Healthy Vegetable Soup with Cannellini Beans for Omnivores, Vegetarians or Vegans
This delicious, healthy soup recipe provides a whole day's worth of vegetables in a single bowl full. It's high in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals and it tastes great despite being fairly low in fat and sodium. In addition to being yummy and nutritious, this recipe makes a big pot of soup that can be made in advance, refrigerated or frozen in meal-sized portions and just reheated at lunch or dinner time and served with some whole-grain bread or rolls for a wonderful meal.
Make This an Omnivore, Vegetarian or Vegan Vegetable Soup
You can easily adapt this vegetable soup recipe to suit your own or your family's taste, to meet specific dietary requirements, or to use whatever veggies are in season (or in your refrigerator). It's also a cinch to turn it into a vegetarian or vegan recipe. I encourage you to play with it and make it your own!
In addition to sharing my recipe, I've also included lots of cooking tips, techniques and video demonstrations by expert chefs that will help make you a better cook.
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What's Your Favorite Type of Soup?
Detailed Step-by-Step Instructions and Helpful Tips
I'm going to go through my recipe step-by-step first, providing helpful tips on preparing the ingredients including cutting techniques along with photos that show the prep work.
Don't worry about writing down the recipe! You'll find a streamlined version of my Healthy Vegetable Soup Recipe with Cannellini Beans and Chicken Sausage at the end of this article that includes the quantities of each ingredient and uses traditional recipe formatting suitable for printing, if you wish.
An old-fashioned vegetable soup...is a more powerful anticarcinogen than any known medicine.— James Duke M.D. (U.S.D.A.)
Gather Your Ingredients
Before you start slicing, dicing, mincing and chopping, take out all the ingredients, tools and equipment you'll be using for the soup. You'll be done in less time if you don't have to stop to rummage around your drawers, pantry or fridge looking for your mandoline slicer, broth or fresh herbs...especially if it turns out you're missing a key ingredient! This soup is extremely adaptable, but if you don't have enough broth and have to substitute water, the flavor will suffer. (Substituting bouillon or commercial soup base would be far worse, making the sodium content skyrocket as well as making the taste unbearably salty.) And while dried cilantro can be used in a pinch, the flavor of the fresh herbs really adds a lot to this recipe.
Heat the Olive Oil in a Large Dutch Oven or Stockpot
Pour about 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a large Dutch oven or stock pot and place it on a burner over medium-low heat. Tilt the pan in different directions to distribute the oil evenly over the bottom of the pot. Allow it to heat up while you slice the onions.
Slice the Onions Paper Thin
While the olive oil is heating, peel and slice the onions. I love sweet, mild, delicious Vidalia onions when they're in season, but other varieties of sweet onions are fine, too. Cut each peeled onion in half vertically (from root to stem), then slice it crosswise as thinly as possible, using , an extremely sharp knife or a food processor with a fine slicing blade (you can quarter Vidalia onions if necessary to make them fit your food processor's feed tube). Stir the onions into the pot and stir to coat all the slices lightly with the oil. a mandoline slicer
Crush the Garlic Cloves
Start by peeling the garlic cloves. To do this, lay a wide chef's knife or cleaver on its flat side on top of a garlic clove, then carefully pound it once or twice with the heel of your hand or the side of your closed fist (thumb facing up). The garlic cloves don't need to be completely smashed, just flattened enough to split and loosen the peel so it's easy to remove. Pull off and discard the loosened skin from the smashed garlic cloves, trim the ends and mince.
Then crush the cloves with a good quality garlic press, or mince and then crush them with a sturdy, sharp chef's knife.
Tip: If you're using very large cloves, give them a single, controlled whack with a meat pounder Because it's so heavy, you won't need to (and shouldn't) use much force. The weight of the tool does the work for you!
Stir the crushed garlic into the pot with the onions and olive oil.
Roll Cut the Carrots
Roll cutting is a technique for cutting carrots, parsnips, Asian eggplant and other long, narrow vegetables. In addition to making the vegetable pieces more attractive, roll cutting maximizes the exposed surface area of the vegetable pieces so they will cook faster and more evenly and also absorb more flavor from the cooking sauce or broth. The roll cutting technique is used frequently in making Chinese stir-fry dishes. It is also called "oblique cutting".
Either peel the carrots or, to preserve as many nutrients as possible, scrub the carrots with a vegetable brush under cold running water. Trim the ends. To roll cut them, start at the wide end of the carrot. Hold the knife blade perpendicular as usual, then angle the blade at a 45-degree angle to make a diagonal cut, making sure the blade is straight up and down and not tilted. Rotate the carrot toward you 1/4 turn so that the cut edge faces up, then make another diagonal cut straight down. Continue to rotate and cut, keeping the pieces fairly even in size.
Stir the carrot pieces into the soup pot with the onions and garlic, then turn the heat up to medium.
Watch This Video Demonstration of How to Roll-Cut Carrots
Roll Cut or Slice the Parsnips
Scrub the parsnips under running water but don't peel them (to preserve the most nutrients) and trim the ends. Then roll-cut them and stir them into the soup pot.
If you prefer, you can slice the parsnips (and/or carrots) approximately 1/3" thick. Parsnips are very wide at the root end and taper sharply. So you'll need to cut them into three sections first and then cut each third a bit differently to keep the slices roughly the same size (volume and thickness, not shape) so they will cook in the same amount of time.
Slice the narrowest third (the tip end) into round slices, cut the middle third in half lengthwise and then slice (which will create half-circle slices) and cut the widest third into quarters lengthwise and then slice into wedges (see photo).
I live on good soup, not on fine words.— Molière
Dice the Optional Potatoes
Potatoes add fiber and also nutrients if you leave the skin on, and they definitely make this soup more rib-sticking. If you decide to include them, scrub the potatoes well under running water and then cut them into roughly 1/3-inch dice. Stir them into the pot.
Slice the Celery Stalks and Leaves
Remove the three celery stalks, wash them thoroughly, and trim the ends. Slice them (including the leaves) into medium-thick slices and stir them into the pot.
Tip: Celery leaves have a lot of flavor as well as nutrients, so don't discard them! Be sure to add them to this healthy vegetable soup.
Cut the Zucchini into Large Dice or Wedges
Wash and dry the zucchini and trim the ends. Either dice the zucchini 1/2" thick or cut it lengthwise (from blossom to stem) into quarters and then slice into 1/2" wedge-shaped slices as shown. Stir the zucchini into the soup pot.
Peel and Shred the Apples
Peel the apples, cut them into quarters with a chef's knife and then use a very sharp, small paring knife to remove the core and seeds while retaining as much of the apple flesh as possible.
Place as many of the quartered apples as will fit into the feed tube of a food processor fitted with a shredding disk, then maintain light pressure on the pusher as you turn on the machine to shred them. Turn off the processor and without removing the apple shreds from the food processor bowl, add more apple quarters to the feed tube, then shred them into the same bowl. Repeat with the remaining quarters.
If you use a food processor with a shredding disc, you can shred all the apple quarters in just seconds. However, if you don't have one, you can use a mandoline with a shredding blade or a coarse box shredder instead.
Stir the apple shreds into the pot, where they will lend a very subtle touch of sweetness that unobtrusively brings out the natural sweetness of the savory vegetables in this soup.
A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.— Abraham Maslow
Seed and Dice the Red Bell Pepper
Dicing a bell pepper can be a bit unwieldy (and frustrating!)... unless you know a few simple tricks that make it a piece of cake. Here's the easiest, most efficient way to slice or dice a bell pepper.
First, thoroughly wash and dry the bell pepper. Use a sharp chef's knife to slice off and reserve both ends, exposing the ribs inside. Stand the pepper on end and slice straight down through one wall with the tip of the chef's knife. Turn the pepper on its side and gently pry the cut edges apart up a bit, then carefully run the blade of the chef's knife along the inside of the pepper's wall, using a slight sawing motion to separate the wall from the whitish ribs, center core and the seeds. If the ribs don't all come off easily or cleanly; just trim them afterward with a sharp paring knife. Turn the pepper over (skin side up) and flatten it on the cutting board. This gives you a nice, flat rectangle of trimmed bell pepper that's easy to slice into strips or dice. Then diced the reserved ends.
Now you can stir the diced red bell pepper into the stock pot.
Video: Watch This Chef's Technique for Cutting Bell Peppers Into Strips or Dice
If Using the Optional Chicken Sausage, Slice the Links into Thick Coins
The pre-cooked chicken sausage adds a huge amount of flavor without a lot of fat or sodium, so I highly recommend including it if it doesn't interfere with your dietary restrictions. Cut the links into 1/3" thick slices and stir them into the pot with the prepared fresh vegetables and shredded apples.I prefer Aidells or Al Fresco cooked chicken sausage.
Stir In Half of the Broth
I highly recommend using a good-quality low-sodium and/or reduced sodium broth for this soup, especially if you plan to add chicken sausage and/or top it with shredded cheese. I used a combination of low-sodium vegetable broth and reduced-sodium 99% fat-free chicken broth, but you can use all chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth, turkey broth, or any combination you prefer, depending on your taste and dietary restrictions. Use vegetable broth for a vegetarian or vegan soup. And if you happen to have some homemade stock on hand that's low in sodium, using that instead of commercial broth will further enhance the taste.
Reserve about half of the broth or stock to make the bean purée and stir the rest of the liquid into the stock pot.
Purée the Beans with the Reserved Broth
Rinse and drain the canned cannellini beans very thoroughly several times. Place half the beans (approximately 1½ to 2 cups) in a blender or food processor with a metal chopping blade along with the reserved broth or stock and process to a very thick purée.
Stir the purée along with the remaining rinsed and drained whole beans into the pot.
Using Dried Cannellini Beans
If you prefer, you can substitute soaked and cooked dried cannellini beans (AKA white kidney beans) for the canned beans. Cooking them in a pressure cooker is fastest and easiest, but for those of us who don't own a pressure cooker, here's how to cook the dried beans. IMPORTANT: You will need to start soaking the beans the night before you want to make the soup.
To make 4 cups of cooked dried cannellini beans, put 1-1/3 cups of picked-over and rinsed dried beans into a large bowl or food storage container and cover with 8 cups of cold water. Cover the bowl or container and leave it on the counter overnight. In the morning the beans should have swelled significantly. Drain and rinse them and transfer them to a large pot. Add enough fresh cold water to cover the beans by at least 1". Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook the beans, uncovered, for approximately 45–90 minutes or until tender, adding more cold water in small amounts if necessary to keep the tops of the beans under water. Drain them, then rinse and drain them again several times before puréeing them in the blender with the reserved broth.
Add Cilantro, Simmer, Season and Chill Overnight
Stir in the fresh cilantro and turn the heat up to medium-high. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the carrots are tender.
Taste the soup and, if desired, season to taste with Kosher salt and pepper. I don't add any salt at this point because I think the sausage adds enough, especially if I'm going to top the soup with some shredded cheese, but it's up to you. Cover and refrigerate it overnight.
The next day, reserve some of the soup to reheat and eat. Divide up the rest into serving-sized freezer bags or freezer-safe food storage containers, label and date them, and then freeze them to enjoy on another day.
Reheat and Serve with an Optional Topping of Freshly Shredded Gruyere and Parmesan Cheese
The next day (or any time in the next few days), reheat the soup slowly over medium heat. As soon as it reaches a simmer, take the pot off the heat and ladle the soup into deep bowls. Serve immediately.
Serving Suggestions for Healthy Vegetable Soup with Cannellini Beans
I highly recommend topping the hot soup with freshly grated or shredded cheese. At the table, use a Microplane zester/grater to grate or finely shred some good-quality Gruyere cheese over the hot soup in each bowl. Then do the same with a little imported Parmigiano-Reggiano (high-quality, authentic Parmesan cheese). Each diner should stir in the cheese right away so that it melts evenly into the soup.
I like serving this wonderfully filling and healthy soup with toasted and lightly buttered whole-grain bread or English muffins (Food for Life brand Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain English Muffins are hearty and nutritious) and a tall glass of ice-cold milk or apple cider.
Important Tips About the Finely Shredded Cheese
Be sure to use a hard, flavorful cheese for grating (I like to mix Parmigiano Reggiano and Romano). I highly recommend using a . Another option is to use a fine or medium shredding disc in a food processor. Microplane grater
Please don't use already-grated Parmesan cheese, especially not the canisters of non-refrigerated stuff, which is bland, often contains up to 15% fillers, and tastes a bit like grated soap...especially compared to freshly grated imported Parmigiano-Romano! (If you think the difference isn't that significant, taste them side-by-side and see for yourself.)
Vegetarian and Vegan Recipe Modifications
Vegetarian Recipe Modifications:
Use vegetable broth and omit the chicken sausage.
If you wish, you can make up somewhat for the flavor of the omitted chicken sausage by preparing some meatless sausages (such as Morningstar Farms breakfast sausage links) while you are reheating the soup. Cook only enough meatless sausage links for the amount of soup you are serving, then slice them into "coins". After you ladle the soup in to bowls, distribute the sausage slices among the bowls and immediately grate the cheese over the top.
Vegan Recipe Modifications:
To make this a vegan soup, simply omit the chicken sausage and the cheese. Another option is to substitute dairy-free vegan cheese for the Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Daiya makes extremely good vegan cheese varieties that can be shredded finely, and there are several good recipes for vegan Parmesan cheese substitutes online, including the Vegan Parmesan Cheese Recipe from Madison at Veggieful.com. If you like the taste of nutritional yeast, that's another substitution option for the Parmesan cheese.
Soup's on — enjoy!
Healthy Vegetable Soup with Cannellini Beans Recipe and Optional Chicken Sausage
Making this soup a day ahead allows the flavors to meld and mellow. It's worth the wait!
Feel free to substitute your family's favorite vegetables and cheese varieties.
To make this into a vegetarian recipe, use vegetable broth and omit the chicken sausage. For a vegan soup recipe, also omit the optional cheese or substitute dairy-free cheese (e.g., Daiya brand) for the Gruyere and Parmesan cheese.
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 large Vidalia onions (or 4 large sweet onions of another variety)
- 2 cloves elephant garlic or 4 cloves of regular garlic
- 2 large or 3 medium carrots
- 2 large or 3 medium parsnips
- 2 large or 3 medium potatoes (optional)
- 2 large or 3 medium celery stalks with unwilted leaves
- 2 zucchini
- 2 medium-large apples
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 2 12 -oz. packages (4 links each) of fully cooked chicken sausage - I like Aidells or Al Fresco brand
- 61 to 64 oz. broth of your choice - reduced-sodium or low-sodium broth is recommended
- 2 or 3 15-oz. cans of cannellini beans (white kidney beans) or 4 to 6 cups soaked and cooked dried cannellini beans
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Kosher salt (optional) and black pepper
- Block of good quality Gruyere cheese
- Wedge of imported Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (best-quality Parmesan cheese from Italy)
- Pour about 3 Tbsp. of olive oil into a Dutch oven and turn the heat to medium-low.
- While the oil is heating, cut the onions in half from root to stem and then slice them crosswise as thinly as possible. Stir the onion into the pot until the slices are thinly coated with oil.
- Partially flatten the garlic cloves. Remove the skin, then trim and mince the peeled cloves. Stir the minced garlic in with the onions.
- Scrub the carrots and parsnips under cold running water and trim off the ends. Roll-cut the carrots and parsnips or slice them approximately 1/3" thick. Stir them into the pot and turn up the heat to medium.
- If using potatoes, scrub the skins under cold running water but don't peel them. Cut them into 1/3" cubes and stir them in with the other vegetables.
- Wash and trim the celery stalks, including the leaves. Cut them into medium-thick slices and stir them into the pot.
- Wash and trim the zucchini, cut them into approximately 1/2" dice or 1/2" thick wedges and stir them in.
- Peel and quarter the apples, then trim away the core and seeds. Shred the apples and stir them into the vegetables.
- Dice the red bell peppers and stir them in.
- Slice the fully cooked chicken sausage into 1/3" thick slices and stir them into the pot.
- Reserve half the broth and add the other half to the pot.
- Rinse and drain the cannellini beans several times. Place them in a blender, add the reserved broth, process to a very thick purée and stir it into the soup.
- Stir in the fresh cilantro and turn up the heat to medium-high. Bring the soup just to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Season to taste with Kosher salt, if desired, and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, freeze the soup in meal-size portions and label and date the containers. If desired, reserve some of the soup to eat within the next few days.
- Reheat the soup (after defrosting it if it was frozen) over medium heat or in a microwave. Ladle the hot soup into bowls and serve immediately, with hot, toasted and lightly buttered whole-grain bread, rolls or English muffins, if desired.
- If desired, grate some fine shreds of Gruyere cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over each bowl at the table and have each diner stir the cheeses into the soup while it is still hot.
Please Rate My Healthy Vegetable Soup Recipe!
Too Hot to Cook? My Gazpacho Soup Recipe is Perfect for Summer
Although I enjoy making this vegetable soup all year long, my chunky gazpacho soup recipe is the perfect, refreshing make-ahead meal during the warm summer months. Like this recipe, I make my gazpacho in big batches and serve it well chilled. Everyone loves it and always asks for seconds.
© 2013 Margaret Schindel