Black Bean Soup with Avocado Salsa

October 3, 2012

To say we have been eating a lot of Mexican food in our new city would be an understatement.  We ate a lot of Mexican food in Seattle but most of it was coming out of my kitchen.  All four of us love it and it is a very veg friendly cuisine.  We knew a move to Northern California would greatly improve our Mexican dining choices and we have not been disappointed.  Mostly we have stuck to kid friendly and quick places, not the fancier ones, but every place we’ve tried has been terrific.

This bounty has not stopped me from continuing to make Mexican food at home.  Actually, I’m not sure this soup can really be called Mexican food because it comes from a British cookbook.  But there are beans and there is a salsa you put on top.  Close enough, right?

There is a time and a place for canned beans which, in my kitchen, is much of the time.  This is not one of those times.  If you wake up on the morning you plan to make this soup and realized you forgot to soak the dried beans overnight, do not despair!  Dried beans benefit from a soak of any length, even if it is just a few hours.  I have never needed to cook any bean more than an hour maybealittlemore, despite what packaging and recipes will tell you.  I will say that buying good beans from a reputable place means that they will be fresher and will take less time to cook.   I will also say be sure to taste your beans to make sure they are cooked through because no one likes a chalky bean.  I will also say (it’s public service announcement day – did you know?) that “don’t salt your beans until they are cooked through otherwise they turn out tough” is an old wives’ tale.  Like most things, beans need salt.

Oh, but how about that soup?  Warm, nourishing, a bit spicy, super good for you.  That is all well and good.  The salsa and garnishes make it into a meal so make sure you have something to put on top.  If you don’t want to take the extra step to make the salsa, just serve it with store-bought salsa, chopped avocados, and plenty of lime and cilantro.  Cheese is nice too.

One Year Ago:  Mexican Chocolate Cake, Pizza with Corn, Chantarelles, and Cilantro
Two Years Ago:  Braised Purple Cabbage with Apples, Pecan Molasses Bundt Cake with Bourbon Glaze
Three Years Ago:  Carrot Soup with Ginger and Lemon, Buckwheat Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms, Holly B’s Peanut Butter Brownies
Four Years Ago:  Dimply Plum Cake

Black Bean Soup with Avocado Salsa
Adapted from Plenty (not Ottolenghi’s book)
Serves 4-6

The cilantro stems is not a misprint.  Cilantro stems have a lot of flavor and are sturdy enough to stand up to a long cook.  You will be blending the soup, so they will disappear.  Save the leaves and use them to garnish the soup.

1½ cups dried black beans
Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
Stems from ½ a bunch of cilantro
1 small red or green chile, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp. ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock (you can use water)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lime, plus additional slices for serving

Cover the beans with cold water and leave to soak overnight (or for as long as you can).  Drain and rinse.

Place a soup pot over medium heat.  Pour in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot, then add the onion, carrot, celery, cilantro stems, and chile.  Also sprinkle in a pinch of salt.  Sauté until the onions browns a bit and the other vegetables are softening, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the cumin, and the garlic and cook for another two minutes.  Stir in the beans, then pour in the stock or water.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for about an hour, or until the beans are tender.  Taste one to make sure.  Add lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper.

Carefully purée the soup either using an immersion blender or a regular one.  You can also use a food processor.  The soup should still have a lot of texture but make sure the cilantro stems are puréed.  Serve garnished with the avocado salsa, crumbles of cheese (Cotija is nice), cilantro leaves, and limes slices on the side.  Sour cream too, if you roll that way.

Avocado Salsa

1 garlic clove
½ tsp. kosher salt
8 ounces fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 avocados, diced
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 scallions, sliced
1 fresh chile, minced
Juice of 1 lime
½ cup chopped cilantro leaves
Tabasco to taste

Place the garlic clove on a cutting board and chop it coarsely.  Sprinkle with the kosher salt.  Using the flat side of a knife, grind the salt into the garlic, using back and forth motions, until you have a paste.  Scrape this paste off the board and put in a bowl.  Add the rest of the salsa ingredients and stir to combine.  Allow to sit for at least half an hour so the flavors can meld.



  1. Big black bean fans. I make something similar using pinto beans – it is our “I am starving, what is for lunch” meal! Love the avocado salsa on this dish!!

    Comment by Denise — October 4, 2012 @ 3:25 am

  2. What a beautiful recipe!

    Comment by Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar — October 4, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

  3. My college roommate was from the west coast and she absolutely REFUSED to eat any Mexican food in the northeast because she swore it just wouldn’t be good. I thought she was crazy until I went to SF…and now I agree. This soup looks fabulous! I love how fresh flavored it is while still being hearty.

    Comment by Joanne — October 4, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

  4. looks so gorgeous. It sounds boring, but I think black beans are my favorite of the beans. I’ve gotten in the habit of making black bean and rice veggie patties to have on hand, but a nice soup like this would be a welcomed change. The garnish is just so lovely.

    Comment by sara — October 4, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

  5. Gosh this looks yummy. And protein rich and I can’t wait to make it.

    Erin –

    Comment by Erin — October 5, 2012 @ 12:14 am

  6. I could probably live on Mexican Food!!
    Love this soup. I bet its scrumptious and ultra filling!

    Comment by leslie — October 8, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

  7. These are pretty much all my favorite ingredients in one simple dish. I’m really excited to try this out soon, thanks!

    Comment by Emily : — October 8, 2012 @ 11:58 pm

  8. Oh! I love that you soak the beans but then cook them in the soup. It’s finally supposed to cool down this week in SoCal and I’ve been waiting for soup weather. I will definitely be soaking beans tonight in anticipation.

    Comment by Stacy — October 9, 2012 @ 10:30 pm

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