Garlicky Potato Bean Soup

Dear Kaki,

Figured it out!  I figured out what to do with the leftover cooking liquid from a batch of beans.  And it is super easy and super delicious.  And happens mostly in the slow cooker while you’re doing other things.

Also, it can be vegan with just changing olive oil for butter.  Have you noticed a *ton* of our recipes are basically vegan with that kind of minor substitution?  It reminds me of what I read earlier this year on a blog (that I now can’t remember!), that their new year’s resolution was to cook more “accidentally vegan” dishes: nothing with fake-meats or fake-cheeses, but just good food that revels in its vegetable goodness.  Love it.

Time for soup!

First, cook up some beans.  You know, for something else entirely.  But when the beans are done and you’re draining off their cooking liquid*, save it!!  Put it in bottles you saved from marinara or something prior.

Bean Liquor

(The jar on the left is from the “Refried” Slow-Cooker Beans that went into the Veggie Burritos.  The jars on the right are from the kombu-cooked beans from the Lemony Bean and Mushroom Saute.)

*This is sometimes called bean liquor.  Like how when you stew greens and the juices are called pot liquor?  Yeah, I don’t really stew greens that much either, but Alton Brown says it’s so, so it must be so.

Put them in your fridge for up to a week or so, until it’s Soup Time!

When you’re ready, chop up some onion and carrot.  Saute them in butter.  Always a good start.

Then you cut the top 1/3 off of a head of garlic.  You can save the top third for other things.  Because the whole rest of the head is going into this soup.  Yessss.


Dice up your potatoes!  Toss them in your slow cooker!

Add potato

Add some seasonings.  Nothing crazy.  Salt, pepper, a bay leaf… and paprika.  My grandma (the one, as it were, from our Hungarian side) would make the best bean soup with the ham bone leftover from a Christmas ham.  It had paprika.  Hence, this has paprika.  Going good places…


Add the spices and garlic to the slow cooker.

Add spices

Add your buttery onions and carrots.

Add onion carrot

And pour in your bean cooking-liquid.  Cover it and set it to low for 6-8 hours, or high for 3-4 hours.

Cover and cook

When you get home, it’ll look like this:

After cooking

Season with a little more salt, and remove the bay leaf and head of garlic.

Remove garlic

And here is Magic, Step 1: using the tongs, squeeze the head of garlic until the braised garlic cloves slip out of their skins.  Then mash up the cloves into a delicious, delicious paste, and add it (or however much of it you like) back to the  slow cooker.  Stir in all that garlicky goodness.

Then, Magic, Step 2: get your immersion blender in there!  Pulse until it goes from something like this:

Before blending

To this!:

After blending

Mmmmm.  Thick, creamy, garlicky, potato-y, bean-y… dip in some nice bread or crumble some crackers on top and dig in.


This was one of the best things I’ve made in a while.  I hope you make some soup with bean “liquor” and tell me all about it!

Garlicky Potato Bean Soup
(makes about 9 meal-size servings)


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4** russet potatoes, diced
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 cranks freshly-cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 2/3 head of garlic
  • 7 1/2 cups*** bean cooking liquid

Heat butter in a pan over medium heat until melted.  Once melted, add onion and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add carrots and a pinch of salt to the pan and saute another 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Place diced potatoes into slow cooker.  Add bay leaf, salt, pepper, and paprika.

Cut the top third off of a head of garlic.  Save the top third for another use.  Remove any loose papers from the outside, but leave the head intact.  Add it to the slow cooker.

Add bean cooking liquid to the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 3-4 hours.

Once cooking is complete, add salt to taste.  Remove the bay leaf and head of garlic.  Squeeze the braised cloves out of the their skins, and mash into a paste.  Return as much of this garlicky paste to the slow cooker as desired.

Using an immersion blender (or transferring some of the soup to a regular blender), blend the soup until only a few potato chunks remain.

Top with crackers, or dip in some crusty bread.  Or add cheese.  Because, cheese.

**I used 3, and it wasn’t thick enough for my taste at the end.  If you come up with less bean cooking liquid then 3 might work just fine.  Either way, if the final soup is too thin for your liking, just turn the slow cooker on low and leave the lid off for some of the liquid to evaporate.

***This is how much cooking liquid I got from cooking two pounds of beans.  If you don’t happen to be as bean-cooking-crazy, which seems relatively likely, I’d use all of the bean cooking liquid you have on hand, plus enough stock to make 6 1/2 cups.  See above note for why I don’t recommend a total of 7 1/2 cups cooking liquid.  Ah, cooking.

Have a great week!,



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