A true one pot meal, this warming soup is my secret weapon for staying nourished and satisfied in the coldest and darkest months of the year. Usually, soups that can be eaten as a meal require multiple steps (or smart shortcuts), but this one comes together with a few easy moves using a single pot.
Mung beans are quick cooking (like, under 20 minutes quick!), especially when soaked. This means they don’t need to be cooked separately and there is no chance of derailing your dinner with the dreaded al dente bean. After an overnight soak, mung beans are almost soft enough to eat right away, and if you leave the drained beans to sit for a day or so they’ll even start to sprout. This makes them easier to digest—and quicker cooking, too—as they’ve started to transform into a vegetable. So if your plans change just pop the drained beans in the fridge until you’re ready to make this soup.
The combination of mung beans and warming spices is borrowed from kitchari or khichdi, the Ayurvedic healing staple made with lentils and rice. When making this soup, I wanted the same deeply soothing feeling I get when eating kitchari, but with the addition of winter greens. Here, the mung beans are simmered with some coconut milk and cilantro along with ginger, turmeric, coriander, mustard seeds, and cumin, as well as kombu.
Kombu and kelp contain enzymes that help break down the proteins and carbohydrates in beans, making them easier to digest. The seaweed also naturally enhances flavor and adds minerals to the soup. If you don’t have any on hand you can leave it out, it will still taste delicious. The addition of kale, leeks, and spinach and a thorough blitz in the blender give it a super smooth and velvety texture and a luxurious deep green color.
This soup really comes alive when served with a squeeze of fresh lime juice or a generous dollop of good coconut yogurt (or both) swirled in before serving—bring some salt to the table as you’ll need a touch more after adding the lime juice. You can also ramp up the spices with a pinch of chile flakes or cayenne pepper.
Once cool, this soup thickens up quite a lot and will thin out again once it’s warm, so don’t be tempted to add any water when reheating. —Amy Chaplin
Test Kitchen Notes
Whole Food Cooking is a column by our Resident Vegetarian at Large, Amy Chaplin. —The Editors
- Prep time 12 hours 20 minutes
- Cook time 20 minutes
- Serves 4 to 6
dried mung beans, soaked 10 to 12 hours in 2 cups filtered water
ghee or coconut oil
black mustard seeds
medium onion, diced
cloves garlic, finely minced
finely minced ginger
leek, quartered and chopped (use white and green parts)
finely chopped cilantro stems (from 1 bunch cilantro)
1 1/2 teaspoons
1 1/2 teaspoons
filtered water, plus more as needed to thin soup
13 1/2 ounces
(398ml) coconut milk (1 can)
inch piece kombu or dried kelp
(4oz / 115g) kale, leaves and stems roughly chopped (about 4 cups)
fine sea salt, plus more to taste
(170g) baby spinach (about 6 cups)
roughly chopped cilantro leaves
tamari, plus more to taste
to 6 fresh lime wedges, to serve
Optional garnishes: coconut yogurt or a drizzle of coconut milk, cilantro leaves, nigella seeds, microgreens
- Drain and rinse soaked mung beans and set aside.
- Drain and rinse soaked mung beans and set aside. Warm oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and mustard seeds and cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until beginning to brown. Stir in garlic and ginger and cook 3 minutes more. Add leek and cilantro stems and continue cooking for another few minutes until softened. Stir in coriander, cumin, turmeric, drained mung beans, water, coconut milk, and kombu and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover pot and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until beans are soft, you’ll need to check a few as they can vary.
- Add kale and salt, return to a boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, or until stems are tender (don’t worry if they seem a bit stringy). Remove from heat and stir in cilantro, then stir in spinach until completely combined. Allow to cool uncovered for 10 minutes, then blend in batches in an upright blender until completely smooth and velvety. Season to taste with tamari or additional salt; serve warm with a squeeze of lime and any or all the garnishes.