Treat yourself this winter to some warm and hearty Cuban black bean soup that’s vegan and gluten free.
My latest soup recipe couldn’t be more timely with the weekend fast approaching. If you’re a fan of legumes and pulse like I am then you’re in the right place at the right time. Beans or peas as we like to make reference to them in the English speaking parts of the Caribbean, play a central role, whether you’re from a Spanish, English or French island that fondness never seems to disappear.
Cuban black bean soup is so flavourful, vibrant and a nice way to transition from winter to the beginning of spring as the temperature isn’t quite T shirt weather.
This was another recipe that I often turned to during the harsh winter time, only I didn’t quite perfect it over the season. It look many attempts of trial and error and having my family critique it. Just when I thought I had this one in the bag, a relative commented ‘it’s nice but needs more flavour’.
I’m rarely offended by constructive criticism that’s associated with culinary skills, I love cooking so much and work extremely hard to perfect my craft. I have never joined a culinary arts school, I just read and tap into my culture which I find guides me on my food exhibition.
Now I will be honest here this isn’t a 15 minute ready meal, the overall cooking process will take a few hours because true black bean soup is a slow cooking process so the flavours permeate and also to allow the beans to break down slowly. Keep in mind that this is a vegan version of black bean soup, so pork is excluded. My family are probably the only people of Cuban ancestry who don’t eat pig, strange but true.
Anyway, I replaced the meat with vegetable stock to form as the foundation for the soup. I also made sure to include sofrito which is a popular pureed base/flavour enhancement made from many different vegetables. The English version of this is called greening seasoning and Haitian refer to it as Epis.
There’s a secret ingredient, that many people totally bypass with black bean soup, that is apple cidar vinegar and sugar (palm sugar in my case). It all may seem a little bizarre but this yield a wonderful sweet and tangy note right towards the final stages of prep work.
You will need to let the beans soak overnight, rinse them firstly and then soak in 4-5 cups of water. The colour of the water will deepen with time, don’t be alarmed this is normal, you’ll be using the water to boil the beans. A cheesecloth is needed to house the bay leaf, onions and green peppers. During the initial stages we want the flavours to permeate from the very beginning until the last stages of cooking, that’s the correct order of things.
Once boiled discard the contents from the cheesecloth and focus on making the sofrito. This is another element to the black bean soup, one that provides the herbaceous flavour. Cubans usually include cubanelle peppers, which look similar to scotch bonnet without the heat and slightly elongated in shape. As I wasn’t able to get hold of them I opted for some sweet red pepper.
Another thing you’ll need to do after preparing the sofrito is use an immersion blender to break down the beans. Pulse no more than three times in total as the beans will fall apart during simmering. However, this step will give the soup a head start. The simmering stage is the final leg of the cooking process and the best part for sampling your hearty soup.
This is where your extras are added – roasted red pepper, vinegar and coconut palm sugar, pink salt and black pepper. As the additional condiments are added, it’s safe to put the lid of the pot and simmer down to a texture of your desire.
- 1 cup of dried black bean
- 6 cups cold water or
- 5 cups of water
- 2 cups of vegetable stock
- For the cheesecloth
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- To make the sofrito
- 2tbsp cup coconut oil
- 4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
- ½ a medium sized onion, minced
- 1 large green bell pepper, minced
- 1 large sweet red bell pepper, minced
- 1tsp of cumin
- 1 tsp of oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- To finalise the soup
- 1tbsp of organic apple cider vinegar
- 1tbsp of coconut palm sugar
- ½ tsp of black pepper, to taste
- 2 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1 roasted red pepper, diced
- Rinse the black beans and soak them in the 5 cups of water overnight in a heavy duty stock/soup pot.
- Bring the beans to a boil with the water on high heat. The colour of the water should be a dark hue, this is normal. As the water beings to boil, reduce the flame to medium. Add all the ingredients referenced above into a cheesecloth and tie into a tight knot then drop this into the pot, carefully.
- The beans should be cooked until tender, this should take 1hr 30minutes.
- Replenish with water if the water levels drop drastically, a cup at the maximum should be enough.
- Once cooked, add the 2 cups of vegetable stock and remove the pot from the heat. Discard the mushy ingredients from the cheesecloth.
- Prepare the sofrito by adding the coconut oil to a small frying pan on medium heat.
- Sauté the minced garlic and onions for 1 minute then add the peppers and stir in the cumin and oregano. Continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Pour the minced mixture into the soup pot and stir.
- Use an immersion blender and pulse the black bean soup no more than three times, it will break down further with time. If you don't a immersion blender, ladle a cup worth of beans and puree in a food processor/conventional blender.
- Reheat the soup on medium heat, then reduce to low after 2 minutes.
- Finally, add the vinegar, palm sugar and pink salt and pepper, season to taste.
- Stir in the roasted red pepper, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot with the lid and simmer for 1 hour, occasionally stirring. During this time the soup should be a creamy consistency with a sweet and tangy taste
- Remove the bay leaf and serve with a dollop of dairy free sour cream.