I know how much y’all love easy and healthy recipes, especially ones that can be made with everyday ingredients. So I whipped up the perfect recipe for you: a Creamy White Bean Soup with Kale and Gremolata!
I was inspired to make a white bean soup because I had the most insanely delicious white bean stew a few weeks ago when I was in LA. It was at this tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Mh Zh, and we ordered every vegan option on the menu (about 8 dishes in total). Everything was delicious but the white bean stew was my favorite, and ever since then, I’ve been on a white bean kick!
Why you’ll love this Creamy White Bean and Kale Soup
Everyday ingredients. You probably already have most of these ingredients in your kitchen and pantry! No fancy or specialty ingredients required.
Hearty and Creamy. This is rustic comfort food that will feed your soul. This soup is creamy and sticks to your ribs (but in a good way!).
Wholesome and Nourishing. Despite being creamy, this soup is wholesome, vegan, and gluten-free. It’s thickened naturally (no cashews, coconut milk, or soy), so it’s also allergen-friendly.
Flavorful. Thanks to a few secret ingredients and techniques, this soup is packed with lots of flavor and a surprisingly zesty finish.
Tips for Digesting Beans
If you’re beans make you toot a lot, here are a few tips that have worked for me:
Gradually incorporate beans into your diet. Before I became vegan, I rarely ate beans or lentils because they didn’t react well with my tummy. But I knew that I needed some protein sources, so I started incorporating them very slowly.
I’m talking just 2 tablespoons at a time. Then I worked my way up to 1/4 cup, then gradually to 1/2 cup. Now I can eat a cup of beans, no problem. When you drastically increase your fiber intake all at once, it will cause digestive distress. In contrast, a gradual increase in fiber intake gives your gut time to adjust.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Staying hydrated helps the soluble fiber found in beans to move through your digestive system faster. This means less gas will build up.
Rinse canned beans. Rinse those babies thoroughly.
Soak dried beans. If you’re cooking beans from scratch, be sure to soak them in plenty of water for at least 8 hours. It helps remove the oligosaccharides (i.e., the difficult-to-digest starches found in beans).
If you are very sensitive to beans, try soaking them longer (24 to 48 hours). The longer you soak, the easier to digest. And you can also change the soaking water a few times during the soaking period. This helps discard the oligosaccharides that leech from the beans.
And finally, you can try soaking or cooking beans with a strip of kombu or with a pinch of asafetida powder. Kombu is a sea vegetable that contains an enzyme that helps break down those oligosaccharides. You can find it online, grocery shops like Whole Foods, and Asian grocers. Asafetida is an Indian Ayruvedic ingredient that comes from fennel plants. You can find it online or at Indian grocers.
If you want a recipe that uses dried white beans, check out my Instant Pot White Bean Stew.
How to make white bean soup extra flavorful
I’ve had white bean soups before, and they’ve been nice…but they usually skimp on flavor. As someone who loves flavorful curries and Asian-inspired soups, I often find traditional Western soups/stews to be on the bland side, so I always work extra hard to make the flavors pop.
A bouquet garni is a French term for a bundle of herbs tied together. I often rely on this technique to infuse soups and stews with a deep fragrance, as I find it adds more complex flavors than simply adding some dried herbs.
Dried herbs can come in handy when in a pinch, but I use fresh herbs in my recipes where I know it’ll make a difference. Plus, the dried varieties of certain herbs like rosemary and sage really doesn’t compare to their fresh counterparts.
In this soup, I use rosemary, sage, and bay leaves (dried bay leaves are totally A-okay, that’s what I use). Rosemary and sage pair really well with cannellini beans, but you could also use thyme or even oregano if you can’t find either of those herbs.
If you don’t have kitchen twine, you have two options: (1) don’t use kitchen twine, and just add the herb sprigs into the pot; use tongs to remove them after cooking; or (2) chop the herbs (not the bay leaves) and sauté them when you add the garlic. This latter method requires more prep though.
For another flavor-packed soup that uses a bouquet garni, try my Pumpkin Lasagna Soup!
Another fancy word, I know, I’m sorry! But, it’s made with just four simple, everyday ingredients and takes five minutes to prepare. This time, the word comes from Italian, and it refers to a chopped herb condiment.
Traditionally, it is made with lemon zest, garlic and parsley, though lots of flavor variations abound. I use these three classic ingredients, along with basil, which adds such a nice fresh, fragrant note. Also, like rosemary and sage, it pairs beautifully with cannellini beans.
Love the sound of gremolata? Try these Za’atar White Bean Stuffed Sweet Potatoes.
I make the gremolata while the soup is simmering, and stir it into each bowl when ready to serve. I promise you it will take your soup from good to AHMAAZING. It adds an incredible amount of bright, lemony freshness that makes every bite sing!
Lemon zest itself is not bitter, but the white pith underneath the yellow skin, is quite bitter. So be sure to not zest too deeply, or you’ll end up with pith in your gremolata. And that means your gremolata will be bitter, which means your soup will taste bitter.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The final flavor booster in this creamy white bean soup is the simplest: extra virgin olive oil. I drizzle a little bit over each bowl right before serving. Since this soup is quite low in fat naturally, a swirl of a good-quality extra virgin olive oil at the end really takes it over the top, flavorwise but also texturewise in a very subtle way.
And I must specify that it be good-quality extra virgin olive oil because a plain old olive oil is not going to do anything for this soup except make it a bit oily. So if you don’t have a good extra virgin olive oil, you’re better off skipping this last part
Three ways to make vegan soup creamy (but healthy)
As you might have noticed from the title of this recipe, this soup is also creamy! And it’s naturally creamy from just two ingredients (and one cooking technique), and no there’s no coconut milk or cashews involved!
First, cannellini beans. They are one of the creamiest beans out there, and I absolutely adore them. If you cannot find them, you can substitute another white bean, but the soup won’t be as creamy. To fix that, you can try adding more potatoes than called for in the recipe.
Speaking of potatoes, they are the second ingredient behind the creamy texture. When cooked down, potatoes naturally thicken this soup. I use just one medium Yukon gold potato, but if potatoes are your jam, feel free to add some more (you might want to add a bit more vegetable broth to compensate).
And finally, the last secret to the creamy texture (despite this soup being low in fat) is partially blending the soup! Blending half of the soup before adding the kale thickens up and creamifies the texture of the soup.
To keep this recipe a one-pot meal, I use an immersion blender to blend roughly half the soup. Make sure to not blend all of it, as you want to keep some beans intact and retain some of the texture.
If you don’t have an immersion blender, transfer half of the soup to a stand blender and blend until thick and creamy. Then return the blended soup to the pot.
Watch! How to make Creamy White Bean Soup with Kale
Tips for making this white bean and kale soup
I begin the soup in a manner similar to many soups: sautéing onions, garlic, and celery in olive oil. I also add some red pepper flakes just for a slight kick. The amount called for in the recipe is just enough so you get a kick once in awhile, but if you’re very sensitive to spicy food, omit the red pepper flakes.
Be sure to dice the potatoes very finely. If you just roughly chop, they will take more than 15 minutes to get tender.
The recipe includes a range in the amount of vegetable broth: 3 1/2 to 4 cups. It depends on the desired texture you’re going for. Both versions will be thick and chunky and hearty, but 3 1/2 cups broth will bring it closer to a stew than a soup.
The recipe calls for lacinato kale (aka dino kale, aka Tuscan kale) because this feels like a Tuscan soup, so I wanted to use “Tuscan” kale. But curly kale will also work fine, but since it’s tougher, it might need a few more minutes to become tender.
How to Store and Freeze this Soup
If you are planning to eat this soup on the day you make it or in the next day, add the gremolata at the time you finish making the soup.
If you’re planning to enjoy this soup throughout the week, I recommend sprinkling the gremolata over only the amount of soup you plan to eat on that day. Then, to preserve the gremolata better, store it in a glass jar and cover with extra virgin olive oil.
Store that mixture in the fridge for a few days, and you can pour that directly on your soup when ready to reheat and eat. No need to finish the soup with extra virgin olive oil, since you’ll already have some from the gremolata oil.
If you want to freeze the soup for leftovers, do not add the gremolata now. Instead, make the gremolata fresh when you are ready to reheat the soup.
More white bean recipes
In the mood for even more white bean recipes? Give these a try:
- Vegan Instant Pot White Bean Soup
- Vegan Gambian Peanut Stew (Domoda)
- Creamy White Beans with Kale and Wild Rice
If you give this White Bean and Kale Soup a try, be sure to tag me on Instagram with your recreations and please comment with your feedback below!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil*
- 1 large sweet onion, diced
- 3 celery ribs, diced
- 3 medium carrots, diced
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 ½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth**
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt + more to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- Bouquet garni: (2 bay leaves + 1 large sprig of sage + 1 large or 2 small sprigs rosemary, tied tightly together with kitchen twine)
- 1 medium Yukon gold potato (about 6 ounces or 170g), peeled and finely diced
- 3 ½ cups cooked cannellini beans, or 2 (15-ounce) cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 15-ounce can artichoke hearts (400g), drained and chopped finely (optional)
- 5 cups lacinato kale, shredded
- Good-quality extra virgin olive oil (for finishing)
- 1 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, loosely packed
- ½ cup basil leaves, loosely packed
- 2 large garlic cloves, left whole and peeled
- 2 medium lemons (I prefer organic since we're using the peel)
- Coarse or flaky sea salt
- Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion, celery, and carrots, along with a pinch or two of salt. Cook until the vegetables are softened and starting to just turn brown, 6-8 minutes.
- Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook another 1-2 minutes until very fragrant.
- Pour in the vegetable broth and deglaze the pot, stirring up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the 1 teaspoon kosher salt, black pepper to taste, bouquet garni, potatoes, cannellini beans, and artichokes (if using). Stir well.
- Bring the soup to a boil. Then reduce heat, cover the pot, and simmer the soup for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
- While the soup is simmering, make the Gremolata. Finely chop the parsley and basil. Using a microplane, grate the garlic directly over the parsley and basil. Then zest the lemons on top of this mixture, taking care to not zest the white pith underneath the skin. Mix the garlic and lemon zest into the herbs and chop the herbs until they’re finely minced. Sprinkle with a bit of the coarse or flaky sea salt.
- Transfer half of the soup to a blender and blend until thick and smooth. Then return this pureed soup back to the pot. Or, you can run an immersion blender throughout half of the soup, but be sure to not blend it all - you want to retain some texture.
- Add the kale to the soup and simmer for 3-5 minutes, or until the kale is tender but still bright green. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt as needed. When the soup is done, remove the bouquet garni.
- Serve the soup in bowls and sprinkle a generous amount of the Gremolata over each bowl and a drizzle of the extra virgin olive oil.
- Select the Sauté setting on the Instant Pot and let the pot heat up for a few minutes before adding the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, carrots, and celery and a pinch or two of salt. Cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Add a bit more oil as needed, since the Instant Pot inner pot is stainless steel.
- Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
- Pour in the vegetable broth to deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the 1 teaspoon kosher salt, black pepper to taste, bouquet garni, potatoes, cannellini beans, and artichokes (if using). Stir well.
- Select the Pressure Cook setting at high pressure for 7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the Gremolata (instructions are listed in the stovetop method above).
- Once the 7-minute timer goes off, allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes and then switch the Pressure Release knob from Sealing to Venting to release any remaining steam.
- Use an immersion blender throughout half of the soup, but be sure to not blend it all - you want to retain some texture. Or, transfer half of the soup to a stand blender and blend until creamy.
- Once half of the soup is blended, stir in the kale. Select the Sauté setting and heat until the kale is wilted, about 3 minutes. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt as needed. When the soup is done, remove the bouquet garni.
- Serve the soup in bowls and sprinkle a generous amount of the Gremolata over each bowl and a drizzle of the extra virgin olive oil.