Bean

Buttermilk White Beans With Eggs & Greens

April  9, 2020
13 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

It seems like just about everyone is rediscovering the joy of cooking a big pot of beans. They are inexpensive, nourishing, shelf-stable, and incredibly versatile. One of my favorite ways to prepare white beans of any variety—from cannellini to great northern—is to boil them with a bit of onion and garlic and, once they’re tender, cool the beans with a generous amount of buttermilk and fresh garlic. As they soak, the buttermilk adds lots of acidity and tanginess, while the garlic adds depth of flavor (toasty warmth from the cooked garlic, fragrant spice from the fresh garlic).

This recipe is written for four people for dinner, but it can easily be doubled or quadrupled to last throughout the week. The versatility of beans really kicks in when you have extra beans on hand. These buttermilk beans blend into a creamy dip with a couple of spins in a food processor. Or they can be lightly mashed and bound with a bit of flour to make fritters. Or they can be thinned with water or chicken stock to make a soup. Or add some roasted cherry tomatoes and spoon the whole thing on some thick toast. Plus, they freeze well, too.

This style of cooking the greens over high heat, then adding eggs, is my go-to one-pan method for a hearty breakfast. You can also cook the greens first, set them aside, wipe out the pan, and fry the eggs separately if that’s easier for you. —abraberens

Test Kitchen Notes

Every month, in Eat Your Vegetables, chef, Ruffage cookbook author, and former farmer Abra Berens shares a seasonal recipe that puts vegetables front and center (where they should be!). Missed an installment? Head here to catch up. —The Editors

  • Prep time 8 hours
  • Cook time 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (or unsalted butter)
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 pound dried white beans (such as cannellini, gigante, or great northern)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 bunch (10 leaves) hearty greens (such as kale, chard, or rapini), cut into ribbons
  • 1/4 teaspoon chile flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 large eggs
  • Freshly ground black pepper
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In a medium to large saucepan, heat several glugs of olive oil or knobs of butter over medium heat. Add the thyme sprigs and fry until fragrant and the leaves have stopped making the popping sound, about 1 minute. Add the onion and half the garlic, then reduce the heat to low and sweat until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the beans and enough water to cover by 2 to 3 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the beans are completely tender and creamy, and the water is mostly absorbed. This should take 45 to 75 minutes, depending on the variety and age.
  2. When they’re done, remove the beans from the heat and add the rest of the garlic, the salt, and buttermilk. Stir to combine, cover, transfer to the fridge, then allow the beans to cool in the buttermilk—at least 30 minutes, but ideally overnight.
  3. Before serving, remove the sprigs of thyme (don’t worry if some leaves break up into the broth) and gently warm the beans over low heat. When the beans are warm, taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
  4. In a large frying pan, heat a glug of olive oil over high heat until almost smoking, then add the greens and a big pinch of salt. Sautée the greens until they are bright in color and starting to soften. Add the white wine and chile flakes (if using) and allow the wine to evaporate by half.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium and make four divots in the greens. Drizzle more olive oil into the greens and crack an egg into each divot. Season the eggs with salt and black pepper. Cover the pan with a lid to steam the eggs—5 to 6 minutes, checking frequently toward the end so they don’t overcook.
  6. Dish the beans into serving bowls. Scoop a nest of greens and an egg from the pan and nestle on top of the beans. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and serve on its own, or with a thick slice of toast.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Cate Hernandez
    Cate Hernandez
  • WellFedWit
    WellFedWit
  • Little Piggy
    Little Piggy
  • Xenia Cobet
    Xenia Cobet
  • BklynChef73
    BklynChef73
Abra Berens is a chef, author, and former vegetable farmer. She started cooking at Zingerman's Deli, trained at Ballymaloe in Cork, Ireland. Find her at Granor Farm in Three Oaks, MI or Farm Club in Traverse City, MI. Her first cookbook, Ruffage: a practical guide to vegetables is out now. Her second book, Grist: a practical guide to grains and legumes is due Fall 2021.

    36 Reviews

    Cate H. January 28, 2021
    I smelled the buttermilk and doubted, but then I tasted the beans and believed (5 stars)
     
    WellFedWit October 17, 2020
    I had some leftover buttermilk and was looking for a savory recipe to use it in: These were amazing! So much flavor and perhaps my new favorite comfort food.
    I used Mayocoba beans because that’s what I had, and found that they took closer two 2 hours to get soft and creamy. I followed the suggestions of others to get the buttermilk to room temperature- ended up gently warming it on the stove before adding it to the beans to soak overnight. I never had a problem with separation after that.
    We used a bunch of greens per two servings- because who doesn’t need to eat more greens? Never added the egg because it just didn’t really seem necessary, but you do you.
    Added some roasted cherry tomatoes before serving, per the author’s suggestion, and they were a very nice addition!
    Can’t wait to make this again. And again!
     
    Demington October 5, 2020
    If you temper the buttermilk, it will not break. Leave the 2 cups of milk out while the beans cook. At the end, add small amounts of hot bean broth to the milk, stirring, until both liquids are the same temperature. Then combine them. It's surprising that the Food52 professionals did not add this tip when testing the recipe. This practice will help whenever you're adding cold to hot, and is especially useful when one ingredient is a dairy product.
     
    Caitlin July 18, 2020
    I just made these beans - doubled the recipe, but other than that, I followed it exactly. The buttermilk separated when I added it to the hot beans. They still taste amazing, but they don’t look all that appetizing with all that curdled milk floating around in there. Is there anything to try next time to avoid this? Thank you for the delicious recipe! Yum.
     
    Carol T. July 18, 2020
    see my post just below yours. my buttermilk also curdled and i now see that the recipe calls for warming the beans "gently over low heat" . was yours really soupy? i needed double the (canned) beans, i think.
     
    Caitlin July 19, 2020
    My buttermilk curdled immediately when I added it to the beans while they were still hot. I wonder if it would be better to let them cool a bit before adding the buttermilk. They are pretty soupy, but could be cooked down to thicken them up when they come out of the fridge.
     
    Melissa August 5, 2020
    Mine were not soupy but the buttermilk curdle and it made me very sad.
     
    Caitlin July 18, 2020
    I just made these beans - doubled the recipe, but other than that, I followed it exactly. The buttermilk separated when I added it to the hot beans. They still taste amazing, but they don’t look all that appetizing with all that curdled milk floating around in there. Is there anything to try next time to avoid this? Thank you for the delicious recipe!
     
    Carol T. July 15, 2020
    i made this with canned cannelini beans and warmed them per your instructions after sweating the onions and garlic ("add them to warm and then proceed at the point in the recipe where the beans are finished cooking"). when i heated the beans the next day, the buttermilk "broke" and looked like little bits of cheese. i read various sites that gave the equivalent of 1/2 lb of dried beans as being one 15 oz can of cooked beans, but it looked as if it needed another can -- the entire dish was very soupy. very tasty, but not what i was expecting. did i do something wrong? thank you!
     
    Little P. July 13, 2020
    Hi. I just completed the first part of the recipe. I used dry Greek Gigante beans. They took over 2 hours to cook. Some of the beans were falling apart while some were still hard. I wonder why the recipe didn't call to soak the beans overnight first? I also wasn't sure what to do with the skins of the beans b/c some of the skins were coming off naturally in the cooking process. I think it would be helpful to have an approximate ration of water to beans rather than just eyeball covering 1 - 2 inches. Anyway, I had to keep adding water to mine b/c it was taking so long to cook.
     
    Carmen August 30, 2020
    Whenever I cook large beans, I do a 24 hours brine soak (1 tablespoon kosher salt to 1 quart water). Even with good quality fresh dried beans, they need the pre-soak to rehydrate and cook properly.
     
    Xenia C. June 29, 2020
    Is there a substitute for buttermilk for a non-dairy version ?
     
    Author Comment
    abraberens June 30, 2020
    If avoiding dairy, I would substitute any sort of vinaigrette-- probably about a 1/2 cup or so. It will be a very different dish but you'll get the same balance of tangy against the inherently creamy beans. Hope that helps!
     
    MariEileen June 14, 2020
    O! M!! Geez Willkers!!! This dish was just FANTABULOUS!! after the first "taste test", it was all I could do to refrain from eating the beans and buttermilk right out of the bowl they were cooling in! Must confess, though, while the onions & garlic were sweating, I got distracted and, by the time my attention returned to them, they had caramelized a bit. Indeed, I rather liked it, when all was said and done. Also, I used the greens from a bunch of radishes and golden beets from the Farmer's Market for the greens mixture, which was quite tasty. Savory breakfasts are the fave way to start the day and this one is now in the top five on the breakfast list! Yummmmmmmm!!!!!
     
    BklynChef73 May 18, 2020
    Flavor is terrific, but I used a regular sized Spanish onion and there was WAY too much, had to pick the beans out and leave over a cup of onion behind. Will make again with either a small onion or just halving the onion and removing it (a la Marcella Hazan) at the end of the bean cooking.
     
    Author Comment
    abraberens May 26, 2020
    Those are both great ideas! The size of onions truly range so much from onion to onion.
     
    tastysweet May 15, 2020
    So I take it, the beans are served cold?
     
    Author Comment
    abraberens May 16, 2020
    The beans are just cooled overnight to absorb the buttermilk. They are tasty cold, but I generally re-warm to serve with the egg and kale. Hope that helps.
     
    Danna F. May 2, 2020
    Really great. I haven't used buttermilk in beans before... but I will again!
     
    Danna F. May 2, 2020
    Really great. I haven't used buttermilk in beans before... but I will again!
     
    foodie2811 May 1, 2020
    Amazing!
     
    foodie2811 May 1, 2020
    Theses beans are amazing! So flavorful. I are a bowl right after I finished making them! Thanks!
     
    Cissa April 22, 2020
    Just made this lovely meal-used duck eggs,a bit extra garlic.
    Brilliant,just brilliant👍
     
    Author Comment
    abraberens April 23, 2020
    So glad you enjoyed it!
     
    This sounds so interesting, and I happen to have all of the ingredients. I’m definitely going to try. Also, I bought your cookbook, Ruffage. It’s wonderful, not once have I been disappointed with anything I have tried. (The shaved cauliflower salad with dates, chili oil and parsley....ridiculously good). Having a wonderful time working my way through it 😋
     
    Author Comment
    abraberens April 20, 2020
    Super big smile! Thanks for your kind words and am so glad you are enjoying Ruffage. If there ever is something you don't like, please let me know that too! Hoping you and yours are as happy and healthy as can be.
     
    Pamela_in_Tokyo April 18, 2020
    This sounds so interesting! The recipe says to cover the beans by a couple of inches of water when you’re cooking them. At the end do you remove the beans from the water and add them to the buttermilk or add all of the beans and their cooking water to the buttermilk??
     
    Author Comment
    abraberens April 19, 2020
    Thanks! When I cooked them there wasn't a ton of excess water after the beans are cooked. The starch from the beans thickens the liquid as the beans absorb it. If it is excessively soupy, I'd drain off (or boil off) some of the excess before adding the buttermilk. The dish as a whole is creamy and stewy so there will be some liquid surrounding the beans. Hope that helps.
     
    Olinerd April 18, 2020
    Is it possible to use canned cannelloni beans and start with the buttermilk soak, or will that not do it? No dried beans on hand but plenty of canned ones and this recipe looks so delicious...
     
    Author Comment
    abraberens April 18, 2020
    Absolutely! I would sweat the onion and garlic as the recipe directs, rinse the beans and add them to warm and then proceed at the point in the recipe where the beans are finished cooking. Warming them encourages the beans to absorb the buttermilk as they cool.
     
    John C. April 15, 2020
    Do you soak the beans beforehand or cook right from dry ?
     
    Author Comment
    abraberens April 16, 2020
    Either way works. Soaking the beans shortens the cooking time and helps with even cooking between beans. To be honest, I often forget to soak and have cooked straight from dry. Often just takes longer and requires a bit more water as the beans rehydrate during the cooking process instead of before. Hope that helps.