Hunger Challenge Pinto Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach


Sorry about the not nice photo. It might not look it, but this was the best tasting and most filling recipe I’ve made yet for the Hunger Challenge. It didn’t leave me wishing for something else to eat immediately and was super simple to make.

I also believe that it has literally the most nutritional bang for the buck of any of my Hunger Challenge creations. You’ve got greens in the form of spinach, protein, minerals and fiber in the beans, and beta-carotene, fiber, and other good things in the sweet potatoes. I thought it would be boring and might need herbs or lemon juice or something but it was really tasty with just salt and pepper. And a tablespoon of oil was the only fat. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Serves 5 (.75 cents per serving)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 of a medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 pound dried pinto beans, soaked for 4-8 hours and drained
3/4 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
10 ounces frozen spinach
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and sauté until soft and fragrant, stirring occasionally (about 10 minutes) Add the beans and water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cover partially. Cook until nearly soft, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary. (depending on the age of the beans, this can be anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours) Once the beans begin to soften, add salt a little at a time until the beans are salty enough for your taste. Add the sweet potatoes and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the spinach and cook to thaw and wilt, stirring occasionally. Adjust water quantity, and salt and pepper and serve immediately.

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  1. Posted September 27, 2008 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    This sounds really good, Vanessa. I never would have thought to combine sweet potatoes and pinto beans! Pintos are really important to a lot of SF Food Bank clients. The food bank buys them in 2000-pound bulk totes, and then volunteers re-pack them in 1-lb bags for distribution. You’ve also used onions, which SF Food Bank often has available. This will be a great recipe to share with clients. Thanks so much!

  2. Posted March 26, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    I made this and it was delicious. Used a bit of “Better Than Bouillon” which was sort of cheating in terms of cost, but substituted for a complicated broth.

    • Posted April 5, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

      Thanks for reporting back. Sometimes we all have to cheat in the greater service of cooking for ourselves. Glad you liked the soup. So much nutrition too!

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