I hesitate to even describe my Spicy Vegetarian Black Bean Soup as vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free because I worry it might take the focus away from how authentically superb it is! I’m always up for the challenge of finding ways to make my favorite vegetable soups lighter and healthier. Yet the rub is to make them naturally just as or even more flavorful without the crutch of meaty stocks, a pint of cream or a hunk of butter.
My favorite vegetarian soup trick is to make a vegetable broth base specifically for the soup I’m making by paralleling the broth and soup ingredients as much as possible. Variations on this theme are endlessly adaptable. This extra step gives a whole new level of fresh flavor canned or boxed vegetable stock just can’t offer.
Water as a base will still make a worthy soup contender, but I would strongly encourage adding the homemade black bean vegetarian soup broth to make the soup even more extraordinary.
Another trick to add depth to vegetarian soups is to add smoked paprika, smoked salt, liquid smoke, or even canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Smoked paprika comes in hot or mild – I’ve added hot to make the black bean soup a little bit spicier. Mild smoked paprika can be used to make a less spicy soup.
Now that my son is almost out of high school, my many long years of school parent participation are blessedly just about nonexistent. It’s a relief to just give money when asked and send in a couple quarts of homemade vegetarian soups whenever the parent association hosts teacher appreciation luncheons. Unlike meaty dishes which would need refrigeration, I don’t have to worry about what happens to the soup after it is dropped off in the morning.
This year the fall teacher appreciation lunch was the Friday before Halloween – so in the spirit of the holiday, I made my (orange) Cider Braised Vegetarian Roasted Butternut Squash Soup and my (blackish) Spicy Vegetarian Black Bean Soup. Both bewitching with no tricks to be found in either!
Spicy Vegetarian Black Bean Soup
Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free
1 cups dried black beans
6 cups water (or black bean vegetarian soup broth – recipe below)
1 dried bay leaf
1 Tbs olive oil
1 cup small diced yellow onion
½ cup small diced carrot
½ cup small diced celery
2 green chile peppers, small dice (poblano or Anaheim) OR 3 Tbs green chile sauce
½ cup small diced red pepper
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp kosher salt
1 cup crushed fire roasted tomatoes
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
2 tsp dried cumin
1 tsp dried coriander
½ tsp hot smoked paprika (or ½ tsp cayenne pepper or ½ tsp chile powder, or ½ tsp Tabasco sauce)
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup dry white wine (vegan wine if making vegan soup)
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
¼ cup fresh lime juice
½ cup chopped scallions
1 avocado, diced mixed with 1 tsp lime juice or sherry vinegar
1 mango, diced
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
Rinse and drain beans. Add to large pot with bay leaf and water or black bean vegetarian soup broth.
Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes until softened.
In separate pan, over medium heat warm olive oil then sauté onion, carrot, celery, chile pepper, red pepper and salt until slightly soft, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add to pot with beans, water and bay leaves along with tomatoes, vinegar, spices, orange juice and wine
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook one hour until beans are soft but still hold shape. Add more water if needed to make sure liquid covers soup ingredients by ½”.
Turn off heat, remove bay leaf and let soup cool to room temperature.
Puree 2 cups of soup until smooth and return to pot. Add cilantro and lime. Add salt to taste or water for consistency.
Garnish as desired.
Black Bean Vegetarian Soup Broth
(use instead of water as base for soup)
8 cups filtered water
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped carrot
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped red pepper
1 small hot green chile (jalapeno or Serrano)
½ cup chopped cilantro stems
½ lime, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 tsp whole cumin seed, slightly crushed with flat side of knife
½ tsp whole coriander seed, slightly crushed with flat side of knife
In large pot bring all ingredients to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing solids to extract as much flavor as possible.