Black bean soup with chipotle chile

Black Bean Soup — something good to eat after the holiday excess, and something Mexican. Black beans are known as frijoles negros in Spanish. Both the rich and poor in Mexico eat beans, sometimes with every meal. Beans, hand in hand with tortillas, are heart and soul of Mexican nourishment.

Black beans always taste more hearty to me than other beans. Wikipedia says they have a “meaty texture reminiscent of mushrooms”. That description sounds similar to umami, a flavor sometimes called the fifth taste, and explains why black beans make a meatless dish seem more savory, more satisfying.

I always pre-soak beans the night before to decrease cooking time, but my kitchen muse, Diana Kennedy, states that Mexican cooks do not do this. Rather, they pick through the beans to remove detritus — which you will want to do, also — rinse the beans, and commence to cook. Nevertheless, I will continue to soak my beans. Less cooking time equals less propane used. And some think pre-soaked beans are more digestible, hence, less musical. You can be the judge of that.

You may use canned beans to save time, but they do not compare in price, texture and flavor to beans freshly cooked. The liquid of canned beans is thin, watery and salty, compared to that of home cooked beans. I used beans I had cooked a few days before, seasoned with epazote leaves, onion and salt. These left-over beans made for a magnificent pot of black bean soup. Said Russell, my chief taster, “I love this soup!” That’s all I needed to hear to know that this was a winner. And good enough to share with you.

Black Bean Soup serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups cooked black beans, including bean broth
  • 2 cups water, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground comino (cumin)
  • 1 chipotle chile, seeds removed and finely minced, with adobo sauce to taste
  • salt to taste
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
  1. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, and cook onion and bell pepper until tender, about 4-5 minutes, stirring.
  2. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.
  3. Add beans, water, comino and chipotle chile. Add as much or little water as you want for a soupy texture.
  4. Simmer covered for twenty minutes over low heat.
  5. Salt to taste.
  6. Garnish with cilantro and serve with warm tortillas or French bread.


A bit of etymology: the word “frijol”  is from the Spanish word for kidney bean, “fesol”. It is usually seen in its plural form, “frijoles”.

You can get fancy and serve garnishes of cubed cheese, cubed avocado and crisp slivers of fried tortillas strips. I didn’t use any garnish, besides cilantro, because we had our black bean soup with quesadillas filled with goat cheese, avocado and a bit of left-over tenderloin of beef.

If you are in my part of Mexico, you will be able to find organic black beans at Mega Commercial near Bucerias. (Also, organic flor de mayo beans, garbanzo beans, white rice, and other organic foods at Mega near the dairy aisle.) Whether you are in Mexico or not, always make organic purchases when possible. I found a list of fifty pesticides and herbicides used on dried beans in California. The list is scary.

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22 thoughts on “Black bean soup with chipotle chile

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  6. Vicki in GA

    I’ve never been able to get black beans tender. What am I doing wrong?
    I suppose I could use canned beans but would prefer dry.

    The recipe sounds so good after weeks of too many rich foods and sweets.

    1. Some reasons for beans not becoming tender: beans should not be salted until cooked — salt added at the beginning is said to toughen the skins; also, is your water hard? If so, use bottled water for cooking beans. Old beans can take forever to cook, so buy where there seems to be a lot of business. Diana Kennedy says that smaller beans can take longer to cook than large beans. I have not tried to test it, but it sounds like she has cooked her share of beans through the years. Forgive me for saying the obvious, but are you cooking them long enough? I have sometimes had to put black beans back on the stove for more cooking when they still seem hard-skinned. Let me know if any of these suggestions help.

  7. gabriellemarielopez

    This soup looks delicious! Aside from being a healthy start to the New Year, as you mentioned, I’m also excited that it’s budget friendly (seems that after the Holidays my wallet is suffering more than my waistline)! Thanks for the great recipe Kathleen!

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  9. Hola y Feliz ano Nuevo! Wow this sounds yummy about now. I just returned from San Antonio, Tx last night and am soaking a pot of puranos already. I eat beans everyday. I now wish I had chosen frijoles negros!…. Next week. See you Sunday at the market. I am loving your blog so very much. I have shared it with a few friends. Keep up the amazing work! Best

    1. Hola, Antonia. Good to hear from you again. Black beans are my absolute favorite, though sweet husband asks for bean variety now and then. But he did enjoy this soup very much. Look for organic black beans at Mega near the dairy aisle.

  10. I am a big fan of black beans, especially with white rice. I also soak mine and then cook for a long time in my Crock-Pot, a little (or a lot) of bacon fat does wonders for the flavor.

  11. Wow, what a great recipe. I haven’t mustered up the courage to cook dried beans yet, but your post makes me hopeful that it would work out for me. :) Happy cooking!

    1. Cooking dry beans is very easy. Just don’t let the pot cook dry — maintain a generous amount of water as they do in Mexico, so that the final result is soupy. The broth is so good. You can add a chopped half onion, a clove or two of garlic at the beginning. Salt to taste when the beans are done. Beans can take a lot of salt to lose the flat taste. I hope you try cooking beans — it’s fail-proof.

      1. I have never had any success with cooking dried beans, aside from chickpeas. Can’t imagine what I’m doing wrong, so I prefer to think the beans sold in stores here are too old. ha. Really need to try again…thanks for your encouraging words.

        1. If you can cook chickpeas (garbanzos), you can cook beans. Buy from a store that seems to have a good turn-over for freshness. Soak, drain, then use plenty of water. Cook the beans at a gentle boil until tender. I hope you try them again. They really are superior to canned beans.

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