One-Pot Wonders

Stewed Cranberry Beans with Kale

February  3, 2014
3 Ratings
Photo by Eric Moran
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

Sautéing aromatics before adding your soaked beans makes for a pot of beans that's deep with flavor; cooking them low and slow ensures a creamy, stewed result. I like to use cranberry beans, but any other creamy bean will do. Soak them overnight in plenty of salted water, then drain before cooking. You want to make sure that, while the beans cook, the water level never drops below them; if it does, add some more liquid, preferably hot. You want your beans to be nice and soft before you add the kale in. But feel free to add extra cooking liquid to turn it into more of a soup. I like serving mine over polenta or mashed potatoes. —Marian Bull

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups dried cranberry beans
  • Salted water, for soaking
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 to 5 cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
  • 1 heaping teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 large pinches dried thyme
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 5 cups liquid (I use a mix of homemade vegetable stock and water)
  • 2 to 3 bay leaves
  • 1 carrot, peeled and snapped in half
  • 1 large head of kale, washed and chopped (roughly 2 cups)
  • Splash of wine or vermouth (optional)
  1. Pick through your beans to make sure there aren't any pebbles or other debris hidden among them. Soak them in plenty of salted water overnight -- enough to cover them by at least 3 inches or so.
  2. When you're ready to cook, drain your beans. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then once you think it's hot, add the onions. Sauté for about five minutes, then add the garlic, and let that cook for another minute or two. Add the celery seed, thyme, pepper flakes, and a big fat pinch of salt, plus a few cracks of pepper. Let cook for a few minutes, making sure the garlic doesn't burn; add the beans, and cook for a few more, to let all of the flavors start to join forces.
  3. Add the liquid, bay leaves, and carrot, and bring everything to a boil. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, checking periodically to make sure that the liquid doesn't drop below the beans. If you're not using salted broth, you'll want to add extra salt; do so gradually, but don't be timid.
  4. To check for doneness, make sure you test at least 4 or 5 beans. Once all of them are soft, but before they completely fall apart, add the kale. At this point, the cooking liquid should have thickened from the starch of the beans. Cook it until the kale wilts, about 5 to 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add a splash of wine or vermouth if you want; if you do, let it cook off for a few minutes before removing from heat.
  5. Serve over polenta or mashed potatoes; leftovers reheat beautifully, but you may have to add a splash of water if they look thick or dry.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Cecile
  • Susan Hunt Whitaker
    Susan Hunt Whitaker
  • suzanne
  • NuMystic
  • JaySkelton
Marian Bull

Recipe by: Marian Bull


24 Reviews

Cecile December 20, 2019
The good news is I actually did some bean-soaking. Hadn’t done this before. The meh news is this dish is too bland for moi and family. I doused it with wine vinegar and wine and lots of salt. Very mild flavor. Now that I have so much of this dish, my plan is to smoosh the beans into patties and fry them up with plenty of garlic. And more red pepper flakes. I will move on to other bean dishes, however. I want to get away from relying on poultry and fish. I dumped red meat a long time ago. Cheers.
Josie M. December 15, 2015
What's in your polenta?
Susan H. December 15, 2015
It looks like there's a missing ingredient where it says "large." Can't wait to try this!
suzanne November 22, 2015
These are great beans! The broth has a fabulous flavor! My family eats these over red quinoa! A great dinner!
NuMystic March 1, 2015
For the salt doubters both Cook's Illustrated with their book The Science of Good Cooking as well as On Food and Cooking by food scientist Harold McGee explain how and why an overnight soak in salt water actually breaks down the skin of beans rather than toughens it. See here for more:

The real culprit of tough beans? Cooking in hard water or with acidic ingredients like tomatoes.
makebistro December 15, 2015
JaySkelton March 3, 2014
Made this last night with a few changes: dark red kidney beans (they were what was available), celery salt instead of celery seed, and no wine. The bean method worked perfectly from soak to cook, which delighted me because I have always had difficulties working with dried beans (and no one was gassy!). The kale was wilted but still crisp and textured, so it was a perfect doneness. Onions dissolved completely (are they supposed to do that? even if not, they certainly added to the flavor). Served it over a lightly buttered orzo, and the flavor and textures were amazing! Very filling meal, too.

Only change I want to try with this is a spring of fresh herb instead of dried next cook time.
LeBec F. February 19, 2014
p.s. but as importantly, Thank You for such an appealing recipe. I love cranberry beans and look foreward to making this. Your lesson about the aromatics is an important one too.
Marian B. February 19, 2014
Yes, let me know how it turns out for you!
LeBec F. February 19, 2014
Well darned if this salt issue isn't a pi_ser! I'm not sure i have ever seen such a divisive cooking issue; half the knowledgeable sources say Yes, and then the other half says No. I feel like we're all thrown into the Who Do You Trust? wheel...... and i think it means to me that no one reaslly knows.
Marian B. February 19, 2014
Yes, I used to be staunchly in the "DO NOT SALT UNTIL HALFWAY THROUGH COOKING" camp, but honestly, now I salt both during soaking and at the beginning of cooking, and my beans are far from tough. Steve Sando from Rancho Gordo explained it to me this way: salt does, in fact, toughen beans' skins, but the amount you use in cooking is so minimal that the effect is negligible, and adding salt at the end of cooking just results in salty water, not more flavorful beans.

Long live salt!
IndustrialGastronomy February 7, 2014
I have always drained beans after boiling to try to minimize gassiness. How much of a difference does this cooking method have, and is it worth the added flatulence at my dinner party? pardon the less than savory question!
Marian B. February 9, 2014
Soaking is supposed to help with that -- you can also add some kombu to the cooking liquid, then remove before serving. More info on digestion here:
Karen H. February 5, 2014
I'm not familiar with cranberry beans. I don't think I've ever seen them before! Do you get yours at a local grocery store?
Marian B. February 6, 2014
I buy them at my local store -- Bob's Red Mill brand is what I've used for this recipe, and they're usually striated, unlike the red ones in this photo. You could also use white beans, or any other creamy bean!
Kinhaven February 5, 2014
Not a kale fan here - would collard greens be a suitable substitute?
Marian B. February 6, 2014
Yes, definitely!
robin L. February 5, 2014
I am not too experienced at soaking/cooking dried beans, but when I have, I'm pretty sure none of the directions call for soaking the beans in 'salted' water. The salt won't toughen the bean? (Rancho Gordo directions say to add salt toward the very end, and a little at a time, because it takes a while for the beans to absorb it so you don't want to overdo it...)
Marian B. February 5, 2014
Cooks Illustrated actually suggests that you "brine" your beans in heavily salted water, drain them, and then cook them in only lightly salted water. Opinions are definitely varied, though -- I did a good bit of research on that topic and you can find a lot of helpful information here:
robin L. February 5, 2014
ah! great! thanks for the tip and link!
Chris H. February 5, 2014
FYI--the article linked to this recipe included the onions in the ingredient list, but the recipe as published on this page omits them.
Marian B. February 5, 2014
Thanks for the heads up! I just updated the recipe -- you'll need 2 medium onions, roughly chopped.
Girlfromipanema February 5, 2014
The looks great, but are you supposed to puree the beans?
Marian B. February 5, 2014
Nope! The creaminess comes from the beans' starch thickening their cooking liquid. If you wanted to, though, you could make a thick soup by adding extra vegetable stock and puréeing, say, half of the beans before adding in the kale. This recipe is extremely adaptable! Hope you'll give it a try.