Rustic Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup + How to Cook Beans

Who needs a solid warm-up? Yup, right here. It’s still winter.
To combat the never-ending chilly-ness, I have been living on soups. Easy-to-make, filling, nourishing, warming, and inexpensive – a big pot of hot lovin’ is the ideal way to make it through these last winter days.

This black bean soup is a favorite recipe of mine. I made it up on day at work, last winter I believe, and it was a real winner with the customers and the staff. The beans make it hearty and incredibly satisfying, and the vegetable ingredients are flexible – really just use what you have on hand.

The secret to this soup however, is cooking the beans from scratch. Yup, I said it. It’s time people.
Cooking beans from dried is a lot easier than you think. For some reason, everyone seems to be thrown off by the whole ‘soaking’ thing, and the idea that they may have to think about cooking something in the near future as opposed to whipping up a dish spontaneously. I get that. But the all-of-15-seconds it takes to put dried beans in a bowl and cover with water is about as difficult as velcroing your shoes. Ugh! Followed closely by the agonizing task of filling a pot with water and turning the heat on. I know, it’s a lot.
Can we get over this silliness? Thanks.

I’ve come up with a list that should further help to inform (convince) you that dried beans are your friends, because I really feel strongly about these little guys.

1. Cost – has anyone noticed how expensive canned beans are?! I mean, it’s kinda crazy. I think the number one reason to use dried beans in place of canned ones is the amount of money you’ll save. It’s like a bean sale everyday of the year – five for the price of one.
2. Health – dried beans are healthier because you cook them yourself and control exactly what goes in them. They are not sitting in can-captivity with ridiculously high levels of sodium, additives like calcium chloride, and the potential of being exposed to bisphenol A (BPA) through the can lining. Ever read the ingredients on a bag of dried beans? Beans.
3. Taste – honestly, once you cook your own beans, you’ll never go back to canned ones – you’ve been warned. The flavour and texture of home-cooked beans is light years beyond anything that has been sitting in a tin for months (or years). And instead of the completely mushy consistency that we often associate with beans (no wonder kids hate them!), dried beans cook up to a wide range of textures from al dente (for salads) to well-done (for soups and dips), depending on what you’re going to use them for.
4. Less waste – for the amount of food you get from a can of beans, the waste is huge. By purchasing dried beans you are doing a great service to the environment, as there is no mining for metal involved, no tree cutting or paper milling, no toxic inks, and no energy for recycling.
5. Variety – it is pretty difficult to find a can of Christmas Lima beans at the grocery store, isn’t it? How about Flageolets? Anasazi? Lupini? The beauty of buying dried beans is the enormous selection you’ll find! A whole world of legumes will be open to you and your lucky palette. Chickpeas, I still love you, but Jackson Wonders and Steuben Yellows got ya’ beat.

Cooking black beans from dried
Ingredients:
2 cups dried black beans
6 cups water
2 Tbsp. sea salt (optional)

Directions:
1. Place black beans and plenty of clean water in a large bowl and let soak overnight, or for at least 8 hours (Sarah B. tip: if it’s a workday, soak in the morning before going to work; if it’s the weekend, soak them before going to bed at night).
2. After soaking, drain and rinse the beans very well, making sure to remove any stones or debris that may have slipped into the batch.
3. Place beans and 6 cups clean water into a large pot. With the heat on high, bring beans to a boil, then reduce to simmer. At this point, there may be some foam that sits on top of the water– remove it with a slotted spoon.
4. Cook beans just until tender (this will vary greatly on your own beans, but for black beans you’re looking at approximately 40-45 minutes. The good news is, for this soup it doesn’t really matter how long you cook them for, as you will be pureeing a portion of them anyway.) Add salt and let beans sit in the salty water bath for another 10.
5. Remove beans from stove and drain with a bowl underneath the sieve to catch the cooking liquid (this is an important step for the soup).

Yay! You just cooked beans.

Note: this is the method for most bean cooking, with slight variations in cooking time depending on the bean variety. You can add salt if you like, but it’s not totally necessary. I find that if I am cooking beans for a salad for instance, it’s a very important step, as the beans won’t taste of much individually if they are not salted during cooking. In a soup or dip, you can season to taste at the end.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
4 cups cooked black beans (from 2 cups dried)
4 cups cooking liquid or vegetable broth
1 large red onion
3 leeks
8 cloves garlic
1 large sweet potato
4 carrots
½ head of celeriac (celery root)
2 Tbsp. ghee/oil of your choice
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground corriander
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. crushed chilies
3 large tomatoes, diced or 1 small can tomatoes (14.5 oz / 400 gr.)
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. olive oil
sea salt
cilantro

Directions:
1. Heat ghee/oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add spices. Stir until fragrant.
2. Add chopped onion, leek, and salt. Cook for a few minutes until vegetables begin to wilt a bit. Add garlic, the rest of the chopped vegetables and tomatoes. Stir occasionally.
3. Using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor, puree 2 cups of the cooked beans (approx. half the total amount) with 4 cups of the reserved cooking liquid (or vegetable broth). Add this liquid to the pot of vegetables along with the remaining whole, cooked black beans.
4. Simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
5. Season to taste. Add the juice of 1 lemon, olive oil, maple syrup, and cilantro.
6. Serve immediately with a drizzle of cold-pressed olive oil, cilantro, and a chunk of cornbread (this recipe is wonderful!) Store leftovers in the fridge; freezes well.
(p.s. this is even better the next day.)

I hope that this soup gives you a very good excuse to try cooking beans from dried sometime in the near future. It really is incredibly simple, and I feel one of those satisfying culinary activities that perhaps takes you one step out of your comfort zone, but certainly one step closer to your food.

Copyright 2012 My New Roots

101 comments

  1. Andrea

    Great recipe!

    And a slightly unrelated question: you mentioned a while back you wwoof’ed in Northern California for a while. I’m toying with the idea of doing the same thing. Which farm(s) did you go to and do you have any recommendations? My email is [email protected]! Thanks so much, Sarah… your blog is one of my favourite websites and I visit all the time!!

  2. Julie the Alkaline Sister

    I cooked dried chick peas last week and they are sooo yummy… just like candy for snacking. I couldn’t stop thinking of things to put them in from pasta, to salad, to soup, it went on and on til they were gone. Need to cook some more or try another variety. Love your shots!

  3. janet

    I am totally with you on cooking beans from scratch… most importantly, they taste way better, which is how I became hooked. :)

    I just returned from NYC where I picked up tons of heirloom beans… Jackson Wonder, Tepari, Tongues of Fire, Christmas Lima, Jumbo Lupini, Anasaki, oodles, I tell you. I look forward to any recipes with those beans as well. :)

  4. Bethany ~ Sustainable Food For Thought

    I truly love your posts. I drop in from time to time to see what’s new, and without fail I am inspired by your lovely photos and recipes. Best wishes as you continue your work! And congratulations on the new bilingual blogging venture~

    I’ve been soaking and cooking beans this past year, and I too am glad to reduce waste and save dimes.

    Cheers,
    Bethany

  5. Monique

    Looks delicious! You may have officially converted me to dried beans. I always used canned beans to save time, but your points about cost and health are very convincing. I will definitely give them a try. Thanks!

  6. A Life Unhurried

    I agree — cooked dried beans and legumes are so much better. After preparing hummous with soaked chickpeas, I tried it with canned ones and very much tasted the difference. It still feels winter-ish here in Winchester, England too, so soup remains a go-to meal. Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe! -Grace

  7. Mélodie

    Hello, I’m french and I discovered your blog thanks to Flo Makanai and Laurine Heinrich…
    I made the soup yesterday and was pretty impressed by the black color of the bean :-) It’s delicious and I’m glad to have made enough for the lunch box today ! Thank you !

  8. katie-anne

    I haven’t made this soup yet, but *finally* ventured into the land of cooking beans from scratch yesterday thanks to your instructions … and they were mmm-delicious!

    I’m curious if you ever soak + cook extra beans and freeze them for later. i’ve heard of people doing this, but am not sure when in the process would be the best time to freeze [after soaking? cooking?] thanks for any tips you have.

    • elle ruffner

      hi there… i cook and freeze beans ALL the time… i love going out to the freezer and perusing through my jars of frozen treats… i make a lot of different stews, chilis, spreads, and soups and use many different varieties of beans in my recipes… having the beans pre-cooked and in the freezer is real time saver for me! good luck!

  9. Tiffany from HOLIDAY

    I reposted (and linked back to you) this recipe on my blog. You inspired me and another to soak beans overnight instead of using canned. THANK YOU! Why it took me so long I will never know. But now I can never look back. She tried the soup and loved it and I hope to make it soon.

  10. Sara

    Hi Sarah!

    I have a quick question about beans: I often cook more than I end up needing, and would love to freeze some. I would generally prefer to freeze them before cooking, but after soaking (just seems easier than waiting for them to cool, etc.) Do you prefer any particular method?

    Thanks again for all of your lovely recipes and advice! As I type this, I am devouring a bowl of this soup, and it is delish!

  11. Sarah B

    Hi Sara – just freeze the beans after cooking in a zipper freezer bag, removing as much air as possible.

    So happy you are enjoying the blog and the soup!

    Peace, Sarah B

  12. Olga

    Hi Sarah,

    It’s still cold in Stockholm. ANd it has rained a lot lately. So despite a long-awaited spring I am going warm soup!

    No, really, this was maybe the best soup I ever cooked. I would never believe it just from a list of ingredients, it seems like I’ve used them all lots of times. But this soup is unbelievable! To my mind, it’s cinnamon which makes its part.
    Advise to all to never exclude cinnamon from this recipe.

    Thanks again!

  13. Dani

    Hi Sarah, I was wondering what you think about the quick soak method for beans (boiling them for 2 minutes and let them sit for about an hour) if you are in a rush – especially considering the nutrition value, will it have the same effect?

    Many thanks!
    Dani

  14. Anonymous

    Hi Sarah,
    I just discovered your blog through Pinterest, and can’t wait to try many of your delectable recipes!
    A question about cooking beans: Every time I’ve cooked my own black beans, nearly all of the beans have split in half, and they taste almost…metallic? Not sure how to describe it, but they don’t taste yummy and creamy like canned beans! And since so many break in half during the cooking process, I’m left with a hot mess that doesn’t work for throwing on salads or in salsas. What might I be doing wrong?
    I’d appreciate any feedback you can give me!
    Kristin

  15. Anonymous

    I can’t wait to try this soup! Do you have to cook the sweet potato beforehand or you just peel, cube and throw in with the other veggies? Thanks! -KB

  16. Jenjin

    Can’t wait to try this soup! I purchased a large pressure cooker a few months ago, primarily for cooking beans. It makes it so much easier – I never wind up with a burned mess. I highly recommend one to everyone.

  17. Brenna

    I’ve been meaning and meaning and meaning to cook my beans from dried for years now but it’s always been one of those things I had never gotten around to doing, even though I knew it was completely silly of me not to.
    I’m stupidly excited to announce that today is the big day! My beans are now soaking and I’m going to use dried beans for the first time, woohoo! Thanks for giving me that extra push to start doing it. Your blog is great!

  18. Hubert

    I didn’t get the cilantro and used a parsnip instead of the celery.
    But it is still a really great antidot for my winter blues just like the wonderful soup with beans and kale. Tomorrow I’ll have to make these corn muffins.
    I’m very glad I found this website.

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  20. Jenny

    I made this soup recently and it was SO bland. I couldn’t believe it. I followed all the instructions but it just came out tasting meh…edible, but not flavourful at all. Kind of disappointed – any suggestion on how to make the leftovers taste better?

    • Laura

      I know you posted several months ago, but here’s my 2 cents regarding your question:
      I haven’t tried this particular recipe yet, but I did notice that in my black bean soup it’s very flavorful if I use vegetable broth/stock for the liquid, but very bland if I use water (my recipe calls for either). It really makes a HUGE difference. I would try using 4 cups of vegetable broth/stock in place of the 4 cups of bean cooking liquid that this recipe calls for. It just might do the trick.

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  22. Therese Jenee

    I love your recipes and beautiful pictures! Do you have anti inflammatory recipes or suggestions ?

    Thankyou
    Therese Jenee’

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  25. Kathy K

    Sarah, Thanks so much for another wonderful recipe. I’ve also had trouble with dried beans splitting while cooking (which is why I usually stick with lentils, a favorite). Am I over-cooking them or might they be old? Also, I assume that I cook them uncovered and test them occasionally. Correct? (I have a bag of “Good Mother Stallard” beans just waiting to be used in a stew.)

  26. Jacqui

    I have soaking and cooking my own beans since I was sixteen. Two grandchildren later I’m still doing it. Being of Puerto Rican descent it would be blasphemy to open up a can of beans.

  27. laila

    I have experience in cooking beans, My favorite is Navy bean soup. This recipe sound delish. I would like to try it in a slow cooker. How would you adjust the recipe to cook it in a crockpot?

  28. elle ruffner

    i love my pressure cooker!… there are days when i really just want beans for dinner or need beans for a particular recipe, but forgot to soak them overnight… the pressure cooker method is so simple: boil beans for 5 minutes, allow them to sit and soak in the boiled water for an hour… cook the legumes per the pressure cooker instructions.. most regular beans (pinto, cannellini, kidney, garbanzo) cook perfectly in about 10-12 minutes.. then cool the cooker the natural method… you can add all sorts of spices and veggies to build flavors… just sayin’, either method and you can make some great meals!

  29. charles

    Just read your yahoo diatribe against canned beans. Spot on, but I make one exception. Ranch style beans by ConAgra. I never eat them as a course, but they are superior for blending and using as a refried component in Tex Mex.

    The savings of time and spices makes it a win win.

    Also note that if you want to grow your own beans, just go to the grocery store and pick your favorite beans. Hundreds of times cheaper than a seed seller. (if you have a local Whole Foods, you just hit the jackpot) Propagation information is freely available on the internet, or better yet contact your local agricultural extension agent.

    One note on growing beans: bugs love beans. Virtually all pests to beans are crawlers. A gound dusting of Sevin on top of mulching does wonders. The only pets I think would have a problem with Sevin is fish and turtles. Sevin is completely non-toxic to any warm blooded critter.

  30. Michele

    What is your thought on soaking beans in Apple Cider Vinegar for 24 hours? I’ve been told this helps to prevent GI upset with the beans, by starting the digestive process, breaking down the hard to digest outer part of the beans.
    Also, do you have a equation for of how much dried beans equal cooked beans? I’m at a loss for how much dry to prepare for a recipe that calls for a certain number of canned beans.
    Thank you for response.

    • Lisa

      So glad you asked that question!! I’ve been scrolling through the comments hoping someone already asked the dried vs canned conversion equation question! I recently started cooking more healthy meals (no wheat, less sweets) and I’ve been looking for interesting soup recipes. This one combines 2 of my favorites!!. Dried beans have just been added to my grocery list and I’ve bookmarked your website!

  31. lynnita

    Can you please say how many people the recipe serves. For instance, the black beans with sweet potatoe?

    Thank You,
    Lynnita Ellis

  32. maria mavridis

    I make a different kind of (dried) bean soup 2 – 3 times a week as they are very nourishing and healthy for you. Occasionally, and only when I make chili, I use canned kidney beans.

  33. Grandiepibber

    My resolution for 2014 is to eat more beans. I will start with your Black Bean soup recipe using dry beans which I have never done. Wish me luck!

  34. Rich Matthews

    You don’t have to soak the beans overnight. Just check little more frequently and add water as needed.

    Rich

  35. Patt Angeli

    How to Get Rid of the Gas. After soaking the beans, cook in water & bring to a boil for 10 min. Drain liquid & rinse the beans. Return to pot, add whatever cooking liquid you prefer and cook until tender. NO GAS, honest. Have been cooking dried pinto beans for my dog for 6 years. She never has flatulence and neither do I when I eat beans cooked this way.

  36. Susan Chamberlain

    Please send me a copy of this black bean sweet potato soup & the My New Roots sent to my e-mail inbox.
    Thank You!

  37. Janet Dickerman

    Did I miss the part about when to add the spices? (Cumin, coriander, cinnamon) I guess maybe just add them at the end?

    • Beth

      I always had a lot of trouble cooking beans until I got the tip to add some baking soda to the water. Our water is so hard that without it, the beans never really got soft, no matter how long I cooked them.

      Thanks for the nice recipe, can’t wait to try it.

  38. Linda Fortner

    How do I get to your website. I want to see all of your old and new recipes and go to your blog regularly. 71 years old and love to cook. Where is best place to get best heirloom beans, I want a variety of good unusual ones unable to find in stores!
    Thanks so much~

  39. gidget

    Thanks!! I love soups!

    1 things that comes to my mind … canned tomatoes when the title of the article is “Just Say No to Canned Beans”

    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Gidget – the recipe calls for fresh or canned tomatoes. Obviously fresh are better, but canned ones are fine during the winter months, especially if they are your own tomatoes!

  40. Sharon Stephens

    I have beans soaking in a pan at home right now so your post really caught my eye! I am going to try the Black Bean and Sweat Potato Soup soon. I’m putting it in my recipe box for future use.
    I am surprised after reading your article about the distasteful additives you get with canned beans that you would suggest canned tomatoes in your recipe! The acidity of tomatoes makes using canned ones even worse.

  41. Mary

    This recipe is missing steps 3 an 4. I can probably figure it out, but it would be nice to have all the cooking instructions….like are the sweet potato and carrots cooked for a while to soften?

  42. Carrie in Texas

    Thank you so much for giving me the nudge to try cooking beans again. I grew up with beans as a staple my Mom made. Not had much luck cooking them in my crock pot but will make your recipe today, beans already soaking. I’ve been a canned bean buyer and didn’t realize the lining could release that crud into my food! No more canned for me! The recipe looks awesome, can’t wait to eat it! Cheers!

  43. Nancy

    I have a quicker method for soaking beans. I put them in a pot with water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 45 minutes then cook for the required time. It works great every time!

  44. Katharine

    I read somewhere that you should add salt to beans after they’ve been cooked – if you add the salt while they’re cooking, they can become tough. Comments?

  45. Lucy Chambers

    I am a bean lover, because they are very rich in Magnezium and potassium and they keep my charlie- horse away. If I eat Ripe bananas instead, charlie-horse hooks me up at nights.

    Thank you very much, I shall be giving this recipe to my vegan friends.

  46. tracy

    My understanding is that you should never add salt to the cooking beans – it will halt or severely slow the cooking process. Is this true? I know you don’t say to put salt in the cooking water until after the beans are done, but you don’t warn people about adding salt too soon. Can you clarify??

  47. Carol

    Your pictures are all so beautiful. My Doc has been pestering me to go vegan. I am starting to add some vegan recipes to my menu and to reduce meat volume in other recipes. You have just helped in the process. Thank you. And by the way you are very amusing. I wish someone had told my granddaughters they might have to actually cook someday.

  48. Carol

    Your pictures are beautiful. I like the recipe. Will be making this one. My Doc has been pestering me to go vegan. I am working on it. You just helped. Thank You.
    I wish someone had told my grandchildren that they might have to cook some day LOL

  49. Linda

    I always cook my beans in a crock pot.

    I soak them the night before. The next morning I rinse them and put them in a crockpot with a couple bay leaves and enough water to cover by a couple inches (beans that have been pre-soaked don’t absorb that much additional water).

    I plug my crock pot into a light timer (the kind you use to turn your lights on and off when you’re on vacation) programmed to turn on at 3 or 4 pm, depending on the type of bean, and voila! cooked beans when I get home from work!

  50. JOHN GERSCHICK

    Hello,
    You may have proved you know beans. But you know nothing about wasting paper. I tried to print your recipes and stopped at 15 pages of garbage. Thanks for the scratch paper collection.

  51. V.V.

    Tried this recipe today and was a hit at my house. The local store was out of leek, so I added beet root leaves instead, because I wanted something green in it.

  52. Cari

    This looks awesome ! About the leeks, do we use the green as well or only the bulb white portions?
    Thanks so much !

  53. ASJ

    Talking about saving energy,
    Im surprised you don’t pre-boil the water that you then use to cook the beans in.Saves the precious Mother Earth lots of energy.
    Maybe something you should start teaching yr readers too about!
    Also is it really necessary Wth so much sweetness? I noticed that you often use syrap in many yr recipes even whn they’re not desserts. Is it always necessary?
    I’ve always loved cooking my own food (from scratch)& just had to comment on this one.

  54. Karen Witek

    Just finished a bowl of the Rustic Black Bean & Sweet Potato Soup. The flavors are amazing! But, the black beans that I left whole are still very hard & takes away from the texture of the soup. I followed the recipe for soaking, cooking the beans. Also I simmered the soup with all the ingredients much longer then stated in the recipe. Do you have any thoughts on this issue with the beans. I have used dried beans before but not black beans. That’s why when I saw this recipe I immediately shopped for the ingredients and began cooking. Thank you!

  55. Janice Ryalls

    Just discovered your website last month and am having a lot of fun trying your recipes! My husband’s comment on this wonderful soup after his first bite, was “This is amazing!” which totally delighted me. I’ve made it twice now in a couple weeks and shared it with my co-workers and friends. Finished the leftovers off tonight by pouring the soup over your brown rice & lentil recipe from your Winter Abundance Bowl (which we loved too). It was a great way to finish the soup off! Fabulous.

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