Prebranac (Serbian Baked Beans)

By • November 10, 2012 • 27 Comments

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Author Notes: Prebranac is one of the staple dishes of Serbian, Bosnian and Macedonian cuisine. It is one of the classic comfort foods of Balkans – a casserole of caramelized onions and white beans, in a sauce flavored with bay leaves and sweet Hungarian paprika. Originally made by farmers during long winters – it’s nutritious, wholesome and by far one of the cheapest dishes ever made. Prebranac is typically served at room temperature with warm crusty bread. In the Balkans, every family has their own way of making Prebranac, it’s the kind of recipe passed down through generations. Here is the one I “inherited” from my mom. She never wrote it down, always guided by her inner sense of perfection. Although Prebranac has an amazing quality that no matter what you do to it, it can never go wrong, it took me many years of experimentation, until I finally nailed the taste of my mom’s dish. And so it goes...QueenSashy

Serves 12

  • 1 pound dry large butter or Lima beans
  • 5-6 medium yellow onions (about 2lbs), sliced into thin ribs
  • 1 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water.
  2. Drain the beans. Place the beans in a pot and cover with water. (For each cup of beans use three cups of water). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are very soft, for about an hour and a half (cooking time will depend on the type and the size of beans, so check them from time to time). Drain and discard the water.
  3. Preheat oven to 375F.
  4. In a large casserole or Dutch oven combine the oil with the onions over medium heat (alternatively you can heat the oil first, but starting the onions in cold oil will help release their flavor gradually and will give them mellower taste than the hot oil method). Simmer the onions for about 30 minutes, until very soft and deep yellow. You might have to add a drop of water from time to time to prevent onions from drying.
  5. When the onions are done, add the beans, garlic, paprika and bay leaves to the casserole. Season with salt and pepper, add about 3 cups of water, and mix gently. (The beans should be somewhat covered in water, but not swimming in it.)
  6. Place the casserole in the oven and bake for about an hour to hour and a half, adding more water if necessary (the beans should never be completely dry). When done, the top layer of beans should be gently caramelized and fairly dry, most of the moisture having evaporated, while the beans inside should be wonderfully creamy and coated with onions.
  7. Let Prebranac completely cool before serving. Let it rest for a day in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature (but not cold) with crusty bread.
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Comments (27) Questions (1)

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84baef1b-1614-4c3d-a895-e859c9d40bd1.chris_in_oslo

16 days ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

I made this with chestnut limas (also known as Christmas limas), and it’s genius. You’d never guess it had such simple and so few ingredients. It was all I could do to keep my husband from eating it all straight from the oven. When told we should wait a day, he couldn’t imagine it could get any better than it was right now.

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

16 days ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

I never tried chestnut limas... In Serbia there are beans that are dedicated for making this dish, they call them Tetovo beans, because they come from the Macedonian city of Tetovo. The closest cousin to it I think are the small limas, but I like to use the large ones, for their buttery flavor. Must try chestnut limas now! Thanks so much for letting me know.

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26 days ago Tatyana

I made this dish last night and it is so delicious! Everyone in my family enjoyed it so very much. We are transitioning to a plant based diet and this dish will become a part of our weekly menu. In step 5 I used three cups of broth I had left after cooking the beans instead of water! Thank you for the sharing the recipe

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

26 days ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

... and thank you for reporting back and sharing the broth tip. I think that's the proper way to make the dish, I just never really got to it -- look forward to putting it to practice next time I make the beans.

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27 days ago susan

Holy cow, just tasted a little straight out of the oven and mushy or not, it's delicious!

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

27 days ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

So glad to hear that! It will be even better once it sits for a while...

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27 days ago susan

Thank you. Good to know the recipe is forgiving and will still taste good! Smells great, but beans are definitely mushy. Also, I put in a little less water so beans were not covered but now as it's cooking, the water is higher? Hoping this cooks off as the hour goes by...Looking forward to trying it regardless.

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27 days ago susan

I kept checking beans and they went from kind of firm to REALLY soft very quickly. They're falling apart. Tasty, but not pretty. Is this ok? Do they fall apart when "very soft"? Hoping I didn't ruin it...But maybe at least the taste will be ok?

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

27 days ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

The beans should not fall apart. They should be soft but still have a bite to them. It might happen if you cooked the beans a little bit loner and started with already very soft beans? But do not worry, you really cannot ruin this dish, it is very forgiving and it will be tasty.

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3 months ago Annie stader

Yes I did. I followed the recipe exactly. They are not greasy although the oil did start to separate after several days.

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3 months ago Nan

Annie when you tested this recipe did you let it rest for a day to taste it?

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3 months ago Nan

I am making this dish now & is the cup of oil correct for the onions, the onions are swimming in the oil. Is this why this dish is so creamy?

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

3 months ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

You will be adding a lot of beans, so when you put everything together, it will not be that much. But you can go ahead and reduce the oil. But do not go beyond 1/2 cup, as it might be a bit dry.

Eb515e78-7387-4e72-b91d-acfa26b55b99.default-full

3 months ago Annie stader

I tested this recipe for the contest. They are so tasty and creamy. I couldn't stop eating them and I even had them for breakfast with a fried egg! Thanks for sharing a great recipe.

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

3 months ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

Annie, I too like to eat them with an egg -- sunny side up! Thanks so much for testing and the feedback.

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3 months ago Nan

This looks delicious, can I assume you don't cover the beans in the oven & never stir
the beans

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

3 months ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

Nan, yes, you are right. Leave the beans uncovered and do not stir them. Thank you for reaching out for clarification.

6b4ba09b-2f3a-4112-a943-32ee1b03a08e.anotherfoodieblogger_about_me_image

3 months ago anotherfoodieblogger

I will have to make this some day! What a great comfort-food dish.

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3 months ago healthierkitchen

this sounded so good when you first posted it and then I filed it away and never made it. So glad to see it as a contender and glad for the reminder!

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5 months ago Tara chamot

Just made this as a Christmas side dish & it came out amazing. Didn't have a stovetop to oven dish, so I just transferred to casserole dish after doing the sautéing & it worked out fine. Took a bit longer than it said until they were done soaking up most of the water. This is such a great dinner party recipe because: 1.) make ahead, 2.) simple ingredients & preparation, 3.) makes a lot!!!! Don't pass this one up

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

5 months ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

Tara, I am so glad that it worked out! And you know what, it also gets better as it "ages" :)

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12 months ago Radojka

I use Great Northern Beans, instead of lima bean, chopped carrots, celery, chopped hot banana pepper, lots of sliced onions and pressed garlic. I saute the vegetables until they have a sweet taste in safflower oil. I love this hot, cold or at room temperature.This tastes better the next day, because all the flavors meld together. In fact I'm making some today for my son, he wants a whole pot full. I use low sodium vegetable broth or low sodium chicken broth instead of water to cook the beans in. Delish

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about 2 years ago JORJ

looks great! I'm intrigued that you eat it at room temperature. I really like all the ingredients so I'm sure I'll like this too.

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

about 2 years ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

Thank you JORJ. Yes, letting the dish stay in a fridge for a day, and then serving at room temperature (but not cold) is the key -- the flavor will be entirely different. If you give it a try, please let me know if it worked for you.

C4b35b3e-a030-4605-bcae-f5a7ba4644f4.sausage2

about 2 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Oh, yum! This looks great!

609271d6-306e-4b3e-8479-9d404fb84e73.moi_1

about 2 years ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

Thank you!

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about 2 years ago healthierkitchen

Mmmmm. This sounds wonderful! I've been using gigante beans and they'd be great here.