Christmas Lima Bean and Celery Soup with Olives and Lemon Garnish

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Christmas Lima Bean Soup

When I was in Napa last month, I got to visit two stores that I had a hard time leaving. One was a kitchen store that has everything you could ever need and it’s so retro, they even write out your ticket the old fashioned way. It’s the kind of place that sells 10 different rolling pins. It’s not the fancy schmancy Williams Sonoma, that gets new items in every day. If you like to spend anytime in the kitchen, you need to block out a nice visit there between wine tastings. I just fell upon Shackford’s Ktichen Store while taking a walk and I had to stop myself from buying too much.

The second store not too far away I intentionally sought out. Rancho Gordo stocks over 35 types of heirloom beans, and the only way I was able to pull myself away was knowing I could order on-line once I got home and cooked everything I bought. One type of bean I’m ready to reorder is the Christmas Lima Bean. And, I’m going to order 3 bags. This bean is not only beautiful; it’s meaty like a chestnut.

The best news is that just as I was thinking about what to do with them, Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks posted this fabulous, hearty Christmas Lima Bean Stew. I do hope you go and visit her site to get her take on the recipe that she adapted from Sam and Sam’s Hassan’s Celery and White Bean Soup with Tomato and Caraway in the book, Moro East.

I love Heidi Swanson. She cooks vegetarian food and knows how to present it to a non-vegetarian in the most attractive way. Hearty. Rustic. Full of favor and dimensional textures. I have cooked more food from her blog than any other blogger because her instructions are well-written and approachable and the recipes are trust-worthy, clean, bright and hit the “foodie” senses.

I adapted the recipe to my own liking, using less olive oil, adding in some chili flakes to the olives and adding parsley and black pepper to the garnish. The original Moro East recipe used white beans, and Heidi talks about making the soup with a variety of beans. I think any meaty bean would work, but I highly recommend ordering the Christmas lima beans at least once for this recipe.

You won’t want to skimp on two heads of celery. It may seem like a lot, but the original recipe views this as a celery and bean soup and celery, usually in a supporting role in soup, shines in its starring role. Not only did I learn something about using celery, but I made my own celery salt. Who knew you could take the celery leaves and roast to make celery salt?

Start with Christmas Lima Beans. Yes, that is what they are called, probably because of the beautiful color and the chestnut-like texture.


Christmas Lima Bean Soup
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4 from 5 votes

Christmas Lima Bean and Celery Soup with Olives and Lemon Garnish

This is a hearty, scrumptious winter soup, made with Rancho Gordo heirloom Christmas Lima Beans, homemade celery salt, olives and lemon.
Servings: 6


  • Ingredients
  • 1 pounds of Christmas lima beans cooked with broth reserved (or 2 1/2 pounds cooked beans, see recipe for cooking below)
  • 1 cup olive oil can use more, original recipe uses 2 cups
  • 2 heads of celery this seems like a lot, but you need every bit of it, chopped into 3/4” pieces
  • 3 bunches spring onions chopped with green parts (reserve some for topping)
  • 8 large garlic cloves chopped use every bit of it, the garlic gets absorbed into the soup
  • Celery leaves for celery salt, recipe below in notes
  • 1 large can Italian plum tomatoes roughly chopped, with juice (use fresh tomatoes if they are ripe)
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 5 1/2 cups water/bean broth combination use up to 2 cups of bean broth
  • oil cured olives seeded, chopped, sprinkled with red chili flakes
  • Chopped parsley to garnish soup
  • Black pepper sea salt


  • Heat 2/3 cup olive oil in pan with celery in large pot on medium high heat. Cook for ten minutes. Add garlic, onion, caraway, some salt, cook for another ten minutes.
  • Add tomatoes, 2 teaspoons celery salt, cook a few minutes.
  • Add beans and broth. I used 2 cups of bean broth, 3 1/2 cups water. Add in a few tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Simmer for 45 minutes. At this time, I used an emulsion blender to blend just a small amount of soup mixture to make it thicker. You might like it more with just broth. It’s good both ways.
  • Serve with celery salt, black pepper, parsley, chopped olives and a squeeze of lemon.


Dry celery leaves thoroughly. Bake on baking sheet at 250 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Crumble and mix into equal parts flaky sea salt or use pestle mortar and crush with sea salt.
I have a new respect for celery. It held it’s own without the big onion and carrot as is so customary. It surprised me.
Rinse beans and soak overnight in enough water to cover the beans by two inches.
Using fresh water, again enough to cover and with two inches to spare, cook beans at a simmer until tender. You may have to add in some water while cooking.
Cool and reserve the broth. You want to have two cups of broth left over to use for the soup.
Do serve this soup with some crusty bread.

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  1. Thank you for the recipe, just a quick note. I have grown these beans, which are amazingly beautiful and bountiful, AND we harvested on Christmas day, which might be how they got their name 😋

  2. 5 stars
    I just made this recipe for the second time. It’s a very simple and easy to follow recipe. The first time I made it was with Christmas lima beans and it was amazing! The olive oil had me nervous, because it seemed like so much, but it provides so much depth of flavor (I was surprised.) This time I could only find baby limas (i miss California ) but I tried to make up lack of extra flavor by using my own canned Purple Cherokee tomatoes (with celery), added a little white pepper, and some of the olive liquid with the olives when serving (I do not have oil preserved, but used mostly kalamata and think they paired well.) The lemon juice squeeze is essential (I love lemony soups.)
    Thanks for this simple, lovely recipe.
    Ps. I freezer canned 2 quarts of this with my previous trial, and they kept for 2months just fine.

  3. 1 star
    I have to say this recipe came out bland and disappointing. I added things to spice them up, but I will not be making this recipe again.

4 from 5 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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