Beans are often a pantry staple, and the space they take up is well deserved. They’re versatile and economical, and they’re a chief ingredient in many plant-based diets. If that doesn’t earn them some permanent real estate, the fact that they’re easy to prepare definitely does.
Dry beans are easy to prepare (and they’re even cheaper than canned), but the requirement that they are soaked before cooking necessitates a little planning. When using dry beans, all cracked and wrinkled beans should be discarded, in addition to any dirt and stones, prior to soaking. Beans should be rinsed in a colander under cold water, transferred to a pot, and then covered by 1-2 inches of cold water to soak for 6-8 hours or overnight. Soaking helps to eliminate troublesome phytic acid and oligosaccharides that may cause digestive distress. It also decreases cooking time. One cup of dry beans will yield about three cups of cooked beans.
Of course, canned beans require no preparation aside from opening a can and rinsing. This makes them accessible for meals that need to come together quickly, which is why we default to them. If using canned beans, look for a brand that uses a BPA-free lining and one that does not include a bunch of additives in the ingredient list.
This black bean soup comes together quickly and can even be made in an Instant Pot® or slow cooker. It has a nice, smoky flavor that sets it apart from traditional bean soups. Enjoy it by itself or with a side salad, or serve it over brown rice or quinoa.
Smoky Black Bean Soup
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, diced
3 medium carrots, sliced into rounds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups vegetable stock
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 medium-size tomato, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Fresh lime juice (optional)
Sour cream (optional)
Heat olive oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add onion, green pepper, carrots, and sauté for 3-5 minutes, until the onion begins to soften.
Add garlic, cumin, paprika, chili powder, oregano, and salt. Stir to coat evenly, and sauté an additional 2-3 minutes.
Add vegetable stock, beans, and tomato, increase heat, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover, and allow to simmer for 25-30 minutes (or longer is okay, too).
Serve immediately. Garnish with 1-2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro. Additional garnish may include a squeeze of fresh lime juice, a dollop of sour cream, and/or avocado.
Smoked paprika is available at most large grocery stores and where spices are sold in bulk. Regular paprika may be substituted for smoked paprika; however, the flavor of the soup will not be smoky.
If fresh tomatoes are not in season, one cup of canned chopped tomatoes may be substituted.
For an extra smoky and spicy flavor, one dried chipotle chili may be added. Chop and remove the seeds from the chili, and add when vegetable stock and tomato are added. Chipotle chili may be used in addition to or as a substitute for smoked paprika.
If a spicy soup is desired, add ground cayenne pepper pinch by pinch until desired heat is achieved.
Black beans are a good source of protein and contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber content promotes heart health and digestion, as well as a feeling of fullness. Black beans contain many vitamins and minerals, including significant amounts of thiamin, folate, and magnesium.