Recipes

white bean soup with crispy kale

I dreamed up this soup with picky eaters in mind and I know how picky eaters think because I was one. Well, am one. (Shh, don’t tell anyone. I’ve managed to keep it a secret so long.)


what you'll need

My first cookbook has no soup recipes because I didn’t consider myself a soup person, although this makes it sound like a failing of identity and it was really that I found soup depressingly monotonous: must every spoonful be exactly like the one before? A bowl felt a lifetime long. But my second cookbook (and my third, should I ever get to writing that thing, heh) has a big one because I finally figured out how to make soup that kept me interested: fixings. For me, when a soup is simple, it’s about the finishes. I love a salad bar of options and I love to be able to add more as I eat, so no two spoonfuls are exactly alike. This technique has come in handy with every variety of choosy eaters in my family — a husband who doesn’t like smooth soups, a son who can be convinced to eat most things if they have bacon, and a daughter who eats approximately nothing but is known to demolish bowls of kale chips and will steal the bacon off your plate without asking or expressing any level of remorse after. (She’s a cat. I gave birth to a cat.) (Although temporarily a spider.)

diced potatoescrisp the pancetta, if usingcook onion and garlic in drippingsadd potatoes and simmer until tenderblend until smoothadd cheese, to taste

This soup started as a lightened-up baked potato soup, swapping beans for some of the potatoes, but it’s way more interesting than that, if you ask me. It’s perfectly cozy solo, but when you set out a little sour cream, parmesan, pancetta, and crispy kale, it’s… fun? Yes, I just called soup fun. You can make it vegetarian by skipping the pancetta, vegan by skipping the parmesan and cream (I’d use a squeeze of lemon), but more important is that no matter how you make it, you can do so quickly. We’re not soaking beans, we’re not making stock, not here, not this time. This is a 40-minutes-top soup, and it’s absolutely perfect for right now.

meanwhile, crisp your kalecrispy kaleblended, fix as you wishsome fixings

Good Morning America: What? Yeah, no big deal at all! I was invited to kick off Ginger Zee’s cooking club, where she’s attempting to get her (really cute) kids and husband out of their pasta-obsessed rut. I came to her house to demonstrate this recipe and also another kid favorite, the Pizza Beans from Smitten Kitchen Every Day and the kids and husband ate it all. (I came home and was like “Step it up, fam.”) You can watch me do just this on the show tomorrow (Wednesday 10/30) morning at 8:45am ET, barring any major news that bumps the segment. [Update: Indeed, some news — the worsening fires in California — bumped the segment. I’ll give you a heads-up when there’s a new air date for it. And please, be safe out there.] When there’s a link to watch it online, I’ll add it here.

Are you following SK on Instagram? Every couple Fridays (ideally, every other, but sometimes life gets in the way) I’m doing Live Story demos of a recipe from the archives. Last week, apple cider caramels, the best Halloween candy that is not storebought peanut butter cups. A week from Friday (11/8)? Not sure what I’m cooking yet, but it will be something warm and cozy.

white bean soup with crispy kale

Previously

Six months ago: Braised Ginger Meatballs in Coconut Broth
One year ago: Sunken Black Forest Cake
Two years ago: Bakery-Style Butter Cookies
Three years ago: Broken Pasta with Pork Ragu
Four years ago: Baked Potatoes with Wild Mushroom Ragu and Twinkie Bundt
Five years ago: Homemade Harissa and Cauliflower Cheese
Six years ago: Potato and Broccolini Frittata
Seven years ago: Butternut Squash Salad with Farro and Pepitas and Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones
Eight years ago: Pear, Cranberry, and Gingersnap Crumble
Nine years ago: Cauliflower and Parmesan Cake and Spiced Applesauce Cake
Ten years ago: Cauliflower with Almonds, Raisins and Capers and Silky, Decadent Old-School Chocolate Mousse
Eleven years ago: Meatballs and Spaghetti and Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad and Pink Lady Cake
Twelve years ago: Pumpkin Bread Pudding and Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup
Thirteen years ago: Pumpkin Muffins and Easiest Baked Macaroni-and-Cheese

White Bean Soup with Crispy Kale

  • Servings: 4
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • Print

To make this vegetarian, skip the pancetta and sauté the onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. To make this dairy-free, omit the cheese and sour cream.

  • 4 ounces diced pancetta
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds yukon gold potatoes, diced into 1/2-inch cubes (no need to peel)
  • 5 ounces curly kale leaves (from a salad-ready container)
  • 1 15-ounce can of cannellini or a smaller white bean, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan
  • Sour cream, to serve

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large, heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil and pancetta over medium heat; cook, stirring, until pancetta is crisp all over. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Pour off all but two tablespoons fat from pan and leave the heat on. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add broth, potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and many grinds of black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until potatoes are tender (you can check by trying to smash one against the side of the pot with a spoon), about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile: Toss kale leaves with 1 tablespoon olive oil, rubbing it into the leaves. Spread them on your largest baking sheet, season with salt, and bake until the leaves are crisp, anywhere from 12 to 17 minutes. (It ranges due to whether there’s water clinging to them still and how much the pieces curl up.) You might want to move pieces around halfway to ensure they bake evenly. Set aside.

Once potatoes are tender, add beans and simmer for 3 minutes more. Blend soup until totally smooth. It will be thick. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed, adding more salt and pepper. Stir in half your cheese until melted and combined.

To serve, ladle into bowls. Dollop with sour cream, some kale chips torn into smaller chunks, pancetta, and remaining cheese if needed to please the masses.

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98 comments on white bean soup with crispy kale

  1. JP

    Looks delicious…I happen to love soup! But the idea of soup with extras is very nice. The only other one I know of is a tortilla type soup, so this is a nice switch. Thanks!

  2. Ellie H.

    Long time follower, first time commenting. I LOVE SOUP!!!! All kinds, all year round! You had me at Yukon potatoes and white beans. This will be on my menu next week. Thank you!
    Ellie

  3. I was just wondering if you were a former picky eater! I am a reformed one myself and am the mother of one as well. I always make the excuse that we are super tasters. I think that’s why your recipes are always so spot on, you must have a super sensitive palate!

    1. Mimi

      Thats the first Spider I like:-)
      I can’t believe the hair!!
      As for the soup, I’ll try it on my 4 fussy eaters and hope for the best…

  4. This looks and sounds amazing as snow is dumping in CO. For a veg*n alternative to pancetta, tossing some chickpeas in oil, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, etc… and baking them until crispy would be an excellent substitute to add the smokey crispiness. Yum!

      1. Minoti Sahu

        For another vegetarian alternative, you could cube some paneer and toss it with some olive oil/salt/black pepper/optional-turmeric, toast it in a skillet until golden brown on all sides.

    1. Tonie Domino

      I’m not a vegan but I’m curious why you spelled it with the asterisk? My husband has celiac disease and I often Ctrl+F the comments for “gluten” to see how people have adapted recipes. It seems that using “veg*n” instead of vegan would prevent fellow vegans from doing a similar comment search.

      1. Annie Mz

        I made this and it was pretty good. The beans in the soup slurry make for a somewhat grainy texture, which was unfortunate. I started from dried beans so maybe they weren’t cooked enough.. hmm. Overall a pretty nice flavor.

    1. smittycdm

      I wrote to Rancho Gordo and they gave me a list of IP cooking times for different types of beans, based on soaking or non-soaking. I believe it came from the IP Facebook Group (I don’t subscribe to FB.) My take away is IP or any pressure cooking of beans is a very lean broth. Hope that helps.

  5. Peter

    Funny that you don’t consider yourself a soup person, when the first SK recipe that I elected to make was your hot and sour soup! It’s so good.

  6. MR in NJ

    Please please say crisp, not crispy!
    Soup recipes are most welcome. How about a broccoli one that gets its flavor from something other than a lot of cheese at the end?

      1. Frida Botelho

        Just an FYI the link to the Nytimes.com above broccoli soup recipe won’t let m e view the actual recipe unless I subscribe. Grrrrr. Irritating! Don’t mind subscribing, I just don’t want to be forced to do so.
        On a more positive note love your blog and have both your cookbooks. Your recipes rock at my house…even with picky eaters

    1. If you’ve never had it as crisp chips, give it a try. Really. Do it. it’s a totally different experience to any other kale you’ve eaten, and completely delicious.

      One thing I’ve found is it has to be eaten the minute it comes out of the oven or it absorbs enough moisture from the air to lose its crispiness. Not nearly as nice.

      Am I doing something wrong? Or is there a trick to helping it stay crisp for longer?

    2. caspad

      oyster crackers? croutons? tortilla strips? toasted pepitas?
      the kale is just something crunchy to contrast with the smooth soup

  7. Heather

    This recipe sounds awesome and I love that it’s so versatile. Woo Hooo!! Congrats on your GMA segment! I’m so happy I read your entry in time to watch tomorrow :o)

  8. Vanessa

    I am so excited to make this! Trying to use up the kale STILL in my garden! I love soup for a weeknight dinner so I made a kale & bean soup but it was kinda boring. Then I had a kale vichyssoise at a restaurant that I tried to recreate but mine was too green & kale-y. This soup might be the perfect medium between the two??? More after this weekend when I can harvest more kale… Thank you!!!!
    Ps. It was those apple cider caramels that got me hooked on SK all those years ago! I make them for my daughter’s Thanksgiving-time birthday every year! Good luck tomorrow on Good Morning America!!!!

  9. Maryse42

    Leave out the dairy before freezing (just add it back after reheating, before serving), and you should be golden!

    I have the opposite of a fussy eater — my 9-year-old will happily eat almost anything I make, all the vegetables, tofu… but he generally dislikes beans/legumes and he hates mashed potatoes. Guess I’ll be making this one just for me!

  10. Liz

    Ha! We are opposite: I love a soup, almost any soup unless it’s over blended and the texture of phlegm, and despise the fussiness of toppings (I mostly omit them or add them all at once).
    Your daughter’s hair is enviable. I say that as a curly haired person who has, her entire life, had her hair commented upon by strangers and knows that it’s nice but also a little weird, especially for small girls. So, bringing the weird I guess?

  11. Pancetta? In “fly over country” we have the choices of ham or bacon. I would love for chefs to come to a small country store, and shop for a meal.

    It is -22 outside, soup sounds pretty good.

    1. Marcia

      I shop in a small country store, and they carry diced pancetta in packages of 4 or 5 ounces… look around the place where you might find salami or sausages. Otherwise you can use thick cut bacon and Cut it into chunks.

      I also make a white bean soup with crumbled cooked Italian sausage.
      Also a nice addition.

    2. MR in NJ

      To prepare for making this soup on rainy Halloween tomorrow I bought a can of cannellini (or a cannellini of can, or a cannellini can) and a 4-ounce package of diced pancetta at the supermarket today. The brand is Boar’s Head. If you can find a store that carries that brand, and they don’t have this product, maybe they would order it for you (?).

      https://boarshead.com/products/detail/119910216-diced-uncured-pancetta

      For those who don’t like/don’t have greens to add: I make another bean soup to which I add cooked carrots in large but bite-size chunks after pureeing the rest. I like the added color and texture.

  12. Thia

    When did cannellini beans get so large? With the last 3 letters “ini” I expect small white beans. However that is not what I am finding in the cans of cannellini beans at my local grocery store. Have you eperienced this problem? Do I have unrealistic expectations of a cannellini bean?

    1. Lisa

      AFAIK, cannellini beans have always been larger than small white beans. They’re sometimes referred to as white kidney beans.

      You’ve made the mistake of assuming the “ini” means small(er beans). In this case, Merriam Webster says, “Italian cannellini, plural of cannellino kind of hard candy, variety of white bean resembling the candy”

    2. Mia

      You can seek out navy beans if you prefer a smaller white bean! I guess it doesn’t make a difference here where they’re pureed anyways, but I often use them myself.

  13. Rachel

    The soup was delicious but I found the crispy kale chips got mushy/chewy in the soup. Better off crunching them on the side than using them as a garnish.

  14. Lindsey

    I made your white bean pot pies this week and they were incredible! I’ve never used pancetta before—the flavor was amazing. Thank you.

  15. Sara

    I made this last night, and it was delicious! I made two changes: I omitted the cheese and sour cream. I roasted some cauliflower at the same time as the kale chips, and added it to the soup before blending just to have some more vegetables.

  16. I never noticed there was no soup in your first book!! But yeah, don’t tell my mom, but the way she made soup when I was growing up made me think I didn’t like soup. As an adult, I had to figure out how I like soup. I very rarely like it just by itself – either garnishes or bread beside it. I almost cannot eat soup without bread, unless it is an Asian soup of some kind.
    I think potato soups can be rather heavy, so I’m definitely going to try your recipe here. (Also, slightly related: making your Halloumi Roast for supper because there’s still local eggplant in the market!!)

  17. You are probably aware, but Avgolemono is a soup that Twitter loves. I have never made it but it seems delicious/something that might peak your interest! Apparently there are a lot of Greek grandmothers that make it on Youtube.

  18. Rina

    Just made this tonight. I had most of the ingredients on hand. Very good, we loved it! Don’t leave out the kale chips! They are so good,

  19. Rina

    Just made this tonight. I had most of the ingredients on hand, (I used bacon though). Very good, we loved it! Don’t leave out the kale chips! They are so good,

  20. Alayna S.

    Thank you so much for the “spider” picture! I thought you had given up posting pics of your fam. Which, of course, I would understand, and miss. A lot.

    Also for the recipe! And the stories. Oh, your stories….

  21. Deb

    This one’s a keeper! I had most of the ingredients on hand (and normally would have the kale but it’s buried under a foot of snow- Colorado looks more like Christmas than Halloween this year) Yummy! I didn’t change a thing and it was DE-LICIOUS! Thank you.

    1. T

      How about cauliflower? If you want to boost the flavor you could roast the cauliflower (for pureed soups I chop up a whole head, leaves and all) before making the soup.

  22. Liz

    Delicious! I made this without the pancetta and subbed homemade cheesey breadcrumbs (courtesy of Alison Roman) for some salty crunch.

    Breadcrumbs: toast breadcrumbs in 1-2 tbsp of EVOO, season with salt and pepper, when breadcrumbs are toasted sprinkle with pecorino or parmesan… crumbs will form granola like clusters

  23. Alice K.

    Made this today. FABULOUS! Love it. And it was so delicious without the grated cheese that I left the cheese out. But… I made the kale chips and then forgot totally to serve them with the soup! OOPS! Well, there’s plenty soup left, so I’ll get another chance or two to remember the kale chips.

  24. Alice K.

    Update to my post of the other day: Had it again (second time). Still excellent. This time I remembered the kale chips, but, alas, they were soggy. I topped the soup with crispy bread crumbs instead. The soup is now extremely thick, so I will thin it a bit with some veggie broth. Will definitely make this again and again.

  25. Elizabeth

    I’ve made a vegan version of this twice now, and it was delicious both times. Once, I followed another commenter’s suggestion and roasted chickpeas with smoked paprika to use in lieu of pancetta. Both times, I added more spices than the recipe called for to compensate for the lack of meat / dairy. When I added the salt and pepper, I also added 1/2 teaspoon of Trader Joe’s mushroom umami spice blend, onion powder, and garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of ginger and smoked paprika. I also used Japanese sweet potatoes instead of Yukon golds since that’s what I had at home. Don’t skip the crispy kale (or arugula, or whatever) — it adds such a nice crunch and flavor.

  26. Kristin Z

    I made soup last night based on this recipe and it was a crowd pleaser. The pancetta in my area looked horrible so I went with Applegate Organic Sunday Bacon and instead of kale chips, I roasted some broccoli (with the leaves as well) so it was both crunchy and filling. I forgot to add the parmesan (mostly because I don’t love cheese when it’s incorporated into something warm) but the fam still devoured it! Also I wanted to avoid adding the dairy at the end so I splashed in a little unseasoned rice wine vinegar just before serving to brighten the flavors and it worked very nicely. Yum!

  27. I put this on my weekly menu because I was getting most of the ingredients in my farm-share box, but when it came time to make it a few days later, I’d kind of lost my interest in it. But, happily, it ended being both easy and delicious. I used russet potatoes since that’s what I had, and since I didn’t want the soup to be too starchy, I didn’t completely puree it. I enjoyed the chunks of potatoes and beans that were left. I really liked the kale on top – it was a great textural contrast.

  28. Becca

    This was perfect for a chilly Denver dinner last night! I decided I wanted to make it with dried beans and used the bean broth for the soup – I skipped the pancetta but the flavor was divine! The dried beans took eons to cook, however, and we eventually caved and decided to just dump a can of beans in, rather than wait for the dried beans to finish. Definitely a keeper, thanks Deb!

  29. Ellen

    Hi — do you have suggested substitutions if you’re not using pancetta? Thinking turkey bacon or crispy mushrooms? something like that?

  30. Maryse

    Omg this was so good! And incredibly satisfying. I find I am often hungry a couple hours after having soup for a meal, but not in this case. I made this with smoked tofu instead of pancetta, threw in the onions from your tomato/butter sauce, and used extra old cheddar instead of parmesan, and it was so good I think even my kid would enjoy it even though he hates both beans and mashed potatoes!

  31. Adrian

    Love this soup. Made this less then a week ago but because I gave most of it to my son to take back to school with him , i made it again tonight. Do you think I can freeze some of it? Otherwise, i will literally eating it for breakfast , lunch and dinner the next two days. Not all bad, but nice to save a bit,too.
    Thanks!

  32. Sallie Altman

    To Mr. J in NJ: It was a broccoli soup by Gordon Ramsey a few years back that was very unusual. It involved toasted pecans and a small amount of goat cheese, but the flavor came mostly from broccoli itself. The rest was mostly “fixins”, as in Debs soup. To make it, you had to dump hot steamed broccoli as well as its liquid in a blender to puree, but a handheld blender might possibly work. The neat thing about it was how beautifully green it was.

    1. deb

      In fact, you can. It’s a long story but I’d originally had this recipe in BA column before we went with something else and the test kitchen liked it with a sprig of rosemary sautéed with the pancetta. I found the rosemary needles didn’t blend, stayed wiry, but the flavor was nice. You could probably remove it before blending it, but some needles will stay behind.

  33. Kit Dombrowski

    My soup saga. Right off the bat I will say that this soup is magnificent, great depth of flavor, texture and « creamy-ness » all wrapped together in every spoonful. For whatever reason, probably some childhood food drama, I have ignored white beans. They just didn’t ever seem worthy of my time. But I decided to put aside my prejudice and give it a try. I live in a tiny medieval village in southwest France so it is never a question of just stopping by the nearest Whole Foods to shop. We have a pretty good farmer’s market once a week so things like onions, potatoes, garlic etc. are easy. But kale! I’ve read it is showing up in Paris and other large cities. So imagine my shock when I found a bunch buried under some parsley at our last marché! This was a sign…make Deb’s recipe! Of course the kale was not in a salad ready bag. I needed to wash it carefully (found a few green critters hidden in the curls), then cut off the thick stems and tear into pieces before massaging them with olive oil. Next, chicken broth. So in France there is no canned chicken broth, just condensed cubes which need to be mixed with water and heated to mix. On to the beans. I only found dried white beans which needed to be soaked for 8 hours and then cooked. Also no pancetta so I substituted something akin to bacon. Lastly the sour cream, also not available in France so I googled for a substitute. Two days later we finally got to taste this rich creamy bit o heaven. Was it worth all the time, substitutions and quantity conversions? Absolutely! Thank you Deb for making me a white bean convert.

  34. Caterina

    We had our first major snowfall here yesterday. I made this soup. Simple, hearty and delicious. It was the perfect meal for a cold snowy night. Thanks Deb.

  35. Monica

    Well, one kid just ate the kale.
    One kid just ate the plain yogurt that I put out to sub in for sour cream.
    One husband said “gross, parmesan,” and then ate something else.

    And I’ve got enough leftovers to last me all week! (Kale-kid is clearly my favorite this evening)

    I’d make it again, but maybe when they’re not home.

  36. Mary Jo

    This recipe is a keeper. The flavor is so simple and delicious. The Kale Chips and Pancetta (actually I used bacon because that is what I had) gave it great texture. I will be making this again and again all winter. THANK YOU.

  37. Quinn

    Absolutely delicious. I used a can of great northern beans. Even my picky child ate this. I skipped the sour cream and Parmesan by accident and didn’t miss them. The only thing I would change next time is to add a bit more stock – maybe a small can in addition to the boxed quart; my sound was very thick. Will definitely make again!

  38. I’ve just tried this recipe and it is very delicious.
    It was the first time I made soup with potatoes and beans together. This combo seemed to be so interesting that I decided to give it a try. Also, the parmesan gives it a kick.
    I am glad I found this blog, coming up with recipes is the hardest for me. I keep making the same meals and it kills me. :) I am in for more soup recipes because you know… winter is coming… :)

  39. amelia

    Gosh this looks delicious! I’ve been meaning to try a white bean soup for ages but then default to my usual recipes. I’ve saved this one now to try next week – mister 4 is particularly excited to make it with me!

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  41. Mary Lynne

    This question is really basic, but how many cups of potatoes do you get from 1 1/2 pounds? I never know how many pounds I have in the pantry!

  42. Dee Ann Frey

    THIS. White bean soup –ABSOLUTELY delicious!

    O.K., so your site is the ONE I go-TO. My many thanks for your hard work! :)

    Keep on keeping it on… <3