Hungarian Bean Soup Recipe - Bab Leves

Homemade Bean Soup
Pannonia / Getty Images
    4 hrs

This recipe for Hungarian bean soup or bab leves (bawb LEH-vesh), where leves is the generic word for soup, can be made with a meaty ham bone or ham hock. The real trick to the flavor is to use the defatted drippings from a baked ham. If you have none, ham base or chicken stock are good substitutes, just be careful with adding any additional salt. This recipe can easily be doubled.

What You'll Need

  • 1/2 pound dried navy beans
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large peeled and sliced carrot
  • 1 medium finely chopped onion
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 meaty ham bone or smoked ham hock
  • 4 cups smoked ham stock or ham base or chicken stock or water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon mild or hot Hungarian paprika
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar

How to Make It

  1. Place beans in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Boil for 5 minutes, cover, turn off heat but leave on the burner and let soak 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans and place in large saucepan (but not something as large as a stockpot).
  2. Add pepper, carrot, onion, garlic, bay leaf and ham. Add ham stock plus enough water to cover 2 inches above the beans. The ham bone may be sticking above the water a little. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until beans are tender, 1 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally and adding additional water to make sure beans are covered with liquid. Remove meat and reserve.
  1. Add stock plus enough water to cover 2" above the beans and meat; bring to a simmer. 5Simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender (2 1/2 - 3 hours), adding water as needed to keep the beans covered. Remove bay leaf and discard, and remove meat to a separate plate.
  2. In a small skillet, saute 2 tablespoons chopped onion in butter until they are translucent. Add paprika and flour, stirring and cooking for 2 minutes. Mix in the parsley. Add several ladles of hot soup liquid to the roux and stir until smooth. Pour the roux back into the soup, bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently. If soup is too thick, thin with additional water. If soup is too thin for your taste, continue to simmer until of the right consistency.
  3. At this point, the soup can be chilled overnight to allow it to be defatted and the sour cream and vinegar can be added to the cold soup and reheated gently when serving. Otherwise, temper the sour cream with a few ladles of hot soup. Return the tempered sour cream to the soup and mix thoroughly. Add the vinegar and mix again. Add the reserved ham meat, which has been cut into bite-size pieces. Serve hot with bread.