California-Style Soup Beans

California-Style Soup Beans

on Friday, 08 March 2019. Posted in Vegetable & Side Dishes, Main Course, Recipes

This comforting bowlful is inspired by traditional Southern soup beans with a California twist. Santa Maria Pinquito Beans—from American heirloom bean purveyor Rancho Gordo—are slowly simmered with rich, fatty bacon, smoky chipotle pepper, cumin and other aromatics. The result? Tender, supple beans in a luscious, fragrant potlikker (the bean cooking liquid) so tasty and nourishing you might be tempted to take a sip or two of it on its own.

Classically served with bright, briny chow-chow (a Southern pickled condiment), our Golden State take on soup beans is topped with a quick, punchy relish of tomatillos, cucumber and spring onion. Don't forget to finish with a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil!

Cook's note: These soup beans taste even better the next day. If enjoying the next day, make the relish about an hour or two before serving. 

Recipe, food styling & photography by Asha Loupy

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Serves 4–6


For the soup beans
  • One 1-pound bag Santa Maria Pinquito Beans
  • 6 ounces thick-cut smoked bacon, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 medium white onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Tellicherry Peppercorns
For the relish
  • 3 tablespoons Katz Sparkling Wine Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 medium tomatillos, husks removed, finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 English cucumber, finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2–3 spring onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing


Pick through the beans, discarding any stones or debris. In a large bowl or pot, cover the beans with at least 3 inches of water and soak for 6 hours to overnight.

Heat a large pot over medium heat, add the bacon and cook until it is just turning a light golden color on the edges and some of the fat has rendered out, about 4–5 minutes. Add the onions to the pot and sauté until they translucent and start to soften, about another 3–4 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 30 seconds.

Add the drained beans, chopped chipotle, cumin, oregano, bay leaves, salt, pepper and 5 cups of water, and stir to combine. Bring to a gentle simmer, reduce the heat to low and let cook partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, about 1–1 1/2 hours. Uncover, increase the heat to medium low, and cook for another 15 minutes (this will allow some of the cooking liquid to reduce creating a more unctuous potlikker).

While the beans are cooking, make the relish. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar and salt until the salt is dissolved. Add the diced tomatillos, cucumber and spring onion and toss to coat in the vinegar mixture. Let macerate at room temperature for one hour. Add the extra virgin olive oil and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Set aside until ready to serve.  

To serve, ladle some of the cooked beans and potlikker into shallow bowls, garnish with a generous spoonful of relish and an additional drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. 

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