Teddy’s Black Bean Soup

updated May 16, 2023
Teddy's Black Bean Soup

This classic Cuban soup is rich with garlic, oregano, and cumin, and brightened with a few generous splashes of cider vinegar.

Serves6

Makesabout 1 1/2 quarts

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black bean soup in a bowl
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Teddy’s black bean soup was legendary among our family of friends in Brooklyn. He made it often, for a wide range of occasions, yet it always felt personal and exactly right for the moment it was served. Teddy is a great, easy cook. I can’t ever remember him following a recipe when he threw together casual dinner parties, but he followed this soup recipe — from his Cuban father — meticulously. There was something almost magical about it.

I ate it while watching The Godfather for the first time. I ate it at his parents’ house for their family’s Noche Buena tradition. For game nights, movie nights. I loved watching him prepare it — the clatter of the teaspoon set as he measured the exact amounts of oregano, vinegar, and garlic that he stirred into the onion sofrito swimming in olive oil. We would debate methods for soaking dried beans, as the air grew heavy with steam and garlic and our tolerant spouses carried on their conversation without us with playful eye rolls.

Teddy told me his dad started making it one year when Teddy’s brother came home from Berkeley as a vegan for Noche Buena; his dad wanted to figure out a black bean recipe that was velvety and rich but didn’t contain pork.

Teddy’s Black Bean Soup Brings Comfort

When I left my chosen family in Brooklyn, I was pregnant and ready to start my own tradition. I took Teddy’s recipe with me, knowing it would keep him and all our friends close in its fragrance, in its feeling. I was deeply homesick as a new mom in a new city, and making that soup brought me comfort, reminded me of belonging.

A few years later, I moved again with another new baby to another new city. I got very sick and my Brooklyn family flowed into our new house in a steady stream. They came to scoop up my kids, to make me laugh. Teddy also came to cook. As the steam from his soup filled my new kitchen, I felt grounded, at home. I lapped at my spoon and scraped the bottom of bowl after bowl.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

A Deep Connection to Teddy’s Black Bean Soup

Because of love and friendship like his (that often came in the form of tasty soup), I survived when I was told I likely wouldn’t. Because of the love, friendship, and soup that simply appeared when I needed it most — from old friends and strangers alike — I survived with a deep connection to soup, of its capacity for belonging, its capacity to heal. 

When I started my vegan soup club — that is, bringing soup to friends’ porches every week, because nothing else made sense at the time — Teddy’s was one of the very first soups I made. It immediately created its own legend like it had among our friends in Brooklyn, causing my new friends to text me selfies of them with soup, to paint pictures of soup, to write soup poetry. It was their energy from that magical soup that inspired me to write an artsy, heartfelt cookbook with soup paintings and poetry called Soup Club

In time for Noche Buena last year, I sent Teddy the original painting that artist and soup club member Willow Heath created for the book. It makes me happy to think of it hanging in his kitchen, as if returning to its place of origin. Or lending their family home a unique touch of warmth, as if finally returning the favor.

Teddy's Black Bean Soup

This classic Cuban soup is rich with garlic, oregano, and cumin, and brightened with a few generous splashes of cider vinegar.

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts

Serves 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 cup

    olive oil

  • 1

    large onion, chopped

  • 1

    large green bell pepper, chopped

  • Kosher salt

  • 6

    garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon

    ground cumin

  • 1 tablespoon

    dried oregano

  • 2 tablespoons

    cider vinegar, plus more to taste

  • 1 pound

    dried black beans, soaked overnight

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat until hot; add onion and bell pepper. Season generously with salt (about 1 teaspoon). Cook slowly, stirring often, until vegetables are a light golden brown (about 15 minutes). Stir in garlic, cumin, oregano, vinegar, beans, and 8 cups (2 quarts) water. Season very generously with salt (about 2 teaspoons). Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to slowly simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until beans are just cooked through but firm (about 1 hour).

  2. Raise heat to quickly simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until beans just begin to break apart and broth has reduced to a thick, flavorful gravy (about 1 hour). Season soup with additional salt and vinegar to taste.

Recipe Notes

Recipe excerpted from Caroline Wright’s forthcoming cookbook, Soup Club, available from Andrews McMeel on November 9th wherever books are sold. Preorder your copy here. Cook along with Caroline as she cooks through the book for her club’s fourth soup season this year on soupclubcookbook.com.