Hot & Sour Lima Bean Soup


This soup’s long success stems from this Japanese condiment—ume plum vinegar. Mated with hot sauce it yields a hot-salty-sour keystone balance.

This vegan soup uses only a few ingredients and only water as stock. Easy and inexpensive to make—this filling soup has been in my regular rotation for over 25 years. For under $3.00 you can fill 12 bowls of deliciousness!

Bonus: add additional ingredients to build into a main course soup. See below how to turn this into 5 different versions!

Hot & Sour Lima Bean Soup
Just onion, garlic, celery, basil, lima beans, ume, and hot sauce for this complex soup


  • onion- 2 cups, chopped, or leeks
  • celery- 2 cups, slant sliced
  • vegetable oil- 2 TB., neutral
  • baby lima beans- 1 LB.
  • water- 8 cups
  • garlic- 2 tsp, chopped
  • ume plum vinegar- 3-4 TBS.
  • hot sauce- 1 to 3 tsp, to taste
  • basil, fresh- 1/4 cup, chopped


  1. In a large pot sauté the onions in oil for a few minutes, then add the celery and continue for another few minutes
  2. Add the water, lima beans and bring to the boil. Cook until beans are very tender. If using a pressure cooker, cook for about 18-20 minutes. If using slow cooker cook for several hours. Stove top cooking figure on 45-60 minutes or more.
  3. When beans are tender, add the garlic, ume plum vinegar, and hot sauce. Cook a few more minutes and taste for seasoning.
  4. Serve with torn, fresh basil or fresh herb of choice


Mashed Potatoes: Don’t ask me why, but I mounded warmed mashed potatoes in a bowl and ladled in the soup. Wow!

Seafood: Off heat add in raw shrimp and cover for 3-5 minutes. Serve with a squeeze of lime juice

Upper Left: Poaching shrimp shells in water for stock; Right: Yuan enjoying our new concoction; Bottom: Served with a side of kimchi

Chicken & Rice: Add cooked chunk chicken and serve over rice

Sausage: Dice cooked sausage and heat with soup

Spinach & Eggs: Add in a good bunch of baby spinach and when tender, stir the hot soup and drizzle beaten egg and serve as Spinach Egg-Drop Soup

Kimchi & Lima Bean Soup [Below]: Wowzer! Before serving, stir in chopped kimchi for an umami punch. I had some leftover seared Ahi tuna, some avocado, noodles, and sesame seeds and it became a restaurant grade, main course soup.


Soup is served as a stew here along with Coconut Braised Collards

Planned-Over With Canned Salmon and Zucchini Sauté

Recipes using Ume Plum Vinegar:

Recipes by B. Hettig 

4 thoughts on “Hot & Sour Lima Bean Soup

  1. WOW!!! I too have been making this soup for over 30 years. I will confess it’s been a while so I decided to Google the recipe not really expecting to find one. Where did you learn this recipe? I learned it from Harriet McNair, Harriets kitchen, in Orlando. She was a macrobiotic cook and did cooking classes out of her home I was her assistant for a year. I went on to become a chef. But very curious about how you know the recipe and if we have a connection.


    1. WOW!! I too was a student and assistant to Harriet around 1989. Small world! I can’t recall the roots of the soup, and Harriet was never one for recipe attribution. I do know that ume plum vinegar is a key ingredient in so many of my recipes from those Macro days.


      1. That is so cool! I assisted her at about the same time so our paths probably crossed. Your last name seems familiar. Because of Harriet I got to meet ‘Annmarie Colburn and spent the weekend cooking with her. I was able to start working on private yachts as a chef before I really had any other culinary training but after a couple of years of doing that I did end up going to the Natural Gourmet Culinary Institute in Manhattan. I traveled a lot and lost touch with Harriet but through mutual friends heard of her death. Meanwhile about five years ago I was in Orlando visiting and went walking along Park Avenue and ran into Paul McNair! It was fun to catch up with him after all these years. My claim to fame at Harriets kitchen was once I somehow knocked over laundry detergent unknowingly and the whole container leaked in our hallway and soaked their rug. It was a big mess! I worked in culinary for about 20 years but now I just cook for friends and family. I live in Tampa but my family owns a business in Orlando so I go back-and-forth. The soup was delicious I remembered as I was preparing it that I like to add red peppers toward the end. Thanks so much for responding! Annalisa Smith


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