Vegan since 1975, I decide to answer the question, "What DO you eat?" These posts tell about some meals and recipes my family and I have enjoyed over the years.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lucy's Butter Bean Soup and White Bean Soup

I asked my friend Lucy Boyce if I could include her recipe for White Bean Soup in this blog, and she said she didn't make a white bean soup, that I must be talking about Lucy's Butter Bean Soup. I checked back with the recipe I'd taken down years ago, and it just said Lucy's Bean Soup, but then said to use white beans. So. I will tell you her recipe, and then what I actually did, because my daughter Wren asked me to.

For the original LUCY'S BUTTER BEAN SOUP, have about a quart of cooked butter beans on hand. That would be about 3 cans worth, since she has you drain the beans. Butter Beans are a light brown tan small Lima bean.

In a soup pot saute one large chopped onion in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until browned.

Add the drained beans and enough vegetable stock to float the beans nicely.

Roast 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a little olive oil in a small frying pan.

Add them with a sizzle to the beans, and let it all cook a few minutes more until the flavors merge.

Serve with crusty bread.

That was easy enough, and it is certainly a tasty soup. Thank you, Lucy!

Then there is the soup I have made over the years, which I apparently based on Lucy's soup, but changed just a little bit, and I will call this WHITE BEAN SOUP.

Just because I have a sense of curiosity, I decided to finally figure out what all the different white beans in my cupboard looked like, in comparison with each other. For years I have been thinking that Great Northern and Navy beans were interchangeable, but they are actually quite different. Great Northern beans are tinged a more tannish brown than the others, and are shaped like a small Kidney bean. Navy beans are small pinkish tan and are a round baked bean shaped kind of bean. Cannellini beans are a large pinkish tan Kidney shaped bean. Butter beans are a lighter brownish tan flattened smallish Lima bean. You could use one can of each in your soup, like I did, if you want to see for yourself, or you could just use one type of bean, but make the soup with one of these kinds of white beans.

In a large heavy bottomed soup pot I sauteed two large chopped onions in about two tablespoons of olive oil until they were just starting to brown on the edges. Then, because I like to use one pot if I can get away with it, I dumped the whole cumin seeds right in there with the onions, along with a whole cayenne pepper my neighbor April had dried for me, because I was running out of the red pepper flakes in my jar. I gingerly cut off the end of the pepper first, and then when it was in the pot, I approached slicing it up in a few pieces with a long sharp knife and a wooden spoon. I didn't want to risk getting pepper in my eyes, so I didn't touch it with my hands, even if it was dry. Lucy's separate method probably roasts the spices better, though, so you might want to try it that way.

Then I dumped in five cans of white beans, using two of the Butter beans, and one of each of the others. That's when I got to see how they all looked different. I used the broth from the cans, not draining the beans, and I didn't add any other liquids.

After a few minutes I added about one quarter cup of nutritional yeast (because I like it!) and about one or two tablespoons of tamari soy sauce, along with a pinch of fresh basil.

You could use dried basil, but I decided last fall before the frost to see if I could keep my basil plants growing inside in pots instead of watching them shrivel and turn brown like every other year. I am happy to report they are doing well, still growing a little, and are probably going to last until the spring. I wonder if they will keep growing if I plant them back outside? I keep picking off the flower buds as they appear, which keeps them from bolting. I also did this with my parsley plants, and though the curly parsley died off, the Italian flat parsley was doing fine until the guinea pigs discovered it. There's still some they haven't reached in the center of the pot, though. I have also planted coriander seeds twice now, and it also grows well, though smaller than outside, for fresh cilantro through the winter.

Back to the soup: it can cook for a little while to meld the flavors, and then be served over rice with some steamed dark green leafy greens on the side, or in a big bowl with some crusty whole grain bread.

A very simple but pleasant evening meal, and not at all hard to make.


  1. Yes....the nut's all coming back to me. In the old days I added a couple T. of that to make a richer broth. I haven't made this soup in years but now I'll get right to it! What a great little blog you have!

  2. Thanks Lucy! I think I am going to make that soup again tonight (written more than a year later...).