This is a bean soup with a thick, creamy tomato broth that’s soothing, nourishing and extremely economical. It’s incredibly simple to make, yet full of savoury flavour. Use canned beans for a 20 minute meal, or dried beans if you’ve got the time.
Make this with any type of white beans – cannellini, navy, great northern, butter beans, lima. Coloured beans will also work perfectly though the colour of the broth will be different!
Creamy Tomato Bean Soup
This is the part where I do what every food blogger does – the “big sell” to convince you that this the best bean soup recipe in the world and how you absolutely must try it right now!
It will be littered with lots of exclamation marks – because I am an excessive user of exclamation marks, to the point that I have been told off by a reader who wrote in to say that it’s unprofessional to use so many, just one per sentence is sufficient, and in any case, I’m much too old to be writing like that.
(To which I replied “Dear X, I’m so sorry to hear that the way I write offends you!!!!! I’m just a naturally enthusiastic person and I just can’t help it!!!! Sincerely, Nagi!!!)
But actually, today, I’m not going to do the big sell. I’m just going to quite simply say this to you:
This soup is a very easy way to turn boring canned beans into an extremely delicious meal.
(And yes, you absolutely must try it right now!😉)
What goes in this bean soup
Here’s what you need:
- Canned or dried white beans – any type. More on this below!
- Wine and cream recommended / you’ll thank me for it – but still scrumptious without (as I have done numerous times in recent weeks);
- Parmesan provides umami here, the fancy word for “savoury flavour”;
- Italian herbs – sub with dried basil, parsley, oregano, thyme or any combination thereof;
- Tomato paste – quite a bit of it! Because we’re not using canned tomato here, this is what gives the tomato flavour and helps thicken the soup;
- Carrot (optional), onion and garlic – an essential flavour base for an otherwise simple soup broth. The trick here is to sauté them for 5 minutes until sweet, then they get blitzed up with the liquid. Blitzing releases flavour!
- Baby spinach – completely interchangeable with any leafy green suitable for stirring through the soup. OR get your veg quota by using diced vegetables of any kind!
Dried vs canned beans
Dried will give you slightly better flavour in the beans, you can control the salt yourself (because canned beans are typically quite generously salted) and is more economical. Canned beans is sheer convenience – and is what I use 95% of the time.
You’ll need either 2 cups of dried beans, or 3 canned beans. I’m using white cannellini beans in these photos and the video, but you can use any white beans:
- butter beans
- navy beans
- great northern
This recipe will also work with coloured beans (kidney beans, black beans etc) without changing the flavour BUT you might end up with an interesting broth colour!
Recipe includes directions for how to cook dried beans.
How to make this creamy bean soup
- Saute onion, carrot, garlic and tomato paste;
- Simmer with stock/broth;
- Add just 1/2 cup of beans – we use this to thicken the broth!
- Blitz blitz blitz
- Add remaining beans and spinach,
Three little things that make all the difference…
The three things in this recipe that makes a relatively simple soup taste so much better than you think it will are:
- Slowly sauté onion, garlic and carrot which makes them sweet and flavourful;
- Cook off the tomato paste – this takes off the harsh raw, sour edge;
- Blitz it all up with the stock/broth and some of the beans. Blitzing = flavour release, beans = thickens soup!
And here’s what you end up with – a thick, creamy soup with the wonderful scent of tomato but tastes creamy and savoury like a chowder. It’s incredibly filling – and will keep you full, thanks to all the beans!
Serve with soup dunkers
Beans are a starch, so technically I guess serving with bread could be considered carb overkill. BUT! Remember that beans are good for you – they are the world’s best plant based source of protein, high in fibre, low in fat.
With all that goodness happening in this bean soup, I feel like a soup dunker is not just ideal, it’s justified – so try one of these!
Also, I use a large mound of spinach in this to get my veg quota in. But a big leafy salad certainly wouldn’t go astray – tossed with a salad dressing of choice! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Creamy Tomato Bean Soup
Recipe video above. This is a white bean soup with a thick, creamy broth that’s full of savoury flavour with a hint of tomato. It’s a fast way to turn bland beans into a really filling soup that so simple to make, yet so, so good! The flavour trick – blitzing up the sautéed onion, carrot and garlic with just a bit of the beans. Keep it meat free or see notes for how to add ham, bacon, chicken or sausage! This is VERY filling – and keeps you full for ages (thank you beans!)
- 2 tbsp/ 30g butter (, unsalted)
- 1 onion (, finely chopped (brown, yellow, white))
- 2 garlic cloves (, finely chopped)
- 1 carrot (, large, peeled and finely chopped)
- 1 1/2 tsp Italian herb mix OR other dried herbs ((oregano, thyme, parsley, basil, or mixed))
- 3/4 cup (170g) tomato paste (Note 1)
- 1/2 cup (125ml) dry white wine (, optional (can omit) )
- 4 cups (1 litre) stock/broth, chicken or veg (, low sodium)
- 3 x 420g/15oz cans cannellini or any white beans, drained & rinsed ((navy, butter, great northern, lima) (OR 2 cups dried beans, 5.5 cups cooked, Note 2))
- 1/2 cup (50g) parmesan (, grated)
- 1/2 tsp EACH salt and pepper
- 120g/4oz baby spinach ((or 5 – 6 cups any other leafy greens OR 4 cups diced veg, Note 3))
- 3/4 cup (185ml) cream, heavy/thickened ((optional) OR more butter!)
Melt butter in a pot over medium high heat. Cook garlic, onion and carrot for 5 minutes until carrot is soft and sweet.
- Turn heat up to high, add tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes to remove the “raw” flavour.
- Add white wine, cook for 3 minutes until the harsh “winey” smell is gone and mostly evaporates so you’re just left with tomato paste again.
- Add 1/2 cup of beans (to thicken soup), stock, parmesan, salt and pepper. Stir, low heat, cover and simmer 3 minutes, stirring every now and then.
- Use a stick blender to puree until smooth (or transfer to blender).
Add remaining beans, simmer 3 minutes. Stir in spinach until wilted, then stir in cream if using. Add more salt and pepper if needed (note: canned beans are already salted).
- Serve with crusty bread for dunking!
1. Tomato paste works best here to provide intensity of tomato flavour. Can be substituted with canned tomato. You will need 800g/14 oz crushed or diced canned tomato OR Tomato Passata , reduce the stock per recipe down to 3 cups (750ml). Skip the tomato paste, but still use wine if you can (great for flavour). Add tomato with stock, only add 1/4 cup of beans to thicken soup, then simmer for 10 minutes with LID OFF before pureeing. Then proceed with recipe
2. Beans – any white beans will work great here. Navy beans, lima, butter beans. Other colour beans (kidney beans, pinto, black beans etc) will work just fine but the colour of the soup broth may be a bit different (from pureeing a bit into the soup)
Recipe should also work great with any canned or cooked dried lentils (any colour) and dried split peas – again, just that the colour of the soup will be different!
3. DRIED BEANS (navy, cannellini or other white beans) – you will need 2 cups of any dried white beans.
- 1 can = 1 3/4 cups beans once drained
- Recipe calls for 3 cans = 5 1/4 cups beans
- 1 cup dried beans = 2 3/4 cups cooked
- So you will need 2 cups dried beans (2 x 2.75 = 5 1/2 cups cooked beans)
HOW TO COOK DRIED BEANS – soak in plenty of water (beans will triple in volume) 5 – 24 hrs. Drain bring to boil then gently simmer in a large pot of water with 1 tbsp salt* partially covered with a lid. The cooking time will vary wildly depending not just on size/type of beans, but also the age of beans. Fresh dried cannellini beans, 24 hr soak can cook = 25 minutes. Old large lima beans could take over 2 hours.
So start checking at 25 minutes, and the closer they are to being ready, check every few minutes because small beans can go from just under to overcooked within 5 minutes. They are ready when they’re tender all the way through, if they are overcooked they can fall apart / disintegrate on the edges (also this can happen to lower quality beans).
Pictured soup is made with cannellini beans. Soaked 12 hours overnight, simmered 30 minutes.
FIRMNESS – canned beans are very soft. If you cook your dried beans so they are on the firm side, you might need to simmer the first 1/2 cup you put into the soup for longer than 3 minutes because you want them very soft (like canned beans) so they puree smoothly.
* SALT – If using large dried beans, add partway through cooking. If using smaller beans (like cannellini) just add at the start (it won’t make them tough or increase cook time).
3. Extra vegetables: This recipe makes a good amount of thick creamy soup, so you can load it up with more vegetables. If using diced veg, cook first, then remove. Proceed with recipe then add the veg back in later.
I find it easiest to just stir in veg that wilts easily OR add things like diced frozen carrot, corn and peas with the beans because they will cook in just a few minutes.
4. PROTEIN options: Sear chopped bacon or ham, or cook sausage, then remove and proceed with recipe in same pot. Return meat into pot at end. You could also sear chicken, then chop or shred. Or poach fish in the broth, flake and stir in. Or stir in chunks of canned salmon or tuna.
5. Storage – Up to 4 days in the fridge, or freeze, thaw then gently reheat.
6. Nutrition per serving, this recipe makes 4 generous servings (it is filling!)
Life of Dozer
Just another day in the Hard Life of Dozer – starting the morning with a beach play!