Fasolada: a traditional Greek white bean soup recipe
Fasolada is an amazing dish which is hardly known outside the borders of Greece. It’s a tasty soul-soothing bean, carrots and celery soup, which is widely popular in Greece.
Definitely one of the most characteristic Greek comfort foods, it is called the National Food of Greece. Yes, not the souvlaki, the tzatziki or the moussaka;
The Greek National Food is: Fasolada! We were amazed to learn that Brazil also has a bean soup called Feijoada which is their National Food as well! The Greek version however is made with white beans and does not include any meat, making it a perfect choice for vegans/vegetarians.
In Fasolada, beans are soaked in water overnight, and the next day they are cooked slowly with carrots, celery and onions, until their starch starts to thicken the soup. This is called "hiloma" in Greek cuisine. When Greeks cook lentils or beans, this is often a desired outcome. This simplest fasolada version is called "Lefki fasolada" (white fasolada). Very often, grated tomato and tomato paste are added to the soup; This is the "Kokkini fasolada" (red fasolada).
The tomato version is also delicious, and you can very easily change a white fasolada to a red fasolada just by adding the grated tomato and the tomato paste along with the celery and the carrots while cooking. Red fasolada tends to be the most popular version. But since the white fasolada is the basic recipe and you can easily turn it to a red fasolada as described (with the addition of tomato), we will provide the recipe for the white fasolada.
White fasolada is served with a tablespoon of raw extra virgin olive oil, some fresh lemon juice, and ground pepper on top of the dish. Make sure to have some good quality fresh bread on the side!
Fasolada is consumed in large quantities during the fall, winter and spring (especially before Easter since it's suitable for fasting) and is miraculous in a cold day. Fasolada is present on the Greek table at least once a month (and in many cases at least once a week!). It's served hot in the winter or in room temperature if the day is warmer. It's usually accompanied by some smoked fish, or anchovies in olive oil, or even fresh humble pieces of spring onions (sprinkled with salt). Kalamata olives is also a popular side dish. In some regions, fasolada may even be served with a meze of Horiatiko sausages (Greek sausages similar to Italian sausages).
In any case, Fasolada is one the best Greek recipes you can try. It's easy to make, it uses simple ingredients, and the result will tempt you to fill your plate again!
- 500gr/17oz white beans (dry)
- 500gr/17oz carrots (4-5 carrots), in 1cm (0.3-0.4 inch) thick slices
- 230gr/8oz (1 bunch) of celery, coarsely chopped (prefer celery leaves)
- 250gr/9oz (2 medium sized) onions, coarsely chopped
- 3lt (12cups) warm water
- 80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (per serving)
- 2lt (8 cups) water (for soaking the beans)
Put the beans in a large bowl, cover them with 2lt of water (room temperature), and let them soak all night. Rinse before starting to cook in the next morning.
If you will cook the beans later in the day, it's better to put them in the fridge after rinsing, covered with some fresh water and rinse them again before cooking.
Put the olive oil in a large pot, on medium to high heat. Once hot, add the onions and cook until they are translucent. At this point, add the rinsed beans and saute for 3-4 minutes.
Next, add 8 of the cups of warm water (2lt), cover half the pot with the lid and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let it simmer for 30 minutes.
Then, add the rest 4 cups of warm water (1lt), the celery and the carrots and continue cooking for 1 more hour. It's important to check that you always have enough water in the pot towards the end of the hour. Also stir every 5 minutes towards the end of cooking.
After 1 hour, the beans and vegetables are ready (soft when bitten). If the beans are not fresh enough, they may be a bit hard. In such case, add some more water and continue cooking for 30 more minutes.
At the end, the soup must have thickened, due to the starch from the beans. Add salt and pepper and stir.
Serve with 1 tablespoon of olive oil on top of each dish, fresh lemon juice and ground pepper. Kali oreksi!
1.When you have added the water, you don't have to be on top of the pot all the time. Stir every 10 minutes or so. Be more careful and stir more often towards the end of cooking time though, when some of the water will have evaporated.
2.You can serve this dish with: black olives, spring onions (choppped and salted), any salted meat or fish, smoked herring or Greek sausage (Horiatiko Loukaniko).
3.As mentioned, if the beans are not fresh enough, it may take longer to cook, so add warm water again and continue cooking until ready.
4.If you prefer the red fasolada version, add 180ml (2/3 cup) grated tomato and 3 tablespoons of tomato paste along with the carrots and the celery. With this simple addition you 'll get a different, tasty alternative!