White Bean Soup is a hearty Italian style white bean soup featuring cannellini beans, vegetables, bacon, swiss chard, and the prominent Parmesan cheese flavor in every bite. The star of the show might be the creamy, flavorful, soft beans, but there are many other bold ingredients in this heartwarming soup.
White Bean Soup
The season of comfort food is upon us, which means I have the perfect excuse to make soups on a weekly basis! This white bean soup is one of our favorites. It’s richly flavored and so hearty that just one small bowl can fill you up. But don’t be too surprised when you’re craving seconds.
What really separates this white bean soup from others that I’ve had is the preparation of the beans themselves. With my simple step by step instructions for preparing the beans to be cooked in this soup, they always turn out absolutely perfect. Set a little extra time aside to prepare the dried beans for the most perfectly cooked, soft, and creamy beans in the end.
There are plenty of other ingredients at play in this Italian soup that create the perfect medley of flavors and complimentary textures. Vegetables like celery and carrots, herbs like fresh bay leaves and rosemary sprigs, and an array of seasonings like crushed red pepper and garlic powder are just a few of the key components of this boldly flavored comfort food.
Ingredients for This White Bean Soup
- Bacon – Feel free to make a whole pound of bacon instead of 1/2 lb so you can serve it with all the servings of soup later. Store cooked bacon bits in a separate container and heat it up before topping the soup.
- Canola Oil
- Vegetable base – yellow Onion, celery, carrots.
- Garlic – This is an ingredient I always feel can be measured with your heart! Feel free to toss an additional clove or two into the mix.
- Stock – You can either use Vegetable Stock or Chicken Stock.
- Herbs and seasoning – bay leaves, rosemary, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes.
- Cannellini Beans – Navy beans or great northern beans are adequate substitutes, but cannellini beans are preferred.
- Swiss Chard – This leafy green vegetable is full of vitamins and nutrients that you’ll love having in every bite! If you can’t get your hands on Swiss chard, kale or collard greens will also work.
- Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes – you’ll add some more flavor with fire roasted tomatoes.
- Parmesan Cheese Rind – This is my secret ingredient in a lot of soups and it will infuse the soup with a rich parmesan flavor.
What beans should I use?
Use cannellini beans for this white bean soup but if they’re not available, you can substitute other small white beans like navy beans and great northern beans.
Note that all varieties of white beans will have slightly different cook time. So make sure to taste as the beans cook to check if they are done. The age of the beans will also affect the cook time and the softness of cooked beans in the end.
How to Perfectly Prepare Beans for Making Soup:
- Sort the beans to get rid of any debris or little stones and rinse. Nothing worse than accidentally biting on a stone!
- Soak the beans in slightly salted water for 8-12 hours. Salt helps soften the skin to yield nice smooth and soft skin in the end. Plus it gives the beans a little more flavor.
- Strain beans well and they are ready for cooking.
What if I forgot to soak the beans?
Well, the short answer is you can still make your soup, but it will take longer to cook. The final result will also not be as smooth, soft, and creamy and the beans will have tougher skins. If you’re cooking the beans from dry, you will need to cook the beans a couple of hours longer. Different size beans will take different additional cook time. Still make sure to cook them at a low temperature and stir every 30 minutes or so.
You can also quick soak the beans: rinse the beans and place them in a pot. Cover with enough water to about 2 inches above the top of the beans and stir in some salt. Bring the pot to boil, boil for a couple of minutes, and turn off the heat. Remove from the stove, close the pot with a lid, and let it sit for an hour. Strain and cook the bean in the soup.
How long do beans take to cook?
Most soaked bean will take 45 minutes to 2 hours to cook, depending on the variety, size, and age. Here is an approximate cooking time for the white beans: cannellini beans: 60-90 minutes, great northern white: 45-60 minutes, navy beans: 90-120 minutes.
How to Make White Bean Soup
For the best results, you’ll need to soak your beans. Rinse the beans, then place them in a mixing bowl or pot. Add enough water so the beans are fully covered with about 2 inches of water above them. Then, stir in a little bit of salt.
Cover the soaking beans, then allow them to sit in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours. Strain them.
In a small pot, combine the stock, herbs, and seasonings. Heat it to simmer and take off heat.
Time for the bacon! Cook the bacon in oil until it’s fully cooked and the fat is rendered. Remove the bits of bacon with a slotted spoon, and leave all that rendered fat right there in the pot.
Cook the onion, celery and carrots in the same pot as the bacon fat unit everything is softened. Then, stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add the beans and stock to the pot, then bring it to a boil.
Once the soup reaches a boil, lower the heat and cover the pot with a lid, leaving a small crack for steam to escape. Cook the soup for approximately 30-40 minutes, stirring just a couple of times.
Add the leafy Swiss chard, diced tomatoes, and parmesan rind. Stir everything to fully incorporate.
Cook the soup for another 30-40 minutes. You’ll need to stir it from time to time.
When the soup is fully cooked, discard of the rosemary stems and parmesan rind. Serve it topped with bacon bits and grated parmesan cheese, and enjoy!
Perfect Comforting Soups For Cold Weather
Loaded Baked Potato Soup – this soup is loaded with crispy bacon, soft golden potatoes, cheese, and green onions.
Olive Garden Gnocchi Soup – this soup is packed with chicken, vegetables, creamy broth, and soft gnocchi.
The Best Mushroom Soup – this creamy mushroom soup is made with three types of mushrooms and fresh sage.
Homemade Stuffed Peppers Soup – made with a variety of fresh ingredients including ground beef, fresh vegetables, and rice.
Italian White Bean Soup
- 1/2 lb raw bacon
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 yellow onion
- 2 celery ribs
- 2 medium carrots
- 8 garlic cloves
- 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- salt to taste
- 1/4-1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 lb cannellini beans soaked
- 8 oz Swiss chard
- 14.5 oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 Parmesan cheese rind
Soaking the beans:
- Empty the bag of beans into a rimmed baking sheet and sort through the beans to get rid of any small stones or debris.
- Rinse the beans and place them into a mixing bowl or a pot. Add enough water to cover the beans with extra 2 inches of water. Stir in a tablespoon and a half of salt until dissolved.
- Cover and place the beans in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours.
- Strain the beans.
Making White Bean Soup:
- Prepare all of the ingredients before starting to cook: Dice onion, carrots, and celery. Dice cold bacon. Peel, smash, and mince the garlic cloves. For Swiss chard, you can take the leaves off the stems of keep the stems. Slice the chard into pieces or just rip it. In a small sauce pot, combine stock, bay leaves, rosemary, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper flakes. Heat it to simmer and take off heat.
- Heat up a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add oil when it's hot. Add diced bacon and let is cook until bacon bits are completely cooked and the fat is all rendered. Take bacon bits out with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Leave the fat in the pot!
- Add onion, celery, and carrots to the pot and cook until for a few minutes, softened. Stir in garlic and cook it for a few seconds, until fragrant.
- Add beans and pour in the warm stock mixture. Stir and turn up the heat to bring it to boil.
- Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and cover the pot with a lid. Leave a small crack for the steam to escape. Let the soup cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring a couple of times.
- Add Swiss chard, all of the diced tomatoes from the can, and the Parmesan rind to the soup. Stir to incorporated throughout and taste to see if you need to add more salt and pepper.
- Cook another 30-40 minutes, until the beans are soft and tender. Make sure to stir from time to time.
- When the soup is done, discard the bay leaves, rosemary stem, and Parmesan rind.
- Serve topped with bacon bits and some fresh grated Parmesan cheese.