The perfect, hearty soup for a cold, rainy day, this white bean and chorizo soup with spinach is a flavorful comfort food that you’ll want to make again and again.
Now that the cooler weather has arrived, I’m craving more soups and stews and have been making lots of homemade stocks and homemade bone broth. Eating broths plain, though, can get boring.
The other day I decided to throw together a soup with what I had sitting in my fridge at home. I live in Spain, of course, so what I have in my fridge might be a little different than what you normally have in yours. I just happened to have some chorizo sausages, and love the way they add flavor to soup.
This soup is simple to make, with just a handful of ingredients. It’s mainly a white bean soup made from small white beans like the navy bean and some broth. (I usually use homemade chicken broth made from the leftover bones and bits from roasted chickens and turkeys.)
To add some flavor and a touch of color, I added chorizo to the soup. Here in Spain, it isn’t uncommon to add chorizo to dishes made with legumes like lentils and beans. (Fabada Asturiana, a typical dish of the North, is an example.)
I wanted to make something lighter, though. So, rather than add in more fatty meats and sausages, I used spinach. The Spinach adds color, and some healthy vitamins and minerals.
Which chorizo should you use?
To give this soup a Spanish flair, I think Spanish chorizo is the best option for this soup. There are two type of chorizo here in Spain, fresh chorizo, which needs refrigeration, and dry-cured (that doesn’t). Either works well in this dish.
Spanish chorizo is normally made with a few simple ingredients: pork, garlic, salt, and smoked paprika. The smoked paprika, or pimentón de la Vera, can be spicy or mild. Using smoked paprika is probably the main difference between Spanish and Mexican chorizo. Mexican chorizo not only lacks the smoky flavor, but it can also be beef-based or combine the two types of meat.
If you can’t find Spanish chorizo where you live, it’s actually quite simple to make your own Spanish chorizo! (Yes, even though I can easily find it here, I like to occasionally make my own.)
Adding in the greens (Spinach or Kale?)
Adding spinach to a soup like this one is a great way to get in some healthy greens in the winter. The Spinach wilts in the soup and gets smaller so you can add quite a bit of it. It also adds vitamins and great color too!
If you prefer, you can add kale instead. It’s a superfood that also packs in a nutritious punch!
What about the white beans?
This soup can be made with a variety of white beans. I like using smaller white beans like navy beans. I also prefer using dry beans rather than cans.
If using dry beans, though, you’ll need to plan ahead to have time for pre-soaking the beans. The soup itself will also take longer to cook.
If you’re crunched on time, you can definitely use store-bought, pre-cooked beans. That said, I really prefer to plan ahead and make everything from scratch. Not only is it cheaper, but you can avoid the possible endocrine disruptors found in canned foods. If you are buying pre-cooked, I suggest choosing jars over cans!
Making the soup is simple, but you’ll have to plan ahead if you want to make it from scratch.
Pre-soaking the beans
The night before you want to serve the soup, soak the white beans in plenty of filtered water. The beans will absorb the water and increase in size by quite a bit. So, use a large container and add lots of excess water.
Preparing the soup
This soup can be made in either a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, or over the stovetop.
The next day, after soaking the beans overnight, strain the excess water off the beans and give them a good rinse.
I used to cook the chorizo separately, towards the end of the beans’ cook time. I then added the chorizo to simmer with the beans for a few minutes before serving. Now, though, I’ve found that it’s easier to pan-fry the chorizo before adding the beans and broth and cook them together. (You can even skip the pan-frying if you really want.)
The real advantage of pan-frying the chorizo is that you can drain off some of the excess fat which can tend to form a layer of grease on the soup without really adding more flavor.
To save time and having to clean extra pots and pans, I directly pan-fry the chorizo in either the soup pot or the pressure cooker. Most pressure cookers will have a setting for sautee-ing. Once cooked, you can drain off some of the excess fat and add in the beans and liquid.
If using a pressure cooker, add around 4 cups of a stock or broth. You can use bone broth, vegetable broth, or chicken broth made from the bones after roasting a chicken. The liquid should fully cover the beans. If not, add a little water to your pot.
If you will be making this on the stove, a lot of the water will evaporate during the cooking process. To compensate for that, I suggest having around 7 cups of liquid (stock plus water) ready. Just make sure you have enough liquid to cover the beans. During the cooking process, add water, as needed, to keep them covered.
Cooking the soup
If using the pressure cooker, try using the legume setting. The legume setting of my pressure cooker lasts around 35 minutes once the heat level has been reached. I have found that this keeps the beans with a more solid consistency. If you want them to be on the softer side, I’d suggest increasing the cook time slightly.
If using a pot on the stovetop, simmer for around an hour and a half and check the beans for tenderness. Add in extra water as needed to maintain the desired consistency.
Shortly before serving, add a few handfuls of spinach to the soup. Let the spinach wilt, adding more as it wilts and creates space, if desired.
Taste the soup and add seasonings like salt, freshly ground pepper, and possibly some smoked paprika to taste. It’s now ready to serve!
Customizing the dish
In my region of Spain, one of the typical rice dishes is called arroz con habichuelas. It is a rice dish which includes white beans and chorizo and isn’t served “dry” like a paella, but rather retains some of the broth like a soup.
This soup could be made in a similar way, adding in some rice. If you want to make this soup with rice, you should add in the rice towards the end, when you have 20-40 minutes left in the cooking time (depending on the type of rice you are using). You’ll also have to add more broth or water.
White Bean, Chorizo and Spinach Soup
The day before, if using dried beans
- Put the white beans in a bowl or other large container. Cover with them with water, adding enough water to cover them by several inches. They will double in size, So choose the container accordingly. (You should end up with around 4 cups of soaked beans.)
Preparing the soup, the day of serving
- Strain the excess water off the beans and rinse them.
- Slice the chorizo into ½ inch (1.5cm) slices. Pan fry the chorizo in the pot you will be using to cook the soup. If you will be using a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, choose the sautee setting. If desired, drain off the excess oil.
If using a pressure cooker/ Instant Pot
- Add the beans to the pressure cooker with the pan-fried chorizo and around 4 cups of broth. The broth should fully cover the beans. If not, add some water until they are covered with liquid.
- For cooked beans that hold their shape, use the legume setting of the pressure cooker. The legume setting of my pressure cooker lasts around 35 minutes once the heat level has been reached. If you want them to be on the softer side, I'd suggest increasing the cook time slightly.
- Once you've released the excess pressure and opened up the pressure cooker, if you find that the beans aren't cooked to your liking, you can continue to cook them a bit longer. (Try either the slow cook setting, a sautee setting, or another similar setting that allows for cooking without closing and building pressure again. This will depend on your pressure cooker.)
On the stovetop
- If you will be making this on the stove, a lot of the water will evaporate. I suggest having around 7 cups of liquid ready to compensate for the evaporation. During the cooking process, you can add water, as needed to keep the beans covered.
- Simmer for around an hour and a half and check the beans for tenderness. Add in extra water as needed to maintain the desired consistency.
- Shortly before serving, add a few handfuls of spinach to the soup. Let the spinach wilt and stir it into the soup. Once it has decreased in size, you can add some more, if you like.
- Taste the soup and add seasonings like salt, freshly ground pepper, and possibly some smoked paprika to taste. It's now ready to serve!
Which chorizo?I use Spanish chorizo in this recipe because it adds a smoky flavor which comes from the smoked paprika, or pimentón de la Vera, used in Spanish chorizo. Either fresh chorizo or dried-cured chorizo can be used.
Can’t find Spanish chorizo?If you don’t have access to Spanish chorizo, you can make your own chorizo. If you don’t want to make the sausages, you can make simple chorizo-flavored meatballs instead. Follow the chorizo recipe and mix together the ground pork, salt, garlic, and smoked paprika. Rather than pressing the mixture into sausage casings, it can be rolled into meatballs. If you are using Mexican chorizo, consider adding some smoked paprika to the recipe, for flavor.
Don’t have time to pre-soak and cook the beans?Yes, you can use jarred/canned beans instead. The soup can be made in under 20 minutes if using pre-cooked beans. Just pan-fry the chorizo, add the beans with some broth, and cook until the chorizo is fully cooked and the beans are fully heated through. Add the spinach at the last minute.
Other variationsThis can be made into a brothy rice dish over the stove by adding short-grained rice to the beans when there are around 20 minutes of cook time remaining. Add enough liquid to cover the rice and end up with a thick, brothy mixture. (It shouldn’t be liquidy like a soup, but shouldn’t be dry like a paella either.)
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