Kale and white bean soup, hearty and simple, works its way onto our supper table a few times each season. It’s a favorite soup: rich with flavor, inexpensive to prepare with enough bulk to fill hungry bellies.
In the summer time, I serve it with a crusty slice of no-knead sourdough bread topped by garlic scape pesto or chopped tomatoes and olive oil and a glass of white wine. In the winter, I pair it with savory pumpkin muffins and a mug of hot herbal tea with cream and honey.
Like many dishes, kale and white bean soup offers a lesson in patience – in delayed gratification. It’s not a food that offers immediacy; rather, I soak white beans in hot water and a pinch of baking soda over the course of day, cook them gently and then prepare the soup. In this way, the beans are soft and tender. This long and slow method also removes offending antinutrients found in beans that can create gas, or prevent you from best absorbing the trace minerals they contain.
Kale and White Bean Soup
Benefits of Bone Broth
A real broth adds not only flavor as the base of soups and stews, but it also provides much needed nourishment, too. A good bone broth is rich in minerals that support your bones, teeth and organs. It is also a good source of amino acids and proteins like gelatin which can boost skin and hair health and support digestive system function which is why bone broth is a critical component of the GAPS diet – a diet designed to heal the gut and optimize systemic wellness.
Kale for Soup
Kale, the darling of health food circles, is a good source of antioxidants including beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A) as well as vitamin C. It is also rich in manganese and copper. Kale, like many vegetables, is easier to digest when cooked; however, many of its vitamins are heat-sensitive and so subject to deactivation during prolonged cooking.
For this reason, I recommend adding the kale to the soup at the very end of cooking, covering the pot of kale and white bean soup, and allowing the kale to wilt in the residual heat of the soup. This practice helps to make the kale easier to digest while still preserving most of its vitamin content.
White Beans for Soup
This recipe calls for cannellini beans, a white bean popular in Italian cooking. You ca
n find cannellini beans at any well-stocked health food store, and you can also purchase them in bulk online. Among beans, cannellini are typically more expensive (but just by a touch), and you can substitute any white bean, such as Great Northern or Navy beans, for them in this kale and white bean soup recipe.
White beans are a good source of folate, a nutrient critical for women of reproductive age, as well as thiamin – a vitamin that helps your body to convert carbohydrates to energy while also supporting cognitive function, nerve and heart health, as well as emotional well-being.
Beans, like all pulses, nuts and grains, benefit from soaking overnight in warm water and prolonged, gentle cooking. This enhances the availability of their nutrients while also improving both flavor and texture.
Where to Find Piment d’Esplette
This kale and white bean soup also calls for a special pepper – piment d’Esplette – which offers a sweet, almost floral note. It’s not hot, but complex. You can find it online or substitute paprika.
- 2 cups white beans, (such as cannellini beans)
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon butter or ghee
- 4 ounces bacon, (chopped)
- 1 medium yellow onion, (finely chopped)
- 2 medium carrots, (peeled and finely chopped)
- 3 ribs celery, (finely chopped)
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 branch rosemary
- rind of a hunk of parmesan cheese, (optional)
- ½ teaspoon piment d'Esplette, (or paprika)
- 1 bunch kale, (trimmed of tough stems and sliced thin)
- extra virgin olive oil, (to serve)
- Toss the beans in a large mixing bowl, cover with hot water by 2 inches and stir in baking soda. Soak for 18 to 24 hours, changing the water once or twice. Drain and rinse well.
- Transfer the soaked beans into a large stock pot, cover with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until beans are tender - about 1½ hours. Drain.
- Melt butter in a large stock pot until it froths. Stir in bacon and cook until crispy. Stir in onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Stir frequently, and fry until fragrant - about 10 minutes.
- Pour in chicken stock, add rosemary, bay and the rind of a piece of parmesan cheese. Simmer over medium heat, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir in piment d'Esplette and kale. Cover and allow the kale to wilt in the residual heat of the soup for about 5 minutes. Salt as needed and serve with extra virgin olive oil.