Smoky Black Bean Soup

We’re having truly New England weather today: daylight savings is barely 24 hours old, yet I woke up to dim, grey skies, a blustery Northeast wind (I keep expecting to see a witch fly by on a bicycle) and big, fat snowflakes. Followed rapidly by sleet. Or hail. Or freezing rain. Or all of the above (or my favorite weather euphemism “wintry mix.”). There is really only one thing to do when November is still in single digits, yet you wake up to 34 degrees and snowflakes: black bean soup.

This soup started off in my head as this black bean version from Smitten Kitchen, but seeing as I was missing most of the main ingredients (Well, that’s not exactly true; I do have green & red bell peppers in the chest freezer. In the garage. Outside. Did I mention the snow/sleet/freezing rain?) it quickly morphed into something else entirely. Tomatillos that have been lingering since the last day of the CSA weeks ago <sniff>, banana peppers from Holbrook Farm that were supposed to be pickled weeks ago (oops), onion, shallot and carrots combined in a big pile of aromatics that smelled irresistable sautéing in bacon fat. Add garlic, lots of cumin (there’s the nod to the Smitten recipe), water & black beans and you have the basis for a fabulous lunch.  Add some jalapeno cornbread and you might, just might, start believing that Fall is not over after all.

Not your black bean mood? Check out Spicy Black Bean & Chickpea Soup or Black Bean Vegetable Soup.

Smoky Black Bean Soup


  • 1 tbsp bacon grease or olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion (4 oz), chopped
  • 1 large shallot (2 oz) minced
  • 2 medium carrots (4 oz) chopped
  • 8 oz tomatillos, husked, washed and chopped
  • 4 (8 oz) mild banana peppers, stemmed, seeded, chopped
  • 2 small jalapeno peppers, seeded & minced
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 6 cups filtered water
  • 1 lb dried black beans, rinsed & picked through (I used Rancho Gordo Midnight)
  • 2 and ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 and ¼ tsp smoked paprika, plus additional for garnish
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced, or sour cream, plain yogurt, or smoked cheddar for garnish


  1. Heat grease or oil until shimmering, but not smoking, over medium heat in a 4-quart stockpot or Dutch oven. Add onion, shallot, carrots, tomatillos, banana and jalapeno peppers. Reduce heat and sauté , stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and coriander; stir well and cook for 1 minute. Add water and black beans; stir, raise heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until beans are tender and just beginning to crack, about 2 – 3 hours.
  2. Add salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Partially blend soup with an immersion blender (or remove about half of the soup to a blender or food processor) for a chunky consistency; continue blending if you prefer a smooth soup. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot, garnished with cheese, sour cream or yogurt, plus an extra dash or two of smoked paprika.

Serves 4 – 6.


  1. Orginally I had in mind a garnish with fresh cilantro and maybe some salsa verde. The smoked paprika took the soup in a different direction, so the ground coriander is probably not contributing much. You could easily eliminate it.
  2. Bacon grease compliments the bacony flavor of smoked paprika and enhances the smoky flavor of the soup. Of course, for a vegetarian version, you can substitute olive oil; for a vegan version, eliminate the cheese garnish; I would go with a dash of flavored olive oil, toasted pepitas and smoked paprika.
  3. Roasting the tomatillos first would have added even more smoky flavor to the soup (I was just too lazy to do it).


Refrigerated, for up to 5 days. The soup will thicken over time; served over rice or mashed potatoes, it’s a one-bowl meal!


Cold, blustery, please-don’t-tell-me-fall-is-over season.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: