Perfect Beans

I have long wanted to post this recipe as a return to the blogging world, but a pot of beans didn’t feel significant or thrilling enough after such a long hiatus.* However, I have changed my tune now that grocery runs are limited and bags of dried beans — which have nearly vanished from store shelves (mine, anyway) – now seem worth their weight in gold. Perhaps you have a package of beans in a forgotten corner of your pantry that could use some inspiration?

This recipe comes from Molly at Orangette. Molly is one of the food blogging pioneers; she writes beautifully and her recipes are always with purpose. Her blog is worth an afternoon of perusing. Upon discovering her post for cooking beans several years ago, I’ve rarely strayed (as long as I have the foresight to soak the beans overnight before I need them). I’ve used this method to cook black beans for soup, pintos for Mexican dishes and white beans for cold salads, among many other uses. Cooking the beans low and slow allows you ultimate control over their texture. It wasn’t until I started cooking beans this way that I became increasingly disappointed with the canned version, which often don’t hold their shape and tend to reduce to mush upon reheating. This recipe yields a bean with a firm exterior and creamy center. I’ve also found that in soup, for example, the beans keep their texture upon multiple heatings vs. collapsing. I keep the beans in the fridge and use them for days: pan-frying them in olive oil alongside spinach and a fried egg or eating them cold, piled on top of buttered toast with a sprinkling of paprika. I’m continuously impressed with their longevity when deployed in various dishes over a week’s time.

Right now, they’re a hero in my kitchen as I strategize and stretch to prepare three meals and snacks each day for my family as we are home together during this period of quarantine. Sending wishes that everyone out there is safe and well.

* Big thanks to my friend, Steve, who resurrected my blog after it was hacked (!) a couple years ago.

Perfect Beans

I typically cook an entire pound of beans (and slightly increase the other ingredients listed here), so don’t hesitate to double the recipe if that works better for you.


½ lb beans (white beans, black beans, pintos, chickpeas - don't use red kidney beans)

¼ cup olive oil

5 thyme sprigs or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme (alternatives: two dried bay leaves or four fresh sage leaves or 1 teaspoon of dried Italian herbs)

3 garlic gloves, peeled and smashed

Optional: 2 shallots, sliced (or one small onion, sliced)

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or three dried red peppers)

Salt to taste


Add beans to a large bowl and pour enough water over them to cover the beans by at least 2 inches. The beans should soak for 12-24 hours, which is why I tend to soak them the night before, leaving them out on the counter, covered in plastic wrap, until I’m ready to cook them the next day.

When you’re ready to cook the beans, preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Drain the beans, reserving the soaking liquid. Place the beans, herbs, garlic, shallots (if using) and seasonings in a large pot. Add the olive oil, stirring to coat the beans. Pour the bean soaking liquid into a saucepan and bring to a boil.

Pour enough of the hot water over the beans to just cover them. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven for 4-5 hours until the beans are cooked through (the beans should not come to a boil in the oven). Timing will vary depending on the bean. I start checking the beans at the 4-hour mark and then every 20 minutes or so until they’re done. Remove the pot from the oven; add salt to the broth to taste.

Serving Suggestions: The beans are delicious in the broth or served on their own (sans broth) with shredded sharp cheddar cheese and a dash of hot sauce. They’re an obvious addition to soups and stews, and I enjoy them cold in salads, in which case they may need another sprinkling of salt and pepper. I also like to sauté finely diced garlic and a shallot in olive oil, add 1 cup of beans (cook for 2-3 minutes,) then a generous heap of spinach (cook until wilted, adding more salt and pepper to taste)  topped with a fried egg, it’s a comforting breakfast or lunch that’s ready in minutes.


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