This classic soup gets a makeover with easy ingredients and a hint of heat thanks to Gochujang, Korean chili paste. Canned beans and jarred roasted bell peppers ups the laziness-level of this Winter-favorite soup.
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About White Bean Soup
White Bean Soup has travelled around the World many times and is likely still traveling through massive migration. Most beans, except the fava bean, originated in South America and Mexico. When explorers found the New World, they traded goods for beans and brought them back to Europe where they were cultivated and spread further through trade.
The Native Americans prepared beans in various ways, including making soup. Before the explorers came, they made their soup in clay pots.
Europeans took the new beans for the New World and made Bean Soup. The Croatians made Grah I Verivah, a simple but flavorful bean and sausage soup. The Hungarians made a similar soup called Bab Leves, and upped the flavor profile with paprika, vinegar and sour cream.
These and other bean soups made their way back to North America with the settlers.
There are many varieties of the white bean cultivar, each having their own distinct characteristics. You can make a bean soup out of any white bean but knowing something about their characteristics can help you develop the soup you want.
Types of White Beans
Navy – A small soft bean with a mild taste that absorbs other flavors easily. They are also called Boston beans and don’t hold their shape very well when exposed to long cooking times, which is why I love to use them to thicken soups and stews. When the navy bean starts to fall apart, starches are released, thickening whatever dish you are stewing.
Cannellini – Also known as the White Kidney Bean, this larger bean holds it’s shape well and has a more assertive flavor than the Navy Bean.
Great Northern – A medium sized bean, larger and more sturdier than navy beans but smaller than cannellinis.
Lima – A variety of beans including baby lima and butter beans. This thick skinned bean holds it’s shape well and has a distinctive texture all its own. The thicker skin gives it a nice bite while the buttery, soft center has a softer mouth-feel.
Why I Love This Soup
It’s easy and relatively fast to make with lots of shortcuts. You can definitely slow down and use dried beans but I use canned beans frequently because I’m a busy person, sometimes a little too busy.
I made a lot of shortcuts here but was still able to develop many levels of flavor thanks to jarred smoked bell pepper and Korean chili paste, in addition to frying aromatics as usual.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is White Bean Soup good for you? – YES! White beans add protein, fiber and micronutrients to your soup. Add some vegetables and you have a healthy powerhouse of a soup.
- What is the thickener in bean soup? – I like to use two types of beans when I make soup. Navy beans fall apart a little bit and adds starch into your soup, thickening it naturally. You could also partially mash any bean soup to get the same effect. The earlier in your soup making process that you do this, the thicker the soup. You could also use potatoes or short-grained rice to achieve the same thing. If you are pressed for time, potato flakes work really well too, a little goes a long way though so add these slowly.
- How can I make this soup vegetarian? – Use vegetarian broth and substitute smoked paprika and butter beans for the ham.
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