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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I want to make the celery salt! Getting leaves is not a problem here, but I need to use course sea salt (or ground up salt) because I live in México and can't get flake salt. Do you think it would work? The soup sounds wonderful and I am keeping the recipe. Right now, it's turkey soup. HS: You can experiment with different salts, but I like making it with the flaked salt best, common salt is too fine. If you bash up certain coarse salts with a mortar/pestle, that works nicely too.


Really like this...i love cooking and i think on this Christmas definitely i will cook this recipe for my family...This would surely warm me up on this winter season


Was thinking about doing this with lovage instead of looking about for celery with leaves (cause I have lovage in my garden anyway...) just a suggestion. Also, random note, I made the sweet potato candied ginger muffins from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone the other day and it seemed like a good recipe that was ripe for you to mess with. Dunno why, it just seemed up your alley, and ripe for a slightly healthier version. The molasses flavor in it was divine.


Happy Holidays Heidi! I get my beans from Rancho Gordo, and my boyfriend's aunt is a friend of Steve. However, I've been reading 101cookbooks longer than I've know about RG. Christmas Limas are one of my favorite beans. I make a yummy Red Cabbage Butternut Squash soup with these guys :) I love this post ! HS: I miss Steve now that he doesn't make it into San Francisco quite as often. I'm going to add a link to your soup here, thanks for the added inspiration!

Jenné @ Sweet Potato Soul

Those beans look beautiful! I have never seen or heard of them before. Have a great christmas :-) HS: You too Emm!


I can't wait to experiment with celery salt!


I love soup. I will add this to my "gotta make this sometime" list. I may just have to add a dash of cayenne pepper, as the Mister and I like to put it in almost anything.


What a beautiful soup. I have to be honest though. I couldn't take my eyes off that bread! ;)


Oh Heidi, I hate having to evolve. If I start liking Lima beans what will I have to complain about to my Southern friends. You have not led me astray so far, so I say trust you on this one and give it a try. Also, thanks for the link to Rancho Gordo -- love it!

Tom @ Tall Clover

This is exactly what I needed. And honestly, if I do nothing else but make that celery salt, I think I will be eternally grateful. Thanks!

Amanda at Enchanted Fig

Seriously, this looks delicious. I am running home to make this tnitey! Thanks Heidi. Happy Holidays!!

The Healthy Apple

Heidi, your recipes are fanTAStic! I will make this recipe and probably add potatoes to it. My favorite recipe of yours to date is the Mole-- You rock!


OK need a pressure cooker! I am from India and they are very very common back home. It will cut the cooking time of your beans wayyyy down. 30 minutes or under. I use mine everyday for rice, lentils, beans and even meats. It will change you life! Trust me!


I love when celery is really featured. It's just the cleanest taste. Too often it is just a companion to carrots and onions in mirepoix. So thank you for the soup and the celery salt recipes!


I followed your like for Christmas Lima Beans, but wanted to do a little more research to see their origins. I found this information on wikipedia Christmas lima is a larger heirloom variety that is plumper, with a maroon batik-like pattern on a creamy background. It is smooth, creamy, savoury, and slightly starchy with a distinctive taste. It grows as a climbing vine or a bush variety. The Christmas is prized for its chestnut-like flavour and its appearance. --Allison @

Allison @

I love Rancho Gordo. Those beans are my favorite


I didn't even know there was such a thing as Christmas lima beans. You are such a smarty! Thanks for sharing. Looks delicious.

Jen @ keepitsimplefoods

this sounds wonderful. i have a big bag of dried fava beans, perhaps i could try it with those?

laura @ alittlebarefoot

I've noticed that about celery - when I was a kid it always came with the leaves but now they're always chopped off. What's up with that? Either way I've never even heard of making celery salt but it doesn't look too hard!

Michelle @ Find Your Balance

Thank you! This is a lovely recipe. I am heading back to Canada for Christmas, and will be all to happy to whip this soup up for everyone. I love the table that you're shooting on. It's stunning. I often dream of a beautiful long table with that finish. Seating for 10! :) Anyways, happy holidays from Spain to you. Katharine gastronomy and everyday life in Spain

Katharine @

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