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From the AICR Test Kitchen
Week of February 15, 2010
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Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

White Bean Soup with Spinach, Leeks and Couscous

from the
American Institute for Cancer Research

This healthy soup is delectable, satisfying and, if you use vegetable broth in lieu of chicken, ideal for vegetarians. It’s the perfect combination of fiber-rich beans, spinach and whole-wheat couscous complemented by garlic, leeks and mint.

Spanish explorers introduced cannellini beans to Europe in the 15th century, and from Europe these white beans found their way to Africa and Asia. This bean variety originated in Peru, but today cannellini are quite popular in the Tuscany region in Italy. An excellent source of iron, magnesium and folate, they provide the underlying consistency for this recipe.

The leeks’ subtle and mellow flavor enhances the soup and they are a good source of vitamin C and folate. The garlic, cumin, mint and lemon combination produces a slightly pungent and somewhat earthy taste.

The couscous, a coarsely ground semolina pasta similar to rice in shape and texture, thickens the consistency of the soup into a hearty mixture. The carrots and spinach add a splash of color and nutritional value.

The end result is a pleasing and easy to prepare soup that provides warmth and energy to power you through a chilly day.

Vegetable Rice

White Bean Soup with Spinach, Leeks and Couscous

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 4 leeks, bulb only, chopped (rinsed very well)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 1/2 tsp. dried mint leaves
  • 2-3 tsp. ground cumin
  • 4 (16 oz.) cans fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 (16 oz.) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat couscous
  • 2 cups packed fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

In large soup pot heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks, garlic and carrots and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add dried mint and cumin. Stir until fragrant about 2 more minutes.

Stir in chicken broth, beans and bay leaves. Bring to boil; reduce heat to low.

Stir in couscous. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in spinach; add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

Remove bay leaf. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings

Per serving: 170 calories, 2.5 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 30 g carbohydrate,
8 g protein, 7 g dietary fiber, 520 mg sodium.


The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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