Creamy White Bean Soup

I’m such a wuss.

My husband and I joke about it, but it really is true. I grew up in the land of Nor’easters and snowy winters. We met where 17 below was not unheard of, where gas tanks freeze shut and automatic windows don’t mean a thing if you don’t keep your car in a garage. I will never forget one bad spell – my first winter as a grad student in Chicago – when I planned a shopping trip to Water Tower Place one Saturday; the real reason was to let my car thaw out in the parking garage so I could actually open my windows again.

And now, here I am, the weather dips below 40 degrees, and I fuss over the children, You need your warm coat! It’s Tahoe cold out there. Because, of course, “Tahoe cold” is how we now describe any cold that reveals your steamy breath in the frosty air.

Our friends and family laugh at us, the California wusses, who complain of the freezing cold in temperatures where they would still wear shorts outdoors. I take comfort in the fact that we are not alone. The other day, I was wearing a vest and scarf, and a good friend of mine rubbed my exposed arms and chastised me, Where is your coat!? Don’t you know how cold it is with the windchill? I burst out laughing – even with the windchill, it was really about 50 degrees.

We wussy Californians need to ward off the winter chill, too. Today, I knew I needed soup. Something creamy, something comforting. Something with bacon, just a hint. So I started to brown a little bit of the fatty, smokey yumminess. This was about simplicity and subtlety. There was some temptation go pork happy and add more bacon, but I held back. I wanted to celebrate the thyme, the white beans, the Parmesan croutons soaking it all in. This is a soup I would have loved in Chicago. It’s a soup that would be perfect after coming off the slopes in Tahoe. I hope it keeps you warm, wherever you are.

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Creamy White Bean Soup

Yield: Serves 4


1 slice bacon
4 springs thyme, plus extra for garnish
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion (about 1/2 cup), diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock
30oz white beans (canned or softened from dried)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Parmesan croutons for garnish


Bundle the sprigs of thyme and roll within a single slice of bacon. Tie with a piece of kitchen twine to secure. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to coat the pan, then add the bundle of bacon and thyme and brown on all sides, about 3 minutes. Lower heat and add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent and not brown. Add the chicken stock and white beans and bring to a boil. When the soup is hot, remove the bacon bundle and blend the soup, either using an immersion blender or a standard blender (if using the latter, do so in two small batches, then return to the pot). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot with Parmesan croutons or crisps and garnish with some fresh thyme.

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by Liren Baker on December 14, 2011

23 Responses to “Creamy White Bean Soup”

  1. Belinda @zomppa December 15, 2011 @ 4:56 am (#

    What a perfect soup to warm up. I know what you mean! I grew up in New England – three feet of snow in the old days, and now…it drops below 45 and I’m FREEZING. Wuss.

    • Liren replied: — December 18th, 2011 @ 7:51 am

      Glad I’m not the only wuss! Isn’t it funny how our spoiled we can get once we leave the frigid parts of the country?

  2. Jacqui December 15, 2011 @ 7:17 am (#

    I totally get the frozen car windows thing. We’re actually having a pretty mild winter this year in the Chicago area. No snow yet! 40-degree temps! And I like soup any time of year, especially with bacon. :)

    • Liren replied: — December 18th, 2011 @ 7:53 am

      It really has been a mild winter so far, hasn’t it? Can’t believe it’s been so warm in Chicago. I guess that’s a nice change of pace :) But I imagine you might we hoping for a white Christmas?

  3. Jean December 15, 2011 @ 8:41 am (#

    Too funny, Liren! I’ve never lived where it snows but I’ve skied enough to know that I could never live where it’s cold for very long. I understand! :)

    Your white bean soup looks absolutely delicious. I always keep white beans in stock–made a white bean dip last week–but I’ve never used them for a puréed soup like this. This will have to change soon. This looks perfect!

    • Liren replied: — December 18th, 2011 @ 7:53 am

      That’s what I love about life here, Jean! We can travel to the snow and then leave the hard work (shoveling, salting, etc.) behind!

  4. Betty Ann @Mango_Queen December 15, 2011 @ 12:28 pm (#

    Liren, your white bean soup photos are gorgeous and this recipe is amazing! It’s so cold out today, I must try this right away.

    • Liren replied: — December 18th, 2011 @ 7:55 am

      Thank you Betty Ann, hope you’re staying warm this weekend :)

  5. Janet@FCTC December 15, 2011 @ 2:12 pm (#

    This sounds so good and so comforting. I love bean soup and I love how creamy this looks w/out the addition of dairy. Buzzed!

    • Liren replied: — December 18th, 2011 @ 7:56 am

      Thanks for the buzz, Janet! Yes, I love that pureeing the beans adds thickens and gives the soup a creamy quality, without any added fats. Less guilt :)

  6. Erin @ Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts December 15, 2011 @ 6:04 pm (#

    What a gorgeous soup – love the crostinis on top!
    I hate winter! I grew up in Wisconsin, 2 hours from Chicago. I would love to never have to relive that again!

    • Liren replied: — December 18th, 2011 @ 7:57 am

      Brr, Wisconsin! While I love the midwest, I secretly hope to never have to live in such a cold part of the country again, too.

  7. Kita December 16, 2011 @ 4:58 am (#

    Were those bacon wrapped herbs on the side? Because, that had to smell amazing.
    Sorry, got distracted.
    I have never had a white bean soup, but I have been on a soup kick this winter and it probably wont be long until it makes my list. I can just imagine the creamy texture. And as always, beautiful picture!

    • Liren replied: — December 18th, 2011 @ 7:57 am

      Yes indeedy, Kita, you saw some bacon – it did smell SO good!

  8. Beth Michelle December 16, 2011 @ 6:52 am (#

    Growing up in NY and then going to University in Miami and now living in the desert in Israel, I totally get that whole thing about being a wuss as soon as it dips below a certain temperature. Its in the high 50s-60s here now and we are putting the heat on!!
    i love soup and these cooler months definitely call for it. You soup looks so comforting and delicious!

    • Liren replied: — December 18th, 2011 @ 7:59 am

      Hi Beth Michelle – yes, you do understand! And you know what, from what I remember from my travels to Israel, the weather is so very similar (as is the landscape) to parts of California. So we are definitely enjoying the same kind of winter weather. Either way, soup is always welcome :)

  9. Heidi @ Food Doodles December 16, 2011 @ 10:47 am (#

    This looks fantastic. I’ve never had a soup like this with pureed beans, but I like white beans and all the flavorings sound delicious. I’ll have to give it a try :) I know what you mean about the cold. It was quite a shock for me moving from the west coast inland but I know it gets even colder elsewhere so for me to complain probably sounds so silly to others :D

    • Liren replied: — December 18th, 2011 @ 8:00 am

      Than you, Heidi! And I can totally understand how shocking it must have been to move inland for you. Not silly at all!!

  10. Christine December 17, 2011 @ 4:58 am (#

    This looks like a luxurious satiny soup without the typical douse of heavy cream. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe.

    • Liren replied: — December 18th, 2011 @ 8:00 am

      That’s my favorite part – no cream! Just wholesome, satiny goodness :)

  11. Norma December 18, 2011 @ 8:22 am (#

    Lovely Liren. I take this time to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas.

  12. Monet December 18, 2011 @ 5:34 pm (#

    Even though I grew up in Colorado, I quickly acclimated to the Texas climate, and I complain when we dip into the 40s! This soup would warm me right up though. I hope you are having a relaxing Sunday, my friend. I’m about to begin a week of baking, traveling and celebrating with family. Much love and many blessings.

  13. Laura (Tutti Dolci) December 6, 2012 @ 6:22 pm (#

    I love this soup, Liren! It looks like just the thing I’d order at a trattoria in Florence :).

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