Spicy Black Bean & Chickpea Soup

blackbean1When it comes to habanero peppers, I never seem to learn.  I always think, “Well, it’s a small pepper, and I’ll take all the seeds out – it won’t be too spicy.”   Yep.  That’s what I always say, usually about an hour or two before I’m pawing through the cupboards, looking for an additional something that will absorb a bit of the excess heat.

Tonight was no exception.  I set out to a make a spicy, but not killer-spicy, black bean soup. I rationalized, as usual, using the entire habanero pepper, and as usual ended up with something far too spicy to enjoy as soup. However, the “fix-it” manoeuvre, adding additional cooked chickpeas, produced a delicious end result with a hearty consistency and a subtle difference from traditional black bean soups.  Served with a dollop of goat cheese and some cilantro pesto, it was quite delicious and very satisfying. Yay, me, for overspicing once again!

Adapted from Caribbean Black Bean Soup, in Heirloom Beans by Rancho Gordo’s Steve Sando


Spicy Black Bean & Chickpea Soup


  • 8 oz dried black beans, rinsed and picked through (or 2, 15-oz cans of cooked black beans, rinsed)
  • filtered water
  • 1 large onion, divided
  • 1 medium head garlic, divided
  • 3 tbsp bacon grease or olive oil,divided
  • 4 large plum tomatoes, fresh, frozen or canned
  • 1 bell pepper, diced to 1/2-inch (frozen is fine)
  • 1 small orange habanero pepper, seeds removed, finely diced (wear gloves!)
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried local chile pepper, or cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 and 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • fresh goat cheese and cilantro pesto for garnish


  1. Cook the black beans.  I used an overnight soak, in cool, filtered water to cover by 2 inches, followed by about 1 hour of simmering in the soak water, with 1/2 chopped onion and 2 minced garlic cloves (remove from the head without peeling or separating the rest of the cloves) added to the pot.  I added 1 tsp of salt in the last 15 minutes of cooking time.  Depending on how much time you have, you can choose your method of soaking and cooking in the full beanpot recipe here.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Roast garlic and tomatoes. Remove the loose, outer papery peel from the remainder of the head of garlic.  Chop about 1/4 to 1/2-inch off the top,exposing the majority of the cloves.  Place the garlic in a small, ovenproof baking dish, drizzle with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil (or smear with bacon grease), and place in the oven, uncovered. (See How to Roast Garlic for a detailed description.)  Chop plum tomatoes in half and transfer to a small baking dish, sprinkle with sea salt, then drizzle with about 1/2 tbsp of olive oil or melted bacon grease.  Place in the oven with the garlic.  Roast vegetables until fragrant, softened, and beginning to caramelize, about 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  4. Drain cooked black beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Transfer the beans, with 1 cup of cooking liquid, to a medium stockpot. 
  5. Saute aromatics. While the garlic and tomatoes are roasting, chop the other 1/2 onion, bell pepper and habanero.  Heat 2 tbsp bacon grease or olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until  oil is shimmering; add vegetables, reduce heat to medium and saute’, stirring occasionally, until the onions beging to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add vegetables to the stockpot.
  6. Cook the soup. Add stock, cumin, chile powder, oregano and chickpeas to the stockpot.  Using a fork, pluck the roasted garlic flesh out from the papery skins and add to the pot (if desired, you can add any remaining oil from the garlic dish; it isvery flavorful).  Add the roasted tomatoes, with their juice.  Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook for about 15-20minutes, to allow the flavors to blend.
  7. Blend and adjust spices. Turn off the heat under the soup and allow to cool slightly. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup about halfway (leaving some chunks of vegetables and intact black beans), or, transfer half of the soup to a blender or food processor and process until smooth, then return to the soup pot.  Stir, taste, and adjust seasonings.  If the soup seems too thick at this point, you can add more of the bean cooking liquid.  If the soups is too thin for your taste, heat to a simmer and boil until the soup reduces in volume and achieves the consistency that you desire.
  8. Serve hot, garnished with a dollop of fresh goat cheese and some cilantro pesto. You could also garnish with sour cream, creme fraiche, fresh chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, or a drizzle of cilantro olive oil.

Serves 4 to 6.


  1. The original recipe calls for a jalapeno pepper in place of the habanero, a carrot in  place of the bell pepper, and no added chickpeas.
  2. The habanero pepper made this soup quite spicy; it was mellowed a bit by the addition of the chickpeas, but if you prefer a less spicy soup, stick with a jalapeno pepper instead. If you love the spice, omit the chickpeas and minimize the blending of the soup for maximum spice impact.  If you’re crazy about the heat, include the habanero seeds – but I warn you, you will end up with a soup that is more like the spiciest black bean dip ever
  3. You can source local black beans at Cayuga Pure Organics.  I have not found a local source for garbanzo beans. The soup can be made 100% local by omitting the cumin and chickpeas.  You could substitute additional black beans, or another local variety bean (Navy or Jacob’s Cattle) for the chickpeas, however, cumin is a very unique taste and difficult to substitute.  I might try adding 1 – 2 tbsp of frozen, chopped cilantro instead.
  4. The soup can be made vegetarian by substituting bacon grease with olive oil and vegetable stock for chicken stock.


In the refrigerator for about 1 week. Frozen for about 2 months.


Year-round, but mostly a cool weather dish.

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