Pantry black bean soup

Maybe you’re grocery shopping less and you want to use what’s in your pantry. Maybe you just want something that’s warm, hearty, and comforting in a way only soup can be. This pantry-friendly recipe can accommodate whatever you have on hand, or don’t.

Most of the soup’s flavour comes from the black beans and the spices, so skip or substitute anything you’re missing, like broth, canned tomatoes, carrots and celery. You can even use onion powder and garlic powder if needed. This soup is a great way to use up leftover cooked or roasted veggies like sweet potato, cauliflower, zucchini, or squash; or fresh veggies that will soon be not-so-fresh, like carrots, celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes, red or green peppers, or avocado. If you have a cup or 2 of assorted roasted vegetables, add them. Or if you have only one small carrot and two fresh tomatoes, the soup will still be delicious. Customize it as you wish – the beans can handle it!

Pantry Black Bean Soup

Makes 4 to 8 servings, depending on additions

Dietary restrictions: Vegan; gluten-free depending on toppings

Cooking time: 15 to 30 minutes active time (depending on vegetables to chop), 30 to 60 minutes further cooking time with stirring at the beginning

Difficulty level: Easy if you follow the basic recipe or cook regularly, intermediate if you’re making substitutions


  • Small amount of oil or broth, for sautéing
  • 1 onion, diced (yellow, white, or red)
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 to 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 to 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder, or chipotle spice powder/canned chipotles to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 to 3 cups vegetable broth or water (more or less depending on veggies used – start with less and add more if it is too thick after the blending step)
  • 2 cups cooked black beans (canned or from dry beans)
  • 1 small or large can of tomatoes, diced or whole (for whole tomatoes, squish them a bit with your hand or a blend briefly with a stick blender before adding)
  • 1 red or green pepper, diced (optional)
  • 1 potato or sweet potato, peeled and diced; or diced squash or zucchini (optional)
  • ½ cup canned or fresh corn (optional)


Heat a large pot over medium-high. Add oil or broth, garlic and onion and cook, stirring, until onion is translucent. (If you don’t have fresh onions, add fresh garlic to the carrots and celery—sautéing fresh garlic on its own can easily burn it.)

Add carrots and celery (and any other raw non-root vegetables like red or green pepper, zucchini, or fresh corn) and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add spices, and stir to heat through—direct heat brings out the flavor of spices.

Carefully add broth, black bean, canned tomatoes, and any optional longer-cooking raw veggies like potato or sweet potato. If you add longer-cooking veggies here, simmer 45 minutes then check if the veggies are done. Otherwise, add cooked veggies, like roasted cauliflower, and simmer for 15 minutes to allow flavours to combine.

Taste for flavour and check that all veggies are cooked through.

When soup is ready, carefully ladle a cup or two into a blender and blend briefly, and return to the soup pot. (Or use a hand blender and blend for one-second intervals, checking each time and stopping when your desired consistency is reached.) Use your judgement— if you like a chunky soup, you may want to blend only half a cup, or for a smoother soup, blend more.

If you have canned corn, add it after blending, cook a minute to heat through. Serve, with optional bread, pita or corn tortilla, or with optional toppings below.

Optional toppings – I recommend picking three

  • Squeeze of lime
  • Finely chopped onions, to taste, but be cautious with quantity if you’re social distancing with others!
  • Fresh chopped cilantro
  • Diced avocado
  • Diced fresh tomatoes
  • Roasted potato or sweet potato wedges
  • Canned corn or cooked fresh corn
  • Tortilla chips
  • Soft tortillas, rolled up and sliced into long thin strips

Karma’s Slow Cooker Soup Tasting, January 18, 11 am – 3 pm


Saturday, January 18, 2020, 11 am to 3 pm


Warm up by sampling Stefani’s easy slow cooker soup recipe. Taste and try it out at home

Hosted by the Social Events Committee

Please Contact:

Butternut Squash and Shiitake Mushroom Soup

I learned to cook after I moved away from home. Because my dad stayed home when I was born so my mom could go back to work, he was the one who cooked in our household, and this was unusual in the 70s when I was born. Surprisingly, it seems to still not be that common–the more things change, the more they stay the same? But he embraced it. After his divorce, Dad learned to cook for himself, then he cooked for my mom and then for me and my brother, too.

However, Dad didn’t have the patience to teach us how to cook. I watched and retained some things–the basics of making gravy from pan drippings, the importance of summer savoury in our Thanksgiving meals, how to make your own stock–but never took in enough to full-on cook. One of the things that did stick was soups.

My dad was great at soups. He made chicken-noodle soup with noodles from scratch. I know! Noodles from scratch–so amazing. He made thick pea soup, beef and barley, and more, all from scratch, with leftovers even better than the first day. So, it is fitting now that soups are some of my favourite go-to meals. This lovely soup is in my regular rotation.

Butternut Squash and Shiitake Mushroom Soup

I learned the basics of this recipe from a chef in the kitchen where I worked while in university. It was delicious–smooth and hearty with a delightful kick. For months I asked the chef about the secret ingredient, receiving only an enigmatic smile. I didn’t give up, and eventually he told me: black pepper. Lots of black pepper. I’ve added an option for other spices if you’re interested, but I recommend just adding lots of black pepper.

Attributes: Vegan, gluten-free, can be oil-free

Difficulty level: Easy

Time: 30 minutes + 15 minutes active, and 1– 8 hours passive cooking, depending on method

Recommended serving: The soup is light, so serve with bread or with salad greens topped with chickpeas for a lunch, or with a sandwich or wrap for a heartier meal.

Accordingly, makes roughly 6 to 8 servings

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, or ¼-cup vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into roughly 1-inch cubes
  • 1 to 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, and cut in half (let your budget and your taste buds be your guide to quantity–you can also use white mushrooms, cremini, portobello or any mushroom you desire–but remove the black gills from portobellos or they will darken the lovely orange of the soup)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth, or more broth or water to cover butternut squash if it’s very large
  • Salt, to taste (may not be necessary if you’re using store-bought broth)
  • Fresh ground black pepper, lots, or to taste
  • Optional: coconut milk, ½ cup to 1 cup
  • Optional spices such as cumin, chili powder, or paprika
  • Optional toppings as below

(This recipe can be adapted for a slow cooker or Instant Pot. See instructions in parentheses.)

Sauté onions in a large pot on the stovetop (or Instant Pot) in oil or broth over medium heat, until soft and translucent. If using broth, have some extra on hand to ensure it doesn’t evaporate and burn the onion. When onions are ready, add butternut squash, mushroom, salt and stock. (Or add onions to slow cooker, then add squash, mushrooms, salt and stock.)  Grind ¼ to ½ teaspoon black pepper on top. Add optional spices as desired. Turn heat to high to boil, then lower to low-medium and simmer 45 min to 1 hour. (Or set a slow cooker to 8 hours on low or as directed by manufacturer; or set pressure cooker to 45 minutes.) After an hour, checking for softness of the squash: a fork will easily pierce the squash when it’s done. You can’t really over-cook this soup, so don’t stress–if you’d like to keep it cooking so you can finish something else or watch the end of the last episode of whatever you’re streaming, just make sure there is enough broth to keep the squash and mushrooms covered.

When the squash is done, blend everything with a stick blender, or carefully add in batches to blend in a countertop blender. Use your judgement on how much to blend, if you prefer a little mushroom texture or would rather it be smooth. I think the soup is lovely as-is, but those who prefer a creamier soup can stir in coconut milk: start with a half-cup and taste before adding more. (Don’t simmer after adding coconut milk or the soup will ‘split.’)

For fancier presentation or if you just think soups deserve to be treated like the 4-star dishes they are, add a topping: caramelized onions, croutons or a slice of crusty bread, a swirl of plain coconut yogurt or coconut milk, or toasted pumpkin seeds. A roasted potato wedge might be nice too.

Contributed by Kyla Winchester

A soul-warming parsnip-carrot-potato soup and an intention for 2019

Raise your hand if you’re craving warm, hearty, nourishing meals during this time of year. Though it’s been a mild winter so far, it’s nice to have a few easy meal options to whip up on those days when the bitter cold, howling wind, and limited daylight hours encourage taking refuge in the kitchen. 

The calm rhythm of scrubbing, dicing, and mixing 

The spicy aroma of ingredients mulling together on the stove

Getting lost in one’s thoughts while stirring soup

Ladling it into a favourite ceramic bowl before adding a handful of herbs 

The joy of sharing a favourite meal that is equal parts delicious, nourishing, and beautiful 

One of my intentions for the new year is to spend more time preparing food with others. Last fall I started a monthly Sunday night soup club. The idea is that a group of about a dozen friends gathers at a rotating host’s home the last Sunday of each month. The host cooks a large pot of soup, featuring a seasonal ingredient or two, and guests bring something complementary to share, like a hearty loaf of bread, seedy crackers, fruit, or a bottle of wine. We enjoy a slow meal, generative conservation, and good music, and warm our hearts and bellies for the week to come. 

Soup Club has been successful so far, thanks in large part to having access to a bounty of seasonal produce at Karma from which to find inspiration.

Every time I enter Karma during the winter, I head to the produce section to see what beautiful root veg is on offer. I love to use what catches my eye to create simple soups and stews to cook, share, and enjoy during the week (if there are leftovers).

From baskets overflowing with vibrant orange, green, and yellow squash, to jewel-like beets, earthy and grounding, to bright, crunchy multi-coloured carrots, we are lucky to have choices, even in the coldest times of the year.

One root vegetable whose call is sometimes drowned out by more extroverted veggies is the humble parsnip. I like parsnips—their mild but slightly spicy flavour lends itself well to gentle roasting, or a light sauté, perhaps sweetened with a miso-maple syrup glaze. But I often forget about them, drawn to flashier colours and bigger flavours.

After many glances at those parsnips in the corner, I decided it was time to integrate them into a well-loved soup recipe in my household: a zesty root vegetable soup made richer with a bit of peanut butter and coconut milk and enlivened by a generous sprinkle of cilantro and green onions. Bonus: its flavours intensify over time, making this an excellent soup to cook on a Sunday for plenty of weekday leftovers.

Soup Club is a reminder that cooking isn’t just about the end result. It’s also about the process: the slowing down, appreciating the resources and labour that produces ingredients, the conversations that make habitual acts meaningful. 

I hope you’ll give this soup a try! 

The recipe is inspired by the Minimalist Baker’s Creamy Thai Carrot Soup with Basil.

Serves 8 medium bowls

What you’ll need:

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2-inch knob fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 2 pounds carrots (scrubbed, peeled, and diced)
  • 1 pound parsnips (scrubbed, peeled, and diced)
  • 1 pound yellow potatoes (scrubbed, peeled, and diced)
  • Pinches Herbamare and pepper, your favourite soup spices (e.g. chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika)
  • 6–8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter, crunchy or smooth (get it from Karma’s bulk section!)
  • 1 cup coconut milk 

Optional toppings:

  • Fresh cilantro 
  • Chopped green onions
  • More coconut milk, to drizzle
  • Lime wedges
  • Hot sauce (Karma has many options, including Simply Natural sriracha)

How to make it:

1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat.

2. Add 1 Tbsp coconut oil and let melt, then add curry paste.

3. Finely chop onion, garlic, and ginger. Add to pot, stirring and enjoying the lovely aroma.

4. Add diced carrots, parsnips, and potato, and cook for 5 minutes.

5. Season with a Herbamare and pepper, and any other spices you like. I find a bit of cumin, chili powder, and smoked paprika are nice.

6. Add the stock and stir gently, making sure the vegetables and spices are integrated.

7. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. 

8. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Then turn off the heat and move your pot to a pot-holder.

9. Now the fun part! Grab your immersion blender, and blend the soup until smooth (on low speed). 

10. Whisk the peanut butter and coconut milk in a bowl, then add to the soup pot and blend to combine (on low speed).

11. Return the pot to the stove, over low heat. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. 

12. Prepare your toppings (cilantro, green onion, lime wedges, extra coconut milk, hot sauce) in small bowls.

13. Serve immediately! 

Submitted by Sarah Bradley

Fall squash and how to squish it

At harvest time, the season of Thanksgiving and Halloween, one of the mainstays in our kitchen is squash, of which the popular pumpkin is just one variety. Native to North America, pumpkin and many other varieties of squash were introduced to European settlers by the aboriginal peoples of the Americas. “If it were not for pumpkins, we’d be undone soon,” said an early North American colonist in his 1693 diary, highlighting the importance of these native squash to early settlers. Catherine Parr Traill also describes planting squash near her homestead, close to what is now Lakefield, Ontario, in the mid-1800s.

The numerous varieties of squash can be divided into two main categories: summer squash, which has a soft skin and includes zucchini and crookneck, patty pan, and yellow squash; and winter squash, which has a harder rind and includes acorn, buttercup, butternut, hubbard, pumpkin, sweet dumpling, and spaghetti squash.

Both types of squash have a high nutritional value, providing us with carotenoids (an antioxidant) and vitamin C, as well as potassium, niacin, calcium, iron, and fibre. Winter squash and other deep orange vegetables are especially high in beta-carotene, the source of vitamin A.

Cooking with Squash

Squash and pumpkin are among my favourite vegetables to cook with. Beyond all their nutritional goodness, they seem to contain the golden warmth of the sun in their beautiful green and autumnal orange shades, and all the sweetness of the earth in their bountiful pulp. They are a flavour sensation no matter how simply or extravagantly one prepares them, and their versatility is a bonus.

Many of the winter squashes can be used interchangeably, although each has its own particular strengths. Squash is a tasty addition to a stir-fry, soup, stew, or as a side dish baked or sautéed in a little butter or olive oil, its sweetness offsetting some of the other autumn vegetables. Because of this sweetness, squash can be used in both savoury and dessert dishes such as the classic pumpkin pie. Other desserts include butternut pie, zucchini bread, and pumpkin loaf.

I recommend using organic squash in your recipes. Squash can be stored in a cool, dry place such as a garage or porch for up to six months. Ideal temperature is 5 to 10 Celsius.

Baked squash

Cut squash in half, and scoop out seeds and stringy bits. Brush the surface of the flesh with melted butter or olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange cut side down in a baking dish and add water to a depth of about a quarter inch. Bake in a preheated oven at 375*F for 30 to 60 minutes depending on the size of the squash.

Variation: after 20 to 30 minutes, stand the squash upright and brush with more melted butter or olive oil, salt, and pepper. Brush with maple syrup and nutmeg and continue cooking.

Baked spaghetti squash

Bake squash as described above. When cooked (make sure it is tender and soft), scoop the flesh out of the skin and mix it together with a little extra butter, freshly grated cheese (parmesan, swiss, or cheddar), minced parsley, basil, coriander, or dill for garnish, and salt and pepper to taste. For those who do not eat cheese, it is just as tasty without it.

Stuffed squash

Bake squash as described above. Scoop the flesh out and saute it in a bit of butter and add diced vegetables such as onion, carrots, beans, peas, or broccoli. You can also add cubed apples or raisings, breadcrumbs, or grated cheese or quark if you like. Then fill the skin with the prepared squash mixture.

Variation: pre-cook a grain such as rice, quinoa, or couscous, and when the vegetables are cooked, add the grain to the veggie mixture in a little butter (which adds a nice flavour to the grain). Fill the squash. You can also bake it again to brown the top.

Squash and carrot soup

1 large onion
3­–5 medium to large carrots
1 medium-sized squash
2–3 cups water or soup stock
thyme, basil, marjoram, salt and pepper to taste
garlic (optional)
apple (optional)

Sauté onion in butter or olive oil. Peel and chop squash into large cubes. Cut carrots into large pieces and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes. Add enough water or stock to just barely cover the vegetables (don’t put in too much liquid or the soup will be runny instead of thick). Add peeled and cored apple or peeled and mashed garlic if using. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Serve with a garnish of fresh herbs.

Submitted by Karen Fliess

First published in The Chronicle (Fall 2003)