Christmas Lima Bean Stew Recipe

The soup I've cooked most this year. There is so much going on here despite a modest list of ingredients. Celery, crushed caraway, and garlic are cooked together alongside big hearty beans and chopped tomatoes in what becomes an olive-oil dappled broth. You serve each bowl with chopped oily, black olives and fresh lemon wedges. This is a version made with Christmas Lima beans, but you can substitute cannellini or giant corona beans.

Christmas Lima Bean Stew

A number of you emailed asking about the soup pictured at the top the recent favorites list. This one. It was at the top of my list for a reason. If last year was the year of lentil soups, this year has been all about one rustic bean and celery soup. I make it a lot. I make it for us to eat. I made it when our neighborhood wine club came over. And I made it to share at soup night over at my friend Holly's. The original recipe is Hassan's Celery and White Bean Soup with Tomato and Caraway, from Moro East. It's a soup shared in the book by Sam & Sam's allotment neighbor - celery, caraway, and garlic are cooked together alongside big hearty beans and chopped tomatoes in what becomes an olive-oil dappled broth. You serve each bowl with chopped black olives and fresh lemon wedges. I thought I'd share a holiday version of the stew made with Christmas Lima beans.

Christmas Lima Bean Stew Recipe

As is prone to happen, the first few times I made Hassan's stew, I followed the recipe verbatim. Then I started making tweaks. In the beginning, I would blanched and seed the tomatoes, I would track down spring onions. I would use the exact beans called for. And I was smitten. The soup is awesome. But eventually the onions disappeared from the market, and then the best tomatoes did too. And I still wanted to make the soup. And I wanted it to be just as good.

There were also those nights when I wanted to make the soup, but I was short on time. I wondered, could I shave some time off the prep by using good canned tomatoes? What about beans? I have some giant corona beans already cooked, those might be nice. And on and'll see all my tweaks, notes, and considerations in the recipe below. I also made this a larger pot of soup. Most of you know by now, if I'm going to make soup, I'm going to make a good-sized pot of it. Plenty for leftovers.

Christmas Lima Bean Stew Recipe

If you ignore everything else I write about today, pay attention to this. You can't skip out on the toppings. Please, just trust me on this one. The chopped black olives and fresh lemon wedges for squeezing are key. Collectively they add dimension, surprise bursts of flavor and nuance you don't get otherwise. And a chunk of toasted, crusty artisan bread is the perfect sidekick.

Lastly, the recipe has you make your own celery salt. It couldn't be easier, and any leftover sea salt is great sprinkled on any number of things - eggs, potatoes, soups, you name it. The trick is finding celery with lots of leaves still intact. I stumbled on a bunch of heirloom celery this time around with endless leaves, but this is atypical. It seems like grocers "top off" most celery leaves. That said, I can always find celery with a few leaves intact, and there are generally more leaves hiding in the heart of the celery - so I use those to make the celery salt. Works just fine.

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Christmas Lima Bean Stew

I call for Christmas Lima beans here, but alternately, you can use white cannellini or giant corona beans. I've made this soup with all of the above at one point or another. You can cook the beans a day or two ahead if you want to get a jump start.. Remember to reserve some bean cooking liquid! It's not the end of the world if you forget. But it adds nice body flavor to broth. Don't skimp out on the olive oil here, it is important for the texture and body of the broth. And the soup actually freezes well, I wasn't sure if it would...but I did a de-thaw the other night, no problem!

1 pound / 450g dried Christmas Lima beans
OR equivalent cooked beans ~ 2.5 pounds / 1.2 kg*

16 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 large heads of celery, preferably with leaves, trimmed then sliced into 2 cm / 3/4-inch chunks

3 bunches of scallions, green parts included
OR if spring onions are in season, I use about 12 of those, either way slice into 1/3-inch / 1cm rounds

8 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
scant 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, lightly crushed
fine grain sea salt

1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, drained, rinsed, cored and roughly chopped

2 - 4 teaspoons celery salt **
5 1/2 cups water or broth -or combination)
oily black olives, seeded and roughly chopped
1 lemon, cut into 1/8ths

If you haven't already cooked the beans, do so.*

Heat 12 tablespoons / scant 2/3 cup of the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the celery, and stir until coated with olive oil. Cook for ten minutes, stirring often. Add 2/3 of the scallions, the garlic, caraway, and a couple big pinches of salt. Cook for another 10 - 15 minutes, or until everything softens and begins to caramelize a bit.

Add the tomatoes and 2 teaspoons of the celery salt and cook for another few minutes.
Add the beans along with 5 1/2 cups liquid (I typically do 2 cups bean liquid/broth + 3 1/2 cups water), and remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil.

Bring to a simmer, taste, and season with more salt or celery salt if needed. Let sit for a couple minutes and serve each bowl topped with a spoonful of chopped olives and a squeeze of lemon. You might also like to serve the soup sprinkled with the remaining scallions/spring onions.

Serves 8 - 10.

Inspired and adapted from Hassan's Celery and White Bean Soup with Tomato and Caraway in Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark.

*To prepare dried beans.Drain and rinse beans after an overnight soak covered with water. Drain and place the beans in a large saucepan and cover with an inch or two of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the beans are cooked through and tender. This can take anywhere from an hour to two hours (potentially more) depending on your beans, but do your best to avoid overcooking. Remove from heat, salt the beans (still in bean broth) - enough that the bean liquid is tasty. Let the beans sit like this for ten minutes or so before draining - reserving a couple cups of the bean broth. Set the beans aside. At this point you can use the beans, refrigerate for later use, or bag and freeze.

**To make celery salt: Pick leaves from celery stalks. Make sure they're as dry as possible if you've recently washed them. If they're damp, they'll steam rather than crisp. Bake on a baking sheet in a 250F / 120C degree oven for 15 -25 minutes. Toss once or twice along the way, until dried out. Alternately, if I don't feel like heating up the oven, I toast them in a large skillet - over low heat, tossing regularly, for 30 minutes or so, while I'm prepping the other ingredients. Either way. Crumble the dried celery leaves with equal parts flaky salt.

Prep time: 25 minutes - Cook time: 25 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Thank you thank you! I've had dried lima beans in my cupboard for almost a year now and have been stumped on how to use them. I wonder if sprouting them first would give a little nutritional boost? This sounds delicious, I'm going to try it soon!


this is such a beautiful, hearty dish! perfect for this time of year :)


This stew looks perfect! I love the ingredients you used!


This sounds most delicious. I loved Moro's first cookbook and make their paella regularly. They are wonderfully nuanced dishes, with real attentiont to balance of flavour and textures. I shall certainly make this over the Christmas period. I made your green soup with ginger the other night and it went down a storm.


Oh what a perfect winter stew!

Simply Life

Whenever you post something, I know it is going to be what I'll make for dinner today or tomorrow. You recipes are huge favourites around here. For some weird reason I don't really like celery apart from when it is cooked in soups, and I already know we are going to love this one. I love all soups that need lemon on top. Thanks!


I am sooooooo making this tomorrow!

Julie Anne Rhodes

I love the homemade celery salt idea! That's something I never bother buying, so I'm thrilled that I can make it at home that easily! I want that toast in the photo!!


Lovely recipe Heidi. I'm impressed that it freezes well - I thought it might not be so freezer friendly with all of those big pieces of celery. I'll look forward to trying this with the olives and lemon wedges. Toppings can really make a soup - my favourite soup recipe is topped with little tiny cubes of golden halloumi & a sprinkle of seeds (and it's just another soup without these little tweaks!)


I've never heard of Christmas lima beans before. They look really beautiful in your soup. The toppings sound great too! Who would have thought you can make your own celery salt!


Love the celery salt recipe. I don't think I have ever tried Christmas lima beans. I am going to keep my eye out for them.

Laura @ SweetSavoryPlanet

Fiance HATES olives... Anything else you'd recommend?


Christmas soup? A great alternative to Christmas cookies, which is usually what I eat when feeling festive.

Satpreet Kahlon

Oh my gosh this looks so comforting and perfect for the holidays! I can't wait to make this. Thank you for sharing such wonderful recipes. I love recipes with short ingredient lists too!

Angela (Oh She Glows)

Heidi, I've been making so much lentil soup lately but it's time for a change. This lima soup sounds very flavorful and worth a try.

Nisrine | Dinners & Dreams

Heidi, I've been making so much lentil soup lately but it's time for a change. This lima soup sounds very flavorful and worth a try.

Nisrine | Dinners & Dreams

This sounds awesome! However, of all the things in the world I love, I will admit I am not the biggest lima bean fan. Heidi, do you have any suggestions as to a tasty substitute? Last grad final of the term tomorrow... looks like another soup recipe and some Christmas cookies are in order!


I have absolutely fallen in love with the Christmas limas from Rancho Gordo! And you're the one that got me into them! Thanks so much :)


this makes me lonesome for my grandma! Being of Pennsylvania Dutch background lima beans and celery are two big staples in her cooking! I'm intrigued by the two of them in a stew, and this is certainly going to be made sometime this winter...thank you! love, cathy b. @ brightbakes

Cathy B. @ Bright Bakes

This would surely warm me up tonight!

Jessica @ How Sweet

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