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Beans and Greens Soup

Soup and cold weather go hand in hand and in the same way I like to have a salad for lunch in the summer, a big bowl of soup is my favorite winter midday meal.  I often make a huge pot of soup on Sunday and it’s usually enough for lunch for the two of us for several days, when I’ll make another kind of soup and on it goes.

I have a few favorite soups in rotation, usually alternating between a hearty lentil, black bean, or split pea soup followed by a lighter minestrone-type soup that includes one or two kinds of beans and lots of vegetables.  I rarely follow a recipe when I make soup, but prefer to let the contents of my refrigerator and pantry dictate what will go into it.

One of our go-to favorites is a spicy kale soup which I make with either white or red kidney beans.  The two ingredients that set this soup apart from other kinds of “beans and greens” soup is the inclusion of hot red pepper flakes and a generous splash of sherry.

The soup in the photograph started out as spicy kale soup — until I discovered that I was out of sherry.  (I can’t believe I let this happen, but it’s been that kind of year so far.)  To cut my losses, I added a can of diced tomatoes to round out the flavors a bit.  It turned out great and is actually a good basic “beans and greens” soup recipe that can be altered to suit what’s on hand:

(Versatile) Beans and Greens Soup

Make this soup on top of the stove or in a slow cooker and change it up using one or more of the variations listed below. For a broth use your choice of homemade or storebought or combine water with vegetable broth paste or bouillon cubes.

1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 or 2 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
6 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon salt (more or less, depending on the saltiness of your broth)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)
3 cups cooked white or red beans
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
6 to 8 cups chopped fresh kale or other dark greens

In a large pot or slow cooker, combine the onion, carrot, potatoes, broth, salt, basil, marjoram, and red pepper flakes (if using).  Add the cooked beans and tomatoes.
If using a pot on the stove: Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
If using a slow cooker: Cover and cook on High for 3 hours or Low for 6 hours.
For either method, stir in the kale and cook until tender, about 20 minutes longer.  Taste to adjust seasonings.


  • Omit the tomatoes; add up to 1/4 cup dry sherry.
  • Add sauteed sliced vegan sausage links just before serving.
  • Add fresh herbs to taste: fresh parsley and basil are good choices.
  • Use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes.
  • Use chickpeas or black beans instead of white or red beans.
  • Stir in cooked pasta, brown rice, or quinoa when ready to serve (or, if not serving all of the soup at once, place some cooked pasta or grain in each bowl and ladle soup over it) 
  • Change the flavor profile by using different herbs or spices (try a berbere spice mixture, for example) 

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