Immerse yourself in the flavorful symphony of this delightful Butter Bean Soup Recipe – your new staple dish. Savor its rich, velvety texture, the warming broth brimming with buttery beans and aromatic herbs.
Every spoonful is a testament to its hearty simplicity, invoking nostalgia with each comforting bite. This soup is perfect for cozy nights and is your silent companion through heartwarming dinner conversations.
Its culinary charm will resonate with the avid home chef in you, enticing you to explore the hidden gastronomic potential of the humble butter bean. Prepare to be smitten as you delve into this culinary journey of remarkable flavors.
What Is Butter Bean Soup?
Butter Bean Soup is a comforting, hearty dish typically prepared from large, flat butter beans—also known as lima beans—cooked in a savory broth. The beans, tender, and buttery in texture, impart a creamy consistency to the soup.
For added depth, it’s often elevated with aromatic herbs, vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and sometimes ham or bacon. A staple in many cuisines, this versatile soup can be customized to taste and is cherished for its simplicity, nutritional value, and fulfilling nature.
History Of Butter Bean Soup
The humble butter bean, known in many places as the lima bean, traces its origins back to Central and South America, where it was cultivated as early as 2000 BC. As explorers traversed the globe, they brought these nutrient-dense beans back to Europe, and eventually, they made their way into North American cuisine.
The hearty, warming Butter Bean Soup grew popular for its simplicity, requiring only basic ingredients yet offering a depth of flavor and nutrition. Over the years, this dish has been embraced globally, with each region adding its unique touch, making it a versatile culinary staple.
Interesting Facts About The Recipe
- Ancient Origins: Butter beans, the key ingredient, have a long history, with cultivation dating back to 2000 BC in Central and South America.
- Nutrient Powerhouse: Besides being delicious, butter bean soup is packed with essential nutrients. It’s high in protein, fiber, iron, and vitamin B, promoting overall health.
- Versatility: The recipe for butter bean soup is highly adaptable. Ingredients can be altered to suit vegan, vegetarian, or meat-inclusive diets, and spices can be adjusted to cater to different palates.
- Global Appeal: This soup has transcended borders. Variations of it can be found in cuisines around the world, from the Mediterranean to the American South.
- Comfort Food Status: Due to its hearty nature and ability to warm from the inside out, butter bean soup is often considered a staple comfort food, particularly during colder months.
What Makes The Soup Special?
- Nutrition: It’s a nutritional powerhouse packed with protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals.
- Versatility: The soup’s adaptable recipe caters to various dietary needs and preferences, from vegetarian and vegan to gluten-free.
- Simplicity: Despite its complex flavors, the soup is surprisingly simple to prepare, using basic ingredients and easy-to-follow steps.
- Comforting Quality: There’s something inherently comforting about a bowl of warm, hearty soup. The butter bean soup, with its creamy consistency and savory notes, serves as a perfect comfort food.
- Universal Appeal: The soup’s delicious taste and hearty nature have helped it gain popularity around the world, with different cultures adding their unique spin, thereby increasing its global appeal.
|Medium red potatoes (diced, with peel)
|Condensed cream of celery soup (10.75 oz can)
|Cooked ham (cubed)
|Butter beans (drained, 15.5 oz can)
|1 can (15.5 oz)
|1/4 teaspoon (or to taste)
|1/4 teaspoon (or to taste)
- Butter Beans: Choose dried beans for the best flavor. Soak them overnight for quicker cooking and a more evenly cooked bean. However, if you’re short on time, canned beans can work, too – rinse them thoroughly to remove any excess salt.
- Vegetables: Fresh veggies like onions, carrots, and celery form the soup base. Use fresh produce for the best flavor, and cut them into similar sizes for even cooking.
- Herbs and Spices: Fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves add depth and aroma. Adjust the spices to your preference. If you prefer a little heat, add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- Broth: Use a high-quality broth. Vegetable, chicken, or beef broth all work well. Make your own for the best flavor and control over the salt content.
- Meat (optional): If you want to add meat, smoked ham or bacon work best, adding a smoky flavor that complements the butter beans beautifully.
- Olive Oil: Using good quality olive oil for sautéing your vegetables can make a noticeable difference in the depth of flavor in your soup.
- Acidity: A splash of lemon juice or vinegar at the end of cooking can help to balance out the flavors and add a bit of brightness to the soup.
Can You Vary The Recipe With Other Ingredients?
- Vegetarian/Vegan: You can easily make this soup vegetarian or vegan by using vegetable broth instead of chicken or beef broth. If the original recipe calls for meat, omit or substitute it with a vegan protein like tofu or tempeh.
- Gluten-Free: This soup is naturally gluten-free as it does not require any wheat-based ingredients. Ensure that any broth you use is certified gluten-free, as some brands may contain additives with gluten.
- Whole30: To make this soup Whole30 compliant, use homemade broth or a store-bought version without any added sugars or non-compliant additives. Also, skip any legumes, including butter beans, and replace them with Whole30-approved vegetables like sweet potatoes or butternut squash.
- Paleo: Like Whole30, replace beans with more Paleo-friendly vegetables or add lean meat like chicken. Make sure your broth is homemade or free from non-Paleo ingredients.
- Keto: To make this soup keto-friendly, you’ll need to replace butter beans, which are high in carbs, with lower-carb alternatives. Consider using vegetables like cauliflower or broccoli or adding more meat to the soup.
- Heat a large pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Once hot, add the diced onion, minced garlic, carrots, and celery. Sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the drained and rinsed butter beans to the pot. Stir and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
- Pour in the vegetable broth and add the bay leaf and dried thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.
- Remove the bay leaf from the soup. Using an immersion blender or a regular blender, blend about half of the soup until smooth. This will help thicken the soup while still leaving some texture.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. If the soup is too thick, you can add more vegetable broth to reach your desired consistency.
- Ladle the butter bean soup into bowls and garnish with fresh parsley, if desired.
- Serve hot and enjoy!
Variations, Add-Ons, And Toppings
- Vegetarian/Vegan: Skip the ham with vegetable broth or a vegan soup. Add in hearty vegetables or grains like kale, quinoa, or lentils for more substance.
- Seafood: Replace the ham with smoked salmon or cooked shrimp for a pescatarian twist.
- Spicy: Add a kick with a diced jalapeño, red pepper flakes, or a dash of hot sauce.
- Vegetables: Add more veggies for extra nutrition and flavor, like carrots, bell peppers, or zucchini.
- Grains: Add barley, rice, or pasta for a more substantial soup.
- Proteins: Consider other proteins like diced chicken, turkey, or even tofu.
- Herbs: Freshly chopped parsley, dill, or chives add a pop of color and fresh flavor.
- Cheese: A sprinkle of grated Parmesan or crumbled feta can add a savory touch.
- Crunch: Croutons, toasted seeds (pumpkin, sunflower), or crushed tortilla chips can provide a delightful crunch.
- Cream: A swirl of sour cream, yogurt, or vegan cream alternative can add richness and tang.
Scaling The Recipe
- Ingredients: Double or triple the amount of each ingredient according to how many servings you need.
- Cooking Pot: Ensure your pot is large enough to accommodate the increased volume.
- Cooking Time: Boiling and simmering times may increase slightly due to the larger volume of ingredients. Check the tenderness of the beans and potatoes and the overall flavor to determine when the soup is ready.
- Ingredients: Halve (or reduce as needed) the quantity of each ingredient to make fewer servings.
- Cooking Pot: You can use a smaller pot if desired.
- Cooking Time: Cooking times may decrease slightly, so check your soup often to prevent overcooking. The beans should be tender and the flavors well combined.
What Is Used For Garnishing?
- Fresh Herbs: Chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, dill, or even a sprig of rosemary or thyme can add color and a burst of freshness.
- Drizzle of Oil: A drizzle of good-quality olive or flavored oil, like truffle or chili oil, can add a glossy finish and a flavor boost.
- Cream or Yogurt: A swirl of sour cream, Greek yogurt, or a vegan alternative can add a beautiful contrast and a tangy note to the soup.
- Cheese: A sprinkle of grated Parmesan, Romano, or crumbled feta can add a savory touch.
- Croutons: Homemade croutons or a handful of crunchy toasted seeds add a nice texture contrast.
- Sliced Green Onions or Chives: These can add a subtle oniony flavor and a pop of color.
Can I Make The Soup In A Slow Cooker Or Instant Pot?
Slow Cooker Method
- Rinse the butter beans and soak them overnight.
- Drain the beans and add them to the slow cooker the next day.
- Add the rest of your ingredients – potatoes, onions, cream of celery soup, ham, spices – into the slow cooker.
- Fill the slow cooker with enough water or broth to cover the ingredients by about an inch.
- Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours until the beans are tender.
- Check the seasoning before serving, adjusting if needed.
Instant Pot Method
- If using dried beans, use the Instant Pot to quick-soak them: Cover with water, pressure cook for 5 minutes, then let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse.
- Using the sauté setting, add some oil and cook your onions until translucent.
- Add the rest of the ingredients – beans, potatoes, cream of celery soup, ham, spices – to the pot.
- Add enough water or broth to cover the ingredients.
- Lock the lid in place, make sure the valve is set to sealing, and set to pressure cook on high for 15 minutes.
- Allow the pressure to naturally release for 10-15 minutes before doing a quick release.
- Check the seasoning before serving, adjusting if needed.
Can I Use Store Broth, Or Should I Make My Own?
- This is a great time-saver and can be a good choice to start your soup quickly. Look for a high-quality brand with natural ingredients, and avoid broths with sodium or preservatives. You can find store-bought broth in chicken, beef, vegetable, and other flavors, which gives you flexibility in the base flavor of your soup.
- Making your own broth gives you complete control over the ingredients and flavor. Homemade broth can be richer in flavor than store-bought versions and is a great way to use leftover bones and vegetable scraps. You can make a large batch and freeze it in portions as needed.
Can I Use Different Types Of Meat/Fish/Pasta/Vegetables For The Soup?
- Meat: Instead of ham, you could use smoked turkey, chicken, beef, or Italian sausage. Just ensure to cook the meat thoroughly before adding it to the soup.
- Fish: For a pescatarian version, you could use chunks of firm white fish like cod, halibut, or shrimp. Remember to add these towards the end of cooking to prevent them from overcooking and becoming tough.
- Pasta: Small pasta shapes like ditalini, orzo, or even small elbow macaroni can be a great addition. Cook the pasta separately and add it towards the end to avoid overcooking.
- Vegetables: Feel free to add more vegetables to the soup. Carrots, celery, bell peppers, zucchini, kale, or spinach would all work well. Just adjust the cooking time based on the type of vegetable to ensure everything is cooked properly.
Success Tips – Tips And Tricks For The Recipe
- Soak dried butter beans overnight before cooking to ensure they cook evenly and have a creamy texture.
- Sauté the onions, garlic, carrots, and celery for added depth of flavor before adding the beans and broth.
- Use homemade vegetable broth for the best flavor, or choose a high-quality store-bought option.
- Consider adding a splash of lemon juice or a sprinkle of smoked paprika for a flavor boost.
- Allow the soup to simmer gently to let the flavors meld together, and adjust the seasoning to taste before serving.
- Soak the Beans: If using dried butter beans, remember to soak them overnight. This reduces the cooking time and makes them easier to digest.
- Prep Ingredients Ahead of Time: Chopping your vegetables and measuring your spices ahead of time (also known as “mise en place”) makes the cooking process smoother and less stressful.
- Layer the Flavors: Sauté the onions until they’re soft and translucent before adding the rest of your ingredients. This builds a flavor foundation for your soup.
- Use Quality Broth: Whether you’re using homemade or store-bought, a flavorful broth is key to a delicious soup.
- Season Gradually: Don’t add all your salt and spices at once. Add a bit at a time and taste as you go, adjusting as needed.
- Simmer Gently: Let the soup simmer gently once all the ingredients are added. Boiling it vigorously can make the beans tough and the soup cloudy.
- Cook the Potatoes Properly: Cook the potatoes until they’re tender to maintain their texture in the soup. Overcooked potatoes might disintegrate and make the soup starchy.
- Add Acidic Ingredients Last: If you’re adding tomatoes or other acidic ingredients, add them towards the end of the cooking process. Acid can prevent the beans from becoming tender.
- Rest the Soup: Let the soup rest for a while off the heat before serving. This allows the flavors to meld together and the soup to thicken a bit.
Introducing butter bean soup—a flavorful and nutritious dish. Packed with protein, fiber, and essential minerals, this soup combines the creaminess of butter beans with the goodness of vegetables and ham, creating a satisfying and wholesome meal.
What Are The Total Calories In The Soup?
The total calorie content in a Butter Bean Soup can vary depending on the exact ingredients and their quantities used. However, on average, a serving of Butter Bean Soup could contain around 200-300 calories.
This estimate assumes the use of lean ham, a moderate amount of oil or butter for sautéing the onions, and cream of celery soup that isn’t overly high in fat.
Dietary Restrictions Of Butter Bean Soup
- Vegetarian/Vegan: The traditional recipe includes ham, making it unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans. However, the ham can be omitted or replaced with a plant-based alternative, and any animal-derived broth can be swapped for vegetable broth.
- Gluten-Free: Butter Bean Soup is typically gluten-free, but if it involves any processed ingredients such as store-bought broth or cream of celery soup, you’ll need to ensure those are certified gluten-free.
- Dairy-Free/Lactose-Free: If the recipe includes cream, butter, or any other dairy products, it won’t be suitable for those avoiding dairy. However, you can use dairy-free alternatives as needed.
- Low-Fat/Low-Sodium: Ham and canned soup can be high in fat and sodium. For a lower-fat or lower-sodium version, you could use lean meat or reduce the amount of ham, and use a low-sodium broth or make your own.
- Paleo/Keto: As legumes and potatoes are not typically included in paleo or keto diets, traditional Butter Bean Soup would not fit these diet parameters.
- Allergies: The traditional recipe is typically free of common allergens like nuts, eggs, and shellfish, but always confirm based on your specific recipe and the needs of those who will be consuming the soup.
Health Benefits Of Butter Bean Soup
- High in Fiber: Butter beans, like other legumes, are rich in dietary fiber, which can support digestive health, help control blood sugar levels, and contribute to feelings of fullness, potentially aiding weight management.
- Good Source of Protein: The ham and beans in the soup both provide protein, which is essential for building and repairing tissues, among other functions. If you’re following a plant-based diet, the beans offer a valuable source of plant protein.
- Rich in Vitamins and Minerals: Butter beans are a good source of various vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Depending on the other vegetables included in your soup, you may also get a dose of vitamins A, C, and K, among others.
- Low in Fat: If prepared with lean ham and a limited amount of oil or butter, Butter Bean Soup can be relatively low in fat.
- Hydrating: Like other soups, Butter Bean Soup has a high water content, which can contribute to hydration.
How Can I Make Butter Bean Soup Lower In Sodium?
- Use Low-Sodium Broth: Whether you’re making your own or buying it, opt for a broth that’s labeled as low-sodium. This can significantly reduce the sodium content of your soup.
- Rinse Canned Beans: If you’re using canned butter beans, rinse them thoroughly before using them. This can remove some of the added sodium.
- Skip the Ham or Choose a Lower-Sodium Option: Ham can be high in sodium, so consider reducing the amount, skipping it altogether, or looking for a lower-sodium version.
- Add Flavor Without Salt: Boost the flavor of your soup with fresh herbs, spices, and aromatics, such as garlic, onions, and celery, which add a lot of flavor without adding sodium.
- Control the Salt: Add your own salt, if necessary, to control the amount that goes into the dish.
- Use Fresh Vegetables: If your recipe calls for canned vegetables, try using fresh or frozen ones instead, as canned vegetables often contain added salt.
How Can I Make Butter Bean Soup Lower In Sugar?
- Watch Your Broth: Some store-bought broths or stocks can contain added sugars. Check the ingredients list for anything indicating added sugars (like corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, or any words ending in “-ose”) and try to choose a brand without these.
- Check Processed Ingredients: If your recipe includes processed foods like canned cream of celery soup, these can sometimes contain added sugars. Look for versions without added sugars, or consider making your own.
- Use Fresh Ingredients: Fresh vegetables and legumes will not have added sugar, unlike some canned varieties.
- Be Aware of Your Spices: Some spice blends, like certain barbecue or curry powders, may contain added sugars. Check the ingredients or consider mixing your own spices.
- Avoid Sweetened Dairy: If your recipe calls for any dairy, ensure it’s unsweetened. Some types of milk, especially non-dairy varieties, can have added sugars.
How To Serve The Butter Bean Soup Best?
- With Bread: Serve your Butter Bean Soup with a side of crusty bread or warm dinner rolls. The bread is excellent for sopping up the flavorful broth.
- With a Salad: A fresh, crisp salad can balance out the heartiness of the soup and make for a complete, balanced meal.
- Toppings: Add some extra flavor and texture with toppings. Crumbled bacon, chopped fresh herbs (like parsley or chives), a dollop of sour cream, or some shredded cheese can all enhance your soup.
- In a Soup Bowl or Bread Bowl: Consider serving your Butter Bean Soup in a hollowed-out bread bowl for a fun and hearty presentation.
- As a Starter: You could also serve smaller portions of Butter Bean Soup as a warming starter before the main course.
Perfect Side Dishes To Complement Butter Bean Soup Recipe
- Crusty Bread or Dinner Rolls: This classic pairing is great for dipping and soaking up the flavorful soup broth.
- Green Salad: A fresh salad with a tangy vinaigrette provides a crisp contrast to the rich, hearty soup. Include a variety of vegetables and some crunchy croutons or nuts.
- Grilled Cheese Sandwich: A comforting and delicious partner for soup, a grilled cheese sandwich adds extra protein and a nice textural contrast.
- Roasted Vegetables: Seasonal vegetables roasted with herbs and a little olive oil provide a delicious and healthy accompaniment to your soup.
- Cornbread: The sweet and savory taste of cornbread complements the flavors in butter bean soup beautifully.
- Quinoa or Couscous Salad: These can add a healthy, filling component that pairs well with the soup.
- Charcuterie Board: If you’re entertaining, a selection of cheeses, cured meats, fruits, and nuts can make a well-rounded meal with the soup.
- Pickles or Chutney: The tart and tangy flavor can cut through the soup’s richness, balancing the taste.
How Long Can We Store The Soup?
Butter Bean Soup can generally be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Let the soup cool before transferring it to an airtight container and placing it in the fridge.
If you want to store the soup for a longer period, you can freeze it. Frozen soup can last for about 2-3 months. To freeze, allow the soup to cool completely before transferring to a container or bag, leaving some room for expansion.
When you’re ready to consume the soup, thaw it in the fridge overnight, then reheat it on the stove or put it in the microwave. Stir it well to recombine any ingredients that may have separated, and make sure it’s heated through before serving.
Can I Make Soup In Advance?
- Prepare the Soup: Follow your recipe to prepare the soup as usual.
- Cool it Down: Once the soup is done, remove it from the heat and let it cool. It’s important to cool it quickly to prevent the growth of bacteria. To speed up this process, you can transfer the soup to a shallow, wide container or place the soup pot in an ice bath, stirring occasionally.
- Store it Properly: Once cooled, transfer the soup to an airtight container. You can store it in the fridge if you plan to eat it within a few days. If you want to keep it longer, you can freeze it.
- Reheat it Safely: When you’re ready to serve the soup, reheat it thoroughly. If it’s frozen, it’s best to thaw it in the fridge overnight before reheating. You can reheat the soup on the stove over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s hot all the way through. If you prefer, you can also reheat it in the microwave.
What Can We Do With Leftovers?
Leftover Butter Bean Soup can be creatively repurposed to bring new life to your meals. It could serve as a base for a new dish: try adding some pasta, cooked chicken, or beef for a hearty stew.
Consider chilling the soup and serving it as a cold entrée with some chopped fresh vegetables for a refreshing twist. Leftover soup can also be used as a sauce over cooked grains like rice or quinoa for an easy, flavorful dish.
Another option is to blend the soup until smooth and use it as a delicious, creamy dip for bread or raw vegetables. Always remember to reheat leftovers properly and enjoy them within 3-4 days when stored in the refrigerator.
Special Tools/Equipment Needed
- Large Soup Pot or Dutch Oven: You’ll cook your soup here. A pot with a heavy bottom is best because it distributes heat evenly and can help prevent the soup from burning or sticking to the bottom.
- Sharp Knife and Cutting Board: You’ll need these to chop your onions, potatoes, and other vegetables in your soup.
- Measuring Cups and Spoons: To accurately measure your ingredients.
- Wooden Spoon or Spatula: For stirring your soup as it cooks.
- Blender or Immersion Blender: If you prefer a smoother soup, you could use a blender or an immersion blender to puree some or all of it. Just be careful when blending hot soup, and make sure to let it cool slightly first if you’re using a standard blender.
- Ladle: For serving your finished soup.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Substitute Another Type Of Bean For The Butter Beans?
Yes, you can use other types of beans if you prefer or if butter beans are unavailable. Cannellini beans, navy beans, or chickpeas all work well. This may slightly alter the flavor and texture of the soup.
Can I Add Extra Vegetables To The Soup?
Definitely! This soup is quite flexible, and you can add other vegetables based on your preference or what you have on hand. Carrots, celery, spinach, or kale would all be great additions.
How Can I Make The Soup Creamier?
If you want a creamier soup, you could puree a portion of the soup using a blender or immersion blender, then mix it back into the pot. Alternatively, adding a cream or coconut milk splash can also add creaminess.
Can I Make This Soup Spicy?
Absolutely! If you like a kick to your soup, add some heat. This could be done with a pinch of cayenne pepper, diced jalapeno, or a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce.
Is This Soup Suitable For Meal Prep?
Yes, Butter Bean Soup is a fantastic option for meal prep. You can make a large batch of the soup and then portion it into individual servings to store in the refrigerator or freezer. Then, you need to reheat the soup when you’re ready to eat.
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