Kale, bean and vegetable soup

Kale, Bean, and Vegetable Soup

With a thick broth, plump beans, and pleasingly bitter kale, this Tuscan classic is one of my favorite soups. And it’s probably one of the most nutritious dishes that I make, full of healthy ingredients like beans and kale, light on fat, heavy on fiber.

The preparation time for the soup depends on whether you use dry or canned beans.  The cook time below is for canned beans because the cooking time for dry beans is so unpredictable.

Course Soup
Cuisine Mediterranean
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8


The Beans

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion minced, about 175 grams
  • 1 clove garlic minced fine
  • 1 cup dried white beans like cannellini or borlotti
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tbsp salt

The Soup

  • 1/2 cup tomatoes finely diced, 125 grams, canned or fresh
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion medium-sized, diced, 300 grams
  • 2 cloves garlic minced fine
  • 1 bunch kale stems removed, cut into bite-size pieces, about 8 cups loosely packed, 250 grams after pulling from the stems
  • 3 medium carrots sliced 1/4" thick, 200 grams
  • 4 medium potatoes cut into 3/8" cubes, 400 grams
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 2-3 cups water or stock
  • 2 tsp salt or to taste

To serve (optional)

  • country bread


Prepare the beans (if not using canned beans)

  1. Soak the beans if you like, and drain the water before cooking.
  2. Sauté the minced onion in olive oil over medium heat until soft, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Pour in the beans, water, rosemary sprig and bay leaf.
  4. Bring to a boil, let boil for one minute, then reduce heat so beans are at a very gentle simmer (or put them in a slow cooker or solar oven).
  5. Cook, partially covered.
  6. When beans are tender, add the salt.
  7. Remove the bay leaf and rosemary branch.
  8. Put half of the cooked beans into a bowl, and puree the remaining beans to give the broth extra body. (Or, if you are skilled with an immersion blender, just use that to puree about half of the cooked beans.)

Prepare the soup

  1. In a large sauce pan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the diced onions and cook until soft.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so, being careful not to burn it.
  4. Add the kale and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the carrots, potatoes, water (or stock). Stir.
  6. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, until the potatoes and carrots are just about tender.
  7. Add the tomato and spices, stir, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, covered.
  8. Add the beans, pureed beans, their cooking liquid, and the salt. Adjust the thickness of the soup with more water or stock as needed.
  9. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes, covered (or uncovered, if you think the soup is too thin).

To Serve

  1. To serve with bread, place a piece of bread in a bowl and ladle the soup on top. 

Recipe Notes

Adapted from a recipe in Paula Wolfert’s excellent Mediterranean Grains and Greens.

This recipe works best with varieties in the Tuscan kale group (lacinato, black, cavolo nero, dinosaur). Curly kale should be fine, but needs to be cut into smaller pieces and cook for a longer time.