Farro, an ancient grain similar to barley, adds texture and creaminess to this vegan version of Tuscan white bean soup with carrots and kale. Use Alubia Blanca or any small white beans, such as navy beans.
I’ve had a bag of Alubia Blanca white beans from Rancho Gordo sitting on my “bean shelf” for longer than I care to admit. I was overly optimistic a while back about turning myself from a canned bean user to a dried bean connoisseur and bought a bunch of Rancho Gordo beans, but as it turns out, old habits are hard to break. In order to cook with dried beans, you need to plan ahead to give them time to cook (and perhaps pre-soak), and I’m a last-minute kind of cook. The only times I plan ahead are holidays and (some) blog posts.
But the wonderful thing about Alubia Blanca beans is that they are so tiny that they don’t need to be soaked and they cook in the pressure cooker in about 45 minutes (including time to get to pressure and time to release pressure.) Even a never-plan-ahead cook like me can work with that time frame.
Alubia Blanca beans are about the length and width of black-eyed peas but not quite as plump. To me they taste similar to other white beans, such as Great Northern and Navy beans, and they hold their shape and firm texture after cooking.
I’ve been in the mood for a soup with beans and kale, so I decided to make a Tuscan white bean soup with these little beans. Soups with white beans and farro, the ancient grain that’s similar in size and texture to barley, are common in Tuscany, and I looked at a soup called Supper Soup of Sweet Squash, Farro, and Beans in The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper to get a sense of the flavor profile. Unfortunately, my butternut squash had gone bad, so I wasn’t able to use it this time, but the soup came out beautifully without it–incredibly hearty and filling and loaded with flavor.
I used a large bunch of kale and three large carrots and I suggest that that is the minimum amount of vegetables you should use. As written, this is a very bean-heavy soup, the kind that fills you up quickly. So feel free to throw as much kale as you want into it, and add a small butternut or other winter squash, too, if you’d like. Serve it with or over a thick slice of whole grain bread with a squeeze of lemon juice or a sprinkle of lemon zest.
I realize that most people don’t have Alubia Blanca beans, so at the end of the recipe, I’ve added cooking times and instructions for other white beans. There are also non-Instant Pot instructions for those of you who prefer to make it on the stove.
More Instant Pot Soups
I love using the Instant Pot to make soups that normally would take a while to cook. Here are a few of my favorites. You can find all of my Instant Pot recipes here.
Vegan Tuscan White Bean Soup in the Instant Pot
- 1 pound alubia blanca or other small white beans, dried
- 1/2 cup farro (or pearled barley or buckwheat groats, see notes)
- 6 cups water
- 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon No-Chicken Base or other vegetable bouillon
- 2 medium onions chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 3 large carrots diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 3 ribs celery chopped
- 5 cloves garlic minced or pressed
- 16 ounces canned diced tomatoes (fire-roasted preferred)
- 2 sprigs rosemary (or 2 teaspoons, lightly crushed)
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- salt to taste
- 5 cups kale chopped (about 5 ounces without stems)
- 3-4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked salt or 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- lemon zest or lemon juice to serve
- sliced French bread to serve
- Rinse the beans and remove any debris, such as rocks or twigs, and any broken or discolored beans. Drain them and put them in the Instant Pot or other pressure cooker, along with the farro, bouillon, and 6 cups water. Lock the lid in place, make sure the valve is set on seal, and set the pressure cooking time for 20 minutes. When the time is up, allow the pressure to come down naturally for 15 minutes before releasing manually. Check to make sure the beans are tender or very close to tender. If they aren't cooked all the way through, replace the lid and return the pot to pressure for another 2 or 3 minutes. Quick release the pressure, and check the beans again. Repeat if necessary.
- While the pressure is coming down, heat a large skillet on the stove and saute the onions, carrots, and celery over medium heat until the onions begin to soften. (Add water by the tablespoon if they start to stick to the pan.) When the onions begin to brown, add the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Remove from the heat and set aside until beans are done.
- Add the sauteed vegetables to the beans, along with the tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, basil, and both types of pepper. If the soup seems dry, add 1 to 2 cups more water. Add salt to taste. Set the pot on the lowest saute setting for 20 minutes. Cook, stirring often, until the flavors have a chance to blend.
- A few minutes before serving, remove the rosemary sprigs and add the nutritional yeast, smoked salt or paprika, and kale. Cook until the kale is bright green and wilted. Check the seasoning and add more salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast to taste. Serve with hearty whole grain bread with a sprinkle of lemon zest or squeeze of lemon juice in each bowl.
Non-Pressure Cooker Instructions
- Start by soaking the beans overnight; this will speed cooking. Place in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Add the farro and additional water, if necessary, and cook until beans and farro are tender. The time will vary depending on the beans used.
- Follow steps 2-4 above.
Nutritional info is approximate.
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