When you do this, it is called “Congris” in some areas of Cuba and “Moros y Cristianos” (Moors and Christians) in other areas. Sort of like a Luisiana
    Dirty Rice, but using black beans.

    I don’t really follow a recipe for the black beans, but this is what I do:

    1 package of dried black beans (I usually buy GOYA brand- though this is NOT an
    endorsement – just personal preference)

    Dump in a large stockpot, (at least 10 qt) and fill with water up to the half pot mark.
    Bring to a rolling boil and boil for about 10 minutes. Turn heat off and leave beans to soak overnight in the covered stockpot.

    Some people throw this water out. I don’t. I just add stock and/or a ham hock.

    Next day, skim off top; start cooking over medium-high heat and cook for about 1 hour and then start adding seasonings (sofrito *), etc.

    For Sofrito:
    Saute diced onion, minced garlic, small,ripe tomatoes (cherry) cut in half, or
    chopped, ripe regular tomatoes; chopped/diced green peppers, and a couple of
    bay leaves in olive oil, until onions are translucent.

    (*)Sofrito is the basic beginning for much of Cuban cooking. It is used with bean dishes, meat dishes, chicken, etc. My mom used to make a large sofrito mix (without the bay leaves)about once a week, store in a wide mouth jar with a bit of olive oil drizzled on top and keep in refrigerator. Scooped out what she needed, added the bay leaf(ves) and stored the rest again. When I get really industrious, I still do this.

    Anyway, add sofrito to the bean pot, fresh or dried oregano, a touch of cumin, sliced Spanish Chorizo (sausage) cut up in slices, a touch of sugar, a little bit of vinegar and only add salt and pepper to taste toward the end. Salt seems to keep the beans from softening, if you add in the beginning.

    I cook all this down (adding water if the beans are still too tough) until it is nice and thick. You don’t want the bean liquid to be too soupy. Adjust taste as you go (more sugar or vinegar or salt, etc)

    The oregano I use is the fresh, so-called Cuban or Caribbean oregano- large fleshy leaves. I grab a bunch, wash and crush into a large mesh tea ball, dip into the beans as they are cooking and then just lift it out and dump- this
    oregano is a bit too hard to eat.

    You can take half the beans and pass through a chinoise or blender and use it to thicken the rest in the pot or do all the beans this way and make it a smooth soup.”

    Buen provecho!

  • Jim Price

    I substituted Anasazi beans for the black beans for an interesting twist. The 4 tbl of lime juice really made the difference! I will try the bacon instead of ham hocks next time.

  • Lisa S.

    OMG’s! The choices! The variations that are listed here! How can I ever decide what recipe to follow?! I agree with the other commenters about Cuban food – it’s fantastic! And I’m a Western Pennsylvania red-neck that grew up on salt & pepper as our only “spices” in the food. But a move to Florida introduced my palate to Cuban cuisine and I never looked back.

    Question: What about freezing this once it’s made? Can you make it up, freeze leftovers in small containers for use later? I’m thinking of making a big batch, portioning out leftovers in the freezer then when I make Ropa Vieja or Piccadillo pulling out a container for my side dish. (I said I never looked back!) I think it should keep in a freezer a few months, don’t you?

  • rottek

    This is absolutely the best black bean soup I have ever had. Loved it, and so has everyone I have shared it with — thanks so much!!

  • susan g

    Made it on Sunday, leftovers for lunch today. This is delicious (meatless, smoked paprika). Delicious both times. I used an immersion blender to puree it in the pot, so no explosions. When I used a blender, there was a cap in the lid that allowed steam to escape, so that might deal with that problem. I love this device that saves on time and dishwashing (Braun). I might use some of what’s left as a spread or dip…wish there was more!

  • George

    I’ve made black bean soup for years, and my recipe is free form and pretty much like this one. Delicious. One difference, I do not soak the beans, just simmer them until tender, about 2 hours. Linguisa or chorizo are good substitutes for the ham; add the linguisa when you start the beans to boil, or fry the chorizo with the vegetables, and add it for the last 30 minutes. I’ve made it without meat. I also do not blend any of the beans. I add about 1/3 of them, with some liquid to the well sauteed vegetables and mash it all with a fork or potato masher. My son uses reconstituted tvp or wheat gluten for a protein rich vegetarian soup.

  • Debbie

    This was delicious! I will be keeping this recipe to make again.

  • Lindsey

    Elise, I made this soup over the weekend and encountered one problem. When it came time to puree half of the soup in the blender, it blew the lid off my blender. I tried doing it in small batches (less than 2 cups at a time) and it still blew the lid off. I assumed it was because the soup was so hot, but you didn’t suggest letting it cool any before blending. What do you think was wrong? Thanks for any tips!

    Yikes! I would do 2 things. Hold the lid down with your hand while engaging the blender. Start at a low speed and gradually increase it to a purée. I’ve adjusted the recipe with a note about the blending, thanks for pointing out that this may be an issue. ~Elise

  • Rosie

    So many great ideas and recipes. If a recipe can be made in an oven, surely it can be converted to a slow cooker. Any tips on how to do that?

  • Guinnevere

    is there something you could substitute for the molasses? i’ve never used it, and probably won’t again, and can’t justify buying a whole jar (it’s a little pricey) for just a tablespoon. if they have it in bulk at WF i’ll pick it up but i was just wondering :)

    I would just skip it then. ~Elise

  • Jen

    This was delicious. I made it vegetarian and with the hamhock and my house full of people loved it.

    Thank you this was just the right thing for rainy, cold Seattle.

  • Audrey

    I love black bean soup, too. I found this quick and easy recipe in Real Simple magazine. I am going to try your recipe, Elise, with the smoked turkey substitution, though.

    2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
    1/2 cup salsa (I like the pineapple kind, but any kind will be fine.)
    1 cup chicken broth

    Saute the salsa in a saucepan for a few minutes. Add the broth and black beans and simmer for 15 minutes. Puree half of the beans and serve. (I like it all pureed.) Garnish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a dollop of sour cream if desired.


  • Dave

    Know of any methods to determine if a dried bean is fresh or not?

    Great question. I don’t know. Older beans do take a lot more cooking time to get tender. I’m always buying things like beans and then forgetting about them. Someone told me once if the beans are over a year old you should throw them out. ~Elise

  • Susan from Food Blogga

    Mmmm…the thicker the better. Especially when you scoop it up with warm tortillas. I like to add ginger, lime, and scallions for a Caribbean twist.

  • S. Stone

    my husband likes the flavor of smoked ham hocks or ham neck bones but I’m trying for a very low sodium diet to control my blood pressure. How can I give him the taste he wants without the sodium I shouldn’t have.

    You might want to skip the ham and try adding some liquid smoke, smoked paprika, or chipotle chile powder to the beans. ~Elise

  • Redley

    I live on black beans!! There are many good tips & tasty receipes here. I’ll add what I do.

    I soak 1# of black beans overnite & cook them in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes (this is when beans are at a full boil) I only add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (to cut down the gas.) When the beans are boiling, just before completely covering & locking the lid; I skim off the foam overflow until no more foam then cover the lid & start timing.

    Once the beans are cooled down usually 30-45-60 minutes later; I drain the overflow of water: around 1 cup (or your preference of liquid depending on soup or beans alone) & add 8 oz dark beer (my preference is ‘Christian Moerlein Select Dunkel’)

    Or if I don’t want dark beer; I add 1/2 cup Dark Molasses & 1/2 cup of warm water.

    I include:
    lots of lime, cayenne pepper, sea salt, grated red onion, cumin, garlic, chili powder, 1 large avocado, 1-2 squares of ‘Lindt’ brand (no dairy) dark chocolate bar.
    1 square if no dark beer added & the dark molasses are added.

    2 squares if dark beer added & no dark molasses.

    OR! 1 square if dark beer is added & 1/4 cup dark molasses without the 1/2 cup warm water!

    After all ingredients are added, the beans are left in the pressure cooker to soak/marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes – depending on how hungry you are & how much flavoring you want. Sometimes I wait 3 hours & even the next day to eat them.
    It’s all so good!!

    I only eat seafood so there is no meat in this. I do not like Tofu & prefer my black beans meatless anyhow.

    I’m allergic to dairy so I sometimes use dairy substitutes like shredded soy cheese to add to the top of a black bean burrito or tamale pie & the like.

  • Susan G

    Pressure cooker! Beans cook properly, quickly (soaking is suggested), and high cost of gas (for the stove) less of an issue.

  • James

    I’ve read all the other recipes. Some are very interesting and sound delicious.

    I am a white guy. My wife is cuban and I live in her house with her parents in MIAMI!

    Lisa, same here, rice and beans every day. I’ll bet the first time you cooked for your husband, he asked “where’s the rice and beans?”, just like my sister and her Colombian husband.

    here are cuban black beans.
    first make the sofrito.
    presoaked beans, garlic, garlic, onions, green bell pepper, cachucha pepper, salt to taste, olive oil or lard. Fry that up until soft.
    Add beans and water to cover.
    Add bay leaf or two.
    bring to boil and then simmer until the beans are soft
    after beans are soft and simmered, add a small amount of vinegar. (this is optional, but I prefer it).

    Here are the ingredients for 90% of cuban food.

    green bell pepper
    ripe cachucha peppers (looks a bit like scotch bonnet, but not spicy at all).
    tomato sauce or paste
    white vinegar (use sparingly!)
    olive oil or lard (lard tastes great but is bad for you, sub only olive oil)

    This is all you need to make a cuban sofrito.

    here’s two tips.

    Absolutely no cuban food is spicy hot.
    If you walk into a restaurant claiming to be a cuban restaurant, if you don’t smell garlic, it’s not really cuban.

    now, here’s the secret recipe for cuban Lechón asádo (roasted pork):

    naranja agria (sour seville oranges)

    smash whole peeled cloves to burst and mix the membranes of the garlic. juice the oranges (wash your hands after or they might get burnt by the acid.) add more salt than you think you need but not too much. add enough oregano. mix it into a marinade. poke holes in the pork (shoulder) and push the marinade in. You can also butterfly the shoulder and roll in up with the marinade.

    This is a large comment so I’m starting my own blog,

    Thanks, Elise for the inspiration.

  • Erik

    If there is anything better than your recipe, it’s the picture! I was just imagining dropping a huge dollop of sour cream in there, and I decided I had to check out the recipe to see if you had the same thought in mind. And there it was!!
    Being Canadian, I know a thing or two about cold, and how to warm up after an afternoon of shoveling snow, and this would truly hit the spot!

  • Mike

    Tell Lisa that the best recipe for Black Bean Soup is in the Caribbean Cooking book, put out by Time Life. I’ve made that recipe for many years (substituting for the annatto oil) and have had nothing but raves. Also, use a ham shank, rather than hocks.

    Serves 6-8.

    1 lb dry black beans
    2 to 4 cups chicken stock
    2 tablespoons oil (my recipe calls for annatto oil, but it’s too much trouble)
    1 cup finely chopped onions
    2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
    8 oz finely chopped lean cooked ham (or, 1 ham shank, same–my preference)
    1/2 cup chopped, drained canned tomatoes
    2 teaspoons malt vinegar
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (+ 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds)
    freshly ground black pepper to taste

    Bring beans and enough water to cover by 2″ to a boil; simmer for 3 hrs.

    In a heavy 4-5 qt casserole, or dutch oven, heat oil over moderate heat, add onions & garlic; stir frequently for 5 min. Stir in ham meat from shanks, tomatoes, vinegar, cumin, a few grinds of fresh pepper. Bring to a boil; stir briskly till spoon is coated heavily. Add beans and stock; simmer over low heat for 15 minutes or till heated thoroughly–season to taste.

  • HappyCook


    You tried the hardest bean to cook (garbanzos.) It’s not you, it’s the beans. And overnight soaking doesn’t make any bean “soft”, especially garbanzos. I always leave those to the pros and used canned ones.

    Try something a little more forgiving, like black beans or cannellini for your first successful foray into dry beans. These beans do not need to be soaked overnight or at all.

    And to everyone, I forgot to mention that I cook any long-cooking dish, especially bean dishes that will stick if not stirred, in the oven. You get a much nicer product with less work. Someone posted an oven black bean soup above, but the same technique works for chili, stew, spaghetti sauce…

  • Allyn

    Elise, this sounds so good – I bought a bottle of molasses over Christmas so I could make ginger snaps, and now I need recipes that call for it so I can use it up. The idea of using sweet potatoes in here sounds so good, too – I am *definitely* trying this one out next week. (It would be nice if we could get some cold weather in South Texas, but I think our winter consisted of one morning that got down to 29 degrees and then that was it.)

    A question for those of us watching our food intake: do you (or does anyone) know of any programs that you can plug a recipe into that will spit out nutrition information? This seems like one that is fairly healthful, but I would love to know the fat, fiber, and protein content of this recipe. This will also help me since I tend to make up a lot of recipes myself. Thanks for any help you can give me!

  • HappyCook

    Cooks Illustrated proved several years ago that you don’t have to presoak beans. I never do anymore. Also, you should salt them when you cook them for better flavor.

    Try making ham broth. This extra step lets you create enough broth for two pots of soup and you can remove the fat. You’ll be surprised how much fat you’re cooking into that bean soup. The quality of the finished soup is the same. Put the bone in a pot with water, bay leaves, celery and an onion. Cook at a bare simmer for several hours. Remove the bones, pull off the meat, strain out the veg, and store meat and broth separately in the frig overnight. The fat will float to the top and be easy to remove.

    Then proceed with the soup, using about a quart of broth to a pound of unsoaked beans to start.

  • EmmaC

    Oh, why has it never occurred to me to add molasses?! So perfect!

    I love serving black bean soup over creamy polenta or with baked polenta cubes stirred in. The textures and the flavors play so nicely together!

  • Leisureguyy

    Why the baking soda? I cook dried beans regularly (usually without the soaking) and have never tried using baking soda.

    According to Cook’s Illustrated, using a pinch of baking soda when cooking black beans will help them keep their dark color, instead of getting muddied looking. It’s definitely an optional step. ~Elise

  • jonathan

    Ask and ye shall receive, Elise. My favorite method for making black bean soup is found (again!) in The Union Square Cafe Cookbook, one I’ve referred to often on Simply Recipes. Their prep relies on oven-cooking the soaked beans with the additional ingredients, resulting in a “mellow, baked flavor that stovetop cooking doesn’t achieve.” And they’re right. It is a smooth-textured soup, but still hearty.

    It takes some time, but it’s worth it. And if the weather’s bad, we all have a little extra time, right?

    Truly a dish to bolster the “slow-food” movement.

    Here goes…

    Black Bean Soup w/ Lemon & Sherry (serves 4 – 6)

    1 pound dried black beans (approx. 2 1/2 c.), picked over for stones
    1 c. peeled / sliced carrots
    1 c. peeled / sliced onions
    1 c. chopped celery
    3 garlic cloves
    2 t. dried thyme
    4 oz. (1/4 lb.) slab bacon, cut crosswise into 1-in. pieces
    1 t. kosher salt
    1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
    4 – 6 slices lemon (my guess is Elise would use a Meyer!)
    2 T. minced parsley
    1 1/2 oz. good-quality DRY sherry (optional, but nice)

    1. Soak beans overnight, or at least 6 hrs., in cold water.
    2. Preheat oven to 300F.
    3. Rinse soaked beans well and place in a pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil, and drain the beans, discarding the water. (this removes the bluish tint and any bitterness from the beans)
    4. Place the beans in a 4 qt. ovenproof pot with the carrots, onion, celery, garlic, thyme and bacon. Cover with 2 qts. of water and add the salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, and place the pot in the oven to cook for 4 hours.
    5. Puree the contents in a blender or food processor. You may need to do this in batches. Adjust seasoning to taste. You can serve it as is, or pass it through a strainer for an even smoother texture.
    6. To serve, dip one side of a lemon slice in the minced parsley and float parsley side up on each bowl of soup. Add 1/4 ounce shot of the dry sherry to each bowl before serving, if desired.

  • Molly

    I was vegitarian for a long long time, and my mom always made black bean soup with Goya’s Ham flavouring. It’s a dry seasoning, the box has a pig on it, and the flavouring is meatless. However, it tastes almost exactly like you’ve cooked the beans with a yummy smoky ham hock. It can be a little salty, so I always taste test before I add salt when I use it.

  • Neta

    If you don’t like Ham/Pork, couldn’t you substitute for a Beef Roast?

    I think smoked turkey would be better, as commenter Heide recommended. ~Elise

  • milee

    I have been following your blog and would like to thank you and your folks for always sharing such lovely recipes. This soup looks awesome and I am surely going to make this, but in this part of the world I am struggling to think of where do I get ham hock or what do I tell the butcher? Can I use ham that we would commonly use for sandwiches, although I guess the flavour won’t be infused as much as with the ham hock. Any ideas you have would be appreciated. Thanks.

  • Keli

    I love black bean soup! I’ve never heard of substituting bacon for the ham bone, though. If you do use bacon, should you fry it up first?

    Yes, I would cook up 1/4 pound of bacon first (rendering out most of the fat), then roughly chop it and add it to the beans. You might also take a look at this David Lieberman recipe for how he incorporates bacon into his black bean soup. ~Elise

  • lydia

    For those who don’t want pork in the soup, another good substitute is barbecue sauce, which adds the smoky flavor but also adds even more thickness. Black bean soup is my favorite raw-weather comfort food.

  • Heide

    What a great winter meal! Try substituting smoked turkey wings or legs for the ham. Yummy!