Tag Archives: black beans

Pantry project: Basic black bean soup

When I did the Kitchn Cure last month, I did a thorough clean-out and reorganization of our fridge, freezer, and pantry. In getting through these tasks, I realized that we have a LOT of food in our apartment. While there are perfectly good reasons for keeping a good supply of food around (what if there’s an earthquake? or 20 people show up unexpectedly for dinner?), our stocks were starting to stress the storage limits of our small space. So, I began a small and unofficial project to start using up some of the little bits and pieces that were accumulating in the freezer. When M. returned from his summer backpacking adventure, we crunched some numbers on our 2014 grocery spending to date and decided to kick our efforts up a notch and make a more concerted effort to “shop the pantry”. We have one hard and fast rule (no purchasing of a new food if there is a functionally equivalent food still available), and a general agreement to structure our meal planning each week to take advantage of foods we already have available.
We’ll be measuring progress based on the fullness of our pantry/freezer, and the size of our grocery bill.

So, for the next few months, I’ll probably be posting a few more “pantry-friendly” recipes. To kick things off, here’s one of my most reliable pantry meals: black bean soup. We purchase dried black beans in bulk, 15 lbs at a time, so there are usually plenty on hand. I ate it pretty regularly through grad school, as evidenced by this vintage photo:

Fortunately, M. loves black bean soup as much as I do, so it’s remained a staple of our fall and winter meals. It’s a very easy soup to use for absorbing odds and ends in the fridge also, which means it’s a bit different almost every time I make a batch. True to the “pantry” theme of this post, the recipe I’m sharing today is the ultra basic version, but I often like to mix it up by adding one or more of the following:

-A cup or two of kale or spinach
-a cup of corn kernels
-a small chopped sweet potato or a cup of cubed butternut squash
-a zucchini or two
-red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
-a handful of chopped cilantro

If you want to get fancy with your soup, you can also try topping it with cilantro, cheese, or avocado. Add a pan of cornbread on the side and a loaded version of this soup makes an easy and delicious cold weather meal to share with friends.

Basic black bean soup
serves 6-8

2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
4-5 cloves crushed garlic
2 carrots, diced
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. coriander
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
5 cups cooked black beans
28 oz can diced tomatoes
4 c. water
salt and pepper to taste

1.In a large stock or soup pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Saute the onions for 6-8 minutes, until slightly translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes more. Add the carrots and saute for 5 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, oregano, and thyme, stir until onions/carrots are coated with spices.

2. Add the black beans, tomatoes, and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook for another 30-40 minutes. Serve hot.

Dried legumes are currently taking up a lot of our pantry real estate, so expect to see more soup recipes this fall and winter! If your pantry is also overflowing with beans, here are a few older recipes you might enjoy trying:

Curried red lentil soup
Garlicky white bean soup
Chickpea and scallion fritters


Dinner diary: Black bean and freekeh bowl with vegetables

I mentioned a few posts back that I’m “in training” for my first half marathon. While I’m not doing a crazy high mileage training schedule, I am now having a couple of evenings each week dominated by running. So, no time to cook, but a definite need to do some post-workout recovery eating.

My latest solution to this challenge is to prep ingredients for some kind of dinner bowls on the weekends for reheating and assembly during the week. When a running evening rolls around, it’s just a matter of how fast I get myself through the shower before sitting down to eat. Since we’re in the middle of a drought, the shower part is fast 🙂

This particular bowl was inspired by the beautiful bibimbap bowls you can get at most (okay, probably all) Korean restaurants. My take uses a mix of freekeh, black beans, and sauteed cabbage as the base, which I realize is not at all the same as the usual base of rice. An array of vegetable toppings rounds out the upper layer of the bowl. I like to get in a few different colors and a mix of cooked and raw vegetables to keep things interesting: zucchini and eggplant stir-fried with ginger, garlic, and tamari; blanched broccoli, a little raw carrot, and a few bean sprouts. For some extra protein, I also added a a sliced up egg pancake, but you could also use tempeh or a few fried tofu cubes for vegan alternatives. A handful of scallion slices, a sprinkling of black sesame seeds, and a nice dollop of my thai basil sauce finish things off and makes it all look (and in the cast of the pesto, taste) a little less “I threw this together while wearing a towel” and a little more “this is a legitimately awesome dinner, thank you”.

Chocolate chili (vegan, gluten free)


This past week, our weather’s taken a serious turn for fall. I’m no longer shedding clothes walking home from the train station–I’m speedwalking with my hands in my pockets and arriving in the door with my lungs invigorated from all that crisp fall air. So when a message about Kim Place-Gateau’show to make vegetarian chili” on Food52 hit my inbox, it was just the right timing to get me hauling out the crockpot and making my own batch of that quintessential fall food.


As the recipe name suggests, the “secret” ingredient here is chocolate, in the form of some unsweetened cocoa powder. It adds a darkness and depth to the chili that makes it even more seasonally appropriate (not to mention tasty). This is a good dish to prepare on the weekend, as the long simmering time really is necessary for getting the flavors to blend together. Eating the leftovers throughout the week, you’ll probably find that the taste develops and improves with each eating. You can use either the crockpot or the stovetop, depending on your available time and preferences–I go back and forth about which option is my favorite. I like to serve this over spanish cauliflower rice, preferably topped with some avocado, and maybe a bit of grated cheese (dairy or daiya, depending on your preference.


Chocolate Chili
Makes 8-12 servings, depending on your appetite and accompaniments

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 serrano chili peppers, ribs and seed removed, flesh minced
3 T chili powder
1 heaping T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp oregano

4 c. vegetables, cut into 1/2 to 3/4″ dice (I used a mix of carrots, summer squash, and bell pepper here. Some other good options include sweet potato, celery, or corn. Use a mix of starchy and non-starchy vegetables for the best results. The starchy vegetables will break down and thicken the chili, the non-starchy ones will keep things from getting too heavy)

6 c. beans (I used a mix of pinto and black beans for this batch, but you can also use red kidney beans).
28-oz can diced tomatoes
salt to taste


1. In a medium sized skillet (if planning to use a crockpot) or large saucepan (if you’re going all stovetop), heat the oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring periodically, until beginning to brown at the edges. Add the garlic and chili peppers and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Add the chili powder, cocoa powder, cumin, coriander, and oregano.

2a. If you’re going the crockpot route, transfer the onion, garlic, and spice mixture to the crock and add the vegetables, beans, and tomatoes. Add a few dashes of salt. Turn the crockpot to low and allow to cook for 8-10 hours, the vegetables will be soft but starchy ones like carrots should still have some integrity (if you’re in a bit of a hurry, put the heat on high and you can have decent chili in 3-4 hours). Taste and add additional salt as needed. Remove from heat and serve.

2b. If you’re going the stovetop route, add the vegetables to the pan and cook for about five minutes, until everything is heated through. Add the beans and tomatoes and cover the pot until everything starts getting bubbly (5-10 minutes usually). Turn the heat to low and allow the chili to cook for another 45 minutes or an hour. Remove from heat and serve.