Spilling the Beans | The Best Black Bean Soup

Spilling the Beans is an occasional blog written by contributing editor Leah Mensch about all things bean-related.


By Leah Mensch, Contributing Editor

I had a dream, a few months ago, that I started using names of beans for my gender pronouns. It was like “Leah Mensch (Pinto/King City Pink), or something like that. I was going to write that, at this point in the pandemic, beans are the only thing keeping me tethered to reality. But I’m actually not sure I’m tethered to reality at all anymore, so I just keep cooking beans.

Over the summer, I bought 9 pounds of beans from a premium bean wholesale website, and my bank flagged the transaction, which kind of hurt my feelings. What I am trying to say is that I have a lot of beans in my pantry, and that’s why this is my third black bean cooking blog. Oh, the versatility of the black bean! Previously, we’ve made regular old black beans from scratch and black bean burgers. Today, we are making black bean soup.

If you want to eat this soup for every meal for an entire week, I would recommend doubling this recipe. But if you’re not like me — which is to say, you are normal — the recipe below should yield about four or five servings.


1 cup of dry beans or 2 cans of canned beans

  • Note: Every time I write a bean blog, I write that both canned beans and dry beans are a wonderful choice. But my New Year’s resolution is to stop telling little white lies, so I’m just going to be real with you and say that making the beans from scratch is far better. You can find my recipe here.

1 large or 2 medium jalapeno peppers 

  • Note: If you prefer less spice, you can substitute the jalapenos for a milder pepper. I humbly suggest a serrano pepper.

1/2 of a large onion

3 cloves of garlic

16 oz. broth (chicken, vegetable or beef)

1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

  • Note: Most other bean soup chefs use liquid smoke, but the concept of liquidized smoke doesn’t make sense to me and I’m afraid to use it. Hence, the Worcestershire sauce, which accomplishes the same thing.

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp hot pepper flakes (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste


Step One: After your beans are cooked — or drained if you still insist on going the canned beans route — set them aside.

Step Two: Dice the onion, peppers and garlic. The dicing doesn’t have to be perfect because you’re eventually going to puree the ingredients in a food processor.

Step three: Saute the vegetables and garlic in a large stock pot. When they’ve turned brown, add the beans and the broth. Stir.

Step Four: Add the Worcestershire sauce, cumin, red pepper flakes and salt to the pot. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Step Five: In smaller batches if needed, puree the soup in a food processor until smooth-ish. Be very careful because the soup is hot. It burns. Trust me.

Step Six: Eat soup.

How to eat:

Black bean soup is wonderfully spacious and expansive in form — by which I mean, you can eat it (almost) any way you want. But here are some of my humble suggestions:

  • If you are looking for more of a Mediterranian meal, you can eat it as I did in the featured recipe photo — with feta cheese and a scoop of Greek yogurt on the side. 
  • If a Mexican dinner is more of what you’re looking for, I recommend cheddar cheese with some sour cream and even a little salsa added to the soup. Tortilla chips are a given. 
  • The soup is pretty thick, so sometimes I even put it in a quesadilla with cheese. 
  • You can also just drink it out of a mug — I’m not saying I’ve done this, but I’m also not saying I haven’t.

Leah Mensch is the opinions editor and the staff bean czar. They have yet to find a good brand of tortillas that don’t cost a fortune. If you have suggestions, or want to talk about beans, write to them at [email protected].