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Widen Your World With White Beans

By Alana Sugar, October 10, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar
I remember the first time I ate authentic French food. I ordered a cassoulet and savored every bite of those flavorful little white beans, dozens of them, all perfectly nestled among chicken, sausages, vegetables, wine, tomatoes and herbs. If reincarnation was real, I wanted to come back French! For this lifetime, though, I can at least cook all kinds of white beans myself, like navy beans, Cannellini beans (a relative of the kidney bean), lima beans, Great Northern beans and, of course, flageolets, the star of cassoulets. Adding white beans to your menu plan adds good nutrition, versatility and ease. While cooking your own beans is always a noble option, for many people, time is of the essence! There are plenty of varieties of canned white beans available that don’t contain added preservatives and chemicals, Many are low in sodium and you’ll find organic varieties too. While popular in soups, white beans are just as delicious in spreads, dips, chili dishes, pasta and baked beans. Here are some fun ideas to widen your world with white beans:
  • Mash white beans with herbs, seasonings, tahini or a little olive oil and use as a sandwich spread or dip.
  • Make white bean chili. This recipe for White Turkey Chili is just what I mean.  
  • Add white beans to vegetable or meat soups, or a favorite stew such as this Cassoulet-Style French Bean Stew.
  • Eat them hot with your favorite seasonings, either on their own or as a side dish to grilled or roasted meats or your favorite vegetarian protein. Be sure to add plenty of fresh green veggies.
  • Try our recipe for Classic Baked Beans.
  • Toss white beans into hot cooked pasta. Great with sun-dried tomatoes, arugula or baby spinach, and sliced black olives! Try this idea for Whole Wheat Pasta with Mushrooms, White Beans and Arugula, and this idea for Greens, Mushroom and White Bean Ragoût.
  • Next time you make pizza, consider a mixture of onions, peppers, olives, mushrooms and white beans as a topping. Of course, cheese is optional. This recipe for White Bean and Gorgonzola Topping would be great on pizza, perfect for bread or chips, or fabulous over ravioli or other pasta. 
  • Making red sauce for pasta or other Italian dish? Consider adding white beans.
  • Try a white bean salad tossed with your favorite vinaigrette, or make a green salad and throw on a handful of cooked white beans. If you love Caesar salad, you may enjoy white beans along with or in place of croutons for a delicious treat. This White Bean Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Dressing is great  and here’s a delicious idea for White Bean and Spinach Salad
  • Add white beans to your tuna salad. Same for chicken salad, egg salad, and shrimp salad. Here’s a recipe for Tuna and White Bean Salad that uses baby lima beans, and this Tuna and Garbanzo Bean Salad with Gazpacho is super satisfying. 
  • Cook them up with your favorite sausage, veggie or meat-based.
  • White beans are great with ham! They are also great with smoky tempeh “bacon.”
  • Here’s how you Learn to Cook: White Beans.  
For more information, check out our Guide to Beans.   White beans are my very favorite! What about you? Got a winning white bean recipe? I’d love to know.
Category: Food & Recipes




Sarah says ...
I have a recipe for tabbouleh with white beans....out of this world with flavor!
10/10/2011 9:05:37 AM CDT
GK Lott says ...
Surprised you didn't include the link to the US Senate Navy Bean soup. That's probably the most famous white bean recipe. http://www.senate.gov/reference/reference_item/bean_soup.htm
10/10/2011 9:08:42 AM CDT
Ruthann Zaroff says ...
Just made cassoulet last week -- it freezes well! I'll give some of your suggested recipes a try. Thanks!
10/10/2011 9:17:53 AM CDT
Angel says ...
Recipe Tuscan Beans with Ciabatta. 3 Tablespoons olive oil 3 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 3 cloves garlic 1 cup diced red onion 2 tsp red pepper flakes 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes with juice 1 8 oz can tomato paste 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 2 sprigs fresh oregano chopped 1 small bunch fresh basil chopped Crusty ciabatta to serve with! Heat olive oil and saute onion and garlic on low heat in med pot until tender, about 10 mins. Add canned tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, red pepper flakes, vinegar, and oregano. Stir well, cover and simmer 15 mins. Add beans and continue to cook uncovered for 10 mins. Serve on top of ciabatta.
10/10/2011 10:02:09 AM CDT
Meredith says ...
Thanks for this post, Alana! I can't wait to try some of these recipes. I have one for Country Style Lima Beans that is the ultimate comfort food. If you'd like, I can send the recipe your way. I was wondering if you have any recommendations for easy dishes for Oktoberfest. I searched the recipe database but only saw two dishes. I have to make something for work that doesn't contain mayo, mustard, or sauerkraut and that re-heats well. Any ideas??
10/10/2011 11:24:55 AM CDT
janejohnson says ...
@Meredith Ooo, that's tough. Well, I'd recommend anything with a gourd/squash/pumpkin, sausage or beer included in the recipe. Here's a few ideas that would reheat well. Butternut Macaroni Casserole http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/2349 Date and Pecan Pumpkin Squares http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/939 Ale-Braised Brats (cut mustard) http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/2027 German Potato Salad (cut mustard) http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/2319 Harvest stuffed Acorn Squash http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/1277
10/10/2011 12:15:28 PM CDT
Susie Bee on Maui says ...
I adapted a Mark Bittman recipe to make a fantastic azwain seasoned white bean and salmon recipe (azwain-a spice used in Indian food, sort of a mix between thyme and caraway). The beans were wonderful! http://eatlittleeatbig.blogspot.com/2011/06/recipe-for-azwain-seasoned-white-beans.html
10/10/2011 12:24:42 PM CDT
Meredith says ...
Thanks, Jane!
10/10/2011 1:02:56 PM CDT
Kristen says ...
I just posted a white bean salad recipe from this weekend~ http://gfvegmama.blogspot.com/
10/10/2011 5:14:14 PM CDT
donna says ...
I started eating beans about 10 years ago, and my love for them has never wavered.. I cook them up with EVOO, garlic and sea salt and black pepper,, sometimes a little cumin or chile powder and have a can for lunch.. sustainable protein that gets me through a busy afternoon. One of my favorite soups is made with broth, broccoli rabi, cannelli beans and roasted red peppers,, you can add celery, carrots and onion, and even some skinned chicken sausage to make it a hearty meal. Can't wait to visit my local Whole foods Market today for some inspiring ingredients.
10/12/2011 9:57:00 AM CDT
Marie says ...
I clean and wash my beans, soak them for about 4 hrs. Rinse and then put into pressure cooker, with carroway seeds (this cuts gas). Cook them in the pressure cooker for about 20-30 minutes, let pot cool down. When beans are cook, I put into freezer bags and have a supply for a couple of months, do the same with lentils. Make all kinds of dishes with the prepared beans.
10/12/2011 6:02:54 PM CDT
PJ Keally says ...
New favorite, a spinach salad with 2-3 ounces of tuna,1/4 cup white beans, and homemade dressing. A great lunch.
10/12/2011 6:08:15 PM CDT
Heather @ Queen Bee Coupons says ...
Just posted this recipe on my blog - Crockpot Slow Cooker Ground Turkey White Bean Chili. It's similar to the one you list in your post, but this one calls for Cilantro and lime - which I think make it unique and refreshing. I didn't have enough white beans, so I had to substitute some black beans, but it still tastes super yummy. http://queenbeecoupons.com/2011/10/crockpot-slow-cooker-white-bean-turkey-chili-recipe/
10/12/2011 7:09:44 PM CDT
Margaret Lethbridge-Cejku says ...
My husband has a lovely white bean recipe from Kosovo. Cook your dried beans with an onion. Then make a sort of roux with the onion, paprika, and olive or safflower or sunflower oil. Cook this up and add it to your cooked beans. We like this with a beef sausage called sudjuk, cut up and sauteed. But without meat, the beans are lovely. Might need salt. I like verde chiles. It's all good. We eat this 2 to 3 times a month. We usually use Great Northerns, but I'm interested in trying other white beans. We bake the beans in a slow oven after the "zaprska". - the onion/paprika sautee.
10/12/2011 9:25:13 PM CDT
Alix says ...
Looking forward to making some of these recipes, white beans are quite yummy.
10/12/2011 11:09:15 PM CDT
Beverly says ...
Hello Whole Foods Lady, did Meredith send you her Country Style Lima Bean recipe? That sounds like something my husband would eat. It's tough locating vegitables dishes he finds tasty.
10/13/2011 11:08:57 AM CDT
Denise says ...
I heard canned goods are tainted with chemicals in the inside lining. That's why Sen. Dianne Feinstein never eats canned food.
10/13/2011 12:20:30 PM CDT
Megan says ...
This is hands down, my favorite way to enjoy white beans! http://nourishingflourishing.com/2011/03/dessert-hummus-chocolate-peanut-butter-cookie-dough-yes/
10/13/2011 1:04:32 PM CDT
Mari says ...
I love this resource! The dictionary of the different kinds of beans is enlightening and inspiring! I'm cook mung beans this weekend!
10/13/2011 2:18:56 PM CDT