Pumpkin + Black Bean Soup

The maple and oak leaves are vibrant in hues of deep orange, bright yellow, and fire red. The chilly evening air is laced with the scent of freshly lit fireplaces and wood burning stoves. The many cans of pumpkin line the aisle end caps at Whole Foods. It's fall y'all, and I'm stoked!

For the past few years, I've been trying to perfect a creamy seasonal soup. This pumpkin and black bean soup always makes me feel warm and cozy, and it's super filling — main dish status for sure. The protein from the beans and the cashews (yes, cashews) help make this a healthy and hearty vegetarian meal the whole family will love. A few notes: I prefer some full beans in my soup, so I add in one can after the rest of the soup is blended with a Vitamix (or blender). Feel free to blend the second can of beans for a velvet-smooth version. Also be sure to check out topping options listed at the bottom of this post…I've tested them all and swear these combos will make you adore this soup even more.

Don't be scared off by the lengthy list of ingredients that follows — most are key ingredients you should consider keeping on-hand in the pantry and fridge anyway. Plus, the great thing about soup (especially blended soup) is that in general, you can throw in whatever you've got and swap one ingredient for another without much consequence. For example, if you're out of onion but you've got shallot…or you're out of broth but you've got bouillon paste or cubes. Heck, I've even switched out black beans for pintos once in a moment of desperation. Have a red pepper you need to use? Extra tomatoes? Throw 'em in! It'll only make the overall soup more flavorful. Just remember, if you add more solid ingredients you may need to compensate with a little extra broth or water prior to blending.

Ingredients:

1-2 Tbs. olive or grapeseed oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 tsp. cumin
3 tsp. ancho chili powder
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
4 cloves garlic, chopped
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1/2 bottle pumpkin beer OR 1/4 cup white wine or sherry
1 - 32 oz. box low-sodium vegetable stock (OR 4 cups filtered water + 4 tsp. Better Than Bouillon
1 Cup water
2 - 15 oz. cans no-sodium black beans (OR soaked dry beans if you've got the time, but canned works just as well)
1 - 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 - 16 oz. can pumpkin
1 handful raw cashews (about 1/2 cup)
3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
-
Hot sauce, to taste (I use Sriracha)
Smoked salt, to taste
1 Tbs. white miso (I use Organicville sweet miso

Directions:

  • In a large pot, sauté onion and carrots in oil on medium-low heat for a few minutes. Add in spices, bay leaf, and garlic, continue to cook for another minute or two.
  • Deglaze the pan with whatever alcoholic bev you're using (note: pumpkin beer is the best seasonal option here, but work with what you've got!) and be sure to scrape up all the delicious little bits from the bottom of the pan. 
  • Add in broth/water and bouillon, extra cup of water, one can of drained and rinsed beans, tomatoes, pumpkin, cashews, and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for at least 20 minutes.
  • Seasoning break! At this point, the soup, though full of goodness, won't have a ton of flavor due to lack of salt. Very sparingly add some hot sauce and smoked salt (plain old sea salt works fine, but smoked salt adds an amazing depth of flavor) little by little until it tastes about right. Still won't be QUITE there yet, so don't panic.
  • Remove your bay leaf (or don't…sometimes I forget and honestly it really doesn't make a difference).
  • Transfer half the soup into a Vitamix (or blender) and blend until very smooth (up to two minutes). Add the creamy half into a bowl and set aside. Add the rest of the unblended soup into the Vitamix and repeat. Add all of the fully blended soup back into your original pot.
  • Add the remaining can of black beans and the white miso and stir. Bring soup back up to a simmer and allow to rest for 10-20 mins.
  • Final seasoning break! Need more salt? If it tastes salty enough but is lacking in flavor, consider more balsamic vinegar, hot sauce, or miso. Miso, made of fermented soybeans, is an "umami" flavor bomb and can transform a soup or gravy at the last minute. I've also added more bouillon at this stage (if your soup isn't already salty enough and needs more flavor).
  • Toppings. This is the magic moment! Here are some Emma-approved topping options for this soup:
    • A dollop of greek yogurt, sour cream, or crème fraîche;
    • Chopped green onions;
    • Fresh herbs (like chives and parsley);
    • Crispy shallots;
    • Red pepper flakes;
    • Pan-fried shaved brussels sprouts;
    • Buttery croutons made with day-old bread, chopped rosemary + thyme, and sea salt.