We make a lot of tacos at our house. In fact, my husband and I often go on multi-day streaks of eating tacos for every meal. We love them so much, we could probably do that Taco Cleanse for the rest of our lives. Naturally, beans, especially black and pinto beans, are a staple in our taco-crazed home.
Occasionally, we want something other than a taco. (Okay, my husband always wants a taco.) This soup is one of those things I crave when I’m looking for a different bean recipe. With beans and sweet potatoes, it’s a complete vegan protein and packed with awesome nutrients. The Caribbean flavors are so unique and delicious with the mix of warm spices like allspice and cloves and the heat of the peppers.
I list a lot of ingredients, but this is a soup that can be infinitely adapted. Don’t rush out to buy something not on the list…just make do with what you have and enjoy the adventure of improvisation.
I know that it can be daunting to make up a recipe as you go, especially with a new cuisine. (My mom gets so nervous when I suggest she deviate from a recipe, and I totally get it.) My advice is just use your nose. There’s nothing I love more than leaning close to a pot of sizzling onions and spices and breathing in the wonderful smell. Okay, maybe I love tasting just a little bit more. 😉
Oh, and I almost never soak dried beans! The secret to creamy, al dente beans is to simply bake them covered at 350 instead of simmering all day on the stove. They cook more evenly and have such a perfect texture that way. Of course, if you feel better soaking beans, soak away. I know some people love to use sprouted beans for that extra nutritional boost, which is a great idea, too.
This soup is so easy, the only secret is making sure you use black beans and an assortment of flavorful, whole foods ingredients.
I always start with lots of garlic and onion, and I saute them until they sweat just a little.
Add herbs and spices according to your nose. This soup turns out a little differently each time I make it. Sometimes, I’m craving something extra spicy, so I add more chilies. Sometimes, I love the sweet warmth of allspice and cloves. I put turmeric in dishes whenever I can because of it’s amazing antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and the lovely color it imparts.
Roughly chop the sweet potatoes and tomatoes and add them to the pot. My husband is a stickler for a perfect, uniform dice. (In fact, his sister bought him this funny Obsessive Chef cutting board because of his zeal for precision chopping.) In some recipes, it is critical to have similarly sized chunks of veg for texture and uniform cooking. In this recipe, my “peasant style” rough cuts are just fine, though, because the sweet potatoes and tomatoes are going to melt into the soup and impart a subtle sweet/tart essence.
Once you get all those flavorful ingredients softened a bit, just deglaze with a little stock, add the beans and the rest of the stock, and let your soup cook for a couple of hours covered in the oven. I love oven beans because they cook faster, retain their texture better, and are just soooo easy! They cook uniformly! They never stick! They taste delicious!
When it’s time to serve this soup, I keep it simple. I like to top it with some chopped onions, fresh herbs, or other vegetables I have on hand (lately, it’s all tomatoes all the time). It pairs well with a simple salad, or fried plantains, rice, or cornbread if you’re looking for something heartier.
However you make this soup, I know you will love it!
Here’s how I like it best:
(this recipe makes enough to serve 4-6)
- 1 T oil, coconut is nice to lend a tropical touch, but any will do
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 jalapenos or other hot peppers, adjust to your heat preference
- 2 T chopped garlic
- 1-2 sweet potatoes, roughly chopped (pumpkin or other sweet winter squash subs well)
- 2-3 fresh tomatoes, chopped, or a can of tomatoes
- enough vegetable stock or water to cover beans and veggies by 2-3 inches
- 16 oz dried black beans
- salt to taste
Pick an assortment of herbs and spices. You can use them all or just a few, it’s up to you!
- fresh or dried thyme
- bay leaf
- smoked paprika
- fresh or dried ginger
- dried mango! (I tried adding mango for the first time with this batch, and it was amazing!)
- Preheat your over to 350 degrees.
- Using a large stock pot (I love Le Creuset), saute the garlic, onion, and pepper in your oil until they start to sweat.
- Add the herbs and spices you have and like. Aim for at least 3 Tablespoons total. I use a lot more than that, but I like my food pretty flavorful. Saute until the aromatics release their wonderful aromas. Especially if you use turmeric and paprika, your onions and garlic will take on a beautiful golden hue.
- Add sweet potatoes and tomatoes, and saute about 5 minutes, or until just slightly softened.
- Use a bit of stock or water to deglaze your pan: Turn off the heat, pour in some liquid, and use a spoon to scrape the bits of browned onion and garlic stuck to the bottom and sides of the pan.
- Add the rest of your stock and the rinsed, sorted beans and pop your pot, with the lid on, into the oven.
- Bake your delicious soup for 2-3 hours, depending on how soft you like your beans. Feel free to check on them!
- Near the end of cooking, add salt to taste. Just sprinkle some in the pot, stir, taste, and repeat until it’s just how you like it. Let the soup cook a bit longer so the salt mingles with everything else.
- Serve garnished with fresh herbs, chopped onion, and fresh veggies. If you dig dairy, I’m sure a dollop of sour cream would be a nice addition, but it is totally unnecessary. The texture of the soup is rich and smooth all by itself. I think corn bread, fried plantains, or rice would make a great accompaniment for a heartier meal, but I just love this soup alone or with a nice big salad, too.
I’d love to hear how you adapt this recipe to what you love and what you have on hand! I often make extra so I have some to freeze, too. The batch I made here is going to a friend who just had a beautiful baby boy. I think the vitamin C and A in the sweet potatoes and mangoes will be a wonderful healing boost for her.