Gluten-Free Navy Bean Soup
Are dried beans gluten-free? Until recently, I’d have instantly said “Yes!”… keep reading to find out why I was wrong.
Navy beans are one of our favorites around here… and, it’s one of my husband Al’s all-time favorites. He likes them with just about anything…in a salad, as part of a main dish or as a side with dinner. He likes them in many combinations, but most of all, he loves them in soup.
Navy Bean Soup is an easy, gluten-free recipe to make, especially in my slow cooker.
Al’s idea on seasonings is fairly conservative, though, so I must warn you that the recipe below will be traditional in nature…with lots of room for kicking it up, maybe with your favorite seasoned salt, salsa or hot sauce.
Actually, the bean soup does have seasonings in it. I keep them subtle in the recipe, but they add a lot of flavor, nevertheless.
The vegetables and herbs are removed after being cooked with the beans, and then discarded. However, they could be pureed and returned to the broth if you like. In any case, the bay leaf is just discarded.
The basic recipe calls for water, but broth or stock can be substituted for part or all of it. I think either improves the flavor immensely – if you have some stock or broth to add, I think that you’ll like it in this delicious soup.
Want to try making stock?
Making stock is so economical and simple. If you haven’t tried doing that yet, Amy at Simply Sugar & Gluten Free has easy-to-follow recipes for Vegetable Stock and Chicken Stock. Elana at Elana’s Pantry also has a good how-to on making Roasted Chicken Stock.
WARNING: Not All Dried Beans, Lentils and Peas Are Gluten-Free
Recently, I learned that packaged dried beans, lentils and peas or other legumes, such as you usually find in the major grocery stores, may actually be contaminated with gluten. It doesn’t happen all the time, but sometimes storage facilities, transportation equipment and processing plant production lines will contaminate dried beans, lentils and peas after storing, transporting or processing “gluten-y” items. But, it happens often enough that I think gluten-free’rs need to be worried about it.
… Have you ever found different grains mixed in with dried beans when you’re sorting them?
Besides an occasional piece of gravel or clod of dirt, I have found other kinds of peas or beans, kernels of corn, or grains of barley, for example. That’s sure evidence of what else is stored, handled or processed on the same equipment.
Finding that stuff in what you are about to cook is not good news for anyone who must live gluten-free! It’s a gigantic, red “Warning Flag” if you have a problem with gluten or have something like a wheat allergy.
Unfortunately, it’s generally not possible to remove the gluten contamination simply by washing the beans, lentils, peas or similar product.
Many bean recipes call for soaking in water prior to cooking. That process WILL NOT REMOVE the gluten contamination… even if you discard the water you soaked them in and then wash/rinse them thoroughly.
I recommend that you do not attempt to remove gluten contamination from dried beans and the like.
Rather, if you suspect that you have a gluten contamination problem with your beans, I think that you should just test the cooked beans for gluten. Then, you will know for sure if the beans have a contamination problem. And, it will be a lot easier than living through a gluten-reaction “Hell” that may occur if you try to wash the gluten from the product you are concerned about.
There are at least two companies I know of that sell credible testing kits.
Al and I have tested and recommend the GlutenTox Home testing kit. It passed all of our tests and while it requires a process, it’s fairly easy to do but it will take about 20 minutes to perform each test. And, you must carefully following the instructions in the kit.
I think it’s reasonably priced and I suggest that the 5-test kit would be a good choice for most people who occasionally want to test their food for gluten contamination.
Each test in the kit can be done for either “20ppm or less” or for “5ppm or less.” You can buy the kit online by <clicking here>. It is not available in stores.
If you are not going to test, it is my recommendation that you contact the processor/manufacturer of the dried beans to determine whether there is a problem with the brand that you use.
Bulk beans, lentils, peas and similar products that you would typically find in a whole foods retailer have the same cross-contamination type problems as you may have with oats or oatmeal.
Canned beans, lentils and peas generally are not contaminated because they are processed on the same production lines as other vegetables and fruits rather than on production lines which also handle “gluten-y” grain-based products. However, should those production lines share processing/storage facilities which handle “gluten-y” foods or products, they will, of course, run the risk of cross-contamination. If you have any questions, the safest thing to do is to contact the processor/manufacturer for more information to determine whether the product in the cans is safe for your consumption.
All that said, please be aware that some of the food processors/manufacturers have gone to the trouble to have their products certified as gluten-free by one of the gluten-free certification organizations like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO).
Here’s my family’s favorite bean soup recipe:
Gluten-Free Navy Bean Soup
- 1 Pound Dried Beans, Navy, Pea or White
- 2 Quarts Water, or Stock, if you like
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 Medium Carrot
- 1 Sprig Celery Leaves, or 1 small Stalk
- 1/2 Small Onion, quartered
- 1 Sprig Flat Leaf Parsley
- 2 Teaspoons Salt, or to taste
- 1/4 Teaspoon Pepper, or to taste
Pick through the beans to sort out any bad ones.
Rinse the beans in a colander.
Put into slow cooker or crockpot with water (or stock) and remaining ingredients.
Cover; cook according to slow cooker’s instructions on high for 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10 hours.
Remove vegetables and bay leaf. Season soup to taste. Serve.
Makes 6 servings.
Garnish with green onion, or a sprig of fresh celery leaves, carrot sticks, chopped ham, parsley, crumbled cooked bacon or shredded Cheddar cheese. Serve with hot rolls, saltines or tortilla chips.
A dash of Tabasco or Frank’s Red Hot Sauce is a nice touch, too.
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