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Learn to Cook: White Beans

From navy, cannellini and lima beans to great Northerns and flageolets, adding white beans to your menu plan adds good nutrition, versatility and ease.

Cooking beans at home is renowned as a simple way to save money and provide the base for many a healthy meal. It requires little effort and they're easy to keep on hand in the fridge or freezer. Then you can quickly put together everything from basic beans and rice (seasoned differently in different cultures) to soups, salads, dips and spreads.

This basic recipe for White Beans makes about 7 cups, approximately 10 servings.

1 pound dried white beans (cannellini, navy or great northern)

1 yellow onion, quartered

2 dried bay leaves

Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Spread beans in a single layer on a large sheet tray; pick through to remove and discard any small stones or debris and then rinse well.

Soak the beans using one of these two methods: Traditional soaking method: In a large bowl, cover beans by 3 inches with cold water, cover and set aside at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.

Quick soaking method: In a large pot, cover beans by 3 inches with cold water, cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, remove pot from heat and set aside, covered, for 1 hour.

Drain soaked beans and transfer to a large pot. Cover by 2 inches with cold water, add onion and bay leaves and bring to a boil; skim off and discard any foam on the surface. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, gently stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Drain beans (if desired), discard onions and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.

Hungry for More?

Once you know how to cook white beans, you can give these dishes a try. If the recipe calls for canned beans, simply replace with your cooked beans.

Do you have a favorite dish that uses white beans? Let us hear about it!

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says …

@Jim If packaged well (read air tight) your cooked beans will keep for months in the freezer. In the fridge, your beans will keep for a few days. Of course you should always employ the smell test for anything you may feel uncomfortable with and when in doubt TOSS THEM OUT. It's never worth a tummy ache.

Susie Bee on Maui says …

Two favorites: Rosemary and white bean chicken http://eatlittleeatbig.blogspot.com/2010/12/recipe-for-rosemary-white-bean-chicken_22.html and azwain seasoned white beans http://eatlittleeatbig.blogspot.com/2011/06/recipe-for-azwain-seasoned-white-beans.html

Chef Sara Ray says …


says …

@Emily Beans are all pretty nutritious, so we don't single out any types over others. They are all low in fat and cholesterol and high in fiber, iron and folic acid. They're also delicious and an extremely economical and eco-friendly source of protein.

Emily says …

Great info! I like all beans. Does anyone know which bean is more nutritious... white, pinto, black, lima or kidney?

jim says …

You mention keeping them on hand in the fridge and freezer; any tips on how long they'll stay yummy/nutritious and not get fuzzy in the fridge? Or best ways to freeze/thaw? Great tips, love the blog! Thanks! j

kirsten says …

Megan, nope that was not it (it was overall white, not green so I don't think there were many, if any, greens in it) but that looks tasty and I've bookmarked the recipe for when my Swiss chard is ready to harvest. Thanks!

Christopher Anthony Roza says …

I am surprised this recipe only got three stars. I found it fantastic! I usually make pinto beans, or charro beans and switched to this because the flavors are much lighter and do not distract from my main dishes. I have never had a problem with crunchy beans as I always let my beans soak over night.

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