Cannellini Beans: How to Cook Them Perfectly Every Time

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The navy bean, haricot or pearl haricot bean, white pea bean, or pea bean, is a class of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). It is particularly popular in the United Kingdom and the United States.

It is small, dry white bean which is smaller than many other types of white beans, and has an oval, slightly flattened shape.

Cannellini beans are great in soups, stews, and salads, and you can use them as a substitute for other types of beans like kidney beans. They have a mild, earthy flavor and a fluffy texture that holds their shape well when cooked.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about using cannellini beans in cooking.

How to cook with Cannellini beans

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The Versatile White Bean: Cannellini Beans

  • Prep time: 8 hours (soaking time for dried beans)
  • Cooking time: 1-2 hours

How to Cook Cannellini Beans

  • Soak dried beans in water for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  • Drain and rinse the beans.
  • In a large pot, add the beans and cover with water.
  • Add a bay leaf, a piece of onion, and a piece of garlic to the pot.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1-2 hours, or until the beans are tender.
  • Check the beans regularly and add more water if needed.
  • Remove the bay leaf, onion, and garlic pieces and discard.
  • Add salt to taste.

What’s the Flavor of Cannellini Beans?

Cannellini beans are a type of white bean that is popular in Italian cuisine. They are also called “white kidney beans” or “Italian white beans.” These beans are small and tender, with a fluffy flesh that holds up well in cooking. When cooked, they have a creamy texture that is fantastic in soups and stews.

Earthy and Nutty

Cannellini beans have a mild, earthy flavor that is slightly nutty. They are a great substitute for other beans like pinto or kidney beans. They are also a popular vegetarian ingredient, as they are high in protein and fiber.

Garlic and Olive Oil

To enhance the flavor of cannellini beans, try cooking them with garlic and olive oil. Simply sauté a few cloves of garlic in olive oil until fragrant, then add a cup of dried cannellini beans and cover with water. Add a bouquet garni (a bundle of herbs like thyme and bay leaves) and a pinch of salt and pepper. Simmer on the stovetop until the beans are tender and creamy.

Parmesan Cheese

Another way to add flavor to cannellini beans is to sprinkle them with freshly grated parmesan cheese. This adds a salty, nutty flavor that pairs well with the earthy taste of the beans. Try adding parmesan to a minestrone soup or making a creamy cannellini bean dip.

Why Soaking Dried Cannellini Beans Before Cooking is a Must

Before cooking cannellini beans, it’s important to soak them overnight. This simple method ensures that the beans rehydrate and cook evenly, resulting in a perfectly cooked dish. Here’s how to do it:

  • Pick through the beans and discard any shriveled or discolored ones.
  • Rinse the beans thoroughly in a bowl of water.
  • Place the beans in a large bowl and cover them with water, making sure the water level is at least 2 inches above the beans.
  • Set the bowl on the counter, uncovered, and let the beans soak overnight.

Why Does Soaking Work?

Soaking dried cannellini beans before cooking is necessary because it helps to:

  • Rehydrate the beans: Dried beans are dehydrated, and soaking them overnight ensures that they absorb enough water to rehydrate fully.
  • Ensure even cooking: Soaking the beans ensures that they cook evenly and don’t remain hard in the center.
  • Reduce cooking time: Soaking the beans reduces the cooking time by up to 50%.

What Do You Need?

To soak dried cannellini beans, you’ll need:

  • A large bowl
  • Water
  • Dried cannellini beans

Presoaked and Drained Beans

If you have presoaked and drained cannellini beans, you can skip the soaking step and cook them right away. However, keep in mind that presoaked beans may require less cooking time than unsoaked beans.

Storing Soaked Beans

If you’re not planning to cook the soaked beans right away, you can refrigerate them for up to 2 days or freeze them for up to 6 months. To freeze the soaked beans, drain them and place them in a ziplock bag. Make sure to label the bag with the date and type of beans.

Mastering the Art of Cooking Cannellini Beans

  • Sort through the dried beans, pick out any debris, and rinse them under cold water.
  • Soak the beans in a large bowl of water overnight or for at least 6 hours. This will make the cooking process faster and easier.
  • Drain the soaked beans and set them aside.


  • In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions and garlic, and stir until the onions become translucent.
  • Add the soaked cannellini beans to the pot and stir to coat them with the onion and garlic mixture.
  • Pour in enough water or stock to cover the beans by about 2 inches.
  • Add a bay leaf and a piece of red pepper for flavor.
  • Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot.
  • Let the beans simmer for about 60-90 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are tender and cooked through.
  • Check the beans for tenderness after 60 minutes and continue cooking as needed.
  • If the beans start to dry out during the cooking process, add more water or stock as needed.
  • Once the beans are cooked, remove the bay leaf and red pepper piece and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  • Serve the beans as a side dish or use them as a base for a main course.


  • If you have leftover cooked cannellini beans, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • To freeze the cooked beans, let them cool completely and then transfer them to a freezer-safe container or bag. They will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Tips and Tricks

  • Adding a piece of kombu seaweed to the pot while cooking the beans can help make them more digestible.
  • Be careful not to add too much salt to the beans while they are cooking, as this can make them tough and take longer to cook.
  • If you want to make the cooking process even faster, you can use a pressure cooker or Instant Pot to cook the beans in a fraction of the time.
  • Cannellini beans are a great source of protein and can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to salads and dips.
  • When cutting the onion, use a sharp knife to ensure even pieces and to make the process easier.
  • Cannellini beans are a popular type of white bean, also called white kidney beans, and are a staple in Italian cuisine.
  • The standard technique for cooking cannellini beans is to soak them overnight and then simmer them in water or stock until tender.
  • Cannellini beans are a firm bean, which means they hold their shape well and are great for adding to salads or other dishes where you want the beans to maintain their texture.

Get Creative: Delicious Dishes to Make with Cannellini Beans

  • Cannellini Bean and Pork Stew: Cut pork into small pieces and brown in a large pot with olive oil. Add chopped onions, garlic, and fennel and cook until soft. Add cannellini beans, diced tomatoes, and enough water to cover everything. Season with salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1-2 hours until the pork is tender and the beans are soft. Serve with crusty bread.
  • Swiss Chard and Cannellini Bean Stuffed Peppers: Cut the tops off of red bell peppers and remove the seeds and white membrane. In a bowl, mix together cooked cannellini beans, chopped Swiss chard leaves, garlic, lemon zest, and olive oil. Stuff the mixture into the peppers and top with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs. Bake in the oven at 375°F for 30-40 minutes until the peppers are soft and the tops are crispy.

Side Dish Recipes

  • Cannellini Bean and Garlic Mash: Cook cannellini beans in a pot of boiling water until soft. Drain and rinse with cold water. In a separate pot, heat up olive oil and add chopped garlic cloves. Cook until fragrant and then add the beans. Mash the beans with a fork or potato masher until they are soft and evenly mashed. Season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Cannellini Bean Salad: Drain and rinse canned cannellini beans and add to a bowl. Add chopped fresh tomatoes, red onion, and fresh basil leaves. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Serve cold.

Why Cannellini Beans are a Healthy Addition to Your Cooking

Cannellini beans, also known as white kidney beans, are a type of bean that is originally grown in Italy near Lake Trasimeno. They are a popular ingredient in Italian cuisine, particularly in dishes like minestrone and soups. Cannellini beans have a mild, nutty, and earthy flavor that makes them fantastic for making a variety of dishes. But are they good for you?

Ways to Use Cannellini Beans in Your Cooking

Cannellini beans are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are some ideas:

  • Make a white bean dip: Puree cannellini beans with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt for a delicious dip.
  • Add them to soups: Cannellini beans are a popular ingredient in soups like minestrone and vegetable soup.
  • Use them in salads: Add cannellini beans to salads for a protein boost.
  • Make a bean and chard stew: Saute chopped chard leaves with garlic and olive oil, then add cannellini beans and vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Use them in pasta dishes: Add cannellini beans to pasta dishes for a creamy and tender texture.
  • Make a bean and vegetable stir-fry: Saute chopped vegetables like bell peppers, onion, and zucchini with cannellini beans and season with salt and pepper.


So there you have it- all you need to know about cannellini beans. They’re a versatile ingredient that can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. They’re a great way to add some extra protein and fiber to your diet. So don’t be shy- give them a try!

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.