This Serbian Bean Soup, or Pasulj, is a hearty—but not heavy—stick-to-your-ribs type of soup that we could eat on repeat. It’s a regular in Slavic households because it’s inexpensive, healthy and absolutely delicious.
Similar to how we sometimes say something is “a piece of cake” or “easy as pie”, there’s a common saying in Serbia that goes, “prosto ko pasulj”, which roughly translates to “simple as beans.” This bean recipe may be simple but it will warm your belly and have you reaching for more.
Pasulj is typically made using dried beans and simmers for hours. Though not as traditional, our version simplifies the process even more and saves time by using canned white beans.
Even without hours on the stovetop, this recipe is able to pull out all the satisfying, peppery flavors we know and love about the traditional version.
Plus, this recipe is part of our SOUP-er Simple Series. To be included in this series, each recipe needs to hit these three criteria:
- 10 ingredients or less
- Ready in under 45 minutes
- Taste like it took hours
Ingredients for Pasulj
This soup is not only delicious, but it’s incredibly versatile. It’s typically made in one of two ways — either with smoked meat, or “posna”, meaning it’s suitable for Serbian Orthodox fasting periods and doesn’t include any animal products. Both versions are served regularly in Balkan households.
Our take on this classic soup is a spin on the posna version. It’s a naturally vegan meal, but believe me, you won’t miss the meat. The flavor we achieve in under an hour is phenomenal.
Carrots add color and nutrients to this cozy soup. Don’t skip them.
While some versions of this bean soup don’t include potatoes, we like to add them to amp up the heartiness another notch. We prefer using Yukon gold or white potatoes. Feel free to peel the potatoes if you’d like, or keep things simple and leave the skins on.
Onion and Garlic
Arguably essential aromatics for nearly any savory meal, onion and garlic are an important part of this dish and provide a lot of flavor.
Vegeta is an eastern European pantry staple. It adds a salty, savory, umami flavor and it’s a key ingredient in this soup. It’s made from dried vegetables and herbs and it adds a special touch to nearly any Balkan meal.
Paprika is the shining star when it comes to flavoring this soup. It’s warm and comforting, and ties all of the ingredients together so nicely.
In Serbia, this soup is typically made using the white tetovac bean. However, that particular type of bean can sometimes be difficult to find elsewhere.
Our go-to for this recipe is great northern beans, though any white bean, such as cannelini or navy beans, can be used interchangeably. Use whatever you’re able to find.
How to Make Serbian Bean Soup
- Sauté the vegetables with a bit of water until they start to soften.
- Add the Vegeta and the paprika and stir to coat the vegetables with the spices (no additional salt is needed at this time—the Vegeta is fairly salty so wait to the end to season to taste).
- Drain and rinse the beans before adding them to the pot. Stir again to combine.
- Add two quarts of water (8 cups), and stir to combine then increase the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Once the soup comes up to a boil, reduce the heat and allow it to simmer until the vegetables are softened.
- To make a thicker, creamier soup, make a flour thickener by cooking together flour and olive oil until golden brown.
- Once the flour thickener is golden brown, remove it from the heat and stir in a bit of paprika.
- Once the mixture is fully combined, add one cup of broth from the soup and stir well until it has thickened. Then add the thickener into the soup and stir to combine.
Variations on This White Bean Soup
- Use smoked or hot paprika in place of some of the sweet paprika for an extra kick.
- For a bit of spice, add a touch of cayenne or red pepper flakes to the soup. You can also sprinkle a bit of red pepper flakes over each serving.
- Add slices of smoked sausage, such as kielbasa to the vegetables.
Make Ahead, Storage, Freezing and Reheating
Make Ahead: As pasulj sits, it becomes even creamier and more flavorful. You can make this soup the day before you plan to serve it for optimal flavor.
Storage: You can store this soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Freezing: This bean soup can be frozen for up to three months.
Reheating: Reheat soup on the stovetop or in the microwave. If soup has thickened too much after refrigeration, add small amounts of water to dilute to your desired consistency. Then adjust seasonings as necessary.
What to Serve With Serbian Bean Soup
This hearty soup pairs perfectly with a big hunk of crusty bread and ajvar. If you’d like to make this a well-rounded Serbian meal, consider adding a Srpska salata, our Simple Fennel Salad, or even our Simple Tomato Salad with Frizzled Shallot Oil.
Absolutely! Honestly, like most soups, this bean soup only gets tastier as it sits and the flavors have time to develop further. Not only is this soup more flavorful the next day, but as the beans sit, they become even creamier. We’d definitely recommend saving some leftovers to eat the next day!
Yes! Simply skip the optional thickener for a thinner, entirely gluten-free soup, or make the thickener with gluten-free flour. We’ve tested this recipe with King Arthur’s Gluten-Free Measure for Measure flour and had success.
Yes, you can freeze this soup for up to three months. When ready to eat, simply thaw your soup and adjust seasonings as desired to account for dilution.
Vegeta is a seasoning blend made up of dehydrated vegetables and spices and it’s an essential ingredient in nearly all Balkan cooking. You can find Vegeta in most European grocery stores and markets, and sometimes World Market. We’ve also found it online on Amazon and Walmart’s websites.
Serbian Bean Soup Recipe
- 4 medium white or Yukon gold potatoes diced into ¾-inch pieces
- 6 large carrots peeled and sliced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons Vegeta
- 3 tablespoons paprika
- 3 (14.5-ounce) cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed (cannelini or navy beans will also work)
- kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- Chopped fresh parsley, optional
Zafrig roux, optional
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- In a large pot, cook 4 diced potatoes, 6 diced carrots, 1 diced onion, and 2 cloves minced garlic with ¼ cup water on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring periodically. Add 3 tablespoons Vegeta and 3 tablespoons paprika; stir to combine.
- Add 3 (14.5-ounce) cans of beans (drained and rinsed) and stir to combine.
- Stir in 2 quarts (8 cups) water; increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer until vegetables are softened.
- While soup simmers, add olive oil and flour to a small saucepan over low heat. Stir to combine and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is light brown, 5–8 minutes.
- Remove roux from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon paprika. Stir to combine thoroughly.
- Add 1 cup broth from soup to roux (be careful, it will vigorously bubble and splatter). Mix until combined and thickened before stirring into soup. Simmer soup until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Off heat, stir in 4 teaspoons vinegar; season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with fresh parsley, if desired.