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Creamy, soft and satisfying, cannellini beans are one of our absolute favorites! This cannellini bean recipe shows how to cook dried cannellini beans from scratch, either on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker. Home-cooked cannellini beans taste even more delicious than canned, and are much more economical. Make a batch and freeze them for up to two months to use in salads, soups, pasta dishes and more.
With their soft, creamy texture and mild flavor, cannellini beans are a powerhouse pantry staple in my kitchen.
Not only do they jazz-up rustic dishes like with Italian sausage and this saucy shrimp, tomatoes, and white beans dish, they’re essential in hearty vegetable soups like minestrone and Tuscan white bean soup. Adding cooked cannellini beans is an easy way to add protein to quick pasta recipes and salads.
Learning how to cook cannellini beans isn’t difficult. The best part is you have options for cooking the beans on the stovetop with a presoak — or in an electric pressure cooker (such as an Instant Pot) soaked or un-soaked, in half the time.
About the ingredients
- Cannellini beans: Cannellini beans are a type of white bean from Italy that was developed in Tuscany. They’re similar to other common white beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), such as Great Northern beans and navy beans. Although they are often labeled as “white kidney beans,” the taste and texture of cannellini beans isn’t the same as red kidney beans. Compared to other varieties of white beans, cannellini have a plump shape and soft, satisfying creamy texture that doesn’t get mealy when cooked.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic cloves infuse the beans and the cooking broth with flavor.
- Onion: Along with garlic, red, white or yellow onion provides flavorful aromatics to the beans and their cooking liquid. To easily remove the cooked onion pieces once the beans are cooked, use a large onion, cut in half or into quarters, instead of chopping it.
- Herbs: Fresh herbs are natural companions with white beans, especially hardy types such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano, bay leaves and sage.
- Red pepper flakes: Crushed red pepper or dried red chili adds just a touch of heat.
- Olive oil: Use a good extra-virgin oil to soften the aromatics before cooking the beans, and drizzle abundantly over cooked beans.
- Parmesan: If you save Parmesan rinds, they are wonderful to add to the dried bean broth. Toss in one or two small pieces along with the water.
Steps for cooking cannellini beans
- Bring the beans and water to a boil in a large pot, then reduce the heat. Simmer the beans about 1-3 hours (depending on their age), until they are uniformly tender and plump.
- Serve beans in a large bowl or on a platter drizzled with olive oil, or add to pasta, soups, salads and more. Cooked beans can be frozen up to 2 months.
FAQs about cooking beans
Savory Stovetop Cannellini Beans (From Scratch)
- 1 pound dried cannellini beans
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup sliced onion
- 2-3 whole garlic cloves, smashed with the side of a knife
- 2-3 sprigs fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, marjoram or sage
- 1 bay leaf
- 1-2 dried chile de arbol, or 1 teaspoon crushed red chili
Yield: About 7 cups
- Dump the beans out onto a rimmed tray or large plate. Sort through them, discarding any debris or stones, and pick out any beans that are broken.
- Put the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with fresh water. Soak at room temperature 4 hours, or up to overnight. When the beans are ready to cook, they'll look plump and doubled in size, with no wrinkles in the skin. Drain and proceed with your preferred cooking method. Note: Use the quick soak option below if you're short on time.
Quick soak option:
- Put the beans in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. Let the beans soak for one hour. Drain and proceed with your preferred cooking method.
- Pour the olive oil into a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion and garlic and place over medium-high heat. Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring, until the onions are softened. Add the drained, soaked beans and enough cold water to cover the beans by 2-3 inches. Add 1 teaspoon salt, herb sprigs, bay leaf and the chili if using.
- Bring the water to a boil and cook the beans at a full boil for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer, give the beans a stir and partially cover the pan. Cook 1-3 hours, until the beans are uniformly plump and tender when you take a bite. Keep an eye on the water level, and add more as needed to keep the beans covered as they cook.
Pressure cooker method (soaked):
- Put the beans, onion, garlic, herb sprigs, bay leaf and chili in a pressure cooker insert. Add enough water to cover the beans by 2-3 inches. Lock the lid in place and cook 20-25 minutes at high pressure. Allow the steam to release naturally.
Pressure cooker method (un-soaked):
- Put the beans, onion, garlic, herb sprigs, bay leaf and chili in a pressure cooker insert. Add enough water to cover the beans by 2-3 inches. Lock the lid in place and cook 40-45 minutes at high pressure. Allow the steam to release naturally.
- Pick out the bay leaf, herb sprigs and the larger onion slices. Remove the beans from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon, or drain into a colander set over a bowl. (Reserve the cooking broth for soup, and add some to the beans for storing in the refrigerator).Taste the beans, and add additional salt to taste. Serve the warm beans generously drizzled with olive oil, or use in any of your favorite recipes.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Cooking times for dried cannellini will vary depending on the age of the beans. Other factors to consider are hard water and altitude, which lowers the boiling point of water.
- Cooked cannellini beans keep refrigerated up to one week, and can be frozen for up to 2 months.
- Add a Parmesan rind to the cooking water for an extra tasty broth.
- Save the bean cooking liquid to make soup — it’s delicious!
Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.