Baby Lima Soup with Chipotle Broth Recipe

Made from just five ingredients, this is a vibrant, chipotle-spiked, brothy soup that requires minimal babysitting. The dainty baby lima beans soften up in about an hour without any pre-soaking or fuss.

Baby Lima Soup with Chipotle Broth

I suspect that one of my favorite recipes from Super Natural Cooking is a tad bit neglected, overlooked. It lives unassumingly on page 144, has no seductive photograph flanking it, and has the word lima in the title. It was a recipe originally shared with me by my pal Amanda Berne, in the middle of the day, in a Mexican grocery store in San Francisco's Mission District. We were surrounded by beans and dried chiles, flanked by towers of steaming, freshly made tortillas. Amanda can mount a compelling argument for a recipe she is fond of, and I tend to listen to her. This soup quickly became a regular in my kitchen. Made from just five ingredients, it is a vibrant, chipotle-spiked, brothy soup that requires minimal babysitting. The dainty baby lima beans soften up in about an hour without any pre-soaking or fuss.

Baby Lima Soup Recipe

You can find chipotles in adobo sauce in the Mexican-foods section of most markets. They lend a spicy, smoky, assertive flair that's nicely balanced by the beans and regal reddish gold broth.

Those of you interested in my weekend trip to Portland, Oregon can read the details and see a few pics I uploaded.

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Baby Lima Soup with Chipotle Broth

1 pound dried baby lima beans, picked over and rinsed
10 cups water
1 head garlic, top lobbed off to expose the cloves and loose skins removed
2 tablespoons olive oil or clarified butter
1 onion, halved top to bottom and sliced into thin crescents
1 to 2 chipotles in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt

Squeeze of lime juice (optional)

Pick over the beans, looking carefully for any pebbles or dirt clumps; baby limas seem to be magnets for dirt. Rinse the beans, then combine them with the water and garlic in a heavy soup pot. You might think putting a whole head of unpeeled garlic in the pot is strange, but just go with it. Bring the beans to an active simmer and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until just a touch al dente and not mushy or falling apart. Test their doneness by tasting; you really can't tell any other way.

Heat the olive oil (or butter) in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, add the onion, chipotles, and 2 teaspoons of the adobo sauce, and sauté over medium high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, just until the onion starts to soften. You can always add more adobo sauce later for a spicier soup; just don't overdo it on the front end.

Add the salt and the onion-chipotle mix to the pot of beans and simmer gently for about 5 minutes to blend the flavors. The broth should be thin, so add more water if needed. Add more salt and more adobo a bit at a time if the flavors aren't popping. Finish with a squeeze of lime if you like. I usually remove the garlic head at this point or serve around it.

Serves 6.

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I’ve been reading your recipes for a long time now and my wife just recently discovered it on her own. So, needless to say, we’ve been cooking a lot of your recipes, thanks!
I want to share some alterations that I made though. I thought of using all “Three Sisters” in the soup to make it with a traditional feel. I roasted some squash with maple syrup and olive oil, and through in some of the corn that I had frozen from our farm share. Adding a little diced cheese and drizzled maple on top of each bowl as a garnish perfected the dish.
This soup will be a staple in our house for a long long time, thanks!


We made this soup Monday night – it was great – everyone should try it.


Thank you so much for your wonderful
recipes, I just made this soup and it
was fantastic, Did not change anything
and came out delicious.


I love recipes like this. Simple (and gluten-free), but with wonderful contrasting flavors. The chipotle pepper is a great idea and lima beans are so healthy. Thanks!


For those of you in the UK trying to find chipotles in adobo – I feel your pain being a Mexican / American expat in the UK myself! There is one little store in Victoria across from the tube station that sells them, but otherwise, check out:
They have been a lifesaver on many an occasion and have a wonderful restaurant in Notting Hill called Taqueria with some of the only authentic Mexican cuisine I’ve ever tasted in London!
And Btw, leftover chipotles and adobo can be put in the fridge in an air-tight container. They keep for weeks if not months and make a great topper on fried eggs or refried beans and cheese!


I made this today. The flavor of the broth is wonderful! My lima beans never really got softened…what did I do wrong. I am letting it all go to bed in to crock pot to see if they will be soft in the morning!


My husband LOVES lima beans (it is a family joke) so I will definitely be making this — thanks so much!


I admit I had low expectations of this soup. I mean, come on, it has five ingredients, fer cryin out loud, how good could it be? But I took the plunge because I love chipotles and I was soooo wrong. It is fantastically savory, filling and just…delicious. I had some extra corn so I threw in a few handfuls at the end and it added just a tiny hint of sweetness. I have been accosted twice now at the microwave at work by people smelling its lovely aroma and asking for the recipe. A keeper for sure.


Chipotle chiles (smoked jalapeno chiles) are canned in a red sauce that typically contains tomato puree, paprika, salt, onions, oil, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and oregano. Used for making sauces, chipotle mayonaise, rubs as well as other recipes.
Just found it on the web, gotta love google!


Aha -Did a bit of research – you can substitute butter beans for baby limas. My local Turkish shop has butter beans. Now for the chipotle in adobo. Could someone tell me what the other ingredients are so I can find an analog in the UK? Thanks – my fellow staff members are dropping like flies with bad colds – soup season is upon us!


I just made this soup. I luvvvvv it…. I can’t believe how easy it was and I just love the broth. It tastes so authentic – not at all Moosewood vegi style (sorry, Moosewood, I do like you). And can I say again – I can’t believe how easy it was to make?
I love that you are going in this direction, Heidi. I find more and more simple recipes on your site that are so tasty and healthy. Hard to do with vegetarian food so I appreciate it.


Wow, this was SPICY! I don’t know why mine came out spicy when others said it wasn’t. I only used 1 chili but used the 2 tsp. of sauce that the recipe called for. It also took a lot longer for my lima beans to cook.


I like this soup, it keep my body fresh through whole day long. I love it.

hatrick tolo

I have to say that I’ve been thinking about lima beans lately–several recipes floating around on food blogs have made me think twice about them. Not that I have a problem with lima beans per se, but just an inexperience–there are so many legumes to choose from! I also love a bean soup at this time of a year, and I’d probably do what Vanessa did, too, and substitute some broth for water to pump up the intensity of flavor.

Erin @ Sprouted in the Kitchen

I feel kind of stupid asking this, but I’ve never used garlic heads whole in a recipe before – do you wash off the dirt from the root area on the bottom? The garlic in the stores here in Detroit generally doesn’t have dirt on it, but most of my stockpile from the farmers market does and the cloves sort of bulge out so cutting the roots out is not so easy.
btw, Heidi, I convinced some folks to give Brussel sprouts another shot with your recipe for golden sprouts. Your apple and brussel sprout recipe is wonderful, too! I even like it cold the next day. We have never eaten so many brussel sprouts before in our lives before these recipes – now they’ve become standards! Thanks so much!
Hi Anita, thanks for the nice note. So the short answer is yes. If your garlic has any dirt just give it a quick rinse before using. Glad you liked the brussels sprouts.


Made this over the weekend – it was delicious as described! I did end up adding more adobo, as others have said, and the cooking time was an hour+ (still not long for beans!). I’m wondering about the commentors who’ve found it lacking in flavor – maybe the adobo sauce available to them wasn’t as flavor-packed as it needs to be? I have a great Mexican grocery store in my neighborhood and I had a choice of five different brands of chipotles in adobo. I carefully read the ingredients on all of them & picked the one that had the key ingredients listed first. Some of them had water as the second ingredient after chiles, & I figured those would be less intense –
For those who are asking if other chiles would work – I don’t think so – the key to this soup is the smoky flavor of the chipotles & the complex adobo sauce.


I hate to be a discordant note, but I found this recipe wanting. For one thing, unless you assumed the step, not soaking the beans is a mistake, and they take nearly an hour in any event. The broth, while good (perhaps the suggested lime would have made a difference), was too simple.
That having been said, I think it is a wonderful starting point, and I thank you for inspiring me to investigate baby limas. I really don’t like lima beans, but I discovered that the baby ones, while sharing the name, are not the same plant, and I probably would have not tried these wonderful beans without your instigation.


I was feeling a cold coming on, and thought this would hit the spot.
Very simple and pretty yummy. I made the Cornmeal Crunch to go with it. It was a delightfully monochromatic meal!


I *loved* this soup – in fact, some friends dropped by and we almost finished the entire pot! I added a bit more adobo sauce (more like 2T) and an extra 1/2 onion … perfect! Could not have asked for anything better on a cold & blustery November day.


Just made this for lunch today. We live in Merida Yucatan and have many different dried beans that are not so common in U.S. But, I used the large variety of Lima beans and followed the rest of the recipe exactly (except added a couple more chipotles – it’s a Yucatan thing). It was delicious and can’t wait again with some different varieties of beans. Heidi, we have a very similar palette. Thanks for sharing!


This is my first comment at 101 ever, but have made many of the recipes listed on this site! My regrets to not posting a comment sooner, but today I had to tell you that I rushed to make this soup this morning and it turned out super, super delicious and great for the brisk New York day we are having! It will most certainly be my lunch and our dinner, too! I added a bit more adobo sauce and another half an onion, but, POW! …what a great flavor!

Lauren from White Bike Ceramics

Made this last night, and it was so awesomely easy and delicious. I only altered it a little — added two cups of veg. broth to the water, because I’m always afraid of soup recipes that use water for a base. I’m sure it would have been fine to go with just water.
And at the end, I took the garlic out, mashed up two or three of the cloves (they get really soft), and added them back to the pot.
Also added about two tablespoons of extra v. olive oil.
It was SO GOOD, and subtle (subtle is not something I’m good at, so I’m glad I followed the recipe, for the most part).
It’s not too spicy at all, for those of you who fear the heat.


Very nice recipe. I did not like chipotles the first time I tried them, but it has been an acquired taste for me; now I love them.


Made the soup tonight. It was perfect. A lay-up for any guy,


I also made this and added some left over pumpkin pure from Halloween and it was amazing…very filling…nice soup


I just made this and it turned out great! Very simple and hearty. I had a bunch of fresh spinach so I added that to the soup in the end. Thanks for introducing me to baby limas!


I made this soup last night — changed it a little for us carnivores. Used chicken broth & made tiny little spicy sausage meatballs for garnish. Also garnished with chopped cilantro. All we can say is WOW!!!! This is a keeper — it’s soooo simple & sooooo good!! It gives back so much more than you put into it! Thank you again Heidi for another stellar recipe! This one is going into our regular rotation 🙂


Oh my! I just made this soup. I replaced the lima beans with small white beans (we don’t have limas in Germany). It was absolutely fantastic! Thank you!


I’ll never be able to find chipotles or chipotles in adobo or adobo here in Italy…


i love soup.. will try this.. thank you..


My favorite recipes have few ingredients, and I am always suspicious of silly recipes with 20+ ingredients.


Sounds wonderfully simple! Thank you for sharing this one. I love it when I come across a new recipe and already have everything on hand!!! Will try it soon!


oh yeah, this seems perfect for those with colds comin’ on… the simple broth, miso/chicken soup vibe… with some spice to clear out the sinuses. Thanks for the great ideas!


I’m going to make this soup – I have your cookbook, but didn’t think to make this one before your beautiful picture:). I also like that it seems so easy. How cool to just throw in the head of garlic versus peeling them all. Phew!


Looks delicious, I will try it this weekend. Thanks!

What a lovely soup this is! I think it would look gorgeous using those frozen baby limas, too. Great combination!


Oooooo. I think I’d make this with frozen baby lima’s – wouldn’t that look pretty? Thanks for the great recipe!


Oooooo. I think I’d make this with frozen baby lima’s – wouldn’t that look pretty? Thanks for the great recipe!


btw, i used 2 chipotles and prolly a tablespoon of the sauce cuz i like spice but it still needed more oomph. hence, the additional seasoning mentioned previously.


i just made the soup. didn’t take long at all. however sorry to say, it was completely bland. so i ended up adding a heaping tablespoon of better than bouillon chicken base to add more flavor. also added prolly a heaping teaspoon of beau monde seasoning. now its good. not truly vegetarian but delicious for sure.


Only you, Heidi, ONLY YOU could make me think I like lima beans. Unbelievable. The power of photography and prose never ceases to amaze me.


I have been reading this blog for months. I only now realized that it doesn’t include meat. . .


This recipe isn’t ignored in my house! It’s a biweekly standard, at least… I always add a bit of cumin, however, and some lime leaves when I don’t have lime. The whole-head-of-garlic trick really jives with my lots-of-garlic MO and peeling/chopping laziness. Thanks Heidi!


Lemme guess…by your description, it sounds like the two of you were standing in the La Palma Mexicatessen (24th & Florida) when discussing this recipe. Speaking of fresh, steaming tortillas—some crushed tortilla chips would make a great topping…

J. Brandon Loberg

Just made it today.
I added a little Cumin to get it off the ground.
Very good recipe..


Oh YUM! Chipotle and limas are two of my favorites. Ok, I’m a bit strange but baby limas evoke fond childhood food memories and 20+ years in San Diego cultivated my love for all chiles. This lovely soup is on my menu for next week.
Today I have a lovely golden carrot and cauliflower soup simmering away in the crockpot. I had a couple of ripe pears and a persimmon that joined the veggies along with a generous amount of ginger to make it sweet/spicy. It’ll be ready for my hand blender when I get home. Ahh, winter… /smile


Mmm, this sounds good — and since I’ve been looking for more bean soup options, it’s one I’m looking forward to trying.
I imagine the garlic would be all nice and soft after simmering in the soup pot for so long, and although it wouldn’t have the rich flavor of roasted garlic, I imagine it would still have some good garlic-y-ness, so I’m visualizing toasting up some nice robust bread, smearing it with the “extra” cloves of soft garlic, and serving alongside the soup… Ever given that at try?


This is a great recipe. I also have made this recipe with corn and chickpeas. I sautee the chickpeas until they are crunchy, then add them to the soup.

Atticus Basilhoff

Guilty as charged. I never noticed this in SNC! But it sounds simple and delicious just like all your recipes tend to be. Thanks!

Michelle @ What Does Your Body Good?

Lima beans?
Mexican ingredients?
I’m on the wrong side of the planet for this, but it looks gorgeous. I adore bean soups, especially this time of year. I make them in the crock pot. But this one is going to take some clever substitutions, some other kind of bean for baby limas – the Turkish shop is the best place for beans in my area. I do know where I can get dried chipotles, but could you tell me what the other ingredients are in there? I remember a spice mixture called something like adobe criollo or something like that from my youth in Miami. I wonder if the adobe sauce is similar, seems to me garlic and cumin were major ingredients.


I put them in glass (a recycled jar from capers or something), stick ’em in the fridge, and they last indefinitely.
Heidi–Chipotle! I love my peppers, winter, spring, fall, summer…they warm you up when it’s cold and make the air feel cooler when it’s 115 here in the desert. Great idea–can’t wait to try it.


I haven’t cooked with chipotle peppers before; do they stay whole in the soup? This looks perfect for dinner tonight, and I’ll definitely be adding the squeeze of lime!


This soup looks so soothing, and warm, and yummy!


what’s the best way to store leftover chipotle peppers and adobe sauce?


I already love it. I do a similar soup with grains, this would be a great alternative when I need more protien.


this one sounds lovely! just the thing for our cooler temps!


It’s a staple at my house ever since a friend lent me Super Natural Cooking. It couldn’t be simpler or more satisfying.


I already have most of the ingredients in my pantry to make this soup over the weekend. It was just what I needed on a tight budget. Thank you!

Contessa (foodie from phoenix)

This soup looks yummy, I’ve got chipotle in adobe sauce sitting in my freezer.
Could I substitue another bean for the baby lima beans? I don’t think I’ve seen baby lima beans in the stores down here, but I do have dried chick peas, think that would work?


i just made this recipe earlier in the week after looking at the cookbook. it was every bit as good as promised – couldn’t believe how much flavor the adobo sauce added! i did like adding lime juice at the end. i had it for lunch the next day with a little cous-cous mixed in.


This looks so easy, and sounds delish! Think I’ll try it over the weekend.


I’m addicted to making soups right now…and this recipe is going to the top of the list! Mmmmm. Chipotle has such a nice warming flavor.

Ellie from Kitchen Caravan

i just made this recipe earlier in the week after looking at the cookbook. it was every bit as good as promised – couldn’t believe how much flavor the adobo sauce added! i did like adding lime juice at the end. i had it for lunch the next day with a little cous-cous mixed in.


This sounds delicious…We’ll definitely have to try it. I might try it with a habanero pepper instead. I’ve been growing them at home and they seem to still be thriving despite the change in weather. Thanks!


I am also curious about what to do with the head of garlic


Chipotle broth sounds like a flavorful way to celebrate a cool day. Love the simplicity of the soup with the spicy addition!


Thanks for sharing! I love a great hearty soup recipe this time of year…


I love soup and Mexican food. So this sounds great. Definitely making this one.


I love soup and Mexican food. So this sounds great. Definitely making this one.


wow! i wish i were finding dirt clumps in my lima beans…it leads me to believe that my limas might be all sterilized and citified. anyway, this soup sounds incredible and simple. thanks!


This was the first recipe from Super Natural Cooking that I bought ingredients for… but then I never got around to cooking it. Now, many months later, I have a bag of baby lima beans sitting in my pantry still waiting to be made into this soup. Thanks for photo and the reminder.


When do you (or do you) remove the whole head of garlic from the pot?
HS: just before serving, or I’ll serve around it.


Heidi – do you have any suggestions for replacing the chipotle if it cannot be found? Could one replace it with another kind of pepper?


Looks delicious – how spicy would you say it is? (for those of us with more delicate tastebuds) 🙂

Tabitha (From Single to Married)

I too love chipotle, when i do have them around I find an excuse to put them in almost everything, now a reason to stock up again and try this soup…And I tend to get intimidated by beans because of all the pre-soaking involved…so this is a great recipe for me….


I’ve never been a lima bean fan, but everything I’ve made from here has been good. Maybe it’s time to give them another go?

Fit BOttomed Girls

Yummy! I love easy soup recipes — thanks for sharing this!


I’m a sucker for anything with chipotle! My fave is butternut squash soup infused with this smoky pepper.


au contraire! This was the first thing I made from Super Natural Cooking! I love lima beans and I love chipotle, so it was a natural first choice.

Jen (Modern Beet)

This looks so great and yummy! A new mexican dish, and a soup to boot. Two of my fav things. Thanks


Such a wonderful winter soup! I have been cooking soups trying to summon the cold weather to Arizona and this one will be next in line. I think my Mom would love it too. Thank you!


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