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What Is Fasolada?

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  • Last Modified Date: 17 December 2014
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Fasolada is a traditional Greek soup that is primarily made with dried navy or haricot beans. The beans are soaked overnight then boiled the next day until soft. The other ingredients of the dish are celery, onion, grated tomato and olive oil which, when combined with the thick bean broth, makes a rich soup. The soup is often referred to as the national dish of Greece and is popular with many Greeks as it is tasty, nutritious and vegetarian. The typical Greek diet, and the Cretan diet in particular, incorporates many meatless dishes based on legumes, also called pulses, of which fasolada is central.

The ancient Greeks devoted a whole day to celebrating fasolada, so the dish is one with a long history in Greece but it is also popular in other countries like Cyprus, Turkey and Egypt. Full of nutrients like protein, iron, fiber, magnesium and potassium, it is an important part of the fasting that takes place during the year such as the period of Lent. There is no need for a specific reason to eat it, however, and many households consume it once every one or two weeks. Adherents to a typical Mediterranean diet are known to live longer and stay healthier primarily due to the wealth of legumes and vegetables and the rarity of meat dishes.

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Another advantage of fasolada is that it is a very cheap legume soup to make. Although it is an ideal accompaniment to sardines, it can also be kept simple and eaten with crusty bread, olives and feta cheese. Known as the meat of the poor, pulses have been the mainstay of the poverty-stricken for decades. By consuming large amounts of this kind of food, the poor in the Middle Ages lived longer and became stronger than many of their wealthy, meat-eating compatriots whose rich diets were often devoid of vegetables.

The beans which make up fasolada are rich in antioxidants which are important in the protection of cells against the effects of free radicals. Other types of Greek soup based on pulses include revithia, made with chick peas and fakes which is a lentil soup. Broad beans, or koukia, have also been popular with Greeks since ancient times. The emphasis on these kinds of foods is the reason why the traditional Cretan diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world and it is a rare household where fasolada is not a regular feature.

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anon260217
Post 10

Any good canned beans like Goya will do it, and I am Greek myself. Do try this and you will see for yourselves. Enjoy.

Perdido
Post 9

@wavy58 – You could use canned tomatoes, but these often contain salt or preservatives. This kind of cancels out the freshness and healthiness of the soup.

Grating a tomato is not as difficult as you would think. The trick is to leave the skin on. Cut it in half, but do not peel it.

The skin gives you something to grip as you rake the juicy flesh across the grater. When you have grated it down to the point where you can feel the metal through the skin, it is time to stop grating, because you are about to grate your fingers.

Fresh tomatoes taste so much better than canned ones, and they are free from artificial additives. True fasolada needs fresh produce.

wavy58
Post 8

This soup sounds delicious and hardy. I would love to make it. I only have one question: how do you grate a tomato?

Tomatoes are so juicy and squishy that I can't imagine they would stand up to a grater. It seems that you would injure yourself while trying to rake this moist fruit across the sharp holes!

Could I just use canned tomatoes instead? They are chopped up already, and it seems it would be a lot easier than trying to grate one.

Mykol
Post 7

@bagley79 - I agree with your comment about adding the fresh vegetables. When I make fasolada, I like to really load up on the vegetables.

This means I add a little bit more liquid to keep it in proportion with the beans and vegetables. I love to add carrots, zucchini, shredded cabbage and parsley to this soup. I also like to add a chilli pepper for a little bit of extra spice.

When I start to crave some fasolada soup, I make sure and let my beans soak overnight. This way they are ready to cook the next day. This smells wonderful as it simmers on the stove for a few hours.

It makes my mouth water just thinking about it!

bagley79
Post 6

My husbands family is originally from Greece so I have eaten fasolada many times. Since being introduced to many of their foods, I have grown to enjoy the many benefits of eating this way.

Even though I don't consider myself a vegetarian, I often enjoy meals that don't contain any meat. Everyone in my family looks forward to a meal of fasolada, crusty bread and a good salad.

Any time you cook with beans, you know you are making a meal that is inexpensive, yet hearty, filling and with a lot of fiber. Adding the fresh vegetables makes this soup even healthier.

sunshined
Post 5

I am a vegetarian and beans are a part of my regular diet. I have made several different kinds of bean soup, but have never tasted a traditional fasolada soup.

This sounds like a wonderful combination of beans and hearty vegetables. What I found so interesting about this article is that the poor who ate this on a consistent basis became stronger and lived longer than those who didn't.

I see this as strong evidence that eating a diet that includes a lot of meat is not good for our bodies in the long run.

I know many people do not agree with this thinking, but know that I feel much healthier since I found other ways to add protein to my diet.

I have no idea where I would find haricot beans, but have a supply of dried navy beans that I think would work just fine. I am going to make it a point to make myself a batch of this soup this week.

myharley
Post 4

When I make fasolada soup, I am not exactly following the correct Mediterranean diet. My husband likes to eat meat, so I add some pieces of ham to this soup.

I prefer to eat it without the meat, but it is easier for me to pick out the meat or eat a few bites of meat than to fix a completely separate soup.

When I have made a ham for our traditional holiday dinner, this is one way I like to use up the extra meat. The rest of the ingredients in this soup are very healthy and filling and it always hits the spot on a cold day.

burcidi
Post 3

Oh wow, fasolada soup is the same dish called "kuru fasulye" in Turkey. "Fasulye" means bean and "kuru" means dry. It's called that because dry beans are used to make it. I suppose the Greek name "fasolada" also comes from the word "fasulye." My family is Turkish and this is my mom's favorite dish. She makes it every two weeks if not more often.

The recipe is also exactly the same except that we don't add celery or carrots in it. And sometimes we make it non-vegetarian by adding diced beef inside or a spiced dry beef called "pastirma."

Kuru fasulye is also known as the poor man's meal in Turkey. But it's a favorite meal during winter for people of all incomes. The tradition is to break some onion and eat it on the side, along with fresh bread. Try dipping some fresh Italian-type bread in the stew, it's so delicious!

bear78
Post 2

@anamur-- Haricot beans are available in many grocery stores and Middle Eastern shops. You could use other kinds of beans but it just wouldn't be the same.

You shouldn't put the soup through a blender or anything like that. It's not in purified form like many lentil soups are. The beans should remain whole inside. That's why I actually prefer to call fasolada a Greek bean stew rather than a Greek bean soup because that can be confusing.

What I do is boil beans in water and then pour out the water. In a separate pan, I cook onion, celery and carrots in oil and then add tomato paste and any spices in it. Then I combine the two together, add some new water and let it boil for half an hour to an hour so that it becomes unified.

serenesurface
Post 1

I love Mediterranean and Greek cuisine. I'm a vegetarian and Greek recipes are fantastic because they are so tasty, filling and nutritious. I've been making lentil soup on a regular basis for the past couple of years. Fasolada sounds like a great new recipe to try.

Does anyone know where I can get a hold of haricot beans for this soup? Is it possible to replace it with another kind of bean if I'm unable to find it? And does anyone have a more detailed fasolada recipe?

I think I can put it together on my own but I'm wondering if I need to put the soup through a blender like I do with my lentil soup or if I need to strain out the skins of the beans. Any suggestions on this would be great!

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