Cranberry Bean (aka Borlotti Bean) Soup Recipe - Pamela Salzman Skip to content

Cranberry Bean (aka Borlotti Bean) Soup Recipe

Cranberry Bean Soup | Pamela Salzman

Let me get right to it — this soup is made with “Cranberry Beans,” not cranberries and beans.  This came up a lot when I taught this soup last fall in my cooking classes.  The lovely and tasty cranberry bean is also known as a “Borlotti bean,” and might be my favorite bean ever, which says a lot since I am legume crazy!  All beans are not created equally, amongst varieties and brands.  Cranberry, aka Borlotti, beans are rich and flavorful with a soft and creamy interior.  They make the best soups.

Cranberry Bean Soup | Pamela Salzman

Rancho Gordo is probably my favorite source for dried beans.  They have the freshest product and the most interesting varieties.  I buy them at Grow, a local store in Manhattan Beach, but they can also be ordered online directly from Rancho Gordo.  That said, you can substitute pinto beans in this recipe and you will still love this soup.

Cranberry Bean Soup | Pamela Salzman

I could eat this soup all the time.  It is so delicious, hearty and satisfying.  I usually use some sort of stock in my soups, but these beans have so much flavor, I used water and everyone thought there was stock or pork in the soup.  Nope!  Plus, I did add my favorite secret Italian soup ingredient, a piece of Parmesan rind, which always adds a huge flavor boost.  If you don’t have a piece of Parmesan on hand, you can check the cheese counter at your local market.  My Whole Foods sells the rinds.  I’ll buy a container of them and keep them in the freezer.

Cranberry Bean Soup | Pamela Salzman

Otherwise, this is a very simple soup with great results.  I usually make this for lunch on the weekends or a Meatless Monday meal since there’s tons of protein from the beans.  The soup is always enough for me, but if my husband wants a little more, I’ll make a side salad or some avocado toast.  Since my daughters are both in college now (sniff, sniff), I am finding that one recipe of soup is too much for the three of us.  So whatever is left can be frozen easily.

Cranberry Bean Soup | Pamela Salzman

It has been crazy warm in LA up until recently, so I was waiting for that first cool evening to share this soup recipe.  Voila!  I also think this would be the perfect pre-trick-or-treating meal (BTW, that would be a week from Monday!)  I always like to fill up those bellies so that as little candy as possible can fit in there.  Hope you have a cozy week!

5.0 from 5 reviews
Cranberry Bean Soup Recipe
Serves: 6-8
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 18 ounce jar diced tomatoes with juice (I like Jovial)
  • 1 pound dried cranberry beans (aka Borlotti beans), soaked at least 6 hours or overnight and drained (I prefer Rancho Gordo), or use pinto beans
  • Large piece of rind from a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (if you have it)
  • 8 cups of water, or homemade chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves or chopped Swiss chard leaves
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt or more if using unsalted stock or water
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Sliced basil leaves or pesto for garnish (optional)
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese (optional)
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large pot and add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Cook until vegetables have softened and the onions are tender and translucent, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes with the juice and cook for 5 more minutes, until the tomatoes are fragrant.
  3. Add the drained beans, Parmesan rind and water or stock (do NOT add salt here) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered for 1 hour, or until the beans are tender. Softening the beans can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours, depending on the age of the beans.
  4. Once the beans are softened, add the spinach and stir until wilted.
  5. Add the salt and pepper and taste for seasoning. Top with sliced basil leaves or pesto and grated cheese (if desired).
This soup is excellent with a little turkey bacon or pancetta. In Step 1 before adding onion, sauté diced meat until browned and then add onion, etc.
To make this truly vegan, omit the parmesan rind.


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  1. Wonderful recipe! I use vegetable broth (Better than Bouillon) and Muir Glen Fire Roasted tomatoes and typically make 1.5 times the recipe so there’s plenty for leftovers. Thank you!

    • Wonderful idea! Thank you for sharing, Mary.

  2. Cranberry beans are my very favorite! Several years ago I visited Lucca, Italy and had the most wonderful soup with cranberry beans and farro grain. It was thick and creamy with a thin swirl of EVOO and grated cheese on top. Do you think you could find a recipe for this? Thank you.

  3. Discovered this recipe when I bought some cranberry beans and needed to figure out what to do with them. They were in a carton so I modified the portions. It was incredibly delicious and the hubs and I ate it down to the last drop. I’m looking to add more meatless options to our dinner rotation so this is perfect. It all comes together magically. I am anxious to try again. I found the beans in cartons at Imperfect Produce. Just lovely and it makes you feel good eating it!

    • Wonderful! It’s interesting how different beans can have different textures and flavors. I really love the creaminess and almost smoky flavor of these beans. 🙂

  4. I used my InstantPot to make this soup, only added ditalini pasta for Pasta the two soups are so similar. It is wonderful and simple. Thank you

    • Lovely, Kathleen! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Coincidentally I am making this soup in my Instant Pot today. 🙂

      • How do you make this in an Instant Pot? 🙂

        • Follow the instructions for the lentil soup instant pot directions (saute veg then add legumes and set to manual high pressure.) I would cook the beans for 35 minutes if they had never been soaked or 30 minutes if they have been. If you want to speed up the process of bringing the machine to pressure more quickly, bring the water/stock to a boil before adding to the pot. Hope that helps!

  5. Holy cow is this good! It all seems too simple to yield such a magical result, but we moaned all through dinner and plan to add this soup to our regular rotation. How did we not know this Parm rind trick? It must be the magic!

    • The combo of those beans, which are creamy and flavorful, plus the parmesan rind, which is a MAGICAL ingredient, is incredible. Even when I make this soup with water it turns out amazing.

  6. Made this tonight for the first time and it was amazing! It was great with the savory muffins~ a new regular on our menu! Thank you!

    • So glad! Savory muffins were a revelation to me the first time I tried them! 🙂

  7. I am super excited to make this… I am going to dice up Russian version of “marinated” pork bellies (paprika, za’atar, ??? a dry rub) in lieu of pancetta. I am a pretty good cook, and your recipe said “Make ME!”

    • Sounds delicious!

  8. I was at the local farmers market in marin this past sunday. A local guy from half moon bay was selling cranberry beans AND borlotti beans. He said the borlotti beans were meatier than the cranberry. You seem to imply they are the same bean. He was selling two separate varieties……….any comments??

    While I haven’t tried your recipe yet, it is a winner and the basis form many of my soup recipes. I love that you incorporate the parm cheese rind, a little culinary secret that I’ve often used when making this type of soup.

    Thank you!

    Roberta Wright

    • That’s so interesting, Roberta! I originally purchased these beans from Rancho Gordo and they indicate it is the same bean. I also searched the web a bit and every site seems to say the same – that the cranberry bean and the borlotti bean are one and the same. But I am all for a meatier bean! I’ll be sure to look out for these apealing borlotti beans. Thanks!

      • My Friend is a cookbook author, who specializes in this sort of stuff – and they are the SAME. I think the Farmer’s Market guy was a bit off in his facts.

  9. Hi Pamela: this looks delicious! What measure of borlotti beans in a glass jar would equal the one pound of dried beans that this recipe calls for?


    • Normally, 4 15-ounce cans equals one pound dried. How many ounces are the glass jars? 10? If so, you might need 6.

  10. So happy to find your site as I searched for a recipe for the cranberry beans in my pantry! This soup is simple and delicious, and highlights the creamy beans. It added kale for the greens, and finished with basil and parm. Can’t wait to try other recipes from the site. Love your philosophy of cooking and eating real food!

    • Thank you, Beth! So glad you’re here. Those beans are my favorite -so creamy!

  11. Hi! Have you made using kale instead of swiss chard or spinach? Thanks!

    • Any greens would be great here, including kale! Just keep in mind that it takes a few extra minutes for kale to soften up. 🙂

      • Thank you! Its on my football menu for tomorrow!

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I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

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