Cannellini Beans and Greens

In this cannellini beans recipe, Swiss chard, olive oil, and a big squeeze of lemon juice transform a humble pot of beans into a bright, wholesome meal.

Cannellini beans

I love the simplicity of this cannellini beans recipe. I first started making it last spring, when our trips to the grocery store were few and far between. You only need a handful of ingredients to make it – dried cannellini beans, aromatics, lemon juice, and Swiss chard – and even those are flexible. If you don’t have cannellini beans, substitute other dried white beans, like 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, hands-off simmer, these humble ingredients transform into a wholesome, warming one-pot meal. If you’ve never cooked with dried beans before, you’ll discover their magic as soon as you taste it. As they cook, they release some of their starches into the cooking water, creating a flavorful broth. When you eat, make sure to serve this cannellini beans recipe with good crusty bread. You’ll want to sop up every last drop of that tasty cooking liquid!

Dried cannellini beans in a bowl

How to Cook Cannellini Beans

Making this cannellini beans recipe takes some time, but don’t let it scare you. The process is almost entirely hands-off! Here’s how it goes:

First, soak the beans. Heads up! You’ll need to do this step the day, or at least 8 hours, before you plan to cook the beans. It can be a bit of a pain to plan ahead, but it’s totally worth it – soaking the beans shortens their cooking time, and it makes them easier to digest.

Place the beans in a large bowl and sift through them, discarding any stones or debris. Cover them with cold water, and set them aside to soak for at least 8 hours, or overnight.

Soaked white beans

Next, drain and rinse the beans. Place them in a large pot and cover them with 2 inches of water.

Then, cook! Bring the water to a boil, 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 like, 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 simmer. If it boils, the kombu will cause it to become bitter.

Continue simmering for up to 2 more hours, until the beans are tender. I like to check them every 30 minutes. If the pot begins 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 fronds, and kombu from the pot. Peel off the garlic’s papery skins, and mash the cloves into a paste. Stir it back into the pot, along with the olive oil, lemon juice, and Swiss chard, and cook for a few minutes more, until the chard is just wilted. Adjust the lemon, salt, and pepper to taste. That’s it!

White bean soup with Swiss chard

Cannellini Beans Recipe Serving Suggestions

When you’re ready to eat, ladle the cannellini beans and their cooking liquid into bowls. Drizzle each one with olive oil and sprinkle it with chopped parsley and red pepper flakes. Pass the crusty bread, and dig in!

If you’re craving a larger meal, pair this cannellini beans recipe with a salad, like my Kohlrabi Slaw, Pear Salad, or Citrus Salad. It would also be excellent with any of these simple vegetable side dishes:

Enjoy!

Cannellini beans recipe

More Hearty Soups and Stews

If you love this cannellini beans recipe, try one of these hearty soups or stews next:

Cannellini Beans

rate this recipe:
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 2 hrs 30 mins
Soaking Time: 8 hrs
Serves 8
This easy cannellini beans recipe is a bright, wholesome one-pot meal! Serve it with good crusty bread for sopping up the flavorful broth.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dried cannellini beans
  • 2 shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 1 garlic bulb, top evenly sliced off
  • 1 fennel, white bulb, chopped, tops and fronds, cut into large 4-inch pieces (the tops will be removed toward the end)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (3-inch) piece of kombu, rinsed, optional* (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, more to taste
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves torn
  • Crusty bread, for serving
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Pinch red pepper flakes, optional

Instructions

  • Place the beans in a large bowl. Sort through them and discard any stones or debris. Cover with 2 to 3 inches of water and discard any beans that float. 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. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Skim any foam off the top, then add the shallots, garlic, fennel, salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper, and the kombu, if using. Continue simmering 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 typically check them every 30 minutes. Add more water to the pot, as needed, as it starts to evaporate.
  • When the beans are tender, remove the garlic, fennel stalks, and kombu. Discard the garlic papers. Use the back of a knife to mash the soft garlic cloves into a paste, then return it to the pot. Stir in the olive oil and lemon juice, and season to taste. I like to add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon more 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 drizzles of olive oil and crusty bread. Sprinkle with parsley.

Notes

*The kombu is optional, but it helps the beans become more digestible. Kombu can get bitter if boiled, so be sure to keep the beans cooking at a gentle simmer after you add it.

18 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Kate
    08.06.2021

    It tastes delicious – thank you! (the first recipe I’ve made from this website).
    Can I freeze it?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      08.06.2021

      I’m glad you loved the recipe – yep, you can freeze it!

  2. Catherine
    04.08.2021

    5 stars
    I made this today and its delicious! Love cooking with dried beans, the flavour you get from them is amazing. I didn’t have time to soak them overnight but I did a quick 1 hour boil before putting in the other ingredients and it took about 3hrs to cook instead of 2 (not counting the 1 hour pre-boil).

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      04.09.2021

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  3. Irene
    03.18.2021

    Great tasting soup! Any tips on removing the fennel stalks and frods though?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.18.2021

      Hi Irene, I pull the stalks out with a pair of tongs. Any frond pieces that fall away are just fine to stay in the pot with the beans.

  4. Leigh
    03.05.2021

    5 stars
    This was SO good and well worth the time I put into it. Rich and creamy for a cold winter’s night. The lemon was a nice addition. And my PICKY KIDS ate it up!

  5. Chelsea
    02.26.2021

    Hi! If I can’t find dried cannellini beans, would great northern beans work?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.26.2021

      Hi Chelsea, yep, the’ll be great!

      • Chelsea
        02.26.2021

        Awesome, thank you!

  6. Paul
    02.24.2021

    It looks so healthy and delicious. Thank you for sharing the recipe. I am sure it would taste good too.

  7. Sabrina from newkitchenlife.com
    02.23.2021

    love these and love making them from scratch, I always default to a can but much better going from scratch, thank you

  8. Erika Hoyt
    02.23.2021

    This looks awesome! Can I use canned cannellini beans? If so, what would be the substitution ratio? Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.23.2021

      Hi Erica, not exactly, this recipe is specifically made to cook dried beans and the body of its broth is created by the liquid that slowly cooks out of the beans. That’s not to say that these ingredients wouldn’t make a delicious dish with canned beans (they would!) but I would change more ratios (and timings) than a 1:1 bean swap and I would want to test that version in my own kitchen before suggesting it.

  9. Tricia Berkow
    02.23.2021

    Hi! Your recipes are so awesome. I would like to make this with a bag of Lima beans I have. Are the cannellini beans and Lima beans interchangeable?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.23.2021

      Hi Tricia, I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying them! You could use lima beans – they will likely take longer to cook since they’re larger.

  10. Marta MacDonald
    02.23.2021

    Do you have a cookbook?

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.