Smoky Black Bean Soup

There’s this little independent bookstore café in New Haven, right in the heart of the city’s shopping area as well as Yale University’s art district. It’s on the fringe of the iconic dormitory colleges which still make me feel like I’m walking around Hogwarts rather than a New England small city.

Atticus is the name of this place and I’ll admit that I don’t go there for the books. I go for the black bean soup.

And the bread but that’s another story for another time.

For years I’ve been planning to replicating their smoky black bean soup recipe at home and after a few close attempts, I finally nailed it.

The key, which I remembered upon a recent bowl at lunch, was that the soup Atticus serves is not vegetarian; it’s made with a base of sauteéd bacon.

And let me tell you, the bacon makes aaaall the difference here!

That smoky bacon boosts the flavor of the cumin and it’s the key to bringing the whole soup together.

My recipe for black bean soup is a very basic one and now that I’ve got it down pat, I can start obsessing about replicating Atticus’ ciabatta rolls. Mmmm…

Smoky black bean soup in a white bowl with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro on top.

Smoky Black Bean Soup

Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

This smoky black bean soup recipe is a staple for soup season. Made with a base of smoky bacon, canned black beans are simmered in broth and seasoned with garlic, chile powder, cumin, and cilantro. It's the perfect soup for dipping crusty bread!


  • 4 oz thick-cut bacon, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced small
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 ½ tsp chile powder
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water (or black bean cooking liquid if you cook your own black beans)
  • 3 cups (2 14-oz cans) black beans, drained (not rinsed)
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 lime, quartered


  1. Sauté the bacon for 5-8 minutes. Add the onions, a few cranks of freshly ground black pepper, garlic, cumin, and chile powder. Stir in one cup of the broth and scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the rest of the broth and the water. Bring the mixture to a simmer and add the beans. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Pureé the soup with an immersion blender until most of the beans have been pureed (or transfer most of the soup to a blender to pureé). Stir in the cilantro and continue to simmer until the soup has thickened, another 5-10 minutes. If the soup foams, skim off the foam with a shallow spoon and discard the foam - this is normal for black bean soup. Stir in a couple squeezes of lime before serving.

How much do you love this recipe?

Follow Smells Like Home on Pinterest and click that little Pin button at the top of this recipe card to save this recipe and share with your Pinterest followers!

You Might Also Like:

Leave a Comment

  • Warm Vanilla Sugar
    February 17, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    I love black bean soup! This recipe sounds great!

  • Lynette
    February 18, 2014 at 8:10 AM

    I wonder hoe well this would freeze. Sounds delish!

    • taraliptak
      February 19, 2014 at 5:50 AM

      I think it would freeze fine. You’ll probably need to add a little water or broth to thin it out when reheating but that’s it. Enjoy!

  • taraliptak
    February 19, 2014 at 6:07 AM

    Yup – how could anything be bad with a bacon base??

  • February 19, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    I love Atticus! I haven’t been in forever, but now that I’m back in the 203, I think I need to go–both for the books and the soup! Thanks for the wonderful recipe and the reminder 🙂

  • taraliptak
    March 1, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    Hi Carol! I hope you love it! Please come back and let me know!

  • January 4, 2015 at 7:52 AM

    […] Smoky Black Bean Soup di Smells Like […]

  • January 4, 2015 at 8:19 AM

    […] Smoky Black Bean Soup from Smells Like […]

  • New Havener
    December 21, 2020 at 5:44 PM

    Thank you so much for doing the hard work of replicating this legendary soup! It tastes fantastic and is so easy to make. Thanks for the clear ingredient list (appreciate the weight for the bacon), and the foolproof instructions.

    • Tara
      December 28, 2020 at 9:10 AM

      I’m so happy this soup went over so well! I’ve recently moved out of CT so having this soup in my “recipe box” is a lifesaver when I’m craving a warm lunch from Atticus.