Basic White Beans

7 Jan

basic white beans

When I first arrived in South America and found myself faced with a dismal selection of canned beans (the few that were available being expensive and poor quality), I was very disheartened. Beans are a staple in my cooking, and I wasn’t sure how I’d manage. Now, though, I feel glad to have been forced into cooking up dried beans. After many batches of black beans, I decided to try my hand at other beans as well. This basic recipe should work with nearly any variety of white beans – I can’t say exactly what variety I used, but they were the only dried white beans available here, labeled simply as “porotos alubia.” Whatever the variety, they’ve been great to have on hand for putting on salads or in soups, and when I ran out of the beans themselves, I even used the remaining cooking liquid to add extra flavor and richness to a simple lentil and vegetable soup. I look forward now to cooking up my weekly batch of beans, and I think this is a habit I’ll keep even after I return somewhere with canned beans readily available.

Basic White Beans (adapted from Emmy Cooks)
Yield: 6 – 7 cups


  • 1 lb dried white beans, rinsed and soaked overnight in cold water, then drained*
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 4 – 6 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 dried red chile
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

*Alternatively, you can cover them with boiling water, and soak for an hour or two.


  1. In a large pot or dutch oven, combine 1 lb dried white beans, rinsed and soaked overnight in cold water, then drained with 6 cups water, and bring to a boil.
  2. Stir in 1 onion, quartered, 4 – 6 sprigs fresh parsley, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 2 bay leaves, 1 dried red chile, and 1 Tbsp olive oil, then lower heat, cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and let simmer until the beans are softened and fully cooked, about 1 to 2 hours.
  3. Remove from heat, fish out the onion pieces, bay leaves, and parsley sprigs, and add salt and pepper, to taste. Use the beans anywhere you would used canned white beans, and use the bean cooking liquid to thicken and flavor soups or stews or to thin purees.

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