Fasolatha is a traditional Greek white bean soup. It is made with white beans, onion, carrots, celery and leek and the broth is flavoured with lemon. It is easy to make and is hearty and satisfying.
There are two general classes of fasolatha recipes, those which are tomato based (also delicious), and those, like the one I am sharing here, which are flavoured with lemon and whose broth is white-ish. There may be a special name for this type of fasolatha, but I don’t know what it is. Neither do our parents…they just call it φασολάδα με λεμόνι (fasolatha with lemon).
Why I love this recipe
Imagine a rustic home in a remote, mountainous village in Greece, far removed from the perils of modern life. The goats wander free in the fields and the sky is so close that the tops of the olive trees seem to kiss it. Days are spent cultivating the land, conversing with the few neighbours you have, and tending to the animals. The air is fresh and the ground fertile; both untainted by social progress. After a long day of physical, yet satisfying and productive work, you come home to a steaming bowl of fasolatha, which has been cooking in a cast iron pot in the hearth of your fireplace. If you are particularly lucky, you get to enjoy it with some freshly baked bread and a glass of homemade wine. Life, you surmise, is perfect.
Now, I realize that if you are reading this post you are doing so on-line, in front of an electronic device, and are probably not in a remote, mountainous horio (that’s Greek, for village). Neither am I, but for some reason this recipe makes me think that I should be. Maybe it’s because this simple soup asks that you throw everything into a pot and let it cook slowly for about an hour, giving you enough time to, I don’t know, till the soil? Maybe it’s the fact that there is nothing fancy here; no special, expensive ingredients and no complicated culinary terms. It is humble, the way I imagine village life to be. Simple, honest, and so, so good for you.
Dry white kidney beans Also called cannellini beans, they tend to have a milder taste than red kidney beans and cook a little quicker.
Yellow onion The most popular onion, the texture and flavour of these onions stand up really well to heat.
Carrots Add sweetness and a bit of colour to your soup.
Celery You find celery in most soup recipes, for good reason. It adds great texture and flavour.
Leek Wash your leeks well before adding them to the soup. They have a great mild onion flavour.
Olive oil I use extra virgin Greek olive oil; I love the fragrance and flavour.
Water Regular tap water works fine, although you can use filtered water if you like.
Lemon Fresh lemon juice highlights the flavours and adds freshness.
Flour Regular all purpose flour is used as a thickener.
Salt & Pepper Add as much salt and pepper as you like.
How to make
Rinse the beans and soak them in cool water for 12-24 hours, changing the water at least once.
Chop all the vegetables into chunks which are about the size of the soaked kidney beans. It is not an exact science, so don’t worry about it too much.
In a large pot saute the chopped up vegetables in the olive oil for approximately 5 minutes over medium high heat, stirring regularly. Be careful that the vegetables do not burn.
To the pot add the drained kidney beans, 9 cups of water, and the salt. Bring to a boil. Once you have reached a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cover partially (do not fully cover the pot with its lid so that you let a bit of steam escape). Cook for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking your soup to be sure that it does not require more water.
After 60 minutes test your beans for doneness. They should be soft and creamy. If they are not, allow to cook for a while longer.
Remove 1/2 cup of the soup liquid and place it in a bowl. To this bowl add the juice of 2 lemons and 3 tablespoons flour. Whisk together so that there are no lumps of flour visible. Return this mixture to the pot of soup. Stir well.
Continue to cook for 5 more minutes and enjoy!
Use canned beans
In order to make this soup more quickly, and more easily, you can always used canned white kidney beans. You will need about three 15 ounce cans of beans. Drain and rinse well before adding to the soup.
Omit the flour
Keep this soup gluten-free by skipping the addition of flour. Instead simply add the lemon juice directly into the pot of soup.
Slow cooker instructions
Bring your pre-soaked beans to a boil in a large pot of water. Boil for 5 – 7 minutes.
Drain your beans and transfer them to your slow cooker. Add the rest of your ingredients, except for the lemon and the flour.
Cook for about 8 hours on low or 4 – 5 hours on high
One half hour before the soup is ready, remove 1 cup of liquid and mix well with flour and lemon juice. Return to slow cooker and finish cooking. Alternatively, omit the flour and simply add in the lemon juice.
Cooking tips and helpful hints
The white kidney beans should be soaked before they are cooked. Technically, I think that you can cook with un-soaked beans, but the cooking time will be much, much longer, and the beans may be more difficult to digest. My parents usually soak their beans overnight, but I have sometimes soaked my beans for much longer (because soup-making plans sometimes get interrupted with other things…like life). In any case, if your beans end up soaking longer than 12 hours or so, keep them in the refrigerator.
As your soup is cooking, check on it periodically. If you are finding that your soup has very little liquid and there is still plenty of boiling to do, add more water. You don’t want your beans and vegetables to get stuck on the bottom of the pan and burn.
Frequently asked questions
How do I thicken fasolatha?
I use flour, which makes this really easy. This recipe will give you a soup that is pretty creamy, particularly after you add the flour and lemon juice mixture at the end. If you happen to have a gluten intolerance, or simply don’t want to use the flour, omit it. The flavour of the soup will be the same; it just won’t be as thick.
Is it easy to make fasolatha?
It really is! Making this traditional Greek bean soup is really simple – even the novice cook will be able to make it successfully.
How to serve
Fasolatha is a complete and hearty meal. I love to serve it with some fresh bread, like this part whole wheat honey bread or freshly made pita. If you want to add some more to your meal, a simple maroulosalata (Greek lettuce salad) or fennel salad would be wonderful.
If you love this fasolatha, then we think you will also enjoy these great Greek classic soups:
Avgolemono (egg and lemon) soup with chicken (Σούπα αυγολέμονο με κοτόπουλο) The classic Greek chicken soup with rice.
Fakes (Lentil soup) – (Φακές) A vegan lentil soup that is so simple, yet so delicious.
Yiouverlakia avgolemono and tomato (Γιουβαρλάκια αυγολέμονο με ντομάτα) A soup made with meatballs filled with rice – so good!
Storing, freezing and reheating
This soup can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 – 5 days. You can also freeze your soup for up to 6 months. To reheat your soup defrost it over night in the refrigerator. You can heat your soup in the microwave, or in a pot on the stovetop.
This recipe serves 4 people.
You can add some tomato sauce or passata to your soup (omit the lemon) in order to make a tomato based fasolatha.
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- 1 ⅔ cups dry white kidney beans
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2 carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 leek (white part only)
- 1/2 cup Greek olive oil
- 9 cups water
- juice of 2 lemons
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- pepper, to taste
- Rinse the beans and soak them in cool water for 12-24 hours, changing the water at least once.1 ⅔ cups dry white kidney beans
- Chop all the vegetables into chunks which are about the size of the soaked kidney beans. It is not an exact science, so don’t worry about it too much.1 medium yellow onion, 2 carrots, 2 stalks celery, 1 leek (white part only)
- In a large pot saute the chopped up vegetables in the olive oil for approximately 5 minutes over medium high heat, stirring regularly. Be careful that the vegetables do not burn.1/2 cup Greek olive oil
- To the pot add the drained kidney beans and 9 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Once you have reached a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cover partially (do not fully cover the pot with its lid so that you let a bit of steam escape). Cook for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking your soup to be sure that it does not require more water.9 cups water
- After 60 minutes test your beans for doneness. They should be soft and creamy. If they are not, allow to cook for a while longer until you get to this point.
- Remove 1/2 cup of the soup liquid and place it in a bowl. To this bowl add the juice of 2 lemons and 3 tablespoons flour. Whisk together so that there are not lumps of flour visible. Return this mixture to the pot of soup. Stir well.juice of 2 lemons, 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- Continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.pepper, to taste, 1 teaspoon salt