Lebanese Vegetable Soup with Chickpeas and Kale
This vegetable soup with chickpeas and kale is hearty with sweet butternut squash, tomatoes, and a hit of cayenne. So warming, healthy, and simple to make–which we do, weekly! Vegan and gluten-free.
One frigid, snowy day last winter when Dan was down and out with a cold, his sister Trisha brought over a big tunjura (a big pot) of vegetable soup. It’s the kind of soup that wouldn’t typically get me to turn my head, thinking from the looks of it that it’s just all about duty, and not so much about desire. If I saw this soup on a menu, I’d go for the other one. I know I sound like the children in the family, who I always try to talk out of their culinary hesitations.
I served Dan a huge bowl and decided I wasn’t so hungry myself.
The next day, lunch came around and the soup was there. I thought I’d better eat a bowl to help me avoid catching Dan’s pestilence, a duty to myself. I warmed up one ladle-full–that’d be plenty of what seemed like stew with all of the chickpeas and kale, the tomatoes and corn too. My own sister Peg will tell you that I am not partial to stew, pretty much ever. She knows this because it is among her favorites to make and eat, and she is offended that I don’t feel the same.
But Trisha, she hit her stew/soup with cayenne, which contrasts perfectly with the sweetness of the butternut squash. I think she had even called it squash soup, which is almost always a cream-based pureed soup of the sort I am drawn to, but the sort that my constitution will not let me eat (at all). It was a refreshing change to see the squash as one element among many in a brothy, good-for-you base.
My first spoonful was lazy and indifferent, taken while I did something else. What I tasted was so excellent, I had to stop what I was doing and focus. With every bite my mind and taste buds were at work to figure out what was going on in there so I could recreate it. There was a hefty helping of chickpeas, and the pot was finished off with a shower of curly kale. The chickpeas gave me every right to consider this a Lebanese-style soup (that’s how I am with ingredients: if one of our favorites is in there, then Lebanese it is. Call it selfish or creative or what you will. I call it claiming our own for our own…).
This soup-of-obligation turned out to be absolutely delectable soup, Lebanese soup!, a soup I finished off right then and there, much to Dan’s disappointment when he came home that night thinking of a big bowl for himself.
I should have known the soup would be this good. Trisha got the initial recipe from our sister-in-law Diane, another superb cook, and when food starts making the rounds in the family like that, you know there is a reason: it tastes great.
When I asked for the recipe, Trisha talked about the ease of it, how you toss in what you have on hand in the way of vegetables, and stalk your pantry and freezer for staples like diced tomatoes and corn. She had creamed corn on the shelf that day and used it, so that’s what I always use now too. If your grocery sells diced fresh butternut squash, the soup practically makes itself.
As for the kale, well, Dan has left every kale attempt I’ve made for him uneaten on the plate. He tries to hide it under a piece of pita.
But here in our Lebanese vegetable soup, the kale is so key to texture and goodness that I keep adding more every time I reheat the pot so there will be plenty of kale in every bowl. Dan says if kale can taste like that, he loves kale. It’s like adding the chard to our Garlicky Lentil Soup—it takes everything up not one or two notches, but all the way from duty to delicious.
Vegetable Soup with Chickpeas and Kale
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2 medium celery stalks, diced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 2 cups diced butternut squash
- 2 cups or 1 16-20 oz. can chickpeas
- 2 cups or 1 16-20 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 2 cups or 1 16 oz. can corn or creamed corn
- 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- Few grinds black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 5-6 cups chopped kale
- In a large soup pot (5-quart or larger), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, a teaspoon of salt and stir to coat oil. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.
- Add the butternut squash. Cover and cook again briefly, stirring occasionally, until the squash is just beginning to soften (2 minutes). Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, corn, stock, and thyme. Season with black pepper, cayenned pepper, and the honey. Stir well, cover the pot, and simmer on medium low heat for about 20 minutes.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Stir in the kale a few handfuls at a time, and cook for about 5 more minutes, or until the kale is softened. Pull out the thyme stems from the pot, and serve warm.
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Oh Maureen, this looks dee-lump-cious! We are definitely in your sister Peg’s camp on the soups and stews. We live on them all year, but especially in the cold weather months. We will definitely be trying this one!
Maureen, I make this once a week in the winter. It took Mike a long time to try it and now he takes it to work for lunch quite often! I put a touch of nutmeg in too that gives it a sweetness along with the heat from the cayenne pepper.
Mary, how great!! The nutmeg sounds really good; I will try it!
Speaking of chick peas – last night I made hummus from the kit in Maureen’s Market and it will be a regular in my kitchen from now on! Absolutely the best ever!
Lynne, I’m so happy to hear that you made the hummus–truly the best! Thank you!
This is amazing! I did not have squash on hand so used sweet potatoes. A fan of traditional clay pot cooking, I used a flame tamer to start on the stovetop and then cooked the soup low and slow at 200 for about 8 hrs. Not a big fan of sweet savoury food, I was hesitant to add the cinnamon but so glad i did. the heat of the pepper balanced it beautifully. Maureen, I am loving your blog and your cookbook!
Amazing! Though what I’ve come to expect from anything in your cookbook (and blog). Made a double batch of this today and everyone in the family loved it. Will be making this again soon and all winter long.
I’m so happy to hear this Karen–thank you so much! Love this soup and now I’m going to make a batch too….
This was really great. Were we supposed to drain the cans of tomatoes? I wasn’t sure so I drained one. A,so added garlic and cinnamon.
Love your additions! I don’t drain the tomatoes…the juices add great flavor to the broth. But of course fine to do it!
Am looking forward to trying this tomorrow, but will the butternut squash really soften in two minutes?
They just start to soften before adding all of the other ingredients, then cooking for 20 more minutes. Enjoy!
Can this recipe be doubled and made ahead of time
Lynn, absolutely on both counts! I freeze the soup and it comes out of the freezer just fine.
Made this recipe last night. WOW it was delicious! I added sumac seasoning and fresh Italian parsley for added brightness in the flavor. I am a big fan of many of your recipes, I have made many of them. Thank you so much for being a part of our family meals. ☺
Melissa thank you so much! Such a delicious soup and I love your additions, will try both!
Hi, Maureen. I, too, am an enthusiastic fan of yours and your cookbook. Today, I am making this soup and added a half teaspoon of Lebanese 7-spice which I purchased at our nearby Middle Eastern store. It will give a flavor similar to the nutmeg and cinnamon that others have added. Do you ever use it?
That sounds so. good, the 7-spice in the soup. I’ll try it, thank you!