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Healthy Tip: Eating Those Wonderful Whites

White Beans Two years ago, I took my first trip to France. Landing in Paris on the morning of my birthday and driving to a Chateau in the Loire valley was the best birthday present I could think of! The hosts at the Chateau planned a special birthday dinner. I had no idea what to expect, but what I got was an unforgettable meal of roast duck, fresh vegetables and the creamiest, most delicious white beans I have ever tasted. Now, of all the beans there are in this world, white beans are my all-time favorites. I love them in soup with carrots, celery, onion, and thyme. I love them in hummus, I love them in salads, and I really, really love them in a winter-warming bowl of my own special version of Cassoulet. White beans come in several varieties — the most recognized are Navy beans, Cannellini beans, Great Northern beans, and Haricot beans. They range in color from very white to pale green and can be found in many popular dishes from around the world. They’re packed with plant protein and soluble fiber (the kind that helps keep cholesterol healthy). They contain iron, magnesium and folate. They are naturally low in sodium, low in fat and high in versatility. When paired with whole grains, they provide quality plant protein and all-around good nutrition, whether you’re a vegetarian or a meat eater. You can purchase white beans dried or canned. If you go with canned beans, be sure to look for low sodium varieties with no added chemicals, sugars or preservatives. Canned beans are great to keep on hand for quick meals and snacks, but if you have some time, cooking a batch of your own white beans can be very rewarding. Here’s a simple  recipe for “Learn To Cook: White Beans.” Want to enjoy some delicious white beans? Start here:
  • Add to sautéed carrots, zucchini or leafy greens, like in this Sautéed Greens with White Beans and Garlic.
  • Add them to cooked whole grains.
  • Make a salad with cut veggies, white beans and your favorite salad dressing.
  • Add white beans to soups; try them in place of noodles in chicken soup. Here’s a recipe for Vegetarian Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup.
  • Eat them plain with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt or tamari, pepper and a pinch of cayenne.
  • Toss white beans into hot cooked pasta or your favorite pasta sauce. Or, indulge yourself with this recipe for Penne with White Beans and Shaved Asiago.
  • Cassoulet
  • Try them in a stew. Here’s a recipe for Roasted Vegetable Stew with White Beans.
  • Cook white beans; stir in baby spinach leaves and sundried tomatoes while still hot!
  • Stir in to your favorite tuna salad.
  • If you’re in the mood for a hearty French stew, here’s a recipe for Cassoulet.
  • Make hummus with white beans. Delicious with whole grain pita bread, juicy red ripe tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, slivers of fresh basil and a sprinkling of feta cheese.
  • Serve them along with chicken like in this Chicken Toscana with White Beans.
  • Use them in bean dip recipes. Great with fresh herbs such as rosemary and thyme.
Baked BeansYou know, now that I think about it, our age-old American love affair with baked beans wouldn’t be what it is without the addition of white beans! Try this Classic Baked Beans for delicious proof. Got a favorite way to enjoy white beans? Let me know!

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Angie says …

I have a similar love for white beans, only mine was started in Tuscany. I have been making my own version ever since. Now, when I am short on time, I like to use the canned organic Whole Foods brand 365 cannellini beans - I drain about 1/2 the juice. I chop up some fresh garlic (I like a LOT of garlic) about 4 cloves, and toss them in some EVOO in a sautee pan until the aroma releases, then I add the beans and some fresh rosemary. I simmer them for a while and then leave them on low until whatever I am making with them is done - stirring frequently. When we sit to eat, they are soft and full of yummy flavor! My favorite side to the Garlic & Rosemary Panko breaded Chicken Cutlets in the market. :-) Delish!

Barbara says …

Alana, Thanks so much for the article and the recipes. After visiting Italy and seeing how they incorporate white beans into their meals, I started using various sauteed greens, white beans and garlic almost everyday for one of our meals, but I will also use any fresh vegetable in the fridge which happens to be on hand, and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup cottage cheese and Pecorino Ramono for added protein and flavor. I also make a minestrone soup with the white beans, zucchini, carrots, basil pesto... good for freezing leftovers. Yum... can't get enough of white beans! When can we purchase fresh Cannellini beans at Whole Foods?!

Steve Simonson says …

Can you taste the difference betweena high protein bean and a lower protein level bean?

Food Makes Fun Fuel says …

I made your kale and white bean soup a few months ago with home cooked beans and it was AMAZING! You guys rock!

Karey A McMahon says …

Thanks for all the recipe ideas! We are just starting our love affair with white beans. One of my favorite recipes is adapted from Lydia Bastianich of PBS fame. We sautee garlic and dried chili peppers in olive oil, then add 1/2 can of tomato paste, one large can of chopped tomatoes, and about 2 cups of Cannellini beans. Let the mix boil for a few minutes to reduce some of the liquid, then add in about 1 lb of previously chopped and boiled-to-tender chard. I often substitute some other bitter greens and mix them too. This is SOOO delicious, you have to try it.

Mary http://www.mygreendiet.com says …

I love all beans. I love that they are an inexpensive, healthy, and satisfying alternative to meat. I am excited to try these recipes.

derf says …

White beans are excellent. Try them this way: For each can used, add one peeled clove garlic, 1 handful flat leaf parsley, 1 tbsp good olive oil, pinch sea salt, ground black pepper to taste, juice of 1 lime, pinch onion salt. Combine all ingredients in food processor until smooth. Serve with toasted pita points or rice crackers. Yum. Also try adding 1 can white beans to the traditional Foul Moudamas (fava bean salad) recipe feature on http://www.wheretogoandwhattodo.blogspot.com. The white beans make the Foul wonderfully smooth and rich. Enjoy !

Margo says …

I'm glad for this post, and for the comments with other recipe ideas. I have not had a lot of experience with beans, as I am the only one in the house who will eat them. I need to see if they freeze well after cooking. If I could make a recipe and it would freeze well, I might just get brave and try some. Or maybe I should focus on finding bean recipes for one, that way I don't have to worry about leftovers no one will even consider.

Carolyn Wegner says …

I so appreciate the white bean recipes. I picked up one recipe not too long ago that calls for mashing the white beans, adding garlic, onion, mayonnaise and seasonings. Spread on bread, then top with avocado, tomato and grated Havarti cheese. I then spread coconut oil on both sides of bread and grilled. WOW!!! Since reading your bean recipes (I plan to put together the beans and pasta dish sometime soon), I am going to make the bean spread tomorrow!!! It's delicious. Sincerely . . . Carolyn Wegner

Danielle Omar says …

Thanks for the great post, Alana. I love white beans in almost anything and your recipes and ideas sound delicious.

Suzanne says …

My favorite white bean recipe is a bruchetta topping made of white beans, oven roasted garlic puree, a touch of olive oil and fresh rosemary...yum. I actually have white beans soaking right now with an onion studded with cloves and a fresh sprig of rosemary. :-D

L.C. says …

Alana, the recipes sound wonderful, thanks! Do you by any chance have a recipe in your files that is or is close to the creamy white beans that you had in France? I would love to try making them, as my husband loves beans made like that. If not, what kind of white beans would you recommend that I use? Thanks again!

Shelly says …

Alana, thanks for the great ideas for adding more beans to my diet. The sauteed beans with garlic and greens is delicious with pasta.

L.E. kansas city, missouri says …

Friday March 25th was my first visit to Whole Foods,WOW what pleasant experience. I bought a product called Giant White Beans in Vinaigrette they are wonderful, can anyone tell me what kind of beans those are so I can buy them and cook myself??? other ingredients where soybean oil, wine vinegar,onions,green peppers, red peppers, evoo,sea salt,parsley, black pepper. I would really like to know what kind of beans those are, they look a little like a butter bean, same shape, but much better!!

Bepkom says …

@L.E. Kansas City, Missouri: I'm nor quite sure since our stores create their own recipes, however it sounds like you were eating Gigande Beans. You should be able to find them in the bulk department of most of our stores.