Chickpea and Escarole Soup
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I left the grocery store yesterday morning with a somewhat renewed sense of optimism: some of the previously empty shelves — flour!! — had been re-stocked, and the general supplies throughout the store looked good: bananas! kale! milk! (Still no toilet paper).
But the shopping experience continues to feel surreal: there’s an uneasiness in the air; no one is making eye contact; everyone is on a mission, moving through the aisles with real urgency, hoping to get in and out as quickly as possible. This is to be expected and understood, of course, and while it doesn’t feel like complete panic, the absence of the normal is palpable.
Friends, I’m hoping you, too, are seeing your store’s stocks back at normal-ish levels and that you are able to find what you love and need (TP!).
This past week, I’ve been cooking a lot of chickpeas. I’ve rounded up some of my favorite ways to eat them here, and I’m sharing a new one today: chickpea and escarole soup.
Escarole is one green I have seen consistently this past week in relatively plentiful supply at my grocery stores. It’s a green I once cooked with all the time — it was, shall I say, my gateway leafy green? the kale to millennials? — but for whatever reason (… er, kale?…) I have neglected in recent years.
This simple soup, a classic “beans and greens” preparation, has rekindled my love for it, especially as a green in soup. Its texture is SO nice: it melts into the broth, absorbing all of its flavors, while still retaining a bit of sturdiness and, more important, a presence, unlike other greens, such as spinach, which can disappear. Escarole is a member of the chicory family, so it’s got a slight bitterness, but it tempers upon being cooked.
For this soup, I’ve been using one to two heads of escarole, a little over a pound total, for about 6 cups of cooked chickpeas (from a pound of dried). The broth is very simple, a combination of the chickpea cooking liquid, water, a sautéed onion, and a parmesan rind. After 30 minutes of simmering, the soup is done.
To serve, toast up some old bread in a good amount of olive oil till its nicely golden, dunk it in the soup, then crack lots of black pepper over top. Shave parmesan over top if you wish.
A Few Notes:
At the start of the year, I told you I was trying to be less of a stinker (snob) about using only cooked-from-scratch beans, but if there’s ever been a time to attempt bean cookery or to embrace it, it’s now.
More important, I think this soup, because it derives flavor from so few ingredients, demands from-scratch cooked beans. I’ll go so far as to say this: don’t make this one if you only have canned beans on hand.
This soup’s flavor relies on the chickpea cooking liquid, which draws flavor from the chickpeas themselves, an onion half, a bay leaf, olive oil, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Two Ways to Cook Chickpeas
- Slow Cooker Chickpeas: Dump unsoaked dried chickpeas into the slow cooker with half an onion, a bay leaf, salt, olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, and water. Cook for about 8 hours or until done.
- Stovetop Chickpeas: Dump soaked chickpeas into a large pot with the same seasonings listed above. Simmer stovetop for about 45 minutes or until done.
Both of these methods will leave you with about 6 cups of cooked beans and at the very least 4 cups of cooking liquid, which essentially is a super-flavorful homemade vegetable stock. It’s this stock along with more water that flavors the soup.
With cooked chickpeas on hand, this soup comes together in no time. Hope you love it as much as I.
PS: If you’re having trouble finding dried chickpeas, Nuts.com is a great source.
Here’s the play-by-play: Gather your ingredients:
Chop up the escarole and place in a large bowl, cover with cold water and let it sit while you prep the remaining ingredients. Escarole tends to be a bit dirty.
Slice up an onion thinly.
Put it in a large pot with a tablespoon of oil. Cover. Turn and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until the onion is…
…soft and translucent.
Add the escarole, leaving the water behind. It’s OK if some water clings to the leaves.
Use tongs to encourage the escarole to wilt down. This will take about a minute.
Then add 6 cups cooked chickpeas along with their cooking liquid + more water. Add a parmesan rind if you have one on hand.
Simmer for 30 minutes.
Toast up some bread, if you wish. This is very stale overnight, refrigerator focaccia, but it revives beautifully with a little oil and heat.
Dunk it in your beans and greens and crack some fresh cracked pepper over top …
… a little extra shaved parmesan never hurts.Print
Chickpea and Escarole Soup
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 3 quarts, Serves 8-12
Chickpeas: I highly recommend using from-scratch cooked chickpeas (or white beans) for this recipe. Here are two methods I love:
Each method will leave you with about 6 cups of cooked chickpeas and at least 4 cups of cooking liquid.
8 Cups Liquid: The broth here is a combination of the chickpea cooking liquid and water. If you have 6 cups of chickpea cooking liquid, use that plus 2 cups water. You can also use vegetable stock, but I highly recommend using homemade.
Parmesan rind: A parmesan rind will lend an incredible amount of flavor (and saltiness, so be careful: I’ve made the mistake of using two rinds, and the soup was too salty).
- 1.25–1.5 lbs escarole, from 1-2 small heads or 1 large
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- kosher salt
- 6 cups cooked chickpeas, from 1 lb. of dried, see notes above
- 8 cups liquid: a combination of the chickpea cooking liquid + water or vegetable stock, see notes above
- 1 rind from a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano, optional
- Freshly cracked pepper to taste
- Parmigiano Reggiano, optional, for serving
- good, fresh crusty bread or olive oil toasted bread, for serving, optional
- Roughly chop the escarole and place in a large bowl. Cover with cold water. Set aside.
- In a large pot, heat the oil over high heat. Add the onion. Season with a pinch of salt. Stir to distribute. Cover. Immediately turn heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes or until onions are translucent and beginning to take on some color.
- Remove the lid from the pot, and add the escarole, scooping it from the bowl of water with your hands, leaving the water behind — some water clinging to the greens is fine. Let the escarole cook for a minute undisturbed, then use tongs to stir and encourage it to wilt down, which will happen quickly, 1-2 minutes.
- Add the chickpeas and their cooking liquid — if you are using the slow cooker chickpea recipe, you can dump the entire contents of the slow cooker into the pot (remove the onion half and bay leaf first). This is roughly 6 heaping cups of chickpeas and 4 cups of cooking liquid. Add 4 more cups of water. Add the parmesan rind if using. Season with freshly cracked pepper. Let simmer 25-30 minutes or until the broth, chickpeas and escarole taste nicely seasoned. Taste for salt. If you are using the slow cooker chickpeas, whose broth is nicely seasoned, plus a parmesan rind, you likely won’t need to add more salt. But if not, add salt to taste.
- To make the crusty bread, heat a large skillet over medium heat with some olive oil. Cook slices of bread on one side until golden. Flip, and cook the other side till crisp and golden.
- Ladle soup into bowls. Dunk in a slice of olive oil toasted bread. Crack pepper over top. Shave parmesan over top if you wish.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Soup
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American, Italian
Keywords: chickpeas, escarole, soup, vegetarian, Italian, peasant
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
34 Comments on “Chickpea and Escarole Soup”
This is my kind of meal. Beans and greens is a food group. xoxo
Totally 🙂 🙂 🙂 xoxo
This looks delicious. A local cafe serves a slightly soupy dish with chickpeas, tomato, black olives and calamari…delicious. Always a big fan of chickpeas.
That sounds Amazing, Winnie!
Hi Ali! Even though we enjoyed sunny warm weather today, I craved a bowl of yummy soup that would provide needed comfort. Only had canned garbanzo beans (but will order dry), and used swiss chard growing in my yard. I did have Asiago with rosemary & olive oil, which I added on top. My soul thanks you! Laurie in San Juan Capistrano, California
Oh Laurie, I’m so happy to hear this 🙂 🙂 🙂 And relieved to hear canned chickpeas worked. How nice you have Swiss chard growing in your yard already. I absolutely love SJC … I have such fond memories of brunches at the Ramos House Cafe when we lived in San Clemente. Sending hugs!
This looks amazing and I am going to make it this week. How much water do you put in the slow cooker with the chickpeas? What is the size of the bag of dried chickpeas you use? If I am unable to find escarole (grocery stores are sparse now) can you substitute kale or broccoli rabe?
Hi Biddy! Here is the link to the slow cooker chickpea recipe: https://alexandracooks.com/2020/03/18/simplest-slow-cooker-chickpeas/
But it’s: 8 cups water to 1 lb. chickpeas. Kale would be great here.
I’ve been “sitting at your feet” for about a month now here in Seattle finding great comfort in making Peasant Bread (and others) and soaking in all the wonderful knowledge you share as I stay confined to an 1100 square foot condo in the heart of the city–thank you! I came across Bread Toast Crumbs at Seattle Public Library which loans books digitally, thank goodness! And now today, “Add a Parmesan rind if you have one on hand” in this soup recipe! Who knew (not me!) there was a use for the rind! Thank you for sharing your gifts!
Hi Robin, I’m so happy to hear all of this 🙂 🙂 🙂 Thanks so much for writing. The parmesan rind imparts such incredible flavor … it was a revelation for me as well the first time I used one. Warning: it also can make things a wee salty, which I love, but which I know some people are sensitive to. Thank you for your kind words. Happy baking and cooking!
I’ve been saving my Rancho Gordo garbanzos for the perfect recipe. I think this is it!! Whatcha think about using Kale or Collard Greens in place of the escarole?
Oh yay! Absolutely re kale or collard greens 😍😍😍
Looks yummy, going to make some. Don’t have escarole but will try it with swiss chard or the kale from my garden.
Even better! Hope you like this one Bobby.
We were very happy to find such a lovely use for our CSA escarole! We cooked the chickpeas in a pressure cooker with the salt and other additives from your link, and didn’t add any salt whatsoever to the final soup. We found that the grated parmesan at the end was pretty critical. Thanks for this recipe!
So nice to hear this, Ari! And good call on not adding more salt … I am always amazed by how much a rind of parmesan can season a soup.
Can I ask you: when you pressure cook your chickpeas: 1.) Do you soak them first? 2.) How long do you cook them for?
My favorite soup and one that made me fall in love with chickpeas! Also, I had no idea what escarole was until I had this. Believe me when I say this soup as left overs is almost even better than the day of. So, so good. I’m a major meat eater but this soup is the perfect dinner and leaves us full and satisfied, not even missing meat.
Oh, it’s so, so nice to hear this, Abdelis! And I 100% believe you that is better on day 2. Yay! Thanks so much for writing 🙂 🙂 🙂
So simple yet so delicious!! Only had mustard greens, but they turned out beautifully with no bitterness at all. The parm rind really helps with the depth of flavor; also added a bit of white wine with the onions. Definitely making this again for the future! Thank you Ali 🙂
So nice to hear this, Angela! I am always amazed by the flavor/seasoning lent by the parm rind. Thanks for writing!
This was delicious and very flavorful! Made it without parmesan rind because I didn’t have one, but I don’t think I needed it. I also did the stove top chickpeas and don’t think I can go back to canned beans. So flavorful. Only hiccup was that I didn’t think it was going to fit in my 5qt pot–fortunately it filled to the brim. Thank you for this delicious recipe!
Wonderful to hear this, Lauren! And I know, once you cook chickpeas from scratch, it’s really hard to go back. And it’s truly not as hard we sometimes make it out to be. Thanks for writing!
I love this recipe and made it for friends many times. Everyone loves it and I’m glad you recommended it. The chickpeas and the parmesan make the difference! thank you!!
Great to hear, Maria! Thanks so much for writing. It’s such a simple recipe, but such a good one: you are right about the parmesan and chickpeas 🙂 🙂 🙂
Outstanding! Just enjoyed this for dinner with my daughter, who is looking for more healthy recipes. We are both blown away by how delicious this is. Thank you Ali!!
So nice to hear this, Jen! Glad both you and your daughter approved. Thanks for writing 🙂 🙂 🙂
We really enjoyed this recipe. We found that it needed a little brightening up – alittle squirt of lime juice and it was fantastic!
Great to hear this, Jen! I could totally see how a squirt of lime or lemon would be perfect here. Thanks for writing!
Your recipes NEVER disappoint! EVER!! This was fantastically delicious. Even better reheated the next day with a little shredded roasted chicken added. Thanks for your great recipes!
Oh Yay! Great to hear all of this. Love the idea of extending the soup with some shredded chicken… yum!
I had onion soup in my freezer with more onions than soup, so I used that as the base for this recipe and I didn’t need to cut up onions. I followed the rest of the recipe as written and it is fabulous! I had it for breakfast because I couldn’t wait for dinner! Oh, I did add 10 cloves of garlic, minced, to the oil and after cooking a bit I added the escarole, two bunches, cleaned dried and sliced. I had to use canned beans (2) because I couldn’t find the dried ones. I will be on the lookout for dried beans now since there is nothing like them. Thank you for this great recipe!
Great to read all of this, Kristine! 10 cloves of garlic sounds right up my alley 🙂
So delicious over your oven-baked polenta
Yay, Peg!! So nice to hear this. Thanks for writing 🙂