This spicy white bean soup is a poem in a pot – The Denver Post

By Melissa Clark, The New York Times

When there is ground meat in the fridge and beans in the pantry, dinner almost cooks itself into a big pot of chili, the ingredients simmering together as if they had wills of their own. I make chili so often that not making it when everything is on hand feels like a betrayal of the muscle memory I have built up over many tomato-splattered years.

But as much as I adore a spicy bowl of chili, there are nights when I would rather have soup. Especially when I have got a bright, vegetable-focused soup on my mind, one that is filled with white beans and winter greens, spiked with ginger and red-pepper flakes, and rounded out with only a little ground turkey.

A soup like this is sharp and lemony where chili is deep and fiery; it is brothy and pale instead of ruddy and thick. But it is piquant, cozy and hearty in exactly the same satisfying way. And, because it doesn’t need to simmer for very long to meld the flavors, it is a lot quicker, too.

Like chili, this soup is supremely adaptable. You can use whatever ground meat, beans and greens you have. You can even mix and match, adding a can of white beans and a can of chickpeas if that is what is on the shelf. You can use ground chicken, pork, beef or vegan meat instead of turkey. And any greens, from tender spinach to sturdy collards, will find a happy place in the pot.

Your choice of greens may require some simple, intuitive finessing. Thicker, more leathery greens (collards, kale, cabbage) need longer to cook than delicate spinach, baby mustard and tatsoi. If the broth condenses too much while the greens simmer, you can add a little water to thin it out.

Or then again, maybe a thicker broth is what you are craving. Aid your cause by smashing up some of the beans so they release their starch as they simmer. This makes the broth silky and rich.

Whether thick or thin, make sure to finish the soup with loads of fresh lemon juice. Add it to taste, and stop only when the broth has a lively zing that cuts through the plushiness of the beans.

For chili fans, lemon does the same job as a dollop of tangy sour cream. But the citrus is fresher, and more in keeping with the lighter vibe of this still delightfully warming winter soup.

Recipe: Lemony White Bean Soup With Turkey and Greens

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 45 minutes


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 bunch sturdy greens, such as kale, broccoli raab, mustard greens or collard greens
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup chopped fresh, soft herbs, such as parsley, mint, dill, basil, tarragon, chives or a combination
  • Fresh lemon juice, to taste


1. Heat a large pot over medium-high for a minute or so to warm it up. Add the oil and heat until it thins out, about 30 seconds. Add onion and carrot, and sauté until very soft and brown at the edges, 7 to 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, rinse the greens and pull the leaves off the stems. Tear or chop into bite-size pieces and set aside.

3. When the onion is golden, add tomato paste, 3/4 teaspoon cumin and 1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes to the pot, and sauté until paste darkens, about 1 minute. Add turkey, garlic, ginger and 1 teaspoon salt, and sauté, breaking up the meat with your spoon, until turkey is browned in spots, 4 to 7 minutes.

4. Add stock and beans, and bring to a simmer. Let simmer until the soup is thick and flavorful, adding more salt if needed, 15 to 25 minutes. If you like a thicker broth, you can smash some of the beans with the back of the spoon to release their starch. Or leave the beans whole for a brothier soup.

5. Add the greens to the pot and simmer until they are very soft. This will take 5 to 10 minutes for most greens, but tough collard greens might take 15 minutes. (Add a little water if the broth gets too reduced.)

6. Stir herbs and lemon juice into the pot, taste and add more salt, cumin and lemon until the broth is lively and bright-tasting. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and more red-pepper flakes, if desired.

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