Bruine Bonen Soep, a childhood friend

Don’t ask me how to pronounce this in Dutch! As a child, my brother and I often jokingly pronounced bruine bonen as “brain and bone” soup. (No, really, it kind of sounds like that.)

Directly taken from Wikipedia, “…bruine bonen soep is a kidney beans soup commonly found in the Netherlands and Eastern Indonesia… The soup is made from kidney beans with vegetables served in broth seasoned with garlic, pepper and other spices.” In simple terms, bruine bonen aka “brown beans” is from the cuisine of Holland and was generally adopted by Indonesia when the former had colonial control during the 1800-1900’s.
It’s a very simple bean soup that is straightforward and hearty. Traditionally made with kidney beans, I grew up with this soup made instead with pinto beans during the latter part of my youth. Even though it’s not supposed to be a vegetarian or vegan soup since it’s usually made with ham hock or similar flavoring the broth, I’ve never found it wanting when made plant-based. Also, the secret spice that makes this soup taste unique? Nutmeg. (And even cloves for some.)

Before you make a face, remember: there are two entire countries and then some that eat this soup and really like it so you’ve gotta believe me that it’s tasty. You could almost say that bruine bonen soup is to Dutch people like chicken noodle soup is to an American.

You know how when you’re hungry and there are certain simple foods that don’t sound super appealing until you eat them and then you think, gosh, that was good after all. Well, bruine bonen is one of those foods. It’s not glamorous, but when served on rice with sambal or another kind of Asian hot sauce like Sriracha, it is quite satisfying.

Bruine Bonen Soep (Dutch brown bean soup), vegan

Easily 6 to 8+ servings over rice


  • 2 cups dried pinto or kidney beans (can sub with canned, see notes)
  • 5-6 cups water or unsalted vegetable broth
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 medium to large onion, chopped
  • 2-3 celery stalks
  • 1 carrot, cubed or diced (optional)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup peas, frozen (optional)
  • 2 medium potatoes (optional)
  • 1 leek stem or 4-5 green onions, chopped; some green portions set aside for garnish (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar, to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


Put the dried beans, water, and bay leaves in an Instant Pot and set to Manual for 35 minutes. While waiting, water sauté the onion, celery, and carrot together with little splashes of water (if no added oil cooking) till the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook another minute, then add the tomato paste, coat all the vegetables, then turn the heat off and let it rest till the Instant Pot is done cooking the beans.

When the Instant Pot’s timer goes off, let out with pressure with quick release. (Careful with the steam!) Add in the sautéed vegetables, peas, potatoes, leeks (if using), and all the seasonings along with any broth powder (if applicable) at this time. Close the Instant Pot and set to Manual again for 7 minutes. When the timer goes off, carefully open and top with remaining leeks/green onions for garnish. Season to taste.

Serve on warm jasmine rice with sambal or Sriracha if you like it spicy!

Recipe Notes:

  • You can definitely substitute dried beans for canned, but you’ll have to put them in closer to the end, maybe 10-15 min before it’s all done. I’ve only made this in an Instant Pot but it’s easily tweaked for stove top or crockpot cooking.
  • Usually beans triple in size from dried to cooked. I originally scribbled down 6 cups of water in my notes for use in an Instant Pot but I’m pretty sure it had more liquid than I wanted, hence the “5-6 cups.” If you make this on the stove top or in a crockpot, definitely start with 6 cups and adjust as necessary.
  • If you’re using water, you’ll have to increase the salt at the end (optional). CAUTION: cooking dried pinto beans with salt will have a relatively tough skin and/or take much longer to cook — only salt at the end! (Fun fact: apparently this isn’t the case for black beans.) If you use mushroom seasoning like me (you can find this at most Asian supermarkets), there is salt in it so you’ll definitely want to wait till after the beans are cooked before adding it. What if your beans are still hard and/or have tough skins? Just cook it longer.
  • As much as I love my veggies, I have something against cooked carrots and can only stand eating them when diced small. You’re welcome to cut them however you want, whether in large chunks, sticks, julienne or beyond.
  • You can see from my photos that I didn’t use carrots or peas. I actually meant to (!) but didn’t have the former and completely forgot to put in the latter. Oops.
  • If you want to make this on the stovetop or in a crock pot, you basically do the same order of cooking: cook dry beans on the stove/in crockpot, separately sautee the vegetables then them and seasoning add to the cooked beans, let simmer longer, and you’re done!