Use your slow cooker to turn 15 bean soup mix into a flavorful, budget-friendly family meal with this helpful recipe that includes both vegetarian and meat options.
Have you seen 15 Bean Soup at the grocery store but never picked it up because you weren't quite sure what to do with it?
Turns out, there are lots of ways you can turn that bag of dried beans into delicious, flavorful soup!
Reasons to Buy Dried Bean Blends
The most common blend of dried beans I see at the grocery store is Hurst's HamBeens 15 bean soup, but it's not the only blend. Any dried bean soup mix will work with this recipe.
Dried beans blends, like 15 bean soup, are:
- Very affordable
- Sold in most grocery stores
- Easy to make in your slow cooker
- Versatile - Make it vegetarian or with meat
- Makes a big batch of soup (8+ servings)
- Leftovers freeze well
What is 15 Bean Soup Mix?
Buying a bag of 15 Bean soup means you get a blend of dried beans with different flavors, textures and sizes.
The blend usually includes: Northern, navy, white kidney, pinto, large lima, baby lima, yellow eye, garbanzo, green split pea, yellow split pea, lentil, kidney, cranberry, small white, pink bean, small red, black.
This blend of beans makes delicious soup and is also really good in chili recipes.
Do You Have to Soak the Beans Before Cooking?
You don't have to, but I really recommend soaking the beans before making 15 Bean Soup. Pre-soaking insures that all of the beans will cook evenly within a reasonable amount of time.
To soak the beans the night before (or at least 6 hours before), combine the bag of beans and 6 to 8 cups water in a large bowl, making sure the beans are covered by at least an inch or two of water. Add 1 tablespoon salt (or 2 tablespoons kosher salt).
Soak overnight (or at least 6 hours). Drain and rinse the beans before cooking.
Do I Have to Use the Whole Bag of Dried Beans?
Not necessarily. Cooking the whole bag at once makes a hearty, thick bean soup. However, you can follow this same recipe but add only ½ the bag of beans. Make up the difference by adding more vegetables or more meat to the soup. Using fewer beans makes a soup that is lighter and has more broth.
Vegetarian 15 Bean Soup
You can make a basic vegetarian version of this soup with just onion/celery/carrots + the bag of beans. However, you can also add extra veggies for more flavor.
In a slow cooker, I add most types of vegetables half way through the cooking time (potatoes) or at the very end of the cooking time (greens) - otherwise the veggies get over-cooked and mushy.
I wait to add tomatoes until the end of the cooking time because acidic ingredients, like tomatoes, can prevent beans from softening.
If you'd like to add more veggies to the soup (other than onion/carrot/celery) here are some options:
Veggies to add at the beginning of the cooking time
Bell peppers, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
Veggies to add halfway through the cooking time
2 to 4 golden potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large turnip or rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Veggies to add in the last hour of cooking
1 can petite-diced tomatoes
2 cups thinly shredded cabbage
Veggies to add when soup is completely cooked
2 cups frozen spinach or kale
A few handfuls fresh kale leaves, torn into small pieces
1 to 2 cups frozen corn
My favorite flavor combination is bean soup and smoked pork. It's hard to resist! However, adding any sort of meat to this soup gives the soup richer flavor.
1 ham hock - Ham hocks are chunks of cured and smoked pork that include bone, collagen and a little bit of meat. Added at the beginning of the cooking process, a ham hock adds smoky, salty flavor and a little bit of meat to the soup. So good!
Ham hocks are usually sold pre-packaged in the butcher section of grocery stores. They often come in packs of two; use one for this soup and freeze the other ham hock for later
Smoked sausage - Bite-sized chunks of cured, pre-cooked sausage (like kielbasa) add rich flavor this soup and taste delicious with beans. I add the sausage in the last 30 to 60 minutes of cooking, otherwise I find that the sausage loses some of it's flavor when left in the slow cooker for too long.
Ham - Cut thick slices of ham into small pieces and add to the soup at the beginning or end of the cooking time.
Cooked Bacon - You can add cooked bacon to the soup for a subtle meaty flavor, or wait and crumble crispy bacon over your bowl of cooked soup.
Chicken thighs - Add 2 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs at the beginning of the cooking time and then shred the chicken into the beans when the soup is done (chicken breast will overcook and become dry).
A bag of 15 bean soup comes with a seasoning packet that adds a subtle smoky flavor with other seasonings. You can add this seasoning packet or add your own combination of fresh, natural seasonings.
In this recipe, I throw out the seasoning packet and instead add smoked paprika and coriander to the soup. But you can add any combination of seasoning that you like. I add spices in quantities of 1 to 2 teaspoons.
Paprika - I prefer smoked paprika because it adds more flavor, but if smokiness isn't your thing use regular paprika.
Other spices you can add instead of, or in addition to, coriander and paprika:
- Chili powder
- Garlic powder
- Dried oregano
More Soup and Chili Recipes to Love
- Quinoa Sweet Potato Chili
- Slow Cooker White Bean and Tomato Soup with Orzo
- Instant Pot Sausage and Lentil Soup
- Crockpot Lentil Soup
- Quick and Easy Turkey Chili