In this cannellini bean recipe, Swiss chard, olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice turn a humble jar of beans into a bright, healthy meal.
I love the simplicity of this cannellini bean recipe. I started making this last spring when our trips to the grocery store were rare. You only need a handful of ingredients to make it – dried cannellini beans, herbs, lemon juice, and Swiss chard – and even those are flexible. If you don’t have cannellini beans, substitute them with other dry white beans, such as Great Northern or navy beans. If you don’t have chard, use kale or spinach. No shallot? Try an onion. No – well, you get the idea.
After a long simmer without intervention, these humble ingredients turn into a unique and warm meal. If you’ve never cooked with dry beans before, you’ll discover their magic as soon as you taste them. During cooking, they release some of their starches into the cooking water, creating a tasty broth. When eating out, be sure to serve this cannellini bean recipe with some nice crusty bread. You’ll want to drizzle every last drop of this delicious cooking liquid!
How to cook cannellini beans
Making this cannellini bean recipe takes time, but don’t let that scare you off. The process is almost entirely without intervention! Here is how it goes:
First, soak the beans. Heads up! You will need to do this step during the day, or at least 8 hours, before planning to cook the beans. Planning ahead can be a bit of a pain, but it’s worth it: soaking the beans shortens their cooking time and makes them easier to digest.
Place the beans in a large bowl and sift them, removing any stones or debris. Cover them with cold water and let them soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Then, drain and rinse the beans. Place them in a large saucepan and cover them with 2 inches of water.
Then cook! Boil the water and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the aromatics, salt and pepper. If you want, you can also add a piece of kombu to make the beans more digestible, but be careful to keep the cooking water at a gentle boil. If it boils, the kombu will make it bitter.
Continue to simmer for up to 2 more hours, until the beans are tender. I like to check them every 30 minutes. If the pot starts to dry out at any point, add more water to keep the beans submerged.
Finally, season to taste. When the cannellini beans are tender, remove the garlic, fennel leaves, and kombu from the pot. Peel the paper skins from the garlic and crush the cloves into a paste. Stir it in the saucepan, along with the olive oil, lemon juice and Swiss chard, and cook for a few more minutes, until the chard is just wilted. Adjust the lemon, salt and pepper to taste. That’s all!
Cannellini Bean Recipe Presentation Suggestions
When you’re ready to eat, pour the cannellini beans and their cooking liquid into bowls. Drizzle each with olive oil and sprinkle with chopped parsley and red pepper flakes. Pass the crusty bread and dig!
If you fancy a bigger meal, pair this cannellini bean recipe with a salad, like my kohlrabi salad, my pear salad, or my citrus salad. It would also be great with one of these simple vegetable side dishes:
No more hearty soups and stews
If you like this cannellini bean recipe, then try one of these hearty soups or stews:
Preparation time: ten minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Soaking time: 8 hours
This easy cannellini bean recipe is a bright and healthy all-in-one meal! Serve it with good crusty bread to sip the savory broth.
- 2 cups dried cannellini beans
- 2 shallots, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 garlic bulb, evenly cut top
- 1 fennel, white bulb, chopped, top and fronds, cut into large 4 inch pieces (top will be removed towards the end)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Piece of kombu (3 inches), rinsed, optional * (see note)
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, more to drizzle
- 2 soup spoons fresh lemon juice, more to taste
- 1 Swiss chard bunch, stems removed, leaves torn
- Crispbread, To serve
- 2 soup spoons chopped parsley
- Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
Place the beans in a large bowl. Sort them out and throw away any stones or debris. Cover with 2 to 3 inches of water and discard the floating beans. Soak at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse well.
Place the beans in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Skim any foam on top, then add the shallots, garlic, fennel, salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper and the kombu, if using. Continue to simmer until tender, up to 2 more hours, stirring occasionally. The timing will depend on the type and freshness of your beans (older beans will take longer than fresher beans). I usually check them every 30 minutes. Add more water to the pot, if needed, as it begins to evaporate.
When the beans are tender, remove the garlic, fennel stems and kombu. Discard the garlic leaves. Use the back of a knife to crush the soft garlic cloves into a paste, then return it to the pot. Stir in olive oil and lemon juice and season to taste. I like to add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt, more pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Add the chard leaves and cook until the chard is just wilted. Season to taste and serve in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil and crusty bread. Sprinkle with parsley.
* Kombu is optional, but it helps the beans become more digestible. Kombu can become bitter if boiled, so be sure to cook the beans over low heat after adding it.