These are the best brothy white beans! Turn a pound of dry white beans into a tender, savory, all-purpose vegan protein. This is a one-pot recipe that’s versatile, simple to make, and freezer-friendly.
I’ve spent the last week trying to work up the energy to make something a little special in the kitchen. I was hoping to redeem some of my recent kitchen trials and tribulations and feel inspired about cooking again.
But is anyone really inspired with cooking lately? I’m sure the answer is yes, but I keep having conversation after conversation with people who are as tired of cooking as I am. It’s the pandemic, the monotony, the cold, the fatigue. I think most of us are craving food as comfort, but actually making that food feels onerous.
It would have been tempting to cook nothing at all, and that would have been OK. There are times when dinner toast and frozen foods make the most sense. But I knew it would feel good to stock my freezer with something, anything homemade.
These brothy white beans are the thing that I was able to make. A one-pot recipe that results in many portions of tender, plump beans swimming in a rich, savory broth.
You can serve the brothy white beans in so many ways once you make them. And you’ll definitely have plenty to stock your freezer with.
What are brothy beans?
Brothy beans are just what they sound like: a big pot of beans that has been simmered in broth, rather than water.
The broth thickens as the beans cook, which gives it a concentrated savory flavor by the time the beans are ready. Thanks to some olive oil, it also develops a rich, luxurious quality—you’ll see what I mean!
Dry vs cooked beans in cooking
The brothy white bean recipe calls for 1 pound of dry white beans. The beans can be cannellini, Great Northern, or navy beans.
A confession: I usually cook with, and use, canned beans at home. I’ve gone through phases of always soaking and cooking beans from scratch. But I become really forgetful about it, and I usually end up using canned beans from my pantry in spite of my best laid plans.
I don’t usually find that cooking beans from scratch is so much better than using canned from a taste and texture perspective. I know that it’s a minority opinion, but canned beans can be seasoned through cooking, and I like the fact that there are so many low-sodium varieties available now.
All of this said, I love the economy of cooking a pound of beans from scratch! So many meals can be created from a single, inexpensive plant-protein. And when I do cook my beans from scratch, as with these brothy white beans, I always feel a sense of accomplishment. Especially as I load container after container of cooked beans into my freezer for later use.
Do I need to pre-soak my beans for this recipe?
Yes, the recipe calls for white beans that have been pre-soaked.
There are two ways of soaking dry beans before cooking: a quick soak and an overnight soak method. Overnight soaking just means covering the beans you plan to cook in a few inches of water and allowing them to sit overnight.
Quick soaking involves bringing your beans to a rolling boil for a minute, removing them from heat, and then allowing them to sit for one hour before rinsing and using them in your recipe.
You can use either the overnight or the quick soak method for the brothy white beans recipe. I usually find it easiest to soak overnight. If I wake up in the morning and want to cook with beans, but I know that I’ll need to reserve an hour for quick soaking, I usually opt for the shortcut of canned beans instead.
Brothy white beans ingredients
This is a simple recipe. To make it, you’ll need:
The brothy white beans recipe calls for four tablespoons olive oil. It’s not a lot when you take into consideration that you’ll have at least eight servings of beans.
But the olive oil is hard-working, and it goes a long way. It’s responsible for the silky richness of the broth component in this recipe. I think that broth is what makes the beans so delightful over toast!
You can use your favorite olive oil for cooking in the recipe.
Onion and garlic
Alliums help to make the recipe more flavorful. I usually use two onions in my pot of beans, but if I happen to be working with a giant onion, I’ll use only one.
As I mentioned, you can use cannellini, Great Northern, or navy beans in the recipe. Cannellini is my preference, but I’ve prepared each one of them this way, and they all work nicely.
I haven’t yet tested this recipe with chickpeas, but I think it would work well, maybe with a slightly altered cooking time. I already know that I love braising cranberry beans, and they would also be a good bean to use here.
You can use either vegetable broth or a vegan “no-chicken” style broth for the recipe. You can use either a low-sodium version, which you’ll season more aggressively, or a regular version. Either is OK! Just adjust the salt to taste.
I use vegan bouillon, broth base, or Yondu interchangeably with broth in a lot of recipes. But for this particular recipe, I do recommend using broth itself.
If you happen to make your own vegetable broth, so much the better! It’s another one of those food prep things that I just cant make a habit of. But I always feel impressed when I see homemade stock in another person’s fridge 🙂
I like to season the beans with some bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary. I tie the thyme and rosemary together with twine to make a tiny, rustic bouquet garni. I like that little thyme leaves are released into the broth during cooking, so I don’t wrap my bouquet in cheesecloth.
If you don’t have any string to tie your bouquet with, you can just add fresh, roughly chopped herbs to the broth instead. I like the ease of using whole sprigs and just tying them together.
Ten ways to serve brothy white beans
The brothy white beans couldn’t be a better investment from a meal prep standpoint. Once you make them, you can use them in so many different ways. Here are ten of my favorites:
- Serve the beans on toast (of course!)
- Throw the beans into a pasta dish
- Use the beans as a quick lunch bowl component
- Use the beans in a whole wrap, along with some lightly dressed greens
- Stir the beans together with a sheet pan of roasted winter vegetables and serve everything over a cooked grain or couscous (a nutritious plant-based meal!)
- Mix them with cooked rice and a few tablespoons of pesto (or a big handful of chopped herbs) for a Mediterranean-inspired rice and bean dish
- Lightly smash the beans and use them as a sandwich filling
- Top a vegan pizza or flatbread with the beans—an easy way to give pizza night a boost of plant-protein
- Quickly sauté with some cooked gnocchi and greens for a delicious, satisfying supper
- Use them to add extra protein, fiber, and substance to a pureed vegetable soup
These are just my favorite uses. I’m sure that you’ll be able to think of your own!
How long can I store the beans?
You can store the broth white beans in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. If you need to store longer, I recommend freezing options, below!
Can the brothy white beans be frozen?
Most definitely. Because I meal prep for one person, I always freeze about half of the beans once they’ve been prepared. You could freeze them in a single, large container, or you could freeze in smaller portions (Stasher bags are great for this).
The brothy white beans will keep for up to six weeks in the freezer. I love remembering that I have one or a few servings of the beans available to defrost—such a nice alternative to scratching my head about what the next meal will be.
- 1 lb dry white beans (cannellini, Great Northern, or navy)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 white or yellow onions (or 1 very large), chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped or very thinly sliced
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 2 bay leaves
- A few sprigs each fresh rosemary and fresh thyme, tied together with twine to make a small herb bouquet
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt (you can adjust to to one teaspoon if your broth is salty, but this recipe works well with a good amount of salt!)
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Squeeze of fresh lemon juice, optional
- Soak your beans overnight, or use the quick soak method (submerge beans in enough water to cover them by 2 inches and a teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, let sit for 1 hour). Drain beans.
- Heat your oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion. Sauté for four minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and sauté for another two minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the beans, broth, bay leaves, herbs, and salt to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cook, covered, for 1 hour. Remove the lid to the pot and cook for another 30-45 minutes, or until the beans are quite tender. Remove the bay leaves from the pot. Taste and add freshly ground pepper to taste, along with any additional salt you might like. If you like, you can add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to the pot, or you can squeeze it over the beans when you serve them.
- Serve the beans however you'd like to, or store/freeze for later use.
I first made these beans in the fall and shared them on Instagram. I’d made slow simmered, soupy beans before, and as I was cooking them, I didn’t expect them to be anything out of the ordinary.
But they were out of the ordinary. They were richer and more flavorful than most of the beans I had tried cooking from scratch. In spite of the short ingredient list—not to mention the fact that a pot of beans is humble food to begin with—they felt like a treat.
I looked forward to eating the brothy white beans for the next few days, and I had so much fun finding places to put them. Happy to be sharing them, finally. Hope you find your own ways to enjoy them.