Cannellini Beans 101 – The Basics
About Cannellini Beans
Cannellini beans are originally from Italy, and are popular in Italian, Greek, and French cuisines. They are part of the family of white beans, and are cousins to navy, great northern, and butter beans. Since cannellini beans are shaped like red kidney beans, they are sometimes referred to as white kidney beans. Cannellini beans are large and firm, so they hold up well when cooked at low temperatures for long times, such as in stews and crock pot meals. They have a silky texture with a mild, nutty flavor, so they can be used in a lot of dishes. They are available dried and canned.
Nutrition and Health Benefits of Cannellini Beans
Cannellini beans have a lot to offer besides being a valuable source of protein and fiber. A one-half cup serving of canned cannellini beans has from 5 to 8 grams of protein (depending on the brand and how they were processed), 5 grams of fiber, no cholesterol or saturated fat, and a lot of Vitamins B1 and B2, folate, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, calcium. The one-half cup serving has about 100 calories.
Lowers Blood Sugar. Recent research with type 2 diabetics showed that a low-glycemic diet rich in legumes, such as cannellini beans, can help to lower blood sugar and overall A1C levels.
Lowers Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Risk. The same study as mentioned above also found that many participants also experienced lowered blood pressure with accompanying overall lower risk for cardiovascular disease.
Protects Cells from Inflammation and Damage. Legumes, such as cannellini beans are excellent sources of compounds that have antioxidant properties that protect and repair cells, helping to lowering the risk of infections, cancers, and heart disease.
Helps with Fluid Balance. Cannellini beans are rich in iron and potassium, which are important in maintaining fluid balance and transporting oxygen throughout the body.
Safe for Many Diets. Cannellini beans are safe for most people to eat. They are gluten-free, high in fiber and protein, contain no saturated fat, and are very low in other fats. Furthermore, allergies to cannellini beans are very rare, so even those with many allergies should be able to eat cannellini beans.
Concerns. People who must follow a low-FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) diet due to Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome need to limit their intake of beans or legumes. In that case, beans of any type may not be the best choice for them.
Intestinal Gas and Bloating. Some people experience a lot of intestinal gas and bloating when eating beans. This can happen when they are not used to eating beans or legumes on a regular basis. It’s helpful to slowly get your intestinal microbes used to the increased fiber by eating a small amount of legumes on a regular basis. Slowly increase your intake as your body gets used to the increased fiber. Eventually you should be able to eat legumes freely without distress. Just allow whatever time is needed to slowly adjust and get used to the added fiber.
How to Select Cannellini Beans
Cannellini beans are available canned and dried. Unfortunately, dried cannellini beans can be hard to find, where not all stores carry them. So, canned beans may be your only choice.
Many varieties of canned beans are processed with a lot of salt, and some with calcium chloride, a firming agent. If you’re limiting your sodium intake, look for low sodium or salt-free options. If you want to avoid additives such as calcium chloride, look for an organic option. Organic varieties should not be processed with such additives. However, they may still contain salt, so be sure to read labels carefully.
Some stores may carry dried cannellini beans in bulk bins. If you have that option available to you, look for beans that are plump, smooth, white, and evenly colored. It’s helpful to know if your store has a fast turnover of their bin sales. That helps to ensure that your foods from the bins are fresh and not old, stale, or rancid.
No matter how you purchase your cannellini beans, be sure to look for an expiration date. Dried beans will typically last for 2 to 3 years. Canned beans will usually last about a year, and sometimes longer.
How to Store Cannellini Beans
Store canned or dried beans in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight, such as in a pantry. Be sure to place dried beans in an airtight container. This will help them to keep longer and will also keep insects and rodents from eating through the plastic bags that they are sold in at the grocery store.
Store extra opened canned beans, or ones that have been soaked or cooked in a covered container in the refrigerator. Use them within three days.
Cooked, dried cannellini beans, or extra opened canned beans may be frozen for later use. Simply drain them well and place them in a freezer bag or container and store them in the freezer. It is helpful to store them in increments you know you’ll need at one time, rather than a large amount in one container, which would be hard to divide up once frozen. Label and date them when placing them in the freezer. Frozen beans will keep for about 6 months.
How to Prepare Dried Cannellini Beans
Dried cannellini beans should be prepared like any other dried bean. They should be soaked before being cooked. This makes them more tender, reduces cooking time, and also reduces their gas-producing tendencies when eaten. Preparing dried cannellini beans is not hard, but it does take some time.
First, place your dried beans in your cooking pot. Sort through them to remove any stones or other debris that may be in the bag, and any beans that don’t look good. Then rinse the beans and drain the water. Next, cover the beans with fresh water by at least two inches. There are two methods of soaking to choose from at this point…
Overnight method. Cover the pot and allow the beans to soak overnight or for at least 6 hours. Drain the water and cover the beans with fresh water by at least two inches. Cook your beans (see directions below).
Quick soak method. Cover your rinsed and drained beans in your cooking pot with fresh water. Place the lid on the pot and bring them to a boil. Boil them for two minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow them to rest in the covered pot for two hours. Drain the water, then fill the pot with fresh water. Cook your beans (see directions below).
Cooking your soaked beans. Place your pot filled with water and soaked beans on the stove. Cover the pot and bring them to a boil, then lower the heat. Tilt the lid on the pot and allow the beans to simmer until they are soft. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours depending upon how fast they are cooked and how long they soaked. Stir them occasionally. Be sure they remain submerged. If needed, add more hot water to the pot. Do NOT add salt or acidic ingredients like vinegar or lemon juice to the water at first. This will cause the beans to be tough and will make them hard to cook. If salted or flavored water is desired, add flavorings when they are close to being done. When they are soft, drain the water and use them as desired. Soaked dried beans may also be cooked in a pressure cooker or slow cooker.
Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Cannellini Beans
* Some canned beans are processed with a lot of salt. If you’re limiting your salt intake, look for low or no-salt options. Buying dried beans is another no-salt option. If you can’t find low-sodium options or dried beans, rinse and drain your canned beans before using them. That will reduce the sodium content by up to 41 percent.
* Make an easy salad by tossing together some cooked cannellini beans, mozzarella cubes, diced tomatoes, chopped fresh basil, and a drizzle of your favorite salad dressing. Extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and a bit of salt and pepper would work well on this salad.
* Give your mashed potatoes a nutrition boost by adding in some mashed cooked cannellini beans. Your potatoes will have more protein and fiber and will still taste like mashed potatoes.
* The next time you make lasagna, mix some mashed, cooked cannellini beans with the ricotta cheese.
* For a different breakfast or lunch, sauté your favorite greens with some garlic. Add some cooked cannellini beans, then top with a fried egg and some grated Parmesan cheese.
* Make a quick soup by combining vegetable broth, a can of cannellini beans, a bunch of your favorite greens and some other veggies, if desired. Add a little parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil to allow flavors to blend and enjoy!
* Canned beans are ready to use and don’t need further cooking. Just rinse and drain them and they are ready to be added to your recipe, dish, or salad.
* The standard recommendation is to rinse and drain canned beans before we use them. However, they can be eaten straight from the can, even with the liquid in the can. The main reason for rinsing them is to reduce the salt on the beans. Rinsing them can reduce the sodium content by up to 41 percent.
* You can easily add some extra flavor to your beans by cooking them with aromatics like onion, garlic, and herbs like rosemary, thyme and/or a bay leaf.
* To add a nutrition boost to your breakfast, add some cooked cannellini beans to your morning oatmeal. Their mild flavor will blend with the oatmeal, and the added nutrients and fiber will do a body good.
Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Cannellini Beans
Basil, bay leaf, cilantro, cloves, cumin, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, salt, savory, thyme
Foods That Go Well with Cannellini Beans
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Bacon, beef, chicken, eggs, lamb, pine nuts, pork, sausage, shrimp (and other seafood), walnuts
Vegetables: Artichokes, artichoke hearts, arugula, bell peppers, broccoli rabe, carrots, cabbage, celery, chard, chiles, chives, escarole, fennel, garlic, greens, kale, leeks, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, shallots, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes
Fruits: Lemon, lime, olives
Grains and Grain Products: Couscous, pasta, rice, spelt
Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese, milk (dairy or non-dairy)
Other Foods: Oil, pesto, stock (vegetable), vinegar
Cannellini beans have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Bruschetta, casseroles, chili, dips (bean), French cuisine, Greek cuisine, Italian cuisine, pasta dishes, purees, salads, soups, spreads, stews
Suggested Flavor Combos Using Cannellini Beans
Add cannellini beans to any of the following combinations…
Balsamic vinegar + herbs (basil, rosemary, sage) + olive oil
Basil + tomatoes
Bay leaf + savory
Beet greens + walnuts
Bell peppers + garlic
Chard + garlic + olive oil + rice + vinegar
Cilantro + garlic + lemon juice + olive oil
Garlic + olive oil + pasta
Garlic + herbs (sage and/or thyme) + tomatoes
Lemon + spinach
Cannellini Beans with Spinach https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/cannellini-beans-with-spinach
12 Quick, Delicious Dinners to Make with Canned Cannellini Beans https://www.allrecipes.com/gallery/quick-delicious-dinners-to-make-with-canned-cannellini-beans/
45 White Bean Recipes for Soups, Salads, Stews, and More https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/pretty-much-everything-you-can-do-with-white-beans-gallery
15 Cannellini Bean Recipes You Will Love https://theclevermeal.com/cannellini-bean-recipes-you-will-love/
12 Easy Ways to Cook a Can of Cannellini Beans https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/article/12-easy-ways-to-cook-a-can-of-cannellini-beans
10 Ways that Can of Beans Can be Dinner Tonight https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-turn-a-can-of-white-beans-into-dinner-261477
17 Ways to Use White Beans https://www.thespruceeats.com/ways-to-use-white-beans-4843027
Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.