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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