Spicy Harissa Bean Soup

Warm up with a spicy bowl of this simple, bean soup, flavored with a Middle Eastern condiment called harissa. It's the perfect way to use up random leftover bits of dry beans, which tend to accumulate in a whole foods kitchen! 

No sooner than we had packed up our leftovers from Thanksgiving, we were on the road again, this time to Clemson for our annual rivalry game. Since our group of friends is scattered throughout the Southeast, the game is a great excuse to get everyone together. We rented a cabin by nearby Lake Hartwell and spent the weekend in Clemson visiting our old stomping grounds, reconnecting and eating more pizza than I care to admit.

After getting home, I wanted something warm to soothe my throat, sore from cheering, and, something spicy to give my taste buds a break from all the rich, cheesy, and sweet foods I’ve had in the past few days. So, I came up with this simple, harissa spiced mixed bean soup.

Alternate title: how to use up your stockpile of almost empty mason jars of beans. Since getting my pressure cooker, which perfectly cooks dry beans in 30 minutes, I almost always purchase them from the bulk section. Of course, this means I have a constant supply of completely useless amounts of dry beans taking up space in my pantry. This recipe is the perfect way to use it up. You can use as many different types as you like in whatever quantities you like. It calls for 2 1/4 cups of beans total, but if you use a little more or a little less, that's fine. You’ll just end up with a thicker or thinner soup.

This soup is spiced with Middle Eastern condiment called harissa. It’s a spicy paste made with roasted chilies, peppers and other spices. I purchase it store bought, but you can make your own, which I hear is ah-MAZING. The harissa adds an incredible depth of flavor to this fairly simple bean soup.

Running out to pick up a jar? The sauce is amazing tossed with roasted carrots or winter squash, spread on a grilled cheese sandwich, or in a chickpea and vegetable stew.

Spicy Harissa Bean Soup

Serves 8-10

I used a combination of baby limas, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas and a couple tablespoons of pinto beans. Feel free to use what you already have. If using lentils, add them towards the last 30 minutes of cooking. Harissa varies significantly in spice level, so you may want to start off with a couple tablespoons of paste if you're not too big on heat.


  • 2 1/4 cups mixed dried beans
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons harissa paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes (BPA free)
  • Balsamic vinegar, for garnish


  1. Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with plenty of water. Soak for 8-12 hours. Drain.
  2. In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic, onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper. Saute 10 minutes until onion is translucent and lightly golden. Add harissa, thyme, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine and cook 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add broth, tomatoes and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 2 - 2 1/2 hours until beans are tender. Serve garnished with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.