This Brothy Beans recipe is so undoubtedly comforting and delicious, and so easy to make. Creamy white beans are braised with garlic, onions, fresh herbs, and a parmesan rind that all simmers together to make a homemade vegetable broth infused with a ton of flavor. Not to mention it’ll make your kitchen smell heavenly.
- Bacon: thick cut bacon is best for this recipe but really any bacon will do. The bacon gets cooked up all crispy, then the onion and garlic are seared in the residual bacon fat for extra flavor.
- White beans: I like cannellini beans or navy beans. They have a luscious creamy texture. This recipe uses a full pound of beans.
- Onions: two small yellow onions are perfect for this recipe.
- Garlic: plenty of garlic brings so much flavor. Two heads of garlic is ideal.
- Parmesan cheese rind: this will bring a residual nutty cheesy depth of flavor that’s so good. You want to use a rind that says “Parmigiano-Reggiano” on it as that’s the good stuff.
- Bay leaves: these bring the kind of flavor that is subtle but adds a lot of depth.
- Herbs: a mixture of fresh oregano, fresh thyme sprigs, and fresh rosemary to flavor the broth.
- Water: the liquid base of the broth.
- Lemon: a squeeze of lemon juice at the end adds a bit of acidity and balances out the flavors.
White beans 101
Check out the quick list below for some of the most common types of white beans.
- Navy beans (aka pea beans): The smallest white bean. They get creamy and tender on the inside when cooked, and can hold up well being simmered for a while, which is why they’re great for this recipe. They’re also relatively mild in flavor.
- Cannellini beans: a very common white bean and one of my favorites – slightly larger than the navy bean. They are a bit more tender and delicate but still keep their shape. They have a bit nuttier of a flavor.
- Lima beans (aka butter beans): Flatter in shape and the most mild in flavor compared to navy beans and cannellini beans but still have that buttery silky texture (hence the butter beans name).
More on beans here
For this brothy white beans recipe you do not need to soak your beans. However, there is a specific way to cut the onions and garlic for maximum surface-area flavor. For the onions, cut them in half from root to top (this will help keep them intact). For the garlic, cut the top off deep enough for all the cloves to be showing (similar to what you would do if you’re roasting garlic).
Step by step instructions
This is a pretty simple dish to prepare but it does require a longer cooking time to transform the dried beans into delicious silky creamy beans, so keep that in mind!
1. Cook the bacon. In a large pot or dutch oven, cook the bacon on medium heat until crispy, about 8 minutes. Remove the cooked bacon and transfer it to a paper-towel lined plate. Leave the bacon fat.
2. Sear the onions and garlic. Place the onions and garlic cut-side down in the residual bacon fat. Sear them until deeply golden and caramelized, about 5 minutes.
3. Cook the remaining ingredients. Along with the garlic and onions in the pot, add the dry beans, parmesan rind, herbs, bay leaves, and water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer on medium-low heat. Cover and simmer for 1 ½ - 2 hours until the beans are your desired tenderness. Stir occasionally. Cooking time will vary depending on the bean used.
4. Add lemon juice and serve. Once the beans are done cooking, squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon. Add salt and black pepper to taste (I added roughly 2 teaspoon of kosher salt). Ladle into large bowls and serve with the leftover crispy bacon, crusty bread, and a drizzle of good olive oil.
When serving, you can completely discard or simply avoid the large pieces of onion, or you can serve them into the bowls, it’s personal preference! I added them to my bowls because I love onions.
Tips and tricks
- Leave all the bacon fat in the pot after you’ve cooked it, that’s pure flavor that will be used to caramelize the onions and garlic!
- Leave the skins of the garlic and onion on, they’ll add more flavor. Just discard before serving or scoop around them. They’re pretty easy to spot. The garlic cloves will basically melt into the broth as it cooks, so you’re just left with the “shell” which you should also discard.
- If you’re really adverse to this you can remove the skins. For the garlic just keep the cloves whole.
- Wrap the herbs with kitchen twine if you want to make sure you get all of the stems out.
- Add some greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard, etc.!) to the broth the last few minutes to wilt for extra nutrients.
- Make sure your dry beans aren’t expired. I know beans are one of those ingredients we (me) thought never expired, but they do! And if they are expired they’ll never cook to be tender.
- To test beans for doneness, try a few! They should be very tender but still a little firm. They should not be falling apart or disintegrating.
- Make it spicy by adding a Calabrian chili into the broth
What to do with the cooked beans
My first choice is to scoop the beans with the broth into a bowl and dig into all of its coziness. But if you don’t want the broth and just want the cooked beans, there are tons of ways to use them (although, the broth is amazing so you should keep it).
- Make into a veggie burger
- Serve over toasted bread
- Put into a wrap
- Make a bean salad
- Blend them into a creamy soup with the broth, garlic, onion, and herbs
- Blend them without the broth plus a bit of olive oil into a delicious dip
- Serve with some seared white fish and more fresh herbs
Alternate cooking methods
Slow cooker instructions
Add everything except the bacon into the slow cooker and cook on low 8-10 hours until the beans are tender. Cook the bacon separately and use as a garnish. Alternatively, you can cook the bacon separately then add it to the slow cooker with everything else to allow the bacon flavor to infuse with everything else.
Instant pot instructions
Follow the same instructions but use the sauté function on medium heat for the first two steps. Then add everything in as written in step 3 and select the beans/chili setting (high pressure for 30-40 minutes). Let the pressure release naturally for 20 minutes, then release the remaining (if any is left) manually. Squeeze in the lemon juice and serve.
Storage and reheating
These beans store SO well they are equally as delicious and comforting after being reheated.
To store: let the beans and broth cool a bit. Discard the shells of the onions and garlic, and any big herb stems you can find. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
To reheat: warm in the microwave for a few minutes or put it back on the stovetop and heat it gently until warmed through.
To freeze: cool to room temperature, pour just the beans and broth into an airtight freezer safe container. Freeze for up to 2 months. Reheat on the stovetop over gentle heat until warmed through. I like to freeze into single servings!
You do not need to soak your beans for this recipe! You can, and it might reduce cooking time, but it’s not necessary. It’s a total myth that it’s a requirement!
Yes, to make this vegetarian leave out the bacon and make sure you’re using vegetarian parmesan. Instead, sear the garlic and onions in a mixture of olive oil and butter.
Leave out the parmesan rind.
You can, but you still need to develop the flavor of the broth. So let that simmer for at least 1 hour, then add the canned beans and continue with the recipe.
Yes! I haven’t tried it with any other color bean, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work! Red beans would be great.
More bean recipes
- 4 strips thick cut bacon
- 1 lb dried white beans navy beans, cannellini beans, etc.
- 2 small onions
- 2 heads of garlic
- 6 cups water
- 1 parmesan rind
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 stems fresh oregano
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- In a large pot or dutch oven, cook the bacon on medium heat until crispy, about 8 minutes. Remove the cooked bacon and transfer it to a paper-towel lined plate. Leave the bacon fat.
- Place the onions and garlic cut-side down in the residual bacon fat. Sear them until deeply golden and caramelized, about 5 minutes.
- Along with the garlic and onions in the pot, add the dry beans, parmesan rind, herbs, bay leaves, and water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer on medium-low heat. Cover and simmer for 1 ½ - 2 hours until the beans are your desired tenderness. Stir occasionally. Cooking time will vary depending on the bean used.
- Once the beans are done cooking, squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon. Add salt and black pepper to taste (I added roughly 2 teaspoon of kosher salt). Ladle into large bowls and serve with the leftover crispy bacon, crusty bread, and a drizzle of good olive oil.