Stewed great northern beans are a simple but rich and hearty way to cook a can of white beans. This recipe features fresh vegetables, takes just over 30 minutes to make, and is delicious served with toast or over rice.
If you have a can of great northern beans or white beans in your pantry, this is one of the best ways to use it. While rosemary white bean dip and white bean soup are classics, there's something so comforting about stewed great northern beans.
This is a veggie-packed meal that starts with a base of sauteed shallot, yellow squash, kale, and Roma tomatoes. The vegetables are cooked down before adding the white beans, which soak up flavor from broth, thyme, tomato paste, and garlic.
Stewed great northern beans are rich and comforting, versatile, and perfect for fall. Serve the stewed beans with toast, over rice, or with vegan grits (my personal favorite).
- Flavors: Despite using simple ingredients, the white beans are richly flavored with a savory tomato and vegetable base. This recipe reminds me a lot of a white bean stew, just without all the broth.
- Time: It takes only about 35 minutes to make stewed great northern beans.
- Versatile: While the recipe is written for one 15-ounce can of great northern beans, it works just as well with other white beans like navy beans, small white beans, or white kidney beans.
- Method: Chopped vegetables are sauteed until softened, then the beans are added and simmered for at least 15 minutes.
- Great northern beans: This is a small-to-medium white bean similar in size to cannellini beans. One 15-ounce can yields about 1 ½ cups of great northern beans.
- Vegetable bouillon: I find Better than Bouillon to be the make the most flavorful vegetable broth. Feel free to replace bouillon and water with an equal amount of canned/boxed vegetable broth.
- Yellow squash: This is sliced into matchstick pieces and then sauteed until super soft, so much so that it almost melts into the stewed beans.
- Curly kale: The most common variety of kale at most grocery stores, curly kale shrinks a lot during cooking, just like spinach. You can save prep time by purchasing pre-chopped kale.
- Roma tomatoes: These small but mighty tomatoes break down and create a jammy base. A large slicing tomato or tomato-on-the-vine also works.
- Shallot, garlic, and tomato paste create the rich and savory base of the stewed bean broth. Adjust garlic to taste.
- Thyme: Dry thyme leaves add a touch of herbiness. To replace with fresh thyme, use about 1 ½ teaspoons fresh chopped thyme in place of ½ teaspoon dry thyme.
- Sherry vinegar: Added at the end of cooking, this adds a layer of complexity to the broth. This can be omitted if unavailable or replaced with an equal amount of balsamic vinegar.
Heat a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add butter. Once melted, add the diced vegetables and salt.
Saute the vegetables for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are reduced, the squash is softened, and the kale is wilted.
Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and dry thyme. Cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until the garlic is golden and aromatic. Stir frequently.
Add the great northern beans and vegetable broth. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-heat heat, then reduce to a gentle simmer over medium-low to low heat. Cover with a lid and simmer for at least 10 minutes and up to an hour.
Remove the lid and stir in the sherry vinegar and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Taste for seasonings.
Serving ideas: In the photos, I served the stewed white beans with sliced, buttered, and toasted ciabatta. It also goes well over cheesy grits or rice.
- Cook time: Any time I make stewed beans, I try to simmer them for a long time. Just like with soup, longer simmer times create a more flavorful result because the beans absorb the broth over time. While 10 to 15 minutes certainly gets the job done, a longer simmer won't be regretted.
- Different types of white beans: I chose great northern beans because they are common and have a hearty flavor. Good news: any white bean works in this recipe! Try a can of small white beans, white kidney beans, or even chickpeas.
- Different vegetables: Kale can be replaced with spinach, but I recommend adding the spinach at the same time as the garlic, as it cooks much more quickly. Zucchini is the best replacement for yellow squash. Carrots would be a good addition as well.
- Grating garlic: I like grating garlic into a paste on a microplane. I find it quicker than mincing and it distributes flavor better throughout the dish. Mincing works if you don't have a microplane.
Leftovers: Keep refrigerated in a closed container for 3 to 4 days. The stewed beans taste even better the next day.
Reheating: Stewed great northern beans reheat well in the microwave or on the stovetop. If reheating on the stove, bring to a simmer over medium to medium heat.
Storage: Beans freeze very well. Because the vegetables are cooked down, they should also freeze well. Let the stewed white beans come to room temperature before transferring to an airtight freezer container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
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Stewed Great Northern Beans
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 cups shredded kale about 3 ounces
- 2 medium roma tomatoes cored and diced
- 1 medium shallot diced
- 1 medium yellow squash sliced into matchstick strips
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cloves garlic grated; see note #1
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon dry thyme
- 15.5 ounce can great northern beans drained and rinsed
- ½ to 1 cup vegetable broth I recommend Better than Bouillon, see note #2
- 1 tablespoon sherry cooking vinegar
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- for serving: toasted and buttered ciabatta, rice, or grits
- Heat a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add butter. Once melted, add the shredded kale, diced tomatoes, shallot, and squash. Sprinkle with salt.
- Saute the vegetables for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are reduced, the squash is softened, and the kale is wilted.
- Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and dry thyme. Cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until the garlic is golden and aromatic. Stir frequently.
- Add the great northern beans and ½ cup vegetable broth. Add an entire cup of broth for more brothy beans.
- Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce to a gentle simmer over medium-low to low heat. Cover with a lid and simmer for at least 10 minutes and up to an hour. The broth should have just a few bubbles popping at a time. Reduce heat if the broth is evaporating too quickly.
- Remove the lid and stir in the sherry vinegar and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Taste for seasonings. Serve beans over rice or grits, or with toast.
- Garlic: I like grating garlic into a paste on a microplane. I find it quicker than mincing and it distributes flavor better throughout the dish. Mincing works if you don't have a microplane.
- Broth: I recommend Better than Bouillon in place of boxed/canned vegetable broth. I follow the bouillon:water ratio on the package.
- Leftovers: Keep refrigerated in a closed container for 3 to 4 days. The stewed beans taste even better the next day. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium heat. Freezes well.
- Other beans: This recipe works well with any kind of white bean or chickpea. One 15-ounce can usually yields about 1 ½ cups cooked beans.