Make Ahead

Chicken, Chard, and Cranberry Bean Stew

January  1, 2014
8 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

If you find yourself with a jar of preserved lemons, set some aside for this stew. The combination of pungent lemon, creamy beans, silky greens, and rich, chicken-y broth is perfect for any day. This is also a great example of stretching a little bit of meat to feed a lot of people: One pound of bone-in, skin-on chicken legs will generate enough flavor to satisfy six to eight eaters. Serve this with bread or couscous for soaking up all the flavorful juices. —ieatthepeach

Test Kitchen Notes

This quintessentially "fall" dish is the perfect centerpiece for a gathering when you want to spend more time catching up than cooking. Cranberry beans release a thick, savory broth that coats the silky chard and chicken, and can be sopped up with some fresh, crusty bread. For a vegetarian version, add a few teaspoons miso paste and some sautéed wild mushrooms just before serving. Do make an effort to find preserved lemon—it's a real game-changer in this recipe, adding a charming brightness. Leftovers freshen up nicely with a slug of hot water and a swirl of tangy olive oil. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound dried cranberry beans
  • 5 cups water, plus more for soaking the beans
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 bunch (about 3/4 pound) red chard, thoroughly washed, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or drumsticks
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • two 3-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes, or to taste
  • 1 small preserved lemon, rinsed and minced
  • Bread or couscous for serving (optional)
  1. Place the beans in a large bowl, and pour enough water over them to cover by at least 2 inches. Add the salt and stir until dissolved. Let the beans soak for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Once the beans have soaked, drain and rinse them thoroughly, and set aside.
  2. Cut the chard leaves away from the stems, then roughly chop the leaves and thinly slice the stems. Set aside.
  3. In a Dutch oven or heavy pot with a lid, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken lightly on both sides with salt and pepper, then add to the pot and brown thoroughly on both sides, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the partially cooked chicken to a plate and set aside.
  4. Reduce the heat under the pot to medium. Add onions and chard stems and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are soft. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add 5 cups water, cinnamon sticks, bay leaf, paprika, and chile flakes, and stir to combine. Add beans, reserved chicken pieces, and any juices that have accumulated on the chicken plate.
  5. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to keep the liquid at a steady simmer. Partially cover with a lid and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender but still slightly firm and the chicken is almost falling off the bone. Remove the chicken from the pot, transfer to a plate, and set it aside.
  6. Add the chard leaves and preserved lemon to the pot, and stir until the chard wilts. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the liquid has thickened and the chard and beans are tender. If the stew seems to be getting dry before the beans are done, add a splash of water. Remove and discard cinnamon sticks and bay leaf.
  7. Pull or cut the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces; discard bones and skin. Return the chicken meat to the pot, along with any juices that accumulated on the plate. Stir until the meat is heated through. Taste and adjust the salt as needed—you probably won’t need much, since the preserved lemon is plenty salty.
  8. Ladle the stew into bowls, and serve warm with bread or couscous (if desired). Leftovers will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for 3 months.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Belle
  • Jonathan David Pittard
    Jonathan David Pittard
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18 Reviews

lee5968 August 20, 2023
One of my favorites that I keep going back to over the years! I cut down on the cinnamon to 1.5 sticks and used a bit less than a whole preserved lemon, but that might just be my taste.
Belle January 27, 2023
This is a fabulous recipe. The flavors work so well together and the preserved lemon helped with their integration. This is my first time using preserved lemons, which I made myself, and waited 30 days for them to cure. Since I hadn't used them before I thought the recipe's amount seemed like a lot (from my experience with lemon zest) so I used only 2/3 of a lemon. With this, the cinnamon was pronounced. I added the rest of the preserved lemon and voila, all was lovely! The cranberry beans were fresh and I didn't need to soak them but just cooked them for about 30 minutes. In the future I would boil them for about 10 minutes and add them to the stew earlier, to cook with all the other ingredients. The beans were lovely. My husband isn't a bean fan and he enjoyed the stew. Thanks for a tasty recipe.
Chloroph October 18, 2020
This came out really great, rich and satisfying, healthy too. Cooking times took a lot longer to get the consistencies indicated in the recipe. That's okay so long as you are not expecting a quick meal. I accidentally added the chard leaves with the stems, so they cooked a long time. But no matter, they kept shape and very delicious. I will be making this again, especially on long chilly afternoons!
Jonathan D. October 18, 2019
The beans completely broke down in the dish and it looks like mush. I followed temp directions and even left in for less time than the instructions specified. Any thoughts?
blueschaseuparabbit September 19, 2018
Your recipe caught my eye because I love all the ingredients. AND I had preserved lemons in the fridge! For once in my impatient, always wait til I'm too hungry, life I made the recipe exactly as written--plus the list of spices was list too interesting not to do precisely. Wow. That broth was flat out wonderful! And just as you said, the textures were exceptional. Having lost my sense of smell many years ago, you can bet I pay attention to texture. The ingredients are perfect for a diabetic. I APPRECIATE you posting this recipe so much!
Cecile August 12, 2018
Can this be stretched to serve 10 to 12 by topping it over rice? Thinking of my book club meeting coming up. THX
Stephanie H. April 15, 2016
I made this for dinner last night and am eating the leftovers for lunch. Delicious! I used one teaspoon of smoked paprika plus a teaspoon of regular, and substituted lemon zest for the preserved lemon (added a little with the chard leaves, and a little more at the end). I love the slow heat in this dish--it's warming without being spicy. I may try it in the slow cooker next time.
AntoniaJames November 9, 2015
I keep thinking that a smoked turkey thigh would be perfect in this. Cannot wait to try this recipe, as written and with variations. ;o)
Sameshirt May 19, 2015
I made this today and it's hearty and tasty. The lemon really makes this dish. Like Girlwithaknife, I couldn't find cranberry beans; my Whole Foods no longer seems to carry them, though I've bought them there in the past. I used kidney beans instead and like the red they add to this dish--but a pound of them makes a huge quantity. Were I to use kidneys again, I'd start with only a half pound. Also, I soaked them for 24 hours and found they cooked much faster than I expected. If I'd given them a full hour, as called for in the recipe, they'd have been mushy. I was glad I checked after about 45 minutes.
girlwithaknife May 11, 2015
If I can't find cranberry beans, what is a good substitute? What about canned beans?
ieatthepeach May 11, 2015
You could use any dried white beans, like navy beans or Great Northerns. I wouldn't use canned beans--this stew really depends on dried beans for flavor and texture, and canned beans will get mushy by the time the chicken's cooked.
nancy E. May 10, 2015
I am going to make this soon. So perfect. Problem is, I will never have preserved lemons . What can be exchanged? Just lemon?
ieatthepeach May 10, 2015
Yes, you can substitute some grated lemon zest and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice! I'd add it right at the end, so that the flavor stays fresh.
tinab May 7, 2015
Oh. I think I'll try the first few steps in the pressure cooker (since the weather has gotten warmer, and I don't want to heat up the house any more than necessary.) Lovely! Love the idea of adding some preserved lemon here.
Sharon H. September 20, 2015
Ah tinab, I'd also like to try and make this in the pressure cooker! How did it work for you? Could you please share what you did?
LeBec F. January 11, 2014
yummm, this looks quite wonderful. love that you have greens and beans, now the grains.... i think i'll use wheatberries for nutrition, mixed with couscous for absorbing the sauce! th you:-)
ieatthepeach January 13, 2014
Ooh, I love that idea!
Daphne February 16, 2020
Sorry riding in car and hit a bump did not mean to flag. The recipe looks wonderful