There’s something about these shorter days and longer nights, and the cold, damp wind that seeps through every crack and crevice of your home to nip at your ankles and make you randomly shiver. It’s definitely time to put away the shorts, tank tops, and flip flops of our recent long, hot summer, and haul out our sweaters, heavy jeans and thick woolen socks, accepting in our hearts that Autumn is here, and Winter is Coming.
The best way I can find to warm my innards and keep the boiler going, so to speak, is to down a bowlful or two of hot, thick, nourishing soup, along with a nice crusty bun slathered with salty butter for dipping and shoveling every last morsel of goodness into my chattering maw. This soup recipe is fantastic both for making the house smell like autumn and for hearing your stomach growl in anticipation! I like to soak my beans during a work day and then start the soup to cook overnight. Nothing as wonderful as having a fragrant homemade soup to pour into a thermos to take to work. Lots of leftovers for the rest of the week too!
Despite the long list of ingredients below, this is a very easy and versatile recipe; it’s really a game of mix and match of what you currently have in your fridge, freezer and pantry, accommodating for your food preferences and allergies, and being willing to play around with your favourite flavours and maybe try something new. Don’t be afraid to use frozen vegetables for this recipe, if that’s what you have; however, I would definitely advise to stay away from most tinned veggies, as they have already been fully cooked in the canning process and as such will be mushy and overcooked in a long and slow cooking process.
Slow Cooker Versatile Vegetable Soup
Yield: 8-12 servings | Prep Time: 15 mins plus bean soaking time (6-8 hours or overnight) | Cook Time: 2-6 hours (depends on if using dried or tinned beans)
Equipment: 6qt slow cooker, large bowl for soaking beans, pot and stove/burner for separately cooking pasta (if using), ladle, chef’s knife, paring knife, cutting board
- 1 cup dry beans of choice (this can be a mixture; ensure they are the same size to standardize soaking times) *see below for prep instructions
- You can also skip this step and use tinned beans, rinsed thoroughly; see below for the recipe changes
- Best choices, dried or tinned: kidney (red or white), pinto, black, great northern, black-eyed peas, cannellini, navy, garbanzo
- 6 cups of any combination of the following vegetables:
- Onions (yellow, white, or leeks [white parts only], peeled, trimmed and chunked NOTE: avoid red onions as they will turn grey over a long cooking time
- Carrots, peeled, trimmed and chunked into soup-size pieces
- Celery, chunked
- Russet or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled or unpeeled and scrubbed, and diced
- Parsnips, peeled, trimmed and chunked
- Radishes, stemmed and halved (note: these make a great potato substitute if you’re watching your carbs)
- Cabbage, sliced into ribbons or diced
- Green or yellow wax beans, fresh or frozen
- Kale, fresh, destemmed and cut into small pieces
- If adding any of these veggies, add them in the last hour of cooking to ensure they don’t overcook and go mushy:
- Spinach, fresh or frozen
- Bell peppers, chunked
- Green peas, frozen
- Corn, fresh or frozen
- Cauliflower florets, fresh or frozen
- Broccoli florets, fresh or frozen
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water (if using water add 1 tbsp salt)
- 1-796mL/28fl.oz tin diced tomatoes (with or without spices)
- Recommended herbs and spices: bay leaves (1 large or or 2 small), a few whole garlic cloves, salt and pepper to taste. Anything else is up to you; feel free to try different combinations of your favourite herbs and spices!
- Optional additions (1 only):
- ¼ cup pot or pearl barley
- ¼ cup red lentils
- ¼ cup green, brown, or French lentils
- ¼ cups white or brown rice
- ⅓ cup small pasta such as orecchiette, macaroni, or orzo (note: pasta is recommended to be cooked separately and added in to soup at end of cooking)
- ½ cup medium pasta such as fusilli, rigatoni, cavatappi, penne rigate (note: pasta is recommended to be cooked separately and added in to soup at end of cooking)
- Optional finishes: squeeze of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (no more than 1 tsp), chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
Veggies to avoid:
- Some cruciferous vegetables such as brussels sprouts and turnips/rutabagas may impart a sulfurous aroma to a long-cooked soup
- Soft vegetables such as sweet potatoes and squashes (acorn, butternut, zucchini, etc.) will disintegrate or go slimy in a long-cooked soup
- Rinse and pick through dried beans to remove any foreign particles. Soak beans overnight in cool, unsalted water. Drain and rinse.
- Place stock/water, diced tomatoes with their juice, and soaked, drained beans* into crock pot and let simmer on low for 4-6 hours or high for 2-3 hours. *If opting for tinned beans, skip step 1 and omit timing in step 2.
- Add and combine all remaining ingredients EXCEPT optional finishes, and continue to simmer on low for another 2 hours, or until vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf, taste/adjust for salt, and add your finishing touches such as a handful of fresh herbs and a dash of citric tang before serving.
- Serve as is, or with fresh green onions, a dollop of sour cream, hot sauce, crunchy croutons, fried tortilla strips, or a sprinkling of cheese.
- To Freeze: Let cool completely; ladle equal portions into individually sized containers and freeze solid. Remove from containers and place into large freezer bags and continue freezing. Remove individual portions as needed and allow to come to room temperature within the (cleaned container), then heat and eat. It’s advised to remove any pasta from the soup before freezing, as it doesn’t reheat well.
*Note: you can omit dried beans from this recipe entirely or replace with a mixture of lentils, white or brown rice or pearl barley, which do not need pre-soaking; add them directly into the crock pot at the 2-hour remaining mark. You can also add cooked pasta such as egg noodles, rigatoni, macaroni, etc. (or vegan equivalents) to the finished soup instead, like I did in my photo.