Worknight Dinners: Black & White Bean Soup

by Maris Callahan on May 17, 2009


There was a period in my life – a very dark, seldom discussed period, where I avoided eating cheese. After college I used Weight Watchers to lose the beer-and-late-night pizza pounds that I had put on over the past four years and successfully dieted down to my goal weight.

A change I made in my diet included omitting cream based sauce and dressings – no Caesar salads, fettuccine alfredo or full-fat cheese. I got used to the lower-fat varieties of certain types and for sandwiches I leaned heavily on fat-free pre-wrapped slices from the supermarket’s dairy aisle.

I told, you, deep-dark and horrifying.

Once I’d lost weight and begun to introduce cheese back into my diet I realized that the cheese products I’d been eating before may have looked like cheese, tasted like cheese and might have been called cheese, but just between us: it isn’t really cheese.

During my fleeting embargo on all things cheddar, I learned how to order lighter from restaurants – turkey sandwiches with honey mustard or avocado instead of cheese and mayonnaise, pasta with fresh tomato sauce rather than baked, mozzarella-laden portions of baked ziti.
The one cuisine that often tripped me was Mexican, and largely because cheese is such a predominant item on the menu in many Americanized Mexican restaurants.

Yes, there are plenty of authentic Mexican restaurants in the city and throughout the country that use aromatic spices for flavor and plenty of meats and vegetables. However, the typical spots that 22 year old me and my friends could afford touted greasy quesadillas, taco salads with enough calories for one person for an entire day and more manchego cheese-sauce drenched enchiladas you can eat.


When you’re craving something spicy and want to keep things on the
lighter side making Mexican inspired meals at home is one of the
fastest ways that you can get dinner on the table without having to hit
the gym for an extra hour for the next few days weeks months. This took
me all of twenty minutes to throw together, including prep time.

Black & White Bean Soup


1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed
1 15 oz. can white beans, rinsed
1 15 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (with chilies, optional)
3 cups chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth to make this vegetarian)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
1 ½ – 2 cups frozen yellow corn

1. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, pepper and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant. Season with chili powder, cayenne pepper and cumin; cook for 3-5 minutes.

2. Add beans, tomatoes and broth. Cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes, or until mixture begins to simmer, stirring frequently. About five minutes before removing from heat, add corn and stir to combine.

3. Place about 2/3 of soup in a blender and puree until soup reaches desired consistency. Combine pureed soup with the rest of the batch; serve with crushed tortilla chips and Monterey jack cheese, if desired.
Serves 4-6 (as a main dish)

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

ksgoodeats May 17, 2009 at 3:00 am

I LOVE spicy!! That soup sounds delicious and easy – a win/win!


elra May 17, 2009 at 3:00 am

Too bad the weather is too hot to have this delicious sounding soup at the moment!


Sophie May 17, 2009 at 3:00 am

MMMMMMM..I love this soup even in summer time!! Looks so delicious!! healthy too!!


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) May 17, 2009 at 3:00 am

Yum! I’d definitely use a can of Ro*Tel in this, because I like Mexican food on the spicy side. Canned black beans are a staple in my pantry, and for quick soups, they are a must.


Erin May 18, 2009 at 3:00 am

This sounds really yummy!


Jessica May 18, 2009 at 3:00 am

This looks really good. My only quibble is a personal one. I don’t like black beans. I never have. We’ll discuss how to amend :)


Leslie May 18, 2009 at 3:00 am

NO CHEESE?? Oh I am sooooo sorry to hear about your loss!(Lol)


grace May 18, 2009 at 3:00 am

you’re right–it’s almost impossible to have mexican food without cheese. i think it’s because it kinda mutes the heat. if that’s the case, i don’t need it at all because my tolerance for spicy is HIGH. :)
great soup, maris, cheese-less or not.


kat May 18, 2009 at 3:00 am

We love this kind of soup, especially during colder weather


Cate O'Malley May 18, 2009 at 3:00 am

Mmmm, looks so good and tummy warming, perfect for this chilly (!!!) weather we’re having now!


Juliana May 18, 2009 at 3:00 am

Yummie, where I live still kind of cold…so this soup is perfect. Looks really good.


Bridgett May 18, 2009 at 3:00 am

This looks so comforting. I just love bean soups.


Melissa May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

I could never give up real cheese, but some of that other junk? Bleah. I know what you mean about Mexican though…
This recipe makes me think “work lunches.” Add some habanero flakes and I’m sold.


Catherine May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Spicy…yum! I have to say that I would have to add some cheese and let it get all melty and gooey.


Emily May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Thanks so much for your comment! The soup looks absolutely delish!
Love your blog as well, especially because as a single myself, I’m always looking for creative ways to cook for one! :-)


Monica Shaw May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

Interesting story. I have a very similar relationship with the cheesy stuff – I used to be a FIEND. I put cheese on everything. On omelets for breakfast. In quesadillas for lunch. On pasta for dinner. Loads and loads of cheese. My staple cheeses were shredded monterey jack and parmesan. But one day my bf challenged me to give up cheese for 3 months. It was tough, but I did it, and by the end I lost my appetite for such a cheesy diet. Then when I started “dieting”, I cut cheese out almost completely.
Like you, I’m not reintroducing a little cheese here and there into my diet. I’ve put the bag cheese behind me and now try to go for the good stuff…. and this is one of the things I like about England – (the Brits have amazing cheese, and most farmers treat their cows with respect). I enjoy cheese more now, strangely. And in moderation, there’s nothing wrong with a little cheese. (I say this now… though every so often I kick in to vegan mode and I start to wonder… but let’s not go there… i’m REALLY enjoying cheese at the moment, especially ricotta and cottage cheese!)
The recipe looks great, btw. I love beans. I love mexican food. I love spice. I’m bookingmarking this and will try a veggie version with veggie stock. Thanks!


jshively May 19, 2009 at 3:00 am

I do not know if I could ever cut cheese out of my diet. Beer and booze yeah but cheese is a life line for me.
I too turn to Mexican flavors for that quick spicy hit.
Nicely done!


Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella May 20, 2009 at 3:00 am

The weather here is perfect for a soup like this! And I love your story about the dark days without cheese and dairy lol :)


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