Soup Of Theseus: a Hearty Greek White Bean Delicacy

soup of theseus
soup of theseus

greek white bean soup

When it comes to legumes, there is one that stands out as the “National Food” in Greece: white beans. Not only are they affordable, filling, and super comforting, but they also played a crucial role in saving thousands from starvation during challenging historic periods. Greek white bean soup, known as fasolada, fasoulada, fassoulatha, or fasolia, is a hearty and rich stew that embodies the essence of Greek cuisine.

The Myth

According to Greek mythology, the legendary King of Athens, Theseus, offered a white bean soup to the Greek god Apollo as a thank you for slaying the Minotaur. Stranded on the sacred island of Apollo, Delos, Theseus had to improvise and create a nourishing dish using the seeds of a plant he found on the island. And thus, the first white bean soup was born.

greek white bean soup

Throughout history, white beans and other legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and black-eyed peas have been essential in Greek diets, sustaining families through difficult times. Even during World War II, when food was scarce, fasolada served as a valuable source of protein. Today, these humble beans have gained the respect they deserve after the economic crisis, becoming a beloved staple in Greek cuisine.

The Recipe

Fasolada is a simple yet flavorful dish made with white beans, onions, celery, and carrots. There are two variations: the white version with a hint of lemon and the red version with tomato paste or passata. Both recipes are equally delicious and easy to cook, making it a last-minute decision whether to prepare the soup as a white or red version.

mediterranean white bean soup

To achieve the best flavor and texture, it is recommended to use good quality dried beans instead of canned ones. Although canned beans offer convenience, the flavor and texture of the soup are significantly enhanced when using dried beans. Soaking the beans for 8-12 hours in water helps to improve digestibility and nutritional benefits. Boiling them for a few minutes before cooking further enhances their flavor.

Cooking White Beans

To preserve the creamy texture and flavor of the white bean soup, it is best to gently simmer the beans and vegetables. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking, and add hot water if needed. It is important to add salt and acidic ingredients like lemon or tomato when the beans are fully cooked to avoid prolonging the cooking time.

mediterranean white bean soup

Tips for the Creamiest White Bean Soup

For an extra creamy texture, mash a cup of the cooked white bean soup using a fork and add it back into the pot. This simple step enhances the creaminess without the need for a food processor. If you prefer a thicker soup, you can add a medium or large potato, but be cautious as adding potatoes may release excess starch, resulting in a gummy texture.

White with Lemon or Red with Tomato?

Both versions of the white bean soup are equally delicious, offering distinct flavors. If you’re torn between a lemony soup and a tomato-based one, why not have both? Adding tomato paste or passata to the pot allows you to satisfy different taste preferences without compromising the overall flavor. Traditionally, the white version is served with a squeeze of lemon juice just before enjoying it.

greek white bean soup

Ready! Now, What?

While it may be challenging to find Greek white bean soup in urban restaurants, it is a staple in every Greek home that embraces Mediterranean eating patterns. Enjoy this luscious soup with crusty whole-wheat bread, whole wheat pitas, fermented vegetables, and Kalamata olives. Pair it with an aromatic red wine like Xinomavro to complete the culinary experience.

FAQs

Q: Can I use canned beans instead of dried beans?

A: While canned beans offer convenience, dried beans provide better flavor and texture. Soaking and cooking dried beans enhances their taste and allows them to absorb the flavors of the soup.

Q: Are there any alternatives to white beans for this soup?

A: Traditionally, cannellini or navy beans are used in Greek white bean soup. However, you can try using other medium-sized dried white beans. Ensure they are of good quality and as fresh as possible for optimal results.


With its rich history, heartwarming flavors, and versatility, Greek white bean soup is a true culinary marvel. Whether you choose the white version with a lemony twist or the red version with tomato, this dish is a testament to the power of simplicity and the joy of Greek cuisine.

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