Legumes are a Dietitians best friend. They are a great source of protein, and are also high in micronutrients iron and zinc which can sometimes be lacking in a plant-based diet. Legumes are also remarkably versatile – pureed black beans with Mexican spices are great for a healthy snack; roasted garbanzo (chickpeas) work well instead of popcorn on movie night; Puy (French) lentils are great on salads (see Lentil Salad with Fresh Herbs and Basil Vinaigrette); and red lentils break apart when cooked making them great for thickening soups (see Curried Squash Soup Recipe, Vegetarian Greek Lentil Soup with Lemon and Feta and Easy Curry Lentil Soup with Kale for some of my favourite red lentil soup recipes). If you haven’t cooked much with legumes before This Easy Lentil and Bean Winter Soup is a simple introduction into cooking with legumes. For legume connoisseurs, I’ve included a few of my favourite variations to this classic soup.
“Legumes are not only great for your wallet and your waistline, they also get mega points for sustainability. These nitrogen fixers help to decrease our reliance on conventional fertilizers through crop rotation by replenishing our depleted soils with nitrogen.”
For most people, this recipe is a walk in the park. I wanted to share it for those legume naïve folk that are new to the world of lentils and beans. Legumes can be purchased individually in the ethnic section of your grocery store or you can also purchase pre-mixed soup packages. I found an “18 Bean Mix” which I used for this recipe – it has everything from red lentils to kidney beans. Feel free to use whichever legume you can get your hands on, I also like the addition of barley for a little extra texture.
If you are already familiar with this type of soup there are a few variations that I like to play with. Try it with 1 cup less stock and add a can of (BPA free) organic crushed tomatoes and some Italian herbs for a different flavour. My friend Steph in Australia transformed it into an Asian style soup using miso soup in place of stock, adding mushrooms and zucchini and omitting the potato and parsnip. The recipe below is a “winter” version – try adding any other vegetables that are available in season.
How To Prepare Legumes
- First located the legumes in your grocery store. Check the bulk bins or the Ethnic food section of your grocery store, usually located on the bottom shelves,
- Rinse the legumes and pick out any funny looking ones or any little pebbles,
- The larger legumes including kidney beans, black beans and chickpeas need to be soaked overnight in triple the amount of water. This makes them quicker to cook and also removes some of the phytates which can impact on the absorption of some minerals (see Zinc Deficiency in Vegans and Vegetarians). Soak for at least 24 hours,
- Smaller legumes including lentils, as well as split peas do not need to be soaked. If your soup is based on split peas, lentils and barley and you are short on time you can skip the soaking method. I do encouraged at least a small amount of soaking time to reduce some of the phytate and speed up the cooking process,
- Drain the water the legumes have been soaked in,
- Once the legumes are cleaned and soaked you can continue on to the recipe below. Always ensure you completely cook your legumes, they should be soft and tender and not hard otherwise they will be difficult to digest,
- For most legumes it is best to add salt after they are cooked and not during the cooking process to prevent a tough skin from developing,
- For more information see my post How To Cook Lentils Plys 5 Reasons Why You Should Eat Lentils.
Legumes in no way should be scary and don’t let fear of the unknown prevent you from experimenting with these nutrient packed pulses. If you have a basic legume recipe and you haven’t pre-soaked your beans then don’t worry, canned beans can work as well. Just make sure you drain out the liquid and rinse them well. Smaller legumes such as lentils and split peas do not need to be soaked and most can be cooked in as little as 30 minutes. You can try this recipe with a mixture of red lentils, green lentils, barley and split peas and omit the larger kidney beans and black beans for a quick soup with no pre-soaking required.
Winter Warming Mixed Bean Soup
- 1 cup bean mix* (lentils, green and yellow split peas and barley, and larger legumes if desired)
- 6 cups vegetable stock organic
- 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion diced
- 2 carrots diced
- 2 parsnips diced
- 1 large potato peeled and diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley to serve
- Assess of your legume mix needs to be pre-soaked and follow instructions provided above.
- Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add onions and fry for about 5-7 minutes on a medium-high heat, until translucent.
- Add the carrots and parsnips and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Next add the stock and bring to a boil. Now add the soaked and drained legumes as well as the chopped potato and bay leaf.
- Turn down the heat to medium and simmer with the lid half off for about 40 to 50 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Taste to ensure all legumes are cooked through. Season. I think the white pepper makes this dish but that might be a personal preference.
- Garnish with chopped parsley to serve. Freeze any leftovers for an easy go-to meal.
Make a Mediterranean variation: Use 1 cup less stock and add 1 can of organic diced tomatoes and Italian herbs such as oregano and basil.
Make an Asian variation: Use Miso Paste in place of stock and add mushrooms and zucchini 10 minutes before the soup is done, in place of potato and parsnip.
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.