Fasolada… The “mother of all” Greek comfort foods in a bowl. This is one bowl that the generations of Greeks grew up with on cool winter nights… A perfect winter warmer! This rustic, robust, healthy & homely white bean soup is simmered with everyday aromatics like onions, garlic, tomatoes and celery. But the real magic happens when it gets enriched with a good drizzle of olive oil in the end.
Result? Unbelievable velvety, creamy BEAN deliciousness! You are gonna love this one. No wonder it’s often referred to as the national dish of Greece.
Surprised? A humble bean thing can be as equally revered and adored as their popular moussakas, souvlakis and tzatziki. Yes. This is not something you might find in high end Greek restaurants, and very few people outside of Greece are even aware of its existence. But this is what fed the Greeks for generations. Every household has their typical traditional way to start the winter… with a big pot of Fasolada!
What is Fasolada?
A pot of bean soup simmering for hours is universal. Its existence is traced back to ancient times and is popular throughout the world as a healthy, yet cheap, way to feed the family. Over time what was considered “poor man’s food” has gained respect that it deserves in modern times.
Fasolada, or Fasoulada, is a Greek soup of white beans, vegetables and olive oil and can be found all over the Mediterranean and neighboring Arabic and Levantine regions, of course with different versions and names. It might be known as fagiolata in Italy, Feijoada in Portugal and Brazil, Fasole in Romania, Fabada in Spain, Kuru Fasulye in Turkey or Fasoulia in many Arabic countries.
The name Fasolada comes from the word ‘fasoli’, meaning beans. Beans and pulses play an important role in the Greek kitchen. Traditionally Greeks would eat beans at least twice a week, as they are a cheap and accessible source of non-animal protein.
Fasolada is either white in color and made zingy in the end with tons of lemon juice and some herbs, or it’s red from the addition of tomatoes in some form. It’s very popular during lent, as most of the time it’s made without any meat, though adding meat along with beans is not that uncommon.
Fun fact: It has an ancient and mythical existence. Fasolada was the soup of the Greek gods! The myth is that at the annual festival honoring Apollo, this soup was served to the festival attendees and to Apollo himself. The Greek gods vanished over time, but Fasolada lives on…
What kind of beans to use
Any white beans like cannellini, navy or great northern would make a great fasolada. We sometimes make this pot with dry beans, which a Greek would approve of. They just need to be soaked in water overnight, or at least 8-10 hours, before cooking. Today we are using canned beans, cannelloni in particular, just to introduce you to how quick and easy this soup can be, without compromising on flavors.
We are going to make Fasolada with tomatoes today, here is what you need…
- White beans
- Onion – Spanish or white, diced.
- Garlic – Thinly sliced.
- Celery – Chopped.
- Carrots – Chopped.
- Tomatoes – We are using both crushed and tomato paste, to give extra depth and flavors.
- Vegetable broth – You can opt for chicken broth too. In a pinch you can use just water.
- Herbs & spices – Oregano, rosemary, red chili flakes and bay leaves.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt – to taste.
- Garnishings – Parsley, olives (you can use black or kalamata), feta cheese, red chili flakes, extra virgin olive oil.
Fasolada is an extremely easy affair, this is how…
If you are using dry beans, let them soak overnight submerged in water with a little salt. The next day, discard the water and boil them in fresh water till they get soft. It would take about 30-40 minutes, depending how fresh they are (beans tend to take more time to cook as they get older, sitting in your pantry). Once cooked, drain and set them aside.
Today we are using canned cannellini beans for a quicker way to cook Fasolada. Believe me when I say, the results are just as good, as we flavor it with some great enhancers. You wouldn’t even notice that you whip up this amazing bean soup out of canned beans. We just like to make your life a little easier, without compromising the flavors. Saying that, just drain the liquids from the canned beans and leave them in a colander till they are ready to go in the pot.
Start by heating the extra virgin olive oil in your soup pot on medium high heat. Add in chopped onions, carrots and celery along with sliced garlic and salt and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook for a minute. Add in tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes along with the herbs and spices. Combine well then mix in your beans and broth. Bring to a low boil and then simmer on low to medium heat for about 30-40 minutes, till the carrots get tender, stirring occasionally.
Now the secret part to make it creamy and velvety. Take out about a cupful of beans and mash them in a bowl with a spoon into a paste and stir that back into the pot. Your soup will start looking thick and luscious.
Now the Greeks end their bean soup with plenty of good olive oil. We are using good quality extra virgin olive oil. Swirl that around in the pot and you end up with velvety mmmlishiousness.
What to serve Fasolada with?
- When ready to serve, make your bowls full with fasolada. Top it with a good dose of chopped parsley, olives and feta cheese. You can sprinkle a few red chili flakes and drizzle a tad bit more olive oil. That’s it. It’s ready for that bread dunking. Yup, that’s all you might want… nice crusty bread!! So addictive and comforting. Try my miracle no knead bread, it’s perfect with this one.
- If you’re thinking of making a little larger dinner, pair it with some yum salad, like our Israeli couscous salad or Spanish pipirrana, or even our heartier tortellini pasta salad.
- A very common other version of fasolada is white in color without any tomatoes. The recipe is almost the same, except it uses a good dose of lemon juice and lemon zest in the end. Sometimes I can’t decide which version I like best.
- You can add some meat to make it even more hearty, like some great sausage or even beef or pork mince. In case of sausage ,just brown them up before adding to the soup. Beef or pork mince could be stir fried with little salt and pepper along with your favorite seasonings before going into the soup pot.
- Instead of making it soupier, make a drier version with very little water.
- Play with beans. Think navy, black eyed peas… even try the same recipe with various or mixed lentils.
Fasolada… it’s a great meal choice if you are turkeyed out from the holiday and looking for something lighter. It’s a healthy, smooth, completely plant based yet protein-packed hearty meal. This is the kind of thing where you just throw everything together and let it perform its magic.
Soon cold balmy nights are coming to some of you, pin or bookmark this great Greek winter warmer for the upcoming days. Subscribe to GypsyPlate for some great stews and soups coming directly to your email.
Time to go to my steaming bowl of Fasolada (that we reheated after the shoot… that’s always the case with food bloggers). Chow time! Pass me that bread, honey!!
Fasolada, in my Gypsy Bowl… enjoy!
Try these other great soups from around the world:
Bahamian Boiled Fish
Moroccan Lentil Soup
White Bean Turkey Chili
Grilled Cheese Tomato Soup
Vegetarian Black Bean Chili
Korean Ground Pork Soup
Meaty Cabbage Soup
Loaded Cauliflower Soup
New Orleans Yakamein
- 3 15oz cans cannellini beans, drained (see note 1)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1.5 cups crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp red chili flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
- 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Salt to taste
- Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a soup pot over medium high heat.
- Sauté onion, celery, carrot, garlic and salt for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add tomato paste and stir for one minute.
- Add crushed tomatoes, beans, broth, oregano, rosemary, chili flakes and bay leaves. Stir well. Bring to low boil then simmer on low to medium heat for 30-40 minutes, until carrots are soft.
- Remove one cup of beans to a bowl and mash with a spoon. Stir back into pot.
- Add remaining 4 Tbsp olive oil and whisk into soup.
- Serve in bowl with garnishings (see note 2).
- If you would prefer to use the more traditional dried beans, soak 1.5 cups of beans in water and salt for 8-10 hours. Drain and cook in fresh water according to package directions.
- We garnished our bowls with feta cheese, chopped parsley, red chili flakes and diced kalamata olives. Regular black olives also go great. We also like to add a little extra drizzle of olive oil to each bowl.
- Serve with a crusty bread.
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 476Total Fat 15gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 12gCholesterol 0mgSodium 903mgCarbohydrates 66gFiber 16gSugar 7gProtein 23g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
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