Black Bean Soup
Liren Baker
Black Bean Soup
Photo Credit: Liren Baker
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I’ve always been mesmerized by beans. No, not the can-opener-required-goopy-cylinder-shaped mass that plops out of a can. I’m talking about raw, smooth in the hand, jewel-like beans.

They are, simply put, lovely.

Photo Credit: Liren Baker

Sadly, I find myself opting for the canned variety more often than not. Convenience, you know. I will concede, however, that there are excellent quality canned beans out there, and it is definitely a time-saver. It’s just not as romantic as dried beans.

And now you probably think I’m loopy, calling dried beans romantic.

Photo Credit: Liren Baker

Hear me out. To me, there is something special about coaxing these dried gems into something plump — in breathing life into the dormant. Leaving beans to soak means you have taken the time to plan; there is intention. And when you are making a thick and hearty Black Bean Soup, its creation requires desire.

Photo Credit: Liren Baker

Once you have the resolve to soak your beans, everything else falls into place. Cooking the soup is really simple, especially when you call upon a slow cooker. Let it do the coaxing for you – allow it to infuse the flavors of smoky bacon and vibrant vegetables to the soup. When it comes time to dip your spoon, your taste buds will be greeted by a beautiful complexity of flavor. Just as you had hoped.

Photo Credit: Liren Baker


Serves 4


  • 1 cup black beans
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme or (1 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • grated Parmesan, for garnish


Soak the beans in about 1 quart of cold water for at least six hours, or overnight. Drain and rinse the beans.

In a pot (or the insert of your slow cooker, if it is stovetop friendly), cover the beans in fresh water and bring to a boil. Drain once more.

Place the beans, carrots, onion, celery, garlic, thyme and pancetta into the pot or slow cooker insert. Cover with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil on the stovetop. Transfer to the slow cooker and let it cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Blend the soup with an immersion blender, standard blender or food processor. Work in batches, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in sherry vinegar and lemon juice. Garnish with parsley and grated Parmesan cheese before serving. Enjoy with toasty, warm bread or flatbread crisps.

Adapted from Black Bean Soup with Lemon and Sherry, The Union Square Cafe Cookbook (HarperCollins, 1994).


- Liren

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