White Bean Soup

Food

This hearty and vegetarian White Bean Soup is one for the books! We’re loading in plenty of nutritious ingredients with loads of “hidden” veggies. This protein-packed soup is ultra thick, creamy, and hearty without needing any cream, milk, or thickening agents (we thicken this soup with the beans!).

Overhead image of the white bean soup

Overhead image of the white bean soup

White Bean Soup

It’s no secret we’re obsessed with hearty, cream-based soups. This potato soup, creamy vegetable soup, and broccoli cheddar soup are some favorites in my home. And while those soups are all delicious, they’re not the most nutritional meals. Which sometimes leaves me wanting a soup with a bit better nutritional content, while keeping the same hearty, thick, and comfort-like texture.

Which brings us to this White Bean Soup. It’s ridiculously creamy, hearty, and “stick-to-your bones”-type comfort food but without heavy cream, butter, or cheese. It’s naturally vegetarian, loaded with protein and fiber, packed with veggies, and best of all: it is seriously tasty. You’ll be amazed how we can get such a thick and creamy soup with such good-for-you ingredients. 

The secret to the thickness? We blend up some of the beans. The blended beans give this soup an ultra creamy texture, without the need for a roux or dairy. And the secret to the ridiculously good flavors? Well, there are a few…

Process shots-- images of the carrots, onion, & celery being sautéed, garlic and tomato paste being added and that being sautéed

Process shots-- images of the carrots, onion, & celery being sautéed, garlic and tomato paste being added and that being sautéed

The flavor “secrets”

  • Aromatic vegetables like onion, celery, and carrots add so much to a soup. Sautéing them for a good amount of time is going to create a wonderful flavor base for the soup.
  • We add pesto! After adding pesto to this vegetable soup, I’ve been searching for more ways to integrate it into a soup recipe and this is the one. The pesto adds such an incredible nuance of flavor and richness. It also adds a lovely freshness.
  • We also add in a few spices (thyme, rosemary, and a touch of red pepper flakes) which adds another layer of flavor.
  • Sautéing tomato paste for a good amount of time adds a tremendous flavor and richness to this soup. You may be tempted to rush the process here, but taking the time to sauté the tomato paste will add an abundant depth of flavor this white bean soup.

QUICK TIP

While this might sound obvious, sometimes it’s easy to forget how much flavor salt and pepper add. If you feel the soup is lacking flavor, add in a bit more of both. Salt and pepper didn’t get to be the world’s favorite seasonings for no reason!

Pesto in a soup?

That’s right: pesto is in soup, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to a veggie-packed soup. Allow me to explain.

Pesto adds loads of flavor without any extra effort. Instead of chopping tons of herbs, grating in Parmesan cheese, or figuring out the perfect blend of spices to add, just add in a big spoonful of fresh, good-quality basil pesto.

While you can make and use your own basil pesto in this recipe, I recommend picking up store-bought pesto to help you get this soup on your table as quick as possible! When selecting a store-bought pesto, I highly recommend fresh refrigerated (not shelf-stable) pesto. We love Buitoni’s® fresh basil pesto, Rana’s® fresh basil pesto (my personal favorite!), and Hemi-fares® (store brand) pesto at Smith’s (Kroger) is another tasty pesto.

QUICK TIP

Freshly made pesto can certainly be spendy, but it lasts a good amount of time and a little goes a long way to add loads of flavor to so many dishes. Consider adding some leftover pesto to some of our favorite dishes like: 

Process shots-- images of the seasonings, vegetable stock, and drained white beans being added

Process shots-- images of the seasonings, vegetable stock, and drained white beans being added

SHORTCUTS

White Bean Soup Shortcuts

  • Pick up mirepoix (also called soup starter). Lots of stores sell pre-chopped mirepoix (a French phrase for diced onion, carrot, and celery) in the produce section. If you’re in a hurry, grab that fresh-chopped mirepoix or you can even use frozen mirepoix which will save loads of chopping time!
  • Use jarred garlic or a garlic press. Instead of mincing your own garlic, you can use jarred to save time. Alternatively, a garlic press gives you fresh minced garlic in a fraction of that time that hand mincing requires.
  • Purchase pesto instead of making your own. While you certainly can make your own pesto if you’re feeling ambitious, purchasing it already freshly made is a wonderful time saver!

White Bean Soup Tips

  • Blend carefully. When blending, make sure to secure the lid on tightly and then select the “soup” or “hot” cycle. Remember that heat expands, so increase the speed slowly and watch it carefully to avoid soup exploding out or over. Remove the lid carefully as it will likely release a burst of steam. If your blender doesn’t have a hot/soup setting, you can compensate by replacing the blender lid with a folded towel and holding it in place with your hands. This will help reduce steam pressure.
  • Seasoning. You may be surprised by how much salt this soup needs — vegetables need a good amount to bring the flavors to life. That said, salt content can vary quite a bit depending on the canned beans used, so you may need less than recommended. Also, keep in mind that pesto can also be quite salty, so plan for that when seasoning the soup.

Process shots-- images of part of the soup being transferred to ta blender and being blended and then added back to the pot along with fresh pesto for this white bean soup

Process shots-- images of part of the soup being transferred to ta blender and being blended and then added back to the pot along with fresh pesto for this white bean soup

STORAGE

White Bean Soup Storage

This soup just continues to get more flavorful as it sits and flavors have a chance to meld and intensify.

It will stay fresh for 4-5 days stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Unfortunately, it doesn’t freeze very well; the veggies and beans get a bit mushy when thawed. If the yield of soup is too much to be eaten within those 4-5 days, I recommend halving the recipe initially.

Reheat the soup gently in a pot over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. You’ll likely need to add in an additional splash of vegetable stock to slightly thin the soup. It does thicken quite a bit as it sits and is stored.

Process shots-- images of the pesto being mixed through and then the soup being added to a bowl to be served

Process shots-- images of the pesto being mixed through and then the soup being added to a bowl to be served

White Bean Soup FAQs

1Is white bean soup good for you?

White beans are a great source of plant-based protein and are also high in fiber. Pair those beans with loads of veggies like the carrots, onion, celery, and tomato paste and you’ve got quite a collection of good-for-you ingredients with loads of nutrients!

2What is the thickener in a white bean soup?

While a lot of recipes will rely on a roux, cornstarch slurry, or cream/milk, we use the actual white beans to thicken the soup instead! This not only delivers the same wonderful thick texture, but it also keeps this soup as nutritionally sound as possible!

3Are Great Northern beans the same as white beans?

There are several different types of white beans.

  • Great Northern Beans are smaller than cannellini and have a brighter white color.
  • Cannellini are the largest of the types of white beans and have a traditional kidney bean shape. They are meatier than navy or Great Northern beans with a nutty, earthy flavor.
  • Navy beans are the smallest of the types of white beans
  • Baby lima beans are also called “butterbeans” and are small, smooth, and creamy with a buttery texture.

4Can I thicken soup with beans?

Yes! It’s what we do with this very recipe 🙂 To thicken the soup using beans, we remove a portion of the simmered beans and broth, blend it until smooth, and pour it back into the soup. Voila! Watch as the beans create a luscious thickness!

5What can I serve with white bean soup?

In my opinion, nothing compares to a good crusty artisan bread! A few other serving suggestions:

  • Crostini with a bit of melted Parmesan on top makes a great topping.
  • Crusty bread or rolls (we love thin sourdough baguettes) are the classic dipping choices.
  • A big garden salad like this Olive Garden Salad makes a nice side
  • This cucumber salad is also a nice refreshing side dish

Overhead image of the white bean soup in a bowl with fresh basil pesto in it

Overhead image of the white bean soup in a bowl with fresh basil pesto in it

More easy soup recipes

White Bean Soup

This hearty and vegetarian White Bean Soup is one for the books! We’re loading in plenty of nutritious ingredients with loads of “hidden” veggies. This protein-packed soup is ultra thick, creamy, and hearty without needing any cream, milk, or thickening agents (we thicken this soup with the beans!).

White Bean Soup

This hearty and vegetarian White Bean Soup is one for the books! We’re loading in plenty of nutritious ingredients with loads of “hidden” veggies. This protein-packed soup is ultra thick, creamy, and hearty without needing any cream, milk, or thickening agents (we thicken this soup with the beans!).

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • 1-1/2 cups (205g) diced yellow onion (1 large onion)
  • 1 cup (135g) each: diced carrot, diced celery
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (~4 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • Fine sea salt & pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: dried thyme, dried crushed rosemary
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
  • 3 cans (15.5 oz. (439g) each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 32 oz. container (907g) vegetable stock we love Swanson’s (4 cups)
  • Fresh basil pesto Note 1
  • Optional: fresh thyme, Crusty bread, for serving

Instructions

  • SAUTE VEGGIES: Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add in the diced onion, carrot, & celery. Cook, stirring frequently for 8-10 minutes or until onion is golden and soft. Add in garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds or until fragrant.

  • TOMATO PASTE: Add in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and tomato paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I add 1/2 tsp fine sea salt & 1/4 tsp pepper). Mix and then cook, stirring frequently for 7-9 minutes or until veggies are very tender and tomato paste has become very thick/darkened in color. Don’t try to rush this step, we are adding flavor and ensuring the veggies won’t end up crunchy (they don’t soften much more)! Add in the seasonings: dried thyme, dried crushed rosemary, red pepper flakes. Mix through.

  • STOCK & BEANS: Slowly pour in the vegetable stock while scraping the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits. Add in the drained & rinsed beans and stir. Bring soup to a boil and then lower the heat until soup is very gently simmering. Simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes.

  • BLEND: Remove pot from the heat. Remove 2 cups of the soup and transfer into a blender. Blend until completely smooth and then pour back into the pot (use a spatula to scrape it all back in!). Mix to combine. Add in 3 tablespoons pesto and stir through. Taste and adjust seasonings, I typically add another 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt here — flavors should sing!

  • SERVE: Serve immediately, spooning soup into bowls and drizzle in another 1/2 tablespoon (or more — to taste preference!) of pesto into bowls. Serve with fresh thyme if desired and with crusty artisan bread for dunking!

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Basil Pesto: I recommend getting refrigerated, freshly-made basil pesto, which you can find near refrigerated fresh pasta and gourmet cheese. Rana’s® Basil Pesto is our personal favorite store-bought pesto sauce.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 490kcal | Carbohydrates: 77.4g | Protein: 23.4g | Fat: 11.6g | Sodium: 1584.6mg | Fiber: 16.7g | Sugar: 8g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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