So, I told you about the brisket. Or, the way we talk about it, thhhuuuuh brisssssket, it’s deliciousness making our syllables stretch out melodramatically. We pulled it into tacos with slaw and pickled onions and it was a great end to a great year. But I bet I know what you’ve been wondering since then, “But no appetizer?” Well, let this question vex your brain no longer: we had soup. (Jacob, however, got into the margaritas. Again.)
My friend Jocelyn made a wonderful black bean soup and she topped it with a toasted cumin seed crema and I just about died, the crema was so good. I mean, the soup was delicious but the crema was one of those toppings that was in lock-step with the soup: the richest, creamiest, smokiest accent to a spicy, hearty soup. Since I’ve been slow cooker obsessed since that very day, I vowed to make a version entirely in my new BFF, and to top it with that toasted cumin seed cream. Frankly, the soup is just an excuse to get to it.
Or it would have been if that, too, hadn’t also ended up being ridiculously good. Have I told you how awesome the slow cooker is for resuscitating dried beans? There’s nothing better, period. I’ve always loved eating beans but the inconsistent and generally lackluster quality of canned beans frustrated me and the patience required to simmer something for hours on the stove eluded me. And now, with no presoaking, no simmering, just tossing cold dried beans in the slow cooker for just shy of three hours and they are perfection itself: bean nirvana. Throw in chipotle, peppers, garlic, onions and a healthy dose of cumin and you too can have this unbelievable soup from the tiniest effort.
Black Bean Soup with Chipotle and Toasted Cumin Seed Crème Fraîche
Note: The original recipe calls for 6 hours in a slow-cooker. Mine was done at 2 hours 45 minutes. In hindsight, my slow-cooker runs hotter than normal (closer to a low simmer on the stove). For most people who have commented, 6 hours was just right, so I’ve written it as so.
In 2017, I I added InstantPot/Electric pressure cooker directions as well as long-overdue stovetop directions. It doesn’t matter how you make this, only that you do. For the stovetop, if you want to make it faster, you can soak the beans overnight in the 7 cups of water and I like to salt the at this point too. Add the soaked beans and all the remaining water to the stock pot when you would add the unsoaked beans and water; this often reduces the simmering time to 45 minutes, but your mileage will vary.
These days, we often serve it “taco”-style for extra kid-friendliness: baked tortilla chips, sometimes pickled onions and sliced avocado garnishes and always the toasted cumin seed sour cream/creme fraiche, plus extra hot sauce for us. The most recent time I made this, I used the leftovers, which had thickened a bit more in the fridge, as a topping for shredded chicken tacos a couple nights later.
Don’t have chipotle en adobo? I was out the last time I made this and used instead a teaspoon or two of chipotle powder (close in taste to hot smoked paprika) plus a dollop of tomato paste instead.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 medium-size red onions, chopped
- 1 medium-size red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 16-ounce package dried black beans
- 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chiles from a can (this gives it a solid kick, dial back if you are wary)
- 7 cups water
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
- 1 cup Mexican crema or crème fraîche (or make your own crema, make your own crème fraîche, or swap sour cream or yogurt, for a close-enough taste)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the soup
Make the soup in a slow-cooker: Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and both bell peppers and sauté until beginning to brown, about eight minutes. Add garlic and cumin; stir one minute. Transfer mixture to 6-quart slow cooker. Add beans and chipotles, then 7 cups hot water. Cover and cook on high until beans are very tender, about 6 hours. [But see note up top because mine finish sooner, although most others have not.]
Make the soup in an InstantPot or electric pressure cooker: Heat olive oil in the bottom of your pressure cooker on the sauté function. Add onions and both bell peppers and sauté until beginning to brown, about eight minutes. Add garlic and cumin; stir one minute. Add beans and chipotles, then 7 cups hot water. Cover, locking lid and closing steam valve. Cook at high pressure on the manual setting for 30 minutes. If you have time, let the pressure release naturally. I didn’t have a lot of time, and let it release naturally for 10 to 15 minutes, then manually the rest of the way.
While it cooks, make the topping: Place the cumin in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Toast until lightly golden brown. Place in spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind until coarse. Stir it into the cream and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
All cooking methods: Transfer two cups bean mixture to blender; puree until smooth, then return the puree to remaining soup in slow cooker. Or, you can use an immersion blender to partially blend the soup right where you’ve cooked it. Stir in lime juice, salt, and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste; we found we needed more salt. Ladle soup into bowls. Spoon dollop of toasted cumin seed cream (below) over each bowl and serve.
Do ahead: This soup keeps great in the fridge, and even thickens a bit. In a good way!