Black Bean Soup with Roasted Squash

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

I’ve served this classic simple soup for decades. With the addition of the West Indian pumpkin known as calabaza and a coriander-lime Crema it becomes a little more complex and satisfying. Use the time the beans take to cook to prepare the calabaza and crema.

Recommended wine: A spicy Côtes du Rhône or a fino sherry

Toasting and Grinding Spices, Nuts, and Seeds When Columbus went looking for Asia and bumped into the Americas, he was on a voyage financed by Spain with the understanding that he would find a better route to the spice markets of India—an illustration of how central spices have always been to cuisine. But spices, like other comestibles, are subject to loss of flavor if not properly prepared. Toasting whole spices, and, usually, grinding them, is the way to get maximum flavor from them. This is extremely easy to do: Gently warm the seeds or other whole spices in a dry skillet over medium heat. Once they become aromatic, they are toasted. When they have cooled a bit, grind them in a spice mill (or a clean coffee grinder) or with a mortar and pestle. Toasting and grinding awakens the oils and aromatics within them. With spices like pepper and cumin, for example, which are staples of my cooking, you can prepare a batch of the toasted ground spice and keep it around for up to 2 weeks.

The same principles apply to toasting nuts: the heat maximizes their flavor. Grinding makes them the proper consistency for cooking in soups and stews.


Cooking Methodroasting


Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together, game day

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, high fiber, peanut free, tree nut free


Mealdinner, lunch

Taste and Texturesavory, smoky, spiced

Type of Dishhot soup


  • 6 ounces smoky bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons pure olive oil
  • 1 Scotch bonnet chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 large Spanish onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 tablespoons toasted and ground cumin seeds (see Notes)
  • 2 bay leaves, broken in half
  • 1 cup Spanish dry sherry
  • 2 cups black beans, rinsed, soaked overnight in water to cover, and drained
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 3 quarts Chicken Stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds calabaza, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-sized pieces (you can substitute acorn or another winter squash)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1½ teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon toasted and ground coriander seeds (see Notes)


  1. To prepare the beans, cook the bacon in the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat until beginning to crisp. Stir in the Scotch bonnet and garlic. Turn up the heat to medium-high, add the onion, bell pepper, and celery, and stir to coat. Let the vegetables caramelize, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

  2. Add the cumin, bay leaves, and sherry, bring to a simmer, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the beans, ham hock, and stock and bring to a simmer. Skim the impurities off the top, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the beans are tender but not mushy, 1 to 1½ hours.

  3. In the meantime, prepare the calabaza: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  4. Combine the calahaza, butter, sugar, salt, and pepper in a roasting pan or heavy ovenproof skillet and give them a toss. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash is tender when poked with a knife. Set aside in a warm place.

  5. For the crema: Whisk together all the ingredients in a bowl. Chill until ready to serve.

  6. Remove the bay leaves from the beans. Scoop 2½ cups of the beans and their broth into a blender, and puree. Pour back into the pot—this will give the soup more body—stir well, and simmer for another 30 minutes.

  7. Season the soup with salt and pepper. Fold in the calabaza and cook for 5 more minutes.

  8. Ladle the soup into bowls and finish with a spoonful of crema in each.


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Great way to cook the beans, great way to cook the squash, and yummy sour cream variation. Thanks for 3 separate recipes that make for a simple but very satisfying meal when put together. And I will definitely be roasting squash with salt & sugar from now on.


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