Lorna Sass’s New Mexican Pinto Bean Soup

For the last few weeks we have been blessed with beautiful spring weather here in Northern Alberta, but this weekend was outstanding!  In order to take advantage of the fantastic weather, EPC and I spent both days walking down Whyte Ave and 124th Street.  On Saturday, we enjoyed the weather so much that we put off the evening’s dinner plans until today so we could stroll over to our neighborhood Mexican restaurant for dinner.

With New Mexican Pinto Bean Soup on tap for tonight’s dinner, that makes this a weekend full of Mexican flavours!

This is the second time that I have used my pressure cooker in as many weeks, which should come as no surprise to you, because this month the focus is on Lorna Sass, the Queen of Pressure Cooking.  Tonight’s choice, New Mexican Pinto Bean Soup, comes from her cookbook Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure.  The presence of chipotle pepper and fresh avocado are the reasons why I chose this recipe from the over 150 vegan dishes in this cookbook.  Mind you the choice wasn’t easy.  With such dishes as Saffron Risotto with Vegetables, Garlic Lover’s Lentil Soup, and Black-eyed Pea Gumbo it can be quite a task to narrow it down to one!

On another note,  perhaps a few of you have heard that it is difficult to use a pressure cooker on an electric stove and get good results, since most, if not all, pressure cooker recipes are based on cooking over a flame rather than an element.  Since the only thing missing in our building is a natural gas line, I will be stuck with an electric stove for the rest of my cooking days.  However, I am certainly not going to let that stop me from using a pressure cooker!

If you are using a pressure cooker on an electric stove, there are a few tricks needed to compensate for the lack of quick heating and cooling that you would get from a gas stove.  Before putting the cooker on the electric element you need to make sure that the element has reached maximum heat.  In the meantime you turn your second burner on medium low heat, so you can transfer the cooker when it reaches pressure.  The instructions that came with my Fagor pressure cooker explained all of this quite easily.  Lorna also goes over the challenges of an electric stove in the cookbooks introduction. In the case of New Mexican Pinto Bean Soup, after reaching high pressure I moved the cooker on the medium low burner and let it cook for the prescribed 8 minutes.  During that time, I threw together a couple of corn tortilla Monterey Jack quesadillas to go along with the soup.

Once again, the recipe turned out perfectly!  The chipotle chili pepper and lime juice made this soup sing.  EPC also did a bit of singing I am afraid.  That single teaspoon of  chipotle chili powder was a bit too much for my husband.  Next time I will drop it down to 1/2 a teaspoon, but hot or not he cleaned his bowl.

Perhaps after glancing at the recipe below and the photo of tonight’s dinner, you have made the connection that the recipe has corn kernels and the photo does not.


I forgot to add the corn.  The weekend is over and it seems to have done me no good.  I hope that I do not forget to take my lunch tomorrow, because I have leftover New Mexican Pinto Bean Soup to look forward to.

New Mexican Pinto Bean Soup

1 1/2 cups dried pinto beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
1 tablespoon of canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
2 cups onions, coarsely chopped (about 1 medium)
1 large red or orange bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 to 2 cups of fresh or frozen (defrosted) corn
1 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 dried chipotle pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into small pieces, or 1 -2 jalapeño, or a generous pinch of crushed red chili flakes.  (I used chipotle chili powder because my dried peppers were flavourless – 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon depending on the amount of heat you desire)
4 cups of boiling water

2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 -2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice
1 ripe avocado, cut into a 1/2 inch diced
1 teaspoon of salt
Pepper to taste

  • Drain and rinse the beans
  • Heat the oil in the cooker and add the cumin seed.  Give them a quick stir and add the garlic and let it brown.
  • Add the onion and bell pepper and saute for 1 minute.
  • Add the beans, corn, oregano, chipotle, and water
  • Lock the lid and bring the cooker to high pressure.  When high pressure is reached, lower the heat enough to maintain the pressure and cook for 8 minutes
  • Release the pressure and remove the lid – pointing the lid away to release any excess steam.
  • With a slotted spoon transfer 1 cup of the beans to a blender and puree with the tomato paste.  Add back to the soup
  • Add cilantro, lime juice, avocado, salt,and season with pepper.

Click to print


8 responses to “Lorna Sass’s New Mexican Pinto Bean Soup

  1. I am surprised it is so yellow with a teaspoon of chipotle pepper in it… Glad to know it is a winner – I will convert it to make in my Thermomix and give it a whirl…
    I buy the chipotle pepper canned in adobe sauce and then freeze them individually and use them, instead – and I love them like this… but – one can in our house lasts a very long time because we both love the complexity of the smokiness – but neither of us can handle intense heat.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thermomix?
    Never heard of that. Though I do remember seeing a tab on your page – I will have to read up and enlighten myself.

  3. Hi Kelley: great job. I wanted to point out that this cookbook is vegan. Love that photo! TX again for your enthusiasm and support. I cross-posted on http://www.pressurecookingwithlornasass.wordpress.com which goes automatically to Twitter. Happy cooking! Lorna


  5. Yes, it is vegan! Veganlicious!
    I corrected my post to reflect that.

    Thanks for the cross-post!

  6. Thanks for this recipe. I can’t wait to try it! I have your Veg. Cooking Under Pressure book and I love it! I use it probably 99% of the time when cooking. It is probably the most useful cookbook I have ever had and it is perfect for me, the lazy cook. Thanks!

  7. Pingback: A month of recipes from Lorna Sass’s Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure « Cookbook Cooks

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