Creamy White Bean Soup
Updated: Jul 8, 2022
If you stop to really think about it, the creation of soup defies explanation. Just a few ingredients come together into so much more than the sum of their parts!
Place a can or two of beans, an onion and a carrot, a few seasonings, a squeeze of lemon, and a bit of cheese on the table and announce that supper is served and we don’t think you’ll have your guest coming back for more. Place all those same ingredients in a soup pot, and you’ll create something that your guests will come back for any day of the week.
Not only is this recipe an easy soup recipe, it's a pantry recipe that calls for simple ingredients you most likely have on hand right now.
Canned White Beans: Any white bean will work in this recipe. We’ve experimented with great Northern beans, cannellini beans, white kidney beans, and even beans simply labeled white beans. Each bean has its own flavor, but the simpleness of this recipe lends itself to any of those flavors.
Vegetables: This recipe calls for an onion and a few carrots. We like a lot of onion and just a bit of carrot, but any combination will work. Celery would work with this recipe as well. Make sure the carrot and celery is almost cooked all the way through before adding the beans to your pot. Raw carrots and celery will not blend up smoothly!
Seasonings: Garlic, salt, pepper, and thyme are the seasonings in this white bean soup. Simple flavors take this recipe to the next level.
Garlic. Either fresh or dried garlic work well in this recipe. If you have fresh garlic, be sure to chop your cloves finely and add to the vegetables just before adding the beans. We like to use minced dehydrated garlic instead of fresh. It’s a great addition to your pantry as it never sprouts or goes bad! Just like fresh garlic, it can easily burn so add it right before you add the beans. Stir into the vegetables and saute just until its lovely aroma wafts into the air.
Thyme is a great addition to vegetables, soups, and sauces when one wants to add a warmth and herbiness to a dish without overpowering the other flavors. In this soup recipe, it’s herbiness adds just the right touch to the mild bean flavor.
Salt It is easy to oversalt this recipe. The canned white beans are already salted. If using boxed or canned broth, it is salted. The cheese is salty as well. Add just a half teaspoon of salt to the vegetables when first adding them to the pan. Don’t add any more salt until after everything is cooked. Then taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
Pepper Usually we love the flavor of pepper and more is better. In this dish, that isn’t the case. Pepper could easily overpower the delicate flavors, so we kept the pepper to about ½ teaspoon – 6 grinds if using freshly ground pepper. The pepper could easily be left out, but we like the subtle sharpness this adds to the soup.
Broth. Use the best broth you can find for any soup you make. We particularly like bone both for the fat and richness it adds to any soup. Of course, water also works if this is a true pantry meal and that pantry is looking bare. You may need to up your seasonings if cooking with water. Taste and adjust seasonings at the end of the cooking process.
Fat. This recipe calls for both olive oil and butter. We feel they both add their own flavor and lusciousness to the recipe. Certainly one or the other can be used on its own.
Cheese. Just two tablespoons of Parmesan cheese adds a note of nuttiness and richness to this soup.
Lemon Juice. The lemon juice adds a needed brightness and freshness to the canned beans. If you do not have a fresh lemon on hand, we suggest substituting ½ teaspoon of dried lemon peel the last few minutes of cooking the beans. And then topping off your soup with ½ teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar.
Our Creamy White Bean Soup recipe uses three distinct techniques to create a flavorful and super smooth soup.
The first technique is sweating your onions and carrots. Many soups and stews begin with sweated vegetables. Sweating is a technique of cooking and softening your vegetables on a very low heat to gently bring out their flavor without browning or caramelizing them. The vegetables need to be diced finely into ¼ inch pieces. These small pieces allow the vegetables to cook before they turn brown. This is the longest process of this recipe. You’ll want to make sure the carrots are almost completely cooked during this process.
Our next two techniques create the silky smooth texture of this white bean soup. The first technique we learned from Chef Allison (if you haven’t taken one of her classes, you are missing out on learning new techniques and yummy recipes!). She taught us when creating hummus to cook our canned garbanzo beans for an additional 10 minutes to help break them down so they will be smooth when blended. We use the same technique in this recipe by cooking the canned beans in the seasoned liquid the beans are canned in. Usually we strain and rinse away that liquid, but we found in this recipe the starch and salt in that liquid is important to the flavor of this soup. Cook the beans until they break down and start to fall apart.
The next technique for a super smooth texture is to blend the soup in very little liquid. The less liquid used when blending, the smoother the finished product. We do add a bit of broth or water at the very end of the blending process to thin out the soup.
Vegetarian and Vegan Version
This soup is naturally vegetarian if a vegetable broth or water is used.
To create a vegan white bean soup, use a vegetable broth or water as a base, swap the butter for olive oil, and use vegetable stock powder instead of Parmesan cheese to add just a bit of extra savory flavor.
Gluten Free Version
This recipe is naturally a gluten free white bean soup. Just double check to make sure the beans and broth you purchase to use in the recipe are gluten free.
If meat is your thing, this soup is awesome topped with crumbled bacon or diced ham!
And last but certainly not least, this bowl of soup is the perfect excuse to make a batch or two of croutons! Find our super easy homemade crouton recipe right here:
Creamy White Bean Soup Recipe
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons butter, divided use
2 small or one large onion, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
½ teaspoon Pacific Flake Salt
8 grinds of Tellicherry Pepper
1 teaspoon Dried Thyme
1 teaspoons Dried Minced Garlic or 2 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
2 (15 ounce) can White Beans
1 1/2 cups water, chicken or vegetable broth, divided
2 tablespoons shredded/grated Parmesan cheese
½-1 teaspoon lemon juice from half of the lemon. Save the other half to brighten up any leftovers you might have.
Heat your soup pot over medium low heat until hot. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Let the oil and butter heat until the butter is melted. Drop in one onion. If it gently sizzles, the pan is hot enough. If not, let it heat another minute or two until the onion starts sizzling. Add vegetables to the pan and turn heat to low.
Add ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon of thyme to the vegetable mixture.
Stir and allow to cook for 10-15 minutes or until the carrots are almost completely tender. The vegetables will need to be stirred often throughout this process.
Add the garlic and stir into the vegetables. Cook for 30-60 seconds or just until you smell the garlic aroma.
To the vegetables, add both cans of white beans with their canning liquid. Stir together.
Turn heat up to medium and cook for 8-10 minutes or until your carrots are cooked through and the beans are breaking down.
Turn off heat and remove from burner. Allow to cool down a few minutes.
Process bean mixture with Parmesan cheese in a blender or food processor for about 2 minutes or until a smooth mixture has formed.
Add remaining tablespoon of butter and process for another 2 minutes until mixture becomes pourable.
Slowly add in 1 cup of broth or water.
Return pan to clean pot and bring back to a simmer just to reheat soup.
Remove from heat. Squeeze in lemon juice. Taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper if needed.
Serve with croutons.