Black Bean Soup

2 hours 10 minutes Total Time
25 minutes to prep
1 hour 45 minutes to cook
6 servings

This recipe is only slightly adapted from a Cook's Illustrated recipe. The beans are cooked first with ham and other aromatic ingredients and then you make the soup. This means it is not a fast recipe, but it is pretty easy. I use more ham than the original and chipotle powder for the heat because I like the smokiness.


Adapted From: Cook's Illustrated

The original recipe called for 4 ounces of ham steak. Most ham steaks I see are about 8 ounces, so I always use that amount instead. You could skip the ham to make this vegetarian, but the ham gives the beans a lot of flavor. The beans are delicious cooked this way without making it into a soup. I also use chipotle powder instead of red pepper flakes. You can use either here. 

You can prep the vegetables for the soup while the beans are cooking. You could also start cooking the vegetables close to the end of the bean cooking time if you have a second pot. 


Ingredients with an * are listed more than once.


  • Gather and prep ingredients. You can wait to prep the soup ingredients while the beans are cooking.
    Step 0
  • Add beans, ham, bay leaves, water, and baking soda in a large pan with a cover. Bring to a boil over high heat.
    Step 1
  • Add the salt and stir. Reduce the heat to a strong simmer. Cover the pan and cook for 75 to 90 minutes until the beans are tender.
    Step 2
  • Remove the bay leaves and the ham from the beans. Save the ham and discard the bay leaves.
    Step 3
  • In a large pot or Dutch oven add the olive oil. Heat over high heat until shimmering.
    Step 4
  • Add onions, carrots, celery, and salt to hot oil. Cook over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes until vegetables are soft and starting to brown.
    Step 5
  • Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, chipotle powder, and cumin. Continue cooking for a few minutes until fragrant.
    Step 6
  • Add the chicken broth and the cooked beans with their cooking liquids to the pot. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, before reducing the heat and simmering. Simmer over low for about 30 minutes. Do not cover the pot.
    Step 7
  • While the soup is cooking, dice the ham into small pieces.
    Step 8
  • After the soup has simmered, blend some of the soup briefly to mash some of the beans and thicken the soup. I like to use an immersion blender for this. If you don't have one, you can take out two cups of the soup and blend them in a blender or food processor. Leave some beans intact. You can also process 2 cups of the soup and beans in a blender or food processor.
    Step 9
  • If the soup is too thin, you can mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with a tablespoon of water in a small bowl and add to the soup. Stir to combine and heat over high heat to boil and thicken the soup.
    Step 10
  • Add the ham to the soup. Serve with limes and sour cream.
    Step 11

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