These days we’re really leaning into cozy comfort foods - and these brothy oven baked beans certainly fit the bill. They’re as versatile as can be: eat the beans and the garlicky broth as is (or with a side of grilled bread, for dipping), use it as a base for soups/stews, or add a scoop of beans to bowls, salads, toast, anything you want really. And while cooking beans from scratch does take some time, this method lets you pop them in the oven for a completely hands-off cooking approach. It truly is the best of both worlds.
Given everyone seems to have been hunkered down at home for months now, we weren’t really sure how excited anyone would be about something as humble as a dried bean. But it turns out, the excitement is real. After a simple photo of beans from our weekend meal prep, we’re stunned by how many of you were literally begging for the recipe! So without further adieu, here’s how to make our brothy oven baked beans.
The recipe starts with an overnight soak for dried navy beans. If you prefer to go with another white bean, like cannellini, go ahead! After soaking, you’ll simply rinse and strain the beans and toss them into a pot with your favorite veggie stock and a handful of delicious herbs and aromatics. Shut the lid and pop everything in the oven. You can cook beans on the stove, but we love the oven baked method because you don’t need to keep an eye on a bubbling pot for hours. Our method means you literally “set it and forget it”...until your timer goes off to tell you that your delicious beans are ready!
This is a recipe that really benefits from starting with good ingredients, so pick your favorite veggie stock (ours right now is Better than Bouillon, but use what you love). If you don’t have shallots, feel free to skip them. Don’t skip the garlic, because nobody regrets roasted garlic. Two heads of garlic might seem like a lot, but it’s what we feel is the perfect amount for this recipe - and we are cooking up a lot of beans, after all. We won’t get upset if it’s desperate times and you can only scrounge up one head of garlic...but if you’re completely out, we’d suggest waiting until you’re fully stocked before making this for the first time (that way, you’ll know what you’re missing!). Thyme, if you haven’t noticed, is one of our favorite herbs, and definitely worth buying for this recipe, if you don’t already have it on hand.
Another thing we love about this dish is that both the beans AND the garlicky broth make for many delicious, versatile meals. You can eat them on their own, as we often do. You can toast / grill up bread to serve on the side for dipping. If you’re feeling up to it, you can toss in whatever greens you have on hand (kale, spinach, bitter greens, are all great contenders). We sometimes like to serve ours with crumbled feta and a jammy egg on the side for variety. Sometimes we use the beans and broth as the base of a soup (adding in small cooked pasta noodles and other veggies); or they can be served on top of rice. Extras can be frozen if you feel like you have too many to get through in the week, but we have yet to have that happen!
Brothy Oven Baked White Beans
- 3 cups dried navy beans (see note 1)
- 2 heads garlic
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced (optional)
- 7 cups vegetable broth
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- The night before - soak: Add beans to a large bowl and fill with water. (Beans can triple in size so make sure there's plenty of water). Cover and let soak at room temperature overnight.
- The next day - drain and preheat: Drain and rinse soaked beans. Transfer beans to a large Dutch oven. Position a rack so that the Dutch oven (with the lid on) will be roughly centered in the oven. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Combine and bake: Trim the tops (about ½-inch / 1 cm) off each head of garlic to reveal the cloves. Add the heads of garlic, onion, shallots, broth, olive oil, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to the pot. Stir to mix. Cover with a lid. Bake until beans are tender, 1 hr 45 minutes to 2 hours.
- Finish seasoning: Use a slotted spoon (or tongs) to press the heads of garlic against the side of the pot to release the soft garlic cloves. Remove and discard the garlic skins, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs. Stir well to mix the garlic into the broth. Taste and season with more salt and pepper. Ladle beans and broth into bowls. (See note 2 for serving suggestions).
- Navy bean substitute: You could substitute navy beans with other white beans, such as cannellini. Beans have different cooking times required, so you will need to adjust accordingly.
- Serving suggestions: These beans (and the broth) are delicious on their own. But here are some other serving ideas to mix it up:
• Grilled or crusty bread on the side
• Top with blanched greens (such as broccolini), soft boiled egg, crumbled feta, and microgreens
• Stir beans into a soup. Would be delicious in a white bean and pasta soup!
• Add beans to a grain bowl, for some plant-based protein