Choose among three cooking options when preparing this deliciously hearty, plant-based soup that satisfies even the most diehard meat eaters. The big yield is perfect for meal prep and tastes great all week long.
Chickpea or garbanzo bean? Whatever you call these protein- and fiber-packed little orbs, they form the foundation of a deliciously hearty and oh-so healthy complete meal that happens to be 100% plant-based.
In the past year or so, my number one reader request has been for more plant-based meals. Many of you (myself included) may not choose to give up meat entirely, but are interested in finding more ways to give vegetables, beans and grains the starring role while letting meat play a supporting role.
The following recipe is nutritionally stacked and happens to be 100% plant-based－and it has become a favorite with my family for its great flavor and stick-to-your-ribs quality. For me, the ability to vary the cooking method and be flexible with the ingredients provides added value.
Please don’t let a seemingly long list of ingredients steer you away: a little meal prep in the way of veggie chopping will be rewarded with hands-off cooking via your appliance of choice－stove, oven or slow cooker. The end result is a complete meal that’s satisfying in its own right but could be ladled over rice, orzo, quinoa or couscous, or served with a crusty piece of bread to mop up every last ounce of the thick, flavorful broth.
Because the yield is generous, the small effort will likely generate leftovers, which make for ready-to-dish dinners and convenient packed lunches throughout the week.
This soup can also be viewed as a convenient way to clean out your crisper drawer and may be customized according to personal taste. For example, you could use kale or chard (or even frozen peas or green beans) instead of spinach or sweet potatoes instead of regular. Mix up the pepper color or use some thinly sliced carrots instead. Have half a zucchini that needs to be used? Dice and stir it in as well.
The big batch is great for leftovers later in the week or to share with a friend in need. The soup reheats well and the flavor improves over time. However, if you prefer a smaller yield or will be using a smaller slow cooker, the recipe can easily be cut in half.
Any way you go about this soup, it’s sure to be a winner!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 large onion, diced (~1½ cups)
- 2 medium red or yellow potatoes, diced (a waxy vs. baking potato; ~12 ounces total, no need to peel)
- 1 tablespoon curry powder (I think red curry paste would be lovely, too)
- 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar (could sub sweetener of choice)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (use ¼ teaspoon or to taste for a little heat)
- 2 cups (480ml) low-sodium vegetable broth
- 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 bell peppers, color of choice (I like to use red or a mix), seeded and diced
- 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small, bite-sized florets (~1¾ to 2 pounds when weighed whole)
- 1 (28-ounce) can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt* and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 (5-ounce) bag fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 cup canned coconut milk (I’ve used regular and light)
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven (at least 6 quart) over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until lightly golden around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and sauté until the edges are translucent with a touch of golden brown in places, about 3 or 4 minutes more.
- Add the second tablespoon of oil (you may eyeball the oil with a few turns around the pan), and then stir in the curry powder, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and cayenne. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in ¼ cup or so of the broth and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the remaining broth, chickpeas, bell peppers, cauliflower, crushed tomatoes or puree, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. The mixture will be thick.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer, and then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook on low for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring once or twice and checking occasionally for doneness starting just before the 45-minute mark.
- When the potatoes and cauliflower are tender, stir in the chopped spinach (roughly chopping it ensures that you don’t have any long, stringy pieces!) and coconut milk. Once the spinach has wilted, adjust for seasoning and enjoy.
- Serve on its own as a filling all-in-one meal or over rice, couscous (Israeli or regular), quinoa or orzo, or with a crusty piece of bread for mopping the bowl.
- If your cooker does not have a “sauté” feature, start with a skillet instead of a soup pot or Dutch oven, and transfer the onion-potato mixture to a 6-quart or larger slow cooker after the deglazing the pan with the ¼ cup broth, scraping up and including all the flavorful bits from the pan. Add the remaining 1¾ cups broth, chickpeas, bell peppers, cauliflower, tomato puree, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. The liquid should come about halfway up the sides of the bowl; add more broth if needed.
- Cover and cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours. If possible, check on the early side to see if the potatoes and cauliflower are tender, as not all slow cookers cook at the same rate. When the vegetables are cooked to your liking, stir in the spinach and coconut milk, and then cover for a few minutes so that the spinach wilts. Check for seasoning and enjoy.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Being sure to use a Dutch oven or oven-safe soup pot, follow the stovetop instructions until the mixture comes to a simmer in Step 4. Then cover and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender. Add the spinach and coconut milk and stir until the spinach has wilted.
*I’ve reduced the salt to 2 teaspoons and the stew is still good, but because the batch is quite large, the full tablespoon does, I think, yield a better-seasoned finished product. That said, feel free to use the lower amount if watching sodium closely.
Smaller slow cookers: Cut this recipe in half for a smaller slow cooker.
A few more ideas:
- A friend mentioned this took 8 minutes in her Instant Pot, but I haven’t tried that method myself.
- A handful or two of fresh basil, stirred in with the spinach, is a lovely addition if you have some on hand.
- Cilantro lovers may enjoy the addition of this fresh herb, either stirred in with the spinach (start with ¼ to ½ cup and add to taste) or used as a flavorful garnish.
- For complementary crunch, sprinkle individual servings with some roasted cashews.
- If you enjoy a touch of acid, you may wish to serve with lemon wedges.
- If you’d prefer a soupier consistency, feel free to add more broth and/or the whole can of coconut milk. In this case, and depending on how much liquid is added, you may wish to increase the spices and seasonings to taste.
- This soup freezes well, although coconut milk can separate upon thawing. If you make this soup with the intention of freezing a portion, you may wish to add the coconut milk only to the portion you are serving immediately.
Nutrition Information (with Bob’s Red Mill protein powder): Makes 8 Cookies. Calories Per Cookie 85, Total Fat 1.2 gm, Saturated Fat 0 gm, Cholesterol 8 gm, Sodium 7 mg, Total Carbohydrate 15 gm, Dietary Fiber 2 gm, Protein 4.5 gm
Cheryl’s Nutrition Tips: Use powdered peanut butter for a vegan version of this cookie and a boost of healthy monounsaturated fat. Calories Per Cookie 75, Total Fat 1 gm, Saturated Fat 0 gm, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 18 mg, Total Carbohydrate 15 gm, Dietary Fiber 2 gm, Protein 3 gm.
For those who prefer the cleanest ingredient list possible, Native Forest makes a coconut milk labeled “Simple.” I typically use that brand－both regular and light－and this alternative is slightly different in that it contains no guar gum, or any other additives for that matter.