White beans are packed with nutrients, including folate, fiber, calcium, iron, and protein. They’ve also got a wonderful, buttery texture and are extremely versatile! These 15 nutritious vegan white bean recipes will help you to feature this simple superfood in your plant-based meals.
As a registered dietitian, I’m always giving my clients gentle nudges toward variety. Eating a variety of foods, we know, is the best way to maximize our intake of both micro and macronutrients.
For example, we’re encouraged to “eat the rainbow” because the different colors of vegetables signal different phytochemicals, or plant compounds that give vegetables their distinctive colors. And each phytochemical has been associated with different preventive health benefits.
I’m pretty good about vegetable variety, though of course I have my go-tos (I probably eat broccoli every day).
But variety also matters when it comes to macronutrient sources, including the foods we rely on for protein and complex carb intake.
Different plant proteins provide different amino acids. While we don’t need to eat “complete” proteins within meals, but it is essential to source all of the amino acids that we need through eating adequate protein and a variety of foods.
It’s always a good idea, then, to mix things up when it comes to what we eat. I can be pretty repetitive, especially when I’m busy or stressed.
But there’s a wide world of beans out there, and too often I find myself eating only two of them.
Fortunately, there’s another type of bean—several beans, really—that I also love. White beans have always been a favorite legume, and I have a lot of recipes that feature them.
For whatever reason, I tend to associate white beans with spring and summer recipes and produce. For example, I love to pair them with both tomatoes and artichokes. So it feels like a good time to be sharing fifteen of my favorite vegan white bean recipes.
“White beans” describes a family of beans that share the same color, rather than a single type of bean.
In the US, the most commonly available types of white beans are:
Because of my background, I know that the Greek dish Gigantes plaki is often made with large lima beans, though it’s my understanding that it can also be made with a variety of runner beans as well.
When one of my vegan white bean recipes calls for “white beans,” I’m thinking of cannellini beans, great northern beans, or navy beans, which can be used interchangeably. But the heirloom varieties mentioned above will work, too.
The process of cooking white beans is similar to that of making other beans.
You begin with two options: cooking your beans from scratch, or using canned.
I won’t lie: I almost never cook beans from scratch. Over time, I’ve found that it’s an extra step that isn’t worth it to me from a taste or cost perspective. I like canned beans, they’re super convenient, and while cooking dry beans from scratch is cheaper, canned beans aren’t expensive.
If you do prefer to cook beans from scratch, then you have more options. You can use a pressure cooker or an Instant Pot (I don’t have either) or you can soak the beans overnight and boil them the following day.
My experience has been that overnight-soaked white beans need about 75-105 minutes of boiling in order to be cooked through. Navy beans take less time to cook than cannellini or great northern beans.
In the unusual times that I do cook beans from scratch, I soak them in overnight first in a pot of water. The following day, I drain and rinse the beans before cooking.
If you prefer to do a quick soak method or to not soak beans at all, that’s always an option. Not soaking the beans will just lengthen their cooking time.
I like an overnight soak for the shortened cooking time, and it creates no extra effort for me.
After soaking, draining, and rinsing, I return the beans to the pot and cover them with fresh water—enough to submerge them by 3-4 inches. I bring the water to a boil, then I turn the heat to medium low, or enough to keep the water at a simmer.
I cook the beans, uncovered, until they’re tender but still hold their shape well. When it’s time to test the beans for doneness, I recommend tasting a few, so that you can be sure that all of the beans are cooked uniformly. Cooking time for dry beans can vary considerably with their age.
You can store cooked beans in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. And you can freeze cooked beans for at least 8 weeks.
If you scratch cook a whole pound of beans, it’s easy to freeze a portion of the batch and defrost them whenever you need quick, nutritious protein for soups, salads or bowls.
Dry beans can be stored in airtight containers in a cool, dry part of your home for up to a year or two.
I’m pretty resistant to ever claiming that a particular food is “good” or “bad” for anyone—context is everything, of course. But white beans are certainly good for anyone who already enjoys and feels good eating beans!
White beans are very nutrient-dense. They’re good or excellent sources of all of the following:
White beans also supply calcium, thiamine and Vitamin B6.
It’s wonderful when a single food offers so much varied nutrition. Better still when that nutrition is packaged with all sorts of culinary potential.
There are a few vegan recipes that I associate specifically with white beans, and you’ll find some of them below.
However, white beans are versatile and can be used in so many ways. They can be added to any bowl or salad for protein. I love adding beans to pasta dishes: this beans & greens pasta is one of my favorites, and white beans are excellent in it.
Pile some white beans, or white beans and tomato sauce, onto your favorite toast or a burger bun. You can stuff them into a wrap, along with some vegetables and a good dressing, like my vegan Caesar.
In short, there’s no shortage of ways to use these buttery-textured, nutrient-dense legumes.
If you need some more specific recipe inspiration, I’ve got you! Here are fifteen of my favorite ideas.
That last recipe—garlic tahini smashed white bean salad—has made a comeback in my kitchen in the last few weeks.
It’s an older recipe, but I remember loving it when I first made it, and it has stood the test of time.
Yes, chickpeas are great in a smashed bean salad. But white beans, especially cannellini and great northern beans, give them a run for their money.
The substantial size and creamy texture of these beans is great for mashing. The resulting bean salad has some mashed beans, some whole ones, and they’re all brought together by a savory, roasted garlic tahini dressing.
The smashed white bean salad is ideal for meal prep. Serve it in a wrap, on toast or in a sandwich, as part of a bowl, with vegetable crudités, or however you like. It can be part of lunch or a great snack.
If you’re as eager for lunch variety as I am these days, this is a good option to bookmark and enjoy all summer long. Here’s the recipe.
I’m always inspired by how the simplest and most foundational plant-based ingredients, beans and grains, can create countless meals.
In the meantime, I hope that this post will spark or revive your love of white beans!