White bean soup with garlic

I have been making this soup for a few years now, and as I made it again tonight, once again I was amazed to see my kids actually eating it—and liking it. This recipe is cheap, healthy, simple, and we all love it. You'll need to start this about three hours before dinner (and soak the beans the day before).

White bean soup with garlic
adapted from this recipe

1 pound white beans (such as great northern)
water (4 quarts or more)
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

The day before, pick over, rinse, and soak the beans.

About three hours before dinner the next day, drain and rinse your beans and put them in a large pot (I like to use my six-quart Dutch oven). Add about 4 quarts water and the bay leaves, and bring to a boil.

Maintain a gentle boil for about an hour, or until beans are done. Add salt. Keep simmering for another two hours. The beans will fall apart and thicken the soup. I usually help them along a little with a potato masher, but I stop short of puréeing the soup. You will need to turn the heat down as the soup gets thicker to keep it from burning. Add more water as needed to get the texture you want—I usually end up adding quite a bit more.

About fifteen minutes before serving, heat the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes together in a small saucepan or skillet. Let them bubble together for a minute or two, then add in two ladlefuls of soup. Let them bubble together for another minute or two until combined, then add back to the pot.

Taste your soup and add salt to taste, and maybe two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, if you like.

Serves 4–6.

Variation: add fully cooked braised kale before serving.


  1. This sounds great! Have you ever tried adding chicken to it? Not that it needs it :) I've got a pantry full of beans I need to use up!

  2. Hmm, I've never thought about adding chicken! I have added greens (kale and spinach) before, though.

  3. This looks really simple and delicious.