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How To Make Hearty Winter Soup w/o a Recipe

Hearty and healthy, smokey and a little spicy. Just what the doctor ordered on a cold winter night.

If I had to name my spirit food it would definitely be soup. No question. But I realized when doing the recipe roundup for 2015 that I did not post any of the veggie-packed soups that I live off of in winter. This is probably because when I make soup I almost never use a recipe and can never remember how much of what went in. What I learned from those that so kindly answered my survey is that most of you are “recipe generalists”, willing to live on the wild side and flirt with creative interpretation – within reason of course. For me, soup is a low-stakes chance to be creative with flavors and experiment with new ingredients or techniques. I say it is low stakes because the ingredients are always cheap, usually from my pantry, and if the outcome is less than the most glorious soup ever made, guess what? no sweat – it goes back into the pot for a makeover.

For those willing to get creative, I am giving you a soup framework – I have boiled it down (pun intended) to 6 steps with unlimited possibilities. For those not quite ready to make the leap, there is a recipe for my most recent and favorite rendition of Black Bean Soup.

How to Make Hearty Winter Soup Without a Recipe

For everyone, the key is a well-stocked pantry so I have made a Pantry Essentials Checklist – I have put it up on its own page so that you can print it out for your next grocery run.

Black Bean Soup Without a Recipe

Here is how the Black Bean Soup follows the soup framework.

Black Bean Soup in 6 Simple Steps

I hope you all stay warm and make soup while this crazy snow storm passes! I would love to hear about your soup adventures in the comments – or show your stuff and tag me on Instagram @chrissytkac #EatSomeWearSome

Happy Friday:)

Black Bean Soup

Yield: 8-10 servings


  1. 2 tbl oil

  2. 2 yellow onions, diced

  3. 3 carrots, peeled and diced

  4. 3 poblano peppers, charred slightly and diced

  5. 2-3 cloves garlic, minced

  6. 2 tsp oregano

  7. 2 tbl chipotle puree, or tomato paste for less heat

  8. 1 lb dried black beans*

  9. 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes

  10. 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

  11. 6 (ish) cups stock or water (my favorite is always Parmesan Broth)

  12. 10 oz chopped kale (I like to use frozen b/c it saves SO much time and I always have it on hand!)

  13. zest and juice of two limes

  14. salt and pepper


  1. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté the onions, carrots and poblanos, stirring often, until onion is translucent (5-7 minutes).

  2. Add the garlic, oregano and chipotle puree (or tomato paste) - give everything a stir, season with salt and pepper, then add your beans and liquids.

  3. Bring this to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until beans are tender (this will vary depending on if the beans were soaked or simmered beforehand - assume 25min-1hr and just check occasionally for doneness).

  4. When beans are tender, add the kale, allowing the soup to come back to a simmer.

  5. Season with salt and pepper then add the lime zest and juice.

  6. Serve immediately, store in the fridge up to 5 days or freeze up to 6 months.


*I can never remember to soak my beans over night but I am a strong believer in still using dried over canned (especially when they are of the Rancho Gordo variety! I used the Vaquero bean for this recipe but any black bean (or other bean really) will work perfectly.


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