Giant Chipotle Baked Beans

A riff on Laurence Jossel's famous NOPA beans - plump, creamy beans baked in a bright, chunky chipotle tomato sauce, topped with crunchy breadcrumbs, plenty of oozy queso fresco, and an emerald drizzle of cilantro pesto.

Giant Chipotle Baked Beans

Food & Wine magazine's Emily Kaiser wrote an article in November of 2008 that highlighted two of my favorite things: Steve Sando's Rancho Gordo heirloom beans, and a bean recipe from NOPA - a restaurant that was just a short walk from my front door for many years. I've enjoyed Laurence Jossel's beans countless times, both at the restaurant and by making them in my own kitchen. I even brought them to Thanksgiving one year. Imagine plump, creamy beans baked in a bright, chunky tomato sauce, topped with crunchy breadcrumbs, plenty of tangy crumbled feta, and an emerald drizzle of oregano-parsley pesto. I love his original recipe, but the last time I made them I decided to add a few of my own twists. I did a subtly smoky chipotle-version of the tomato sauce, a cilantro drizzle, kale, whole grain bread crumbs, and queso fresco cheese. I'm including the recipe down below.
Chipotle Baked Beans

Make Ahead Magic

One of the great things about this recipe is that you can do many of the components ahead of time. You can boil the dried beans, make the pesto, make the tomato sauce, and toast the breadcrumbs. None of which are exceedingly difficult. You can then assemble the components in a flash, and into the oven it goes. Perfect for when you have friends over.
Chipotle Baked Beans

Can I Use Canned Beans?

I'm sure someone is going to ask, so I'll answer ahead of time - how about substituting canned beans? Ok - here's the deal - in my experience canned beans lack the structure that beans cooked from scratch have. The canned guys tend to break and go to mush far more quickly. In this recipe they will likely work, but won't hold up as well. The flavor will be fine, but the texture will be a different beast. If you go this route, don't skimp on the bread crumbs.
Chipotle Baked Beans
Give these beans a try (either version!), they are outrageously good. The shot above is the recipe in progress, before baking. And the photo below is the beans prior to soaking. They're huge. You're looking for beans the size of your thumb prior to soaking for this recipe. I make some suggestion for different types in the recipe below.
Chipotle Baked Beans

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Giant Chipotle Baked Beans

4.78 from 9 votes

In the lead photo you can see I used queso fresco cheese, it is creamy, and oozy melty. It lends totally different results vs. feta, which stays relatively structured and is quite a bit more salty. You can use either or a combination of the two

  • 1 pound of large, dried white beans (corona, giant limas, gigantes, or any giant white beans you can find), rinsed, picked over and soaked overnight - or up to 24 hours.
Chipotle-tomato sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 big pinches of red pepper flakes
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 14- ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers
Cilantro Pesto:
  • 1 medium clove of garlic
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • big pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup kale or chard, washed, de-stemmed, and very finely chopped
  • 1 cup queso fresco or feta cheese (see head notes)
  • 1 1/2 cup whole-grain breadcrumbs, toasted in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil
Prepare the beans:
  1. Drain and rinse the beans after their overnight soak. Then place them in a large saucepan and cover with an inch or two of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the beans are cooked through and just tender. This can take anywhere from an hour to two hours (potentially more) depending on your beans, but do your best to avoid overcooking. Remove from heat, salt the beans (still in bean broth) with about a tablespoon of salt - enough that the bean liquid is tasty but on the salty side. Let the beans sit like this for ten minutes or so before draining and setting the beans aside.

Make the tomato sauce:
  1. In the meantime, place the 2 tablespoons olive oil, red pepper flakes, couple pinches of salt, and chopped garlic into a cold medium saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute just 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant - you don't want the garlic to brown. Stir in the tomatoes and the fresh oregano and heat to a gentle simmer, this takes just a couple minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the adobo sauce - carefully take a taste (you don't want to burn your tongue)...If the sauce needs more salt add it now, more chipotle flavor? Go for it. Set aside.

Make the cilantro pesto:
  1. Make the cilantro pesto by combining the clove of garlic and cilantro in a food processor. Pulse while you drizzle in the olive oil - alternately, you could do this by hand. Season with a bit of salt and set aside.
Let's bake!
  1. Preheat the oven to 425F degrees. In a 9x13 baking pan (or large oven-proof casserole/dutch oven) toss the beans with the tomato sauce and the kale. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake in the top-third of the oven for roughly twenty-five (if you're using queso fresco) to forty minutes, I look for the cheese to start browning and any visible beans to get a bit crusty. Remove from oven and let sit for about ten minutes. Top the beans with the breadcrumbs and just before serving drizzle with the cilantro pesto.

Serves about 6.

Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time
1 hr 50 mins
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4.78 from 9 votes (6 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating


Made this today it is delicious and so full of flavor! I can count on Heidi for recipes full of flavor. Thank you.5 stars


    Thanks Joyce – so happy you enjoyed it!

    Heidi Swanson

The cilantro pesto is so bitter from the EVOO. ANy other ideas of what to add to make it less bitter? A nut, or some cheese perhaps?4 stars

    Hi! You could try that, but I’d probably start by trying a less grassy / spicy olive oil.

    Heidi Swanson

I have made this a few times. Very good but I have issues with the cilantro pesto. Without the cheese and pine nuts used with tradition basil pesto, the EVOO is just too bitter. Maybe I’ll add some nuts/cheese to balance it out.4 stars

Hi. THe cilantro pesto won’t come together in a regular-sized food processor. There are just not enough ingredients to work with that size. I had to empty it out and put it into a small magic bullet container in order for everything to mix correctly.


Thank you so much for the fantastic recipe! I made it last night and it was delicious! I was hoping to have leftovers for lunch today, but the entire pan was quickly consumed last night 🙂 The chipotle gives the whole dish a great underlying wave of heat!
I added some lemon peel to the beans while they simmered and it added great flavor.
Thanks again!


Made this recipe with a few variations according to what I had in my pantry – used smaller dried great northern beans and grated pepper jack cheese because that is what I had. GREAT RECIPE and was happy to have used my organic locally jarred heirloom tomatoes and local kale for the recipe. Great winter vegetable offering!


Just popping back to say a big thanks to Elaine and Lisa for their bean slow cooking tips!


Made this and it was really good. I only wish I had waited to top with the queso fresco half way through the baking. I have an accurate oven and the cheese browned too much. Heidi, did you write this recipe before you tried it? Thanks for the recipe.
HS: Hi Raul, you’re right, the queso fresco browned quite a bit faster than the feta did for me as well. But I also moved my racks a bit lower because I was baking them in a dutch oven. I’ll tweak the wording to be more clear.


Pressure cooking the beans would reduce the cooking time, if one is hard pressed for time. Ofcourse, it has to be done carefully with the right procedure to avoid overcooking the beans.


Yum. These sound fantastic—chipotle and beans are such a good combination. And I have several bags of Rancho Gordo beans in my cupboard…


I am in love with this recipe. It takes ordinary ingredients to new levels – thank you! I have a bag of limas that I will try this with during the week. I’m thinking I could make the beans tomorrow until just al dente and combine it all for dinner one night this week. Yay!
Thank you!


i just picked up a bag of dried gigantic white lima beans today…can’t wait to try this recipe! the combination of flavors sounds delicious. thanks!

nithya at hungrydesi

Seems like a wonderful recipe!


mmmmm…..this looks heavenly…. I like that you always sneak a little kale into your recipes. I find that I’m using a lot more kale these days, thanks to this site!

Ellie from Kitchen Caravan

I am seriously considering becoming a vegetarian! This dish would make even hard core meat eaters drool.


Mmmm! I made this tonight and it was a hit! I didn’t have adobo sauce, but just used chipotle flavored tomato sauce and added some chili powder and cumin. Turned out great. Thanks for your inspiring blog!


I notice someone else suggested the possibility of using the tomato sauce as a pasta sauce. When I saw this recipe, I had just bought a dollar bag of tomatoes, and I was excited to try out the new pasta maker I got for Christmas… so I put the chipotle tomato sauce over sun-dried tomato-cilantro linguine! Thanks for the inspiration as always, Heidi, and great timing!


Petra: Purcell Mountain Farms does deliver to Canada. They may have an even wider selection of beans (and rice) than Rancho Gordo. I have never had a problem with either beans (beautiful,blemishfree, clean) or delivery (to Ontario). Try them.


Sorry for the double comment here but I just had to say that I am in love with this recipe! so many flavors I woudl not have thought to put together but it was absolutely delicious!! only one thing–when you say serves 6, do you mean as a side dish? Two of us had it as a main and had to stop ourselves from polishing off the whole thing!! Seemed more like a 4 serving recipe. thank you–definitely one for the recipe collection!

A Mouse Bouche

I made this tonight and it was fantastic. I used great northern beans in place of the giant white beans and it came out great (I added a little extra chard from my garden to bulk it up a bit). I will definitely be making this again – I’m looking forward to trying other recipes from the site as well. Thanks so much for the lovely recipe!


I have just recently come across your site. This recipe looks great! I am looking forward to trying others also. Thanks! -Kat

Kat's Kitchen Place

for those folks in europe try hot spanish paprika instead of the chipotle/adobo or even use some spanish chorizo.


Another eye-catching and creative meal, Heidi. This is my first time posting, but I have been making your dishes for a little over a year now. Every one I’ve tried has found a permanent place in my recipe box. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective on food flavor, color, and texture with all of us. In particular, I’d like to thank you for turning my uber-carnivorous husband onto healthy, absolutely delicious food… he never fails to compliment your recipes and admit, after tucking into a bowl of your soup or mushroom casserole, that he always feels physically better for eating his veggies 🙂


I use a slow cooker all the time to cook beans, it’s great. For anything larger than lentils I put them in the pot before bedtime, pour boiling water over them with a few inches to spare on top (more for bigger beans) put the cover on and let them sit overnight.
In the morning, drain the beans, rinse them, refill the pot with water to cover and a little more just to be sure and then turn it on. Do not add salt at this stage. Wait til they’re completely cooked. When I get home from work, the beans are done perfectly and are ready for anything!
Be sure the beans are not old though, I drove myself crazy trying to cook old chick peas. . . hard as rocks after two days!


Yum, white beans!
Feta cheese can go soft and oozey, providing it’s real Greek ewe’s milk feta, and you leave it out of the brine (If you buy it wrapped in plastic, take it out, drain it and put it into an airtight container, it will soften from the outside. The saltiness varies hugely from one brand to the next.
My recent white bean experiment involved two fennel bulbs, and an onion all chopped up, some vegetable stock and a little bit of apple juice to make a chunky soup. Even better left over!


Keep On Cooking Your Way!!!!
Beans are a staple in our house, but my daughter will only eat white ones. Yay for this! (I’ll have to go more for the original recipe, though, as she wouldn’t eat anything spicy…)
I love the idea of the rice-cooker for beans! May have to try it. I was going to go for the crockpot (see A Year of Crockpotting), but I’m thinking the rice cooker will bring it to the necessary initial boil….


Wowzers. This looks and sounds amazing. I’m a sucker for white beans and chipotle, but together? I’m in heaven.


I haven’t tried either recipe yet, but from the looks of the ingredients, you’ve definitely made an improvement on the original. This is one for my recipe box.


I always love using beans in recipes because it’s such a deliciously good and simple source of protein. Keeping the recipes fresh sometimes proves to be a challenge. New ideas are always great!


Wow, this looks AMAZING.


one word: W O W

Life Chef

sadly they are out of the gigantes white beans at rancho gordo..what would you suggest as a good alternative?
HS: Hi Marianne, I listed off some alternatives in the ingredient list, although I don’t think all of those are available through RG. If you happen to be placing an order through them (and not buying in a store), you might ask them for a recommendation.


This is perfect for dinner tonight–we have a can of chipotle peppers and a ton of feta idling in the fridge! Can’t wait to use it for this.

A Mouse Bouche

This sounds so hearty and warming. I imagine serving this over some homemade pasta or a nutritious grain would work so well. Thanks for the recipe, I love beans of all sorts.


Sounds wonderful. Looking around today for a good, comforting dish to bring to a friend who’s just had a big loss. I think this will be perfect for her. Thanks for sharing it.


I have to try baking beans someday. I grew up eating beans, they are the foundation of Brazilan cooking, but we never bake them. Don’ t they get mushy like that?We cook them on the stove instead. Those look so good, I’ll give it a try.


Another recipe that looks and sounds absolutely, positively delicious! Can’t wait to give it a go. Awesome stuff, Heidi.


WOW this looks so great! And I love lima beans 😀

9 Red

LOVE Steve Sando and his runner canellini beans are the best! White, plump, and just the right amount of texture. This recipe sounds like a nice alternative to posole…thanks!


Oh my, perfection!!


Always looking for a new bean recipe. I must source out these beans, I live in Davis so it can’t be too far…


to echo another poster – would this be okay without cheese? I’m vegan…. or is cheese an essential element to this dish??
to a previous poster about freezing chipotles – I never thought to do that and it killed me when half a can would go unused in my fridge – I’m So doing this from now on! thanks for the tip!!!
HS: Hi Sarah, yes you can get away with leaving out the cheese. It’ll be different, but maybe you’ll come up with an alternative topping that will go well with the tomatoes and beans.


Sounds great!


I’m a huge fan of white beans. And of course, only dried beans grace the kitchen here at Chiot’s Run. No canned goodies of any kind in my pantry!
I can’t wait to try this recipe, I bet it will be fantastic with a crusty piece of bread!


Yum, sounds great. I can’t wait to try it!


We love beans, but the ways I cook them have become a bit stagnent. I am very excited to give these a try, they sound delicious.


Match made in heaven…love white beans, love chipotles!
Now on to a (sort-of)related matter…what to do with about 3/4 lb. slightly shriveled red cherry peppers that I rescued from the bargain bin at the store (they’re a little zesty with the seeds out, pretty hot for me with all the seeds in)? I’d love to hear some suggestions…I’ve already made a bunch of harissa, and would love to make some traditional “mexi” hot sauce if I knew how long it would last.

All for Veggies

Oh. My. God!!! I think I just found my new favorite dish to try. LOVE the use of queso fresco here too.

Kimberly @ Poor Girl Eats Well

Those sound amazing…and good to know that you can probably use canned beans in a pinch.

Fit Bottomed Girls

WOW! This looks and sounds amazing! I wonder whether it’ll be okay without the cheese or replaced with rice cheese…
HS: Hi Quinny, see answer below.


Can’t wait to try this – sounds delicious!


I’m looking forward to trying this, as well as the lentil soup.
I swear this website alone makes me look like I know what I’m doing in front of my girlfriend.
HS: 🙂 Glad to hear it JD.


I find your comments about canned versus homesoaked/cooked beans to be interesting. In my experience, the exact opposite is true—my homegrown and homecooked beans tend to get mushier faster, so I have to watch them closely when cooking them. It may have a lot to do with the variety (there are oodles of varieties out there)—the best cooking bean I have found is the little red beans that my father smuggled back into the country after visiting us in Nicaragua about 8 years ago—those beans remain mostly firm throughout the cooking process. The white/yellow beans I grew this past year were, upon cooking, instant mush.
All that said, I prefer my own cooked beans, if not for their perfect texture, than for the ease of conscience that I have, knowing that they came from my back yard, (mostly) no chemicals, petroleum, or plastics involved.

Mama JJ

Another dish I’m looking forward to trying! I recently found this site in December and my daughter & I are enjoying the adventure of the food here!!
Daughter will be heading off to college this fall and hopefully living in a scholarship hall where the 50 women are divided into 7 kitchens and then responsible for their own meals…planning, shopping & preparing. (hoping to be part of a vegetarian kitchen) I’ve begun gathering dishes that are easy, quick, healthy & affordable. Helping her to realize that not only can she cook for a group of 7 women once a week, but she can enjoy it. This dish quite possibly will be part of that “collection”.
Thank you so much for this site!! Loving it! PamelaB
HS: thanks for the nice note Pamela. Good luck to your daughter!


I enjoy your blog but I have noticed that almost everything you post looks identical to the recipe before. The images just all blur together. Perhaps it’s time to branch out and experiment, add different colors other than green and beige-y.
HS: ok, I’ll work on it.


Wow, a…. bean bake? This looks awesome, especially the chipolte tomato sauce- I think that might find it’s way into a few other reciopes, for me 🙂

Kellie Hill

You can now get Tabasco chipotle sauce in the UK (try Waitrose or bigger branches of Sainsbury), and Discovery make a chipotle paste (bigger branches of Asda/Tesco). I haven’t found canned chipotles in adobo, but both of these are reasonable substitutes.


Do you think this would freeze well? Perhaps freeze it before baking?


It breaks my heart that Rancho Gordo won’t deliver to Canada


I’m going to try this today… well… tomorrow… but I’m going to start my beans today! I’m also planning on throwing a layer of veggie chorizo in there somewhere… there’s a brand called Soyrizo by Frieda’s that is so wonderful! I keep piles of it in the freezer for fun spicy dishes like this! Can’t wait!


What a great bean recipe! We’ve been eating a lot of beans lately… will have to add this to the list to try. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!


I just found your site, bought your book on S.N.F and started reading last night. I want to convert my family and this seems like a perfect starter. Anything with tomato sauce, cheese, bread crumbs & beans they will eat! Thanks for sharing! It will be on the menu for this weekend


Thank you so much for focusing on NOPA. I love that restaurant — it is a short walk from my home, too! And I love their giant beans; I never thought I’d get to make them! I’m very excited about this.


I wonder how this would be without the cheese. I can’t eat cheese due to my stupid high cholesterol, so I might give it a try!
HS: Hi Cathy, see my response way down below.


This recipe just sounds perfect to me – I love a tangy tomato sauce and dishes with lots of textures to them. And this one ticks so many boxes in terms of nutrition (legumes, vegetables, dairy, carbohydrate, protein).
I’ve generally used canned beans in the past but I thought I’d get back into cooking them again in my new slow cooker. If any of Heidi’s lovely readers have tips for how best to cook beans in the slow cooker they’d be much appreciated!


I have made the Food & Wine version several times to great success too. The last time I served it with your garlicky greens and it was heaven. Perfect for a rainy winter night here in the NW! I’m excited to try your version. Thank you!

Mary B

Instead of Chipotle, how about Harissa?
I love Rancho Gordo beans. Not only do I order boxes for myself, their beans make great gifts for foodie friends.
As for cooking their beans, my favorite trick is to use my rice cooker. I cook most beans on my brown rice setting (or for a real low, slow cook use the “Gaba Brown” setting on my Japanese fuzzy logic cooker). I soak the beans the night before and get them settled in the morning on cook while I work. Rice cooker switches to warm setting and they’re perfect by the time I get home. Great technique for an overworked foodie!

Lisa in San Diego

    Love the harissa idea!

    Heidi Swanson

Could you use regular-sized dried beans, like a great northern bean? That is all I have on hand at the moment, and I would love to try this recipe! Thanks!


i’m also interested in a substitute for chipotle and the adobo sauce as it’s difficult to find in europe. someone above mentioned paprika and molasses… anyone with a north african or mediterranean alternative?


If your site has taught me anything, it’s how to prepare beans and greens in new and interesting ways. (You’ve also cured me of my fear of baking; imagine that!)
This looks totally delicious. I was all set to make a quiche tonight (my first!) but this looks even better.


This sounds delicious! Love the cilantro pesto idea.

Eliza from Eliza Domestica

This sounds really good! I’ve never actually cooked with these beans so maybe I’ll try it 🙂


sounds delicious!! we have a thing for rancho gordo beans as well – exploring all the different varieties i’ve never heard of and looking thru their awesome cookbook. saw the article in food & wine but will definitely be trying your version of this recipe soon. thanks!

the purcells

There is nothing not to love here. Parmesan, cruncy bread crumbs, pesto, a bit of kick. Oh yeah and those gorgeous beans (I happen to have a soft spot for heirloom beans… .) It would be perfect with my current favorite green, Giant Fordhook chard. Yum!

Becky and the Beanstock

does anyone know if adobe sauce/chipotle chillis are available in the uk? if not would smoked paprika/harrisa be a good flavour substitute?
This looks really nice, and I might even be able to persuade my veg-hating husband to eat it, with a little chorizo added!


Wow, this dish looks absolutely delicious and warming. Perfect for a winter dinner. I’m a big fan of feta, so I think I’d go with that. Or maybe goat cheese!

ashley (sweet & natural)

Anything involving white beans (my current fave) as a casserole I can throw in the oven – heaven. Can’t wait to try this bad boy with a bit of a northeastern spin – I’m thinking molasses and paprika in place of the adobo. And I actually just planted some cilantro for the purpose of winter pesto – how fortuitous!

Jess @ lavidaveggie

ha – you’re right, I would have asked about the canned beans!
looks like another great recipe!

tabitha (From Single to Married)

I can’t wait to play with this recipe! I have a number of wonderful chiles and chile powders from the Santa Cruz Chile and Spice company here in AZ, and I’ve been wanting to see how some of the smoky ones will sauce up as a substitute for canned chipotles in adobo. Plus, cilantro has finally taken off in my garden, so all is good there.
By the way, I love that you love chipotle. 😉 It makes my life ever-so-much-more delicious.

Laurel from Simple Spoonful

Was thinking of ordering some Rancho Gordo beans today. Have never ordered before, but it’s on my list of things to try. This sounds like a perfect way to use up what’s left of the 8 lb wheel of queso fresco in my freezer that my friend brought back from Mexico.



Eliza Mason

I absolutely love your site. It’s my first time posting after having learned about 101cookbooks over the last month or so (and purchasing your new-ish book.) So far, I’ve been thrilled with the recipes. This one looks great. I enthusiastically agree about ‘fresh’ dried beans and Rancho Gordo beans rock my world! Thanks for your exciting approach to fresh and healthy cooking and eating!


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