Do you ever shop in the bulk aisle? It’s my favorite way to purchase beans, nuts and grains! Saves money and packaging, and you can buy just what you need.
Except that I’m not so great at eyeballing what I need, so I always end up with just a little more than a recipe calls for. Which is totally fine - I just keep extra beans and grains stored in labeled mason jars in my pantry. But eventually those mason jars accumulate, and there’s not really any recipes that call for 1/4 cup dried chickpeas. I came up with this recipe for spicy harissa bean soup as a way to use up those odd bits of dry beans a few years ago, and I make it about once a year when my pantry is getting a little out of control. It’s a simple recipe made by simmering whatever dry beans you have on hand in a spicy tomato and vegetable broth spiked with harissa.
This recipe calls for 2 1/4 cups of beans because that’s what I had when I threw together all my beans, but feel free to use a little more or less. You can just adjust the amount of liquid towards the end of cooking to make it thinner or thicker as needed. Just make sure the beans you use are similar size. Like, don’t throw together gigantes beans and lentils, because they will cook at totally different times. I usually make this with some combination of chickpeas, black-eyed peas, black beans, white beans and kidney beans. I also find that it cooks much more evenly if I soak the beans overnight. But honestly, it’s nbd if some of the beans start to break down, it just makes a thicker broth. Of, if you want to use lentils, add them the last 20-40 minutes of cooking (different lentil varieties differ in cooking time).
Tips for Cooking Dry Beans
You can certainly make this dish with canned beans. Just use the 4 cups of broth (omit the additional water), simmer the broth for 10-20 minutes to let the flavors meld, then add 2-3 cans of beans and warm through. But whenever you do have time to cook with dry beans, I think they taste so much better - much creamier on the inside with a little bite to the skins!
For extra delicious dried beans, be sure to soak them in a couple inches of water overnight. You can cook dry beans without soaking, but it takes much longer, and the texture isn’t as good. When cooking the beans, avoid boiling them by keeping the soup at a simmer. Boiling breaks open the skins and will cause the beans to fall apart.
Cooking with Harissa
Have you ever cooked with harissa before? It’s a spicy paste, originally from Tunisia, made with roasted chilies, peppers and spices. I find brands vary quite a bit, so taste around to see which one is your favorite. My favorite brand is Dea harissa (affiliate link, as well as the following) which comes in a tube so it’s easy to use. I’ve also heard that Le Phare du Cap Bon Harissa (a Tunisian brand) is one of the best, but I haven’t tried it yet. Mina’s harissa is also easy to find and also has a thinner consistency, so it’s easier to use as a sauce on it’s own. The only brand I don’t recommend is Trader Joe’s, which is weirdly acidic and just not that good (sorry TJ’s, love ya for basically everything else!). Harissa brands also vary in spice, so if you’re sensitive to it, you might want to start with a smaller amount (about a tablespoon) and add more at the end to taste.
Keep scrolling after the recipe for more ideas for how to use up extra harissa!
This recipe was originally posted 12/1/14. Recipe, image and text have been updated to give you the best possible content.
Spicy Harissa Bean Soup
Makes a big ‘ole pot!
About 2 1/4 cups mixed dried beans
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
3 tablespoons harissa paste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
Chopped fresh parsley, for serving
Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with plenty of water. Soak for 8-12 hours. Drain.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion, carrot, celery, and bell pepper with a pinch of salt. Saute 7-10 minutes until onion is translucent. Stir in harissa, thyme, basil, and oregano and cook for a minute.
Add beans, broth, water, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and simmer partially covered for about 2 hours until beans are tender and creamy. Check a couple of beans from each variety, as each kind of bean might vary in cooking time, and sometimes individual beans can be finicky. Season with salt and pepper to taste.