Black Bean Soup with Urfa Pepper and Green Chiles
This creamy black bean soup is all about layer after layer after layer of FLAVOR. It's spicy, smokey, and savory with hints of sweet and sour. It's filling without weighing you down, decadent and nutritious, and the kind of vegan food that could please even the most dedicated meat eater.
The soup comes together in under an hour and will keep well in the refrigerator for days. In fact, it might be even better the next day.
What is Urfa Pepper?
Urfa Pepper is one of my current obsessions. It's a dark red Turkish chili pepper with a gorgeous savory-sweet-smokey and slightly sour flavor that adds a remarkable amount of flavor and complexity to food. The pepper is named after the town of Urfa, which is located in southern Turkey, close to the Syrian border.
For many of us in the US, Urfa Pepper might be a new discovery. But, in Turkey its been grown for hundreds (maybe even thousands?) of years. Peppers in general are a big part of Turkish cuisine, having had a prominent role in curing meats and pickling for centuries.
Fresh Urfa Peppers have a shape somewhat similar to poblanos peppers. They are harvested when they turn bright reddish-orange then dried in the sun until they are a deep burgundy. The interesting thing about the drying process is that, unlike Mexican-style chilies, Urfa Peppers are covered at night with fabric or plastic. This process, called "sweating", ensures that the peppers retain some of their natural oils. Even after the pepper is ground, it feels slightly damp and oily, impacting both the flavor and the texture.
What does Urfa Pepper taste like?
The flavor of Urfa Pepper is spectacularly complex. It has remarkable depth and just the right amount of heat. It's a little bit sweet, a little bit sour, and carries a smokiness that's the result of the drying process. The balance between sweet-savory-sour-smokey makes it the kind of spice that will elevate pretty much anything you want to add it to. And trust me. You'll want to add it to everything.
In reading through Turkish recipes, it is often combined with cumin seeds and onion. And, that's what I've done here, in this black bean soup.
In this recipe for Black Bean Soup, Urfa Pepper is added to sautéed onions and red bell peppers along with ground cumin, a pinch of sugar, and some tomato paste. The combination is a simple, easy way to add layers of flavor to the base of this soup, making it so much more interesting than your standard bean soup.
Where can you find ground Urfa Pepper? I almost always order it from Amazon and this is my favorite brand.
This soup is delicious with canned beans, but from scratch is even better.
Cooking black beans from scratch is seriously one of the easiest things. It takes some time, but so little of it is hand's on. Simply put the beans in a large pot or slow cooker along with some water and spices, and just let them get happy for a few hours.
The best thing about cooking dried beans is that you have the opportunity to add herbs, spices, garlic and onions to them while the cook, infusing the beans will all that flavor. Also, the texture of cooked dried beans is much, much better than anything that ever comes out of a can.
So, whenever possible, plan ahead and cook a pot of dried black beans for this soup. It's well worth it.
Having said that, using canned black beans is perfectly fine and will still result in a delicious black bean soup.
The toppings for this soup are where it's at!
Just like my favorite Vegetarian Chili Recipe, the toppings for this black bean soup elevate to a whole new level of delicious. Here's what we've got going on here:
#1. Cilantro Oil. Cilantro oil is simply fresh cilantro that's allowed to simmer and soak in extra virgin olive oil and is then pureed in a blender or food processor. I like to use my Cuisinart Mini-Processor for this task because the small bowl makes blending small amounts of ingredients so much easier.
So, why make cilantro oil instead of simply tossing a few fresh leaves of cilantro over the bowls of soup? Cooking the cilantro briefly both concentrates and smooths out the flavor. Fresh cilantro can have a "sharp" taste. Much of the time, I love that bright, sharp flavor. But, in this soup, I thought that the smooth, creaminess of cilantro oil would be a better fit.
#2. 30-Minute Pickled Onions. Homemade pickled onions only take 30 minutes to prepare and will last for weeks. They are magical on pizza, sandwiches, salads, tacos, nachos, and should make a regular appearance on cheese boards everywhere. In this soup, they add a vinegary freshness that is simply spectacular when combined with the smokey richness of the pureed black beans.
#3. Chopped Fresh Tomatoes. Just like the pickled onions, a few fresh tomatoes in this soup give it a bright, fresh flavor that contrasts beautifully with the spicy, smokiness of the black beans and Urfa Pepper. It's important that the tomato you use is ripe and flavorful.
One thing I want to say about fresh tomatoes is that they simply MUST be ripe and in season, or they aren't even worth using. If tomatoes aren't in season, or if the ones available to you are bland and flavorless, I'd suggest leaving them out. The other alternative is to use cherry or grape tomatoes which tend to be flavorful even when regular tomatoes are not.
#4. Crushed Tortilla Chips. A handful of tortilla chips add a delicious salty crunch to this creamy soup. 'Nuf said.
More Popular Soup Recipes:
- Black Bean Tomato Soup
- Red Lentil Soup with Ham
- Spanish Style Sausage and Lentil Soup
- Vegetarian Chili with Pico de Gallo and Chimichurri Sauce
- Zuppa Toscana with Bacon, Sausage, Potatoes, and Cream
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #alittleandalot on Instagram.
- 1 medium, yellow onion
- 1 red bell pepper
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ½ tbsp tomato paste
- 2-4 tsp Urfa Pepper *See notes below about spice level and substitutions
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 ½ tsp salt (plus more, to taste)
- 3 cups water
- 4 ½ cups (45 ounces) black beans, from a can or pre-cooked (*See note)
- 9 ounces chopped green chilis (fresh roasted and peeled or from a can)
- 2-4 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice (to taste)
For the Cilantro Oil:
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup packed chopped fresh cilantro
Additional Black Bean Soup Toppings:
- 30-Minute Pickled Onions
- 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
- 3-4 cups crushed tortilla chips
- Peel the onion. Slice of the stem of the red bell pepper and remove the seeds. Chop both vegetables into pieces that are roughly the size of black beans.
- Add the oil to a large saucepan and add the chopped onion and bell pepper. Set the pot over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are begining to look translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
- While the onion and pepper cooks, add the minced garlic, tomato paste, urfa pepper, grounc cumin, sugar, and 1 ½ tsp salt to a small bowl. Add to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minutes.
- Pour the water into the saucepan and add the black beans and green chilis. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time.
- While the soup simmers, make the cilantro oil: Add ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil and 1 cup packed chopped cilantro to a small skillet or saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Let simmer, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Once cool, dump it into a mini-food processor or blender and purée. (*See note)
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and laddle about 4 cups of the soup into a blender. (*If your blender is small, do this in batches.) Blend the soup until smooth. Be very careful! The steam will be hot.
- Stir the puréed soup back into saucepan and stir in 2 tbsp lime juice. Taste and add more salt and lime juice as desired. How much salt you need will depend on how salty your beans are.
- Serve with the cilantro oil and other toppings.
Urfa pepper has a moderate heat level that can vary a bit from jar to jar. When fresh, Urfa peppers are mild, but the heat level intensifies during the drying process. Taste your pepper to see how spicy it is and then add as much or as little as you like according to how spicy you like your food. I recomend a minimum of 2 tsp in order to take advantage of the flavor.
Substitutions for Urfa Pepper:
Whenever possible, I like to use cooked dried beans in this soup. Cooking dried beans allows you to infuse the beans with so much more flavor than you'll ever get from a can, giving this soup even more depth. Cooking dried beans is incredibly easy, but should be done the day before - or several days before - making this soup. Here's how to cook dried black beans.
For Christmas last year, my mom got me a Cusinart Mini Food Processor. My husband and I were planning to move into an RV and she thought it would take up less space than my regular size food processor. At the time, I honestly thought I wouldn't use it. How wrong I was! Having since moved into the RV, I love how little space the mini processor takes up. But, I started using it before we even moved into our tiny home on wheels for things like this cilantro oil because having a small bowl makes blending a small amount of ingredients so much easier. I highly recomend having one whether your kitchen is tiny or gigantic.
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Cuisinart DLC-2ABC Mini Prep Plus Food Processor Brushed Chrome and Nickel
Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless 3-Quart Saucepan with Cover
Cuisinart Chef's Classic Nonstick Hard-Anodized 8-Inch Open Skillet
Vitamix 5200 Blender Professional-Grade, 64 oz Container
The Spice Way Ground Cumin - powder made from premium whole cumin seeds 4 oz resealable bag
Urfa Biber Pepper by Crimson and Clove (2.6 oz.)
Serving Size:1 ⅓ cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 416Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1253mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 10gSugar: 21gProtein: 11g