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Appalachian Soupbeans

Feeds a family of four for about 2 days

Author Kelli Heywood


  • pinto beans 2 cups dry
  • bacon fat and/or salt pork fatback
  • onion
  • water
  • salt and pepper


  1. To begin, soak 2 cups of dry beans in enough water to cover them over night or preferably 24 hours. My grandmothers called this “getting the gas out”. They were exactly right. Soaking makes the beans easier to digest and causes less bloating and gas. I like to soak my beans long enough so that they sprout. I have noticed this takes the unwanted side effects of beans completely away and cuts down on cooking time. On the day of cooking, put the beans in a large stock pot. Cover the beans with water, then add as much water as you want for soup. Cut up some onion and add to the pot. Add salt and pepper to your preference (I use unrefined sea salt for valuable nutrients.) Then, the most important ingredient is added – fatback and/or bacon fat. Traditionally, this was a piece of fatty pork cured in salt. If that wasn’t available grease from the morning breakfast would suffice. Most often bacon grease is what I have on hand and I use it generously. Bring the ingredients to a boil and then, turn down the heat to a low-medium. Cook the beans until they are a light reddish-brown color and soft. This will take 2-4 hours.

Recipe Notes

Soupbeans and cornbread is an Appalachian staple.  I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t in my diet.  It was hard for me to understand how so many people I encountered from outside of this area didn’t have a clue as to what it is.  

Soupbeans and cornbread was a meal that was born of necessity.  With hard times came, the need for cheap and nutritious meals.  Beans and corn meal were things that most people kept on hand or were easily acquired.  Mountain cooks worked their magic and made this a meal that is not only extremely cheap, but absolutely delicious.  It is my favorite Appalachian meal, and we certainly enjoyed it last night.  Read more about Kelli's life in Appalachia on her blog A Mountain Mama – East Kentucky Gal