First place Whole Foods contest winner!! This white bean soup with vegetables and (optional) chicken is hearty enough to stand on its own as a main dinner dish with only a crust of bread on the side.
There's a bit of prep work to this soup, but I've included shortcuts in the post for you.
Bean soups with vegetables are a favorite all year long, but especially when the weather turns chilly and we look for a hot soup to warm us up from the inside out.
This was inspired by a contest Whole Foods was running a few years ago. I don't remember the exact challenge, but it involved, well, whole foods. And what better way to feature them than in a hearty soup featuring the fall harvest.
- ❤️ Why you'll love this soup
- 🧅 Ingredients + Notes
- 🌶 What is harissa?
- 🔪 Recommended Equipment
- 📝 Instructions Overview
- ⏰ Tips to Simplify and Save Time
- 👩🍳 Preparation Tips
- 🥬 Make it Vegan
- 🍽 Side Dish Ideas
- 📇 More Hearty Soups
- Farmhouse Harvest Soup with White Beans
- 🌱 Sign up for my emails, and get my 5 tips for easy vegetarian meals!
❤️ Why you'll love this soup
- It's hearty, filling and absolutely delicious.
- Flexible for vegetarians, vegans and meat eaters.
- Warms you up on a chilly night.
- Great way to get kids to eat more veggies!
- The only thing you need is some crusty bread to go with it, slathered with butter.
- Homemade soup is a perfect way to use up odds and ends of onions, carrots and celery in your refrigerator.
- Perfect for a crowd.
🧅 Ingredients + Notes
- Yellow onion
- Butternut squash
- Serrano pepper
- Dried herbs - thyme and oregano
- Vegetable broth - in a carton or Better Than Bouillon
- Parmesan cheese rind
- Cooked white beans - small white beans such as Navy beans
- Cooked chicken
- Harissa - make it yourself or purchase it
- Baby spinach
- Canned whole tomatoes
- Parmesan cheese
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🌶 What is harissa?
The harissa in this recipe brings a rich flavor, and just a hint of heat to this soup. It's what makes this soup special. So don't ignore this ingredient.
Harissa is a spicy, aromatic chile paste popular in Middle Eastern and North African dishes. You can make it yourself (it makes a fabulous holiday gift), or purchase it in most markets in the ethnic foods aisles. I buy the spicy version of Mina Harissa, but they also have a mild version.
There's range of heat in purchased harissa, so my best recommendation is to start with half of what's called for in this recipe, and then add more to your own taste.
📝 Instructions Overview
Detailed instructions for making this vegetable bean soup are in the recipe card below, but here's an overview!
Prep. Prep the leek, onion, carrots, celery, butternut squash and Serrano pepper.
Sauté. Warm up a little olive oil in a large Dutch oven, and dump all the prepped vegetables into it. Toss with a large wooden spoon, and sauté until just starting to soften.
Add the garlic, dried herbs, salt and pepper. Cook for a couple minutes until fragrant.
Make it a soup. Add the broth, a chunk of Parmesan rind, cooked white beans, chicken, harissa, spinach and tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes to mingle the flavors.
Serve. Serve piping hot in large bowls and top with a shaving of Parmesan cheese.
⏰ Tips to Simplify and Save Time
Most of the time in making this amazing soup is pepping.
- If your market has it, purchase onion and celery already diced.
- Many markets sell butternut squash already peeled and diced. You may need to diced it smaller into ¾" pieces, but it would still save you from peeling the squash.
- I always cook beans from dried, but feel free to buy canned, if that's better for your life.
- Buy a pre-roasted chicken and slice off what you need, and dice it.
👩🍳 Preparation Tips
If you don't typically cut up some of the veggies called for in this recipe, here are some tips I learned in culinary school that will help you!
Leeks grow in sandy soil, so they need more of a cleaning than most vegetables you bring into the kitchen.
Slice off the dark green leafy part of the leeks, and the roots. Then slice the bulb in half lengthwise. Hold each bulb half under the water, while feathering out the leaves. There will likely be sandy mud in between most of the leave, and you'll need to rub it off with your fingers.
Slice off the top and bottom of the squash. If it's too hard, pop the squash in the microwave oven for 4 - 5 minutes, and try again.
Slice the butternut in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds and pulp with a spoon. Any spoon works, but a grapefruit spoon works really well.
You can peel the squash using a sharp knife, but I find it easier (and safer) to use a Y-shaped vegetable peeler. Start at either the top or bottom edge, and pull the peeler towards you.
The easiest way to cut the squash into small cubes, is to start at the neck of the squash, and slice it across its width into ¾" thick slabs. Next, slice it up into cubes.
The heat in spicy peppers is in the pith and seeds. Slice off the stem first, and then slice in half, lengthwise. Using a sharp knife, cut out the pith and seeds. Then slice into thin, long lengths, and finally across them to mince them.
Purchase canned tomatoes that are peeled and left whole in a sauce. San Marzano tomatoes are, IMO, the best, but there are others that may be less expensive.
Fish four of them out of the sauce, and quarter them. If they're large, cut into smaller chunks. You want them bite-sized.
🥬 Make it Vegan
Nix the chicken, obviously, and use plant-based Parmesan style cheese.
For vegans and vegetarians, when eliminating the chicken, cut back on the broth by 2 cups. Or add more beans and squash to make up the difference. Otherwise the soup will be very brothy.
🍽 Side Dish Ideas
This is a very hearty soup, and needs little else. But bread is always a great partner of soups.
Or whip up a batch of Easy Buttermilk Cornbread.
📇 More Hearty Soups
Vegetable / Chicken and Rice Peasant Soup (this is another excellent soup with optional chicken for the meat-eaters)
Moroccan Chickpea Stew with Charred Eggplant and Tomatoes (based on one of my Ottolenghi favorites)
Farmhouse Harvest Soup with White Beans
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large leek sliced (about 1 ¾ cups)
- 1 medium onion finely chopped (about 2 cups)
- ½ cup diced carrots
- 2 cups diced celery
- 2 cups butternut squash cubes about ¾" square
- 1 Serrano pepper minced (1 ½ - 2 tablespoons)
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 1 chunk Parmesan cheese rind
- 3 cups cooked white beans
- 1 ½ cups roasted chicken,
- 3 - 4 tablespoons harissa chile paste or purchase it
- ½ carton pre-washed baby spinach
- 4 canned whole tomatoes, quartered without the sauce that's in the can
- Prep. Prep the leek, onion, carrots, celery, butternut squash and Serrano pepper. Put in a large bowl. Look at the notes for tips!
- Sauté. Warm up a little olive oil in a large Dutch oven, such as a Le Creuset. Dump all the prepped vegetables into it all at once (the leek, onion, carrots, celery, butternut squash and Serrano pepper). Toss with a large wooden spoon to coat with the olive oil. Sauté until just starting to soften, about 10 minutes. Tip: Stir and toss only every couple of minutes so that a brown coating develops on the bottom of the pot. This is called the fond, and contributes additional savory flavor to the soup. Add the garlic, dried herbs, salt and pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes until fragrant.
- Make it a soup. Add the broth, the Parmesan rind for another savory flavor infusion, and cooked white beans. Simmer for 5 - 10 minutes to warm the beans, and then thicken the soup by using an immersion blender for about 15 seconds.Tip: If you don't have an immersion blender, remove 2 cups of soup and pour it into a blender to purée. Then pour it back into the soup. Stir in the chicken, harissa (to taste), spinach and tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes to mingle the flavors.Tip: Purchased harissa has a range of spiciness. Start with half of what the recipe calls for, and then add more to your own taste.
- Serve. Serve piping hot in large bowls, topped with a couple shavings of Parmesan cheese, with a hunk of bread slathered with butter.