How to Cook Beans that are Tender, Creamy, and Nearly Perfect

How to Cook Beans that are Tender, Creamy, and Nearly Perfect

This is a recipe I included in Near & Far in 2015 inspired by a trip to Italy a few years prior to that. It's arguably the best way I know to cook beans, a version of the much-loved Tuscan bean recipe - fagioli al fiasco. And it's the method I always return to. Traditionally, beans were baked overnight in a Chianti bottle placed near the embers of that night's fire. While not exactly authentic (no fire here), I do a riff on the general idea, using a low-temperature oven and enamel-lined pot. The technique couldn't be simpler and if you want to know how to cook beans that are beautifully luxe, tender, and creamy this is the recipe to try.How to Cook Beans that are Tender, Creamy, and Nearly Perfect

What kind of Beans to Buy?

The beans pictured here are Rancho Gordo cranberry beans. Velvety and thin-skinned they are an absolute dream to cook with. You can also use cannellini or cassoulet beans. I mean, in all honestly, most beans cooked this way are going to be wonderful. The main thing I would pay attention to is source. Buy beans from a place that has good turnover, or from a farmer or company you know and trust. Buying beans that have been sitting around or stored for years can be a problem. The beans stay tough, etc. 
How to Cook Beans that are Tender, Creamy, and Nearly Perfect

The Magic of Bean Broth

The key to these beans is their simplicity. It's one of those occasions where you just really need to keep it basic. Use good beans, good garlic, and good olive oil. The gentle, steady heat of your oven will coax the handful of ingredients into a beautiful, brothy pot of beans. Keep in mind, the bean broth is special in its own right, and I love to sip it straight from the pot. It's freckled with chile flakes and dotted with olive oil and you should savor every tablespoon of it. The bean broth here is somehow exponentially better than when I cook beans on the stovetop. 
How to Cook Beans that are Tender, Creamy, and Nearly Perfect

Ideas Related to Serving Beans

You can enjoy these beans on their own, use them to top bruschetta, or ladle them over pasta. We had them for lunch this afternoon on top of fresh-off-the-comal masa tortillas that had been slathered with avocado and a smear of a Cali-style chermoula sauce. In fact, that's what we've had for lunch the past three days. Laugh/cry.

Leftovers! I used the last of this pot of beans in an impromptu casserole by tossing 2/3 beans (and broth) with 1/3 leftover short pasta and a bit of torn mozzarella in an 8x8-inch baking dish. Top with a bit more cheese, lemon zest, scallions, and lots of herby bread crumbs. Bake, covered for 35 minutes or until bubbly and hot. So good! It was just right served alongside asparagus and a simple salad.

How to Cook Beans that are Tender, Creamy, and Nearly Perfect
If you're interested in an Instant Pot version of this recipe, I've got you. And if you're looking for other basic, pantry-friendly recipes, have a look at the rice recipes (particularly this green rice), or these pasta recipes (this pasta with creamy crushed walnut sauce is quite popular rn). There are also a lot of bean recipes in the archives, don't miss this simple farro & bean stew, this carrot, dill & white bean salad, and ribollita is always a crowd-pleaser. If you're interested in seeing me cook these, I'm going to post the video here (under the Cooking III highlights). Please enjoy!

Fiasco-style Beans (Fagioli al Fiasco)

4.08 from 42 votes

Use cranberry beans, cannellini beans, cassoulet beans, or even pinto beans here.

Ingredients
  • 1 pound dried cranberry or cannellini beans, soaked overnight
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 7 medium sage leaves (or thyme sprigs)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Scant 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 225F, with a rack in the bottom third.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans and place them in a large ovenproof casserole or pot. Add the water, olive oil, garlic, sage, and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer on the stove top. Remove from the heat, cover, leaving a tiny crack, then transfer to the oven.
  3. Bake for 2 hours, or until the beans are plump and tender. Along the way you want the beans to gently bubble and simmer. Check on them after a few minutes, and if you need to adjust your oven up to 250F. Stir in the salt after 90 minutes and finish baking. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Notes

Serves 8

Serves
8
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
2 hrs 15 mins
Total Time
2 hrs 20 mins
 
If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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I just got fresh pinto beans in my farm box (so beautiful!) and want to try this recipe. Any idea how to adapt to fresh beans? I figure no soaking and less cooking time, but no idea about how little time or water amount?

Heather

Hi Heidi, I made this bean recipe again - this time with just 1/2 lb of beans - cooked until tender - not a lot of liquid left - has this happened to you? Ok to just add more water? Thanks

SheriB

    Yes - just go ahead and add more water if needed.

If I do half pound of beans (don't have a big enough enamel pot yet!) will the cooking time be reduced? thanks!

carin

    Hi Carin - Test them along the way - probably in the same ballpark...

fwiw, I let the beans bake at 250F for an hour but the pot never got hot enough to simmer. I consulted google and most other recipes call for the oven to be at 325F to 350F -- 325F did get a good simmer going. The broth is very good, hoping to make the pasta dish tonight to go with some homemade sourdough.

Hannah

Do you think it would be ok to throw in a ham hock and keep all the other directions and ingredients (except more salt) the same? Thanks

Callen

Hi Heidi, I love the idea of slow-cooked beans in the oven but my husband does not love the idea of our home smelling like beans all day (to each his own I guess!). Would there be any special consideration to cooking these in an enameled pot, out on a gas grill?

Natalie

    Oooh - not entirely sure. Maybe one of those single butane burners outside? You might go through a number of canisters though. If it's any consolation, I love the way these make our house smell - lots of garlic herbiness.

Hi, saw this on IG a couple of days ago. Bought all ingredients to try tomorrow, but I have a question - I'm new to the dried-beans-game. How do you know if you have "fresh" dried beans or good dried beans vs. old/bad?

Peg

    Hi Peg - to be honest, it can be a bit of a guessing game. I try to buy from reliable sources with high-turnover, for example - ordering from Rancho Gordo directly. The main thing is to avoid buying bean from a spot where you feel like they've been sitting forever.

These are absolutely delicious! I love the sage. One question, would freezing some of these baked beans be okay or would that destroy them? If okay to freeze, do you have any tips/advice on how best to thaw and re-cook?

Jennifer

    Yes, you can freeze. Then thaw on your countertop for a few hours, or do a day in the refrigerator to thaw.

Excited to try this recipe! Could I make this with rosemary instead of thyme/sage? I have a huge bush of rosemary and the sage is not quite mature enough to pull from. Thank you!

Cari E.

So far so good, but after 3 hours in the oven (2 hours at 225 and 1 hour at 280) there is still soooooooo much liquid. And not thick, creamy liquid, just watery and not flavorful. I used pinto beans from Cal-Mart Laurel Village. Did i do something wrong? Had to put them on the stovetop to thicken and it took about 25 minutes to reduce to kinda what your pic looks like. And it seems it needed way more salt than 1tsp. BUT, the end result was delish!!!! Maybe I should cook WAY longer in my oven?

kristen

    Every bean is different Kristen - my guess were those weren't ideally fresh?? And I think you did everything right by finishing them on the stove. And, re: salt, when the broth simmers down you end up with it concentrated. I typically recommend a salt amount, but with salt it really is to your taste. Glad they turned out after the long bake. xx, -h

This was absolutely delicious and beyond simple. We had the leftovers on Aran Goyoaga’s Gluten Free olive & caraway bread. May have tasted even better on the 2nd day.

Nora

I just put these in the oven - the house smells so good! I cannot wait to try them! However, I just realized I put the salt in with the thyme & garlic - I'm hoping this won't ruin the pot of beans?!

Sheri

    I did that with my last pot of beans as well...and they were fine. But my beans were really fresh and well soaked.

THE BEST beans I’ve cooked!! Thank you, Heidi. I love your cookbooks and your website!

Joyce

This recipe is amazing! I have not enjoyed beans this much before. I admittedly wasn't very hopeful as the bag of beans in my cupboard wasn't very high-end, nor was it very expensive. But did it deliver! I gulped it down for lunch and am already looking forward to mash / mix some into wholegrain linguine tonight. Thanks!

Eline

    That's great Eline! And it's one of the best things about the humble bean :)

Hi Heidi, Making this this afternoon! Have soaked my beans, just 1/2#. I'm using Rancho Gordo Caballeros. Would you still use 6 cups of water and do you have a recommendation for a spice other than sage or thyme. Bay leaves? Too strong? I do have thyme leaves.....

Mary Ann

    Hi Mary Ann - I'd do more like 3-4 cups with less beans...

This is so good and so simple! I only had Northern White Beans from the grocery store and it was still fantastic. I will try making it with fresher beans once I get some. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

Jennifer

I am obsessed with beans, thanks for this recipe! I am wondering if this could be adaptated for an Instant Pot (I am always a bit weary of long cooking in my oven lol)? Take care

Nolwenn

    Hi Nolwenn - I've linked to the IP version in the post. Enjoy!

we’re big bean eaters and make something similar but add artichokes. Definitely going to try the baked bean and pasta recipe using leftovers.

Chef Beansy

“bean broth is special in its own right” Could not agree more! I always save extra bean broth & freeze in 1 & 2 cup portions. Use in multiple ways, including for those times when I want a little something, but not looking to eat. Thaw, warm & sip away. I tend to use a slow cooker for beans, but this method would make for wonderful beans.

PamelaB

I have a Le Creuset dutch oven with a plastic handle (which is not ideal for oven temps). If I follow the manufacturer directions and remove the handle before popping the pot in the oven, will the hole be big enough to mimic your recommended tiny crack?

Suzanne

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