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.
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!
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.
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!
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:
- Roasted Fennel
- Blanched Green Beans
- Roasted Radishes
- Sautéed Broccoli Rabe
- Roasted Vegetables
- Sautéed or Roasted Broccoli
More Hearty Soups and Stews
If you love this cannellini beans recipe, try one of these hearty soups or stews next:
- Black Bean Soup
- Best Lentil Soup
- Creamy Potato Soup
- Wild Rice Soup
- Easy Vegetarian Chili
- Yellow Split Pea Soup
- Tortellini Soup
- Or any of these 30 Best Soup Recipes!
- 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
- 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.