Spicy Black Bean Soup with Quick-Pickled Carrots and Onions

Hello! ICYMI, the blog is featuring a series of women who shared their biggest barriers to cooking. See Kelly’s Mediterranean meal-prep here, Wendy’s almond-crusted fish with caramelized lemons and browned butter here, and Jocelyn’s gluten-free mini turkey meatloaves here.

This Wednesday, the blog is featuring Holly, a public interest lawyer here in the District. Holly eats a mostly vegetarian diet, and loves spicy food—like burn-your-face-off spicy.

Holly and her boyfriend both work late sometimes, so dinner needs to be ready with minimal time and effort. For Holly, I set out to make the fastest, spiciest, tastiest vegetarian meal I possibly could without losing that bit of interest that Holly loves in her food.

I came up with a spicy black bean soup with cool, juicy quick-pickled veggies. The vegetables do not have the same texture and depth of flavor as “properly” pickled carrots and onions, but they add the acidity and color this soup needs. Serve with your favorite cheese, or creme fraiche and tortilla chips from this buffalo chicken nachos recipe.

Yield: 2-3 servings

Time: About 35 minutes


For the quick-pickled vegetables

  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely sliced (we used a vegetable peeler)

  • 1/2 large carrot, peeled and cut into ribbons with a vegetable peeler or mandolin

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

  • 2 teaspoons salt

For the soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely diced

  • 1/2 large carrot, peeled and finely diced

  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced (about 3 cloves)

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (use less if you are sensitive to spice, perhaps more if you are Holly ;) )

  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

  • 2 cups broth or stock

  • Several dashes hot sauce, to taste

  • Salt to taste

  • Pepper to taste

  • Optional: feta and spinach for garnish


  1. Add all ingredients for the quick-pickled vegetables to a microwave-safe bowl or jar that has a lid and stir. Microwave on high, covered, for about two minutes. Watch carefully to ensure that the mixture does not bubble over—pause and stir if the liquid rises too high.

  2. Allow the vegetables to sit in the hot liquid for about three to four minutes on the counter. Then, add a large handful of ice to the mixture and put the vegetables in the refrigerator or freezer to cool. If you put the vegetables in the freezer, be sure to leave extra room in the container because the liquid may begin to expand.

  3. While the vegetables are sitting/cooling, heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onions and carrots and saute until the onions are translucent.

  4. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and chili powder to the vegetables and saute for one minute more.

  5. Add the black beans to the pot and stir to combine all ingredients. Pour in the broth, adding a bit of additional water if necessary until the beans are just covered.

  6. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow the beans to simmer for 25 minutes.

  7. Take the soup off the heat and mash about half the beans. You can accomplish this by partially blending the soup with an immersion blender, gently mashing the soup with a potato masher, or blending half the batch in a regular blender. No matter what you choose, you don’t want a puree, but the base of the soup should become thicker and creamier.

  8. Add salt, pepper, and hot sauce to the soup to taste.

  9. Serve the soup with the quick-pickled vegetables, and feta plus additional seasonings if desired. Enjoy.

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Everything on protopantry.com is made using our 50-ingredient minimalist pantry list. We have recipes from all over the world and for most dietary needs—explore here.