Great Big Pot of Braised Beans & Kale
4.19 from 16 votes

Make your weekly meal prep ultra nourishing with this great big pot of braised beans & kale! It’s easy to prepare, super nutritious, and it makes a lot of food for freezing and leftovers.

A white, ceramic, fluted plate has been covered with a piece of toast and some braised beans & kale.

I was originally going to call this recipe what it actually is, which is braised cranberry beans and kale. I don’t cook cranberry beans as often as some others, but I do love their creamy texture, and I tend to get them during the holidays because their mottled, white and red exterior (which becomes pink as they cook) always strikes me as being appropriately festive.

As I was making the recipe, though, I realized that one of its upsides is that it can be made with pretty much any bean you’ve got: navy beans, cannellini or great northern beans, black beans, chickpeas, pinto or kidney. This is truly more of a cooking template than a recipe, but I like it so much—and am so sure I’ll be making it regularly from now on—that I couldn’t help but share it.

A white bowl is filled with soupy cooked cranberry beans and kale.

My normal process for batch cooking beans is to soak them overnight, then boil them till tender. I like this because it allows me to use the beans any which way: I haven’t really seasoned them, so they’re a flexible addition to any recipe.

There’s a lot to be said, though, for cooking them this way, with lots of onion and garlic and salt: the beans take on more flavor, and they end up having a stewed consistency that’s really lovely. Braised beans aren’t as blank a canvas as plainly boiled ones, but they’re still flexible: you can mix them with a grain, serve them over toast, or use them as a side dish at dinner.

The other part of this recipe is the kale, which gets cooked down until it’s practically melting. Normally when I add kale to meals, like soup, I give it about 10 minutes of simmering, which is nice because the greens hang on to some of their texture. But there’s an upside to long-cooking kale, too: not only does it become wonderfully soft, but it also becomes incredibly sweet. It’s a good trick for anyone who finds the bitterness of kale (or other leafy greens) to be off-putting.

I snapped a photo of the meal as it was cooking, and I had to smile because it was so unapologetically earthy and soupy and not particularly photogenic:

A white, fluted plate holds two slices of toast, cooked leafy greens, and a plant-based protein.

Once the pot is ready, though, you’ll have something wonderfully fragrant, nutritious, and nourishing on your hands. Normally I’d freeze something that yields so much right away, but I loved the beans and greens so much that I spent the better part of a week eating them (sharing a few portions along the way). My favorite meal was to serve them with millet, which is what’s pictured in the photos, but I also enjoyed them with:

  • Barley
  • Sourdough
  • Quinoa
  • Crackers

And I’ve got another batch in my weekend cooking plan already, leftovers of which will join me at my mom’s on Sunday and Monday for simple lunches. Here’s the recipe.

A close up photograph of two slices of bread, which have been smothered in vegetables and a plant-based protein.
A white, fluted plate holds two slices of toast, cooked leafy greens, and a plant-based protein.
4.19 from 16 votes

Great Big Pot of Braised Beans & Kale

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Yields: 8 servings


  • 1 lb dry cranberry, cannellini, kidney, or pinto beans beans
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium white or yellow onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 7-8 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt*
  • 1 large or 2 small bunches curly or lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped (about 1lb/455g)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Red wine or sherry vinegar, to taste


  • Soak the beans overnight, or for 8-10 hours. Drain and rinse them.
  • Heat the oil over medium heat in a large soup or stock pot. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the onions are tender and clear. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Add the beans, 7 cups water, and bay leaves to the pot. Bring the beans to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Remove the bay leaves. Add the salt and kale to the pot (you may need to add the kale gradually, stirring as you go, in order to wilt it down and fit all of it). If the mixture you have is too thick, add an extra cup or more of water: you want the beans and kale to be less soupy than a soup, but still pretty soupy.
  • Cover the pot again and continue to simmer the beans and kale for another 30-45 minutes, or until the kale is meltingly soft and the beans are tender. Taste the beans and add salt as needed; then, add freshly ground black pepper and a splash or two of red wine vinegar to taste. Serve. (The mixture is even tastier as the leftovers sit.)


*How much salt you need will vary according to taste, health needs, and which type of salt you use. I used a little over 1 1/2 teaspoons of Diamond Crystal kosher salt, but 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt would be comparably salty.
A white serving plate holds toast that has been smothered with braised beans and kale. A bowl with additional ingredients peeks out in the background.

I’m as distracted as anyone right now with cookies and cakes and festive, show-stopping vegan entrees, and I’ll be making some of those this coming weekend. This past week, though, as I wrapped up my semester (!) and tried to tie up loose ends at work before the holiday, I couldn’t have asked for anything more grounding than this great, big nourishing pot of goodness. Hope you’ll find it as easy and tasty as I did.

And I’ll see you on Sunday.


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Categories: Recipes, Vegan Basics, Grains, Greens, and Beans
Method: One Pot, Stovetop
Ingredients: Kale
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegan
Recipe Features: Meal Prep

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Recipe Rating

  1. 5 stars
    I used vaquero beans from Rancho Gordo that I had made previously in the Instant Pot. Extra garlic. Sauteed the stems before adding the beans and rest of the kale. The splash of red wine vinegar makes it, so don’t forget that. Really yummy and filling.

  2. I’m going to try this in my Instant Pot – I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  3. 5 stars
    This was delicious! I really love the kale this way- I’ll have to make it again. I followed the recipe exactly, and added a drizzle of lemon-tahini dressing when I ate it which made the broth even richer- I ate it with a spoon tonight but I think I’ll make some short-grain brown rice and sauteed mushrooms to add tomorrow. Awesome, easy, healthy recipe!

  4. I usually add my greens during the last few minutes of cooking as well, so I’m especially interested in trying your method here of cooking them longer. Your description of them becoming softened and sweet sounds wonderful. What a wonderful post for the new year- comforting, cozy, and so nourishing. I just ordered a big box of rancho gordo beans and I’m so excited to cooking with more varieties this year. Happy new year, Gena!

  5. I love simple, cozy recipes like this! I’m making it now— the beans are simmering away. Planning to add in a bit of cabbage since i don’t have the full amount of kale.