Blender Buddy Optional, But Recommended

September 17, 2008

Midway through making this soup, I thought about giving up: throwing in the towel and tipping the entire pot into the trash.  Let me explain.  First, I’m not crazy about black bean soup to begin with.  I always get the feeling I’m spooning something that is meant to be scooped up with a salty tortilla chip.  Something made for dunking, not slurping.  But I found a recipe that looked hopeful (because (a) it included chipotle chili powder, which I happen to adore, and (b) it included canned tomatoes, which promised to remove the soup from the chips-n-dip category, and (c) called for bacon, which is all I will say about that) and took a chance.

And, then, halfway through, the pot looked like chili.  Identical, in fact, to the chili I made while we were in Canada.  And while that chili was very good, if I’d wanted chili, I would’ve made chili.  And I got to thinking that a ruined dinner, or even just a so-so dinner, was no way to start a week—which is always how I feel about Sunday night: on the verge of a brand new week, with no idea how exactly it will unfold.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

Rather miffed with the soup and in a very I-can-still-save-the-week-if-only-we-just-order-pizza mood, I thought about scrapping it.  But then, Kevin—who I kindly spared this lengthy inner monologue (sorry, dear readers, that I have not done the same for you)—mosied into the kitchen and asked if it was time to blend the soup.  But what he was really asking was if he could blend the soup.  I could see it in his eyes.

Not wanting to rob him of that simple pleasure (really, there are few toys in the kitchen more fun than the blender, no?), I decided to give the soup one last chance.  We’d blend it up and then judge.  You should also know that in this time, my standards for the soup had ratcheted up a few notches.  I was not hopeful that the soup would survive the taste test.

Post-blend, the soup was looking much better.  Very un-chili, and also thick and velvety, flecked with tiny specks of bean skins and slightly twinged with a deep red (from the tomatoes, I’m guessing).  But, still, I was skeptical (see the opening paragraph above re: my general thoughts on black bean soup).

Post-taste-test, I was sold.  Actually, sold doesn’t cover it.  The soup—after only one spoonful—was a clear winner, a keeper.  I’d even go so far as to deem it a humdinger.  It was smoky with a spicy kick that sneaks up on you a bit, not to mention smooth and satisfying.  The kind of soup that warms you up right down to your toes.  But it’s apparently not for pessimists or quitters, no sir.  You must approach this recipe with commitment and perseverance—and, if possible, a blender buddy.

Black-Bean Tomato Soup
Adapted from Cooking Light

2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1 small)
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (or homemade)
Garnishes: sour cream, slivered scallions, lime wedges, cilantro leaves, tortilla chips

Cook bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in pan; set bacon aside.

Add onion and celery to pan; cook 5 minutes or until celery is tender. Stir in 2 teaspoons cumin, chile powder, and garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in bacon, pepper, beans, tomatoes, and broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

Place half of bean mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining bean mixture; process until smooth.

Serve with the garnishes.

26 Responses to “Blender Buddy Optional, But Recommended”

  1. GS Says:

    I just might try this recipe! It uses things I have in the pantry and it seems quite simple to make. By the way, I tried Black Bottom Cupcakes…BIG hit at my house. My husband sends his heartfelt thanks for that particular recipe!

  2. Kari Says:

    This looks great! I need to put my immersion blender to use. Your photograph is gorgeous as always. It is interesting to see the progression of the soup.

  3. jf Says:

    what do you think you can use for flavor instead of bacon-a vegetarian alternative if possible.
    i love black bean soup, this looks yummo.

  4. sammyw Says:

    Looks really yummy & love the presentation!

  5. Dawn Says:

    jf – see if your local grocer carries “Smart Bacon” (slices) or “Frontier Organic Bac’uns” (bits). I know from personal experience that the Smart Bacon is pretty darn tasty, and the Bac’uns have gotten good on-line reviews. I’m not vegetarian, but I have a lot of friends who are. 🙂 I was also thinking that a few drops of liquid smoke might work for flavoring the soup…you could get the “crunch” factor from crumbled tortilla chips.

  6. Feng Says:

    Your photos are absolutely gorgeous and your blog entries are so fun to read as well. Thanks for the food porn! 🙂

  7. michelle Says:

    i *lurve* black bean soup. no tomatoes, plenty of cumin, coconut milk, yum. but a recipe with bacon, that i could get behind too.

  8. lstelzer Says:

    Hi Kristen, I just found your blog while I was looking for a granola bar recipe (trying it tonight!), and I love it. Beautiful photos, and I love the way your write about food. I saw you are starting in a law firm soon… so your occupation does not have to do with food? I am interested, since I am not employed within a million miles of food (computers for me), but food is totally my passion. I am thinking of starting a blog soon, but just don’t know how to start. I would appreciate any advice! In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy your posts… Thank you!

  9. holler Says:

    That just sounds great (hold the bacon for me)! I will have to try some of this. I will look out for chipotle chile powder.

  10. vanessa Says:

    this looks fantastic. i have a suggestion though if you don’t want to deal with having to blend the soup – you can add some tomato paste or about 3 ounces of tomato paste to still get that tomato flavor and keep that smooth texture. usually when i fix something like this, i like to do a sofrito of minced pepper, onions, garlic and cilantro and then add the beans and then deglaze with either some stock or water. I’d keep the same seasonings you used though. If you don’t feel like using black beans, another great option is some light pink beans and maybe add some diced butternut squash to give it some body and added flavor. Add some white rice and plantains and you’ve got yourself a meal.

  11. GS: I’m glad you liked the black bottom cupcakes! Actually, both that recipe and this one are full of pantry staples (and quick!).

    Kari: I usually jump at the chance to put my immersion blender to work, but for this recipe I wanted a totally, 100% smooth texture and the normal blender worked better. But for a more rustic, mostly smooth result, the immersion blender would be great.

    jf: Others gave great suggestions for alternatives, but I actually think you’d be fine to just go without the bacon. You would need to use a different fat (I think olive oil would be fine) and taste for seasoning (I’m guessing you’ll want to add salt). But the two spices (chipotle chili powder and cumin) are smoky enough that I don’t think you’ll miss the flavor of the bacon. And, since it’s pureed into the soup anyway, you won’t miss the texture/crunch of it either.

    sammyw: Thanks!

    Dawn: Thanks for the suggestions!

    Feng: Thanks so much! What a nice note.

    michelle: Your recipe sounds interesting (especially the coconut milk)! I’m intrigued.

    lsteltzer: Thanks for your lovely note. And I would head to or one of the other blog platforms (TypePad, Blogger) and take a look around. It’s much easier than you might guess. You can email me directly if you have more specific questions.

    holler: See my comments above about teh bacon (in short: you’ll be fine without it). You can order chipotle powder from Penzeys online if you have trouble finding it in the store.

    vanessa: Great ideas, all! I especially love the idea of adding some butternut squash. Yum.

  12. Lasse Says:


    I was surfing for Black Bean recipes and came across this place. Nice! Especially personally nice for me, since I have a can of Chipotle peppers, that I couldn’t find any use for ! I am not so much into “The Universe of Chilipeppers” if you like so I haven’t had a clue about those. Until now…. But how much/how many “fresh” chipotle would you suggest?

    Btw. About blending soups. It’s a fairly common thing to do, but you can always chose to blend only 1/4 or say 1/2 of the pot, and then mix in with the rest unblended. It is all about how you happen to like it. The texture, the thickness and all that. Remember recipes are of course just working sketches (at least when you become more adept in the art of cooking)… bye bye

  13. Lasse Says:

    Well..I asked a question, I feel I have to leave something in return…

    Carrot Soup! I will give no recipe, but just a working sketch! 😛 Here goes: 4-5 carrots and 1 onion simmers with 2 tbsp of butter, a pinch of salt, thyme and pepper for 10 minutes under lid. 1 liter of good broth is added along with 1/2 dL of rice and it all simmers for 30 minutes. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes and then blend. easy, delicious, perfect, healthy, cheap, …

  14. heather Says:

    mmm this looks tasty! i love, love, love my immersion blender. I also love black beans. I make a black bean soup sometimes but I sometimes make the black beans “refried” with a little garlic, honey, onion and olive oil before making the soup — it adds a nice smoky flavor!

    the pictures here are lovely 🙂

  15. Lasse: I would use one minced chipotle pepper and maybe a bit of “regular” chili powder (1 teaspoon?) too. Thanks for the carrot soup recipe — looks delicious.

    heather: I love that “refrying” idea. Sounds great! Thanks for the note.

  16. Melissa Says:

    I LOVE black bean soup. I made one a short while back, with bacon, tomatoes, habanero flakes, cumin… chipotle chili powder sounds like a great addition. So does an immersion blender heheh. I’d love to achieve that kind of smoothness.

  17. Laura Says:

    I love bacon in black bean soup. This looks great!

  18. Melissa: I actually used a blender. I’m not sure the immersion blender would’ve gotten the soup as smooth. Your soup sounds delicious!

    Laura: Thanks!

  19. Pete Says:

    the recipe calls for 2t cumin divided, but then only instructs you to use 3/4t. what gives?

  20. Pete: My apologies. It should read (as it now does): 2 teaspoons (undivided) in both places in the recipe.

  21. Jeanette Says:

    If you want a bit of a smokey and earthy taste, you can add a small smoked ham hock to your broth, just before you start to simmer. To get a full taste however, you would have to simmer for about an hour. It would also compliment the bacon.

    It is a much nicer taste than liquid smoke.

  22. Jeanette: Thanks for the idea.

  23. Inga Elstrodt Says:

    Hi there,

    just found this blog and the black bean soup recipe, which seems to be pretty similar to one that made the other day. I wasn’t overly happy with mine, so inspired after reading about your perseverance, I’ll try yours soon!
    Can I ask a question? This is about the way black bean soup usually looks: a while ago I saw a picture (no recipe) in an old glossy magazine, of a cup of black bean soup, that looked really, really black – very pretty, and I’ve wondered ever since how they managed to get it so dark. All they said was that it was an asian style black bean soup, so maybe they put in a dark soy sauce or something. But I don’t know, so would love to hear your ideas about that!
    Thanks, and good luck with the blog!

  24. Inga: I wonder if dried beans rather than canned beans would help with the color. They always seem a deeper, inkier black to me. Or just reduce the amount of stock or water you’re adding? Though that would lead to a very thick “soup.” Those are my only thoughts. Good luck!

  25. Inga Elstrodt Says:

    Sorry for responding so late, I had forgotten that I asked you this, but looking for a recipe just now I found this site in my bookmark list again, with your reaction to my question….. Thanks so much Kristin, I’ll give it a try, both the dried beans and using less water!

  26. Commatose Says:

    You don’t say how many this recipe is supposed to serve.

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