Braised Beans with Onions

This is a recipe I’ve been playing with for a few months now, and whilst it’s completely delicious, and now on regular rotation in our house, I’ve been struggling to know what to call it. It has elements of a French onion soup, but clearly is not that, and braised beans with onions doesn’t sound as enticing as it should. Soupy beans? Beans in onion gravy? Whatever you want to call it, it’s really flavoursome, and the perfect thing to spoon over mashed potatoes.

I’ve tested this with cannellini, haricot and calypso beans, and they all work well. I have no doubt butter beans, borlotti and flageolet beans would work equally well.

Calypso beans
Haricot beans, with a poached egg

Braised beans with onions

  • Servings: 2 - 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 110g dried beans (see note in intro re varieties) soaked overnight, or 1 x 400g tin of beans.
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 3 large onions, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 fresh sage leaves
  • 100ml dry sherry (you can use dry white wine instead, but I’ve tried both and prefer sherry in this)
  • 300ml vegetable stock (if you have cooked the beans yourself, use the bean cooking water to make up the stock)
  • 60ml olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper


  • If you have soaked dried beans, drain the water they have soaked in, and put them into a saucepan with plenty of fresh cold water over them. Bring them to the boil, and simmer until tender – the time will depend on the variety of bean you use, and how old they are, so keep an eye and test regularly. Once they are al dente, drain them reserving the cooking water. Use this water to make up the vegetable stock.
  • Heat the oven to 200’c/180’c fan/gas mark 6.
  • Saut√© the onions, garlic, thyme and sage with the 50ml olive oil in a lidded, oven-proof casserole dish/Dutch oven. Keep stirring frequently to prevent it catching, but you want to let this cook for a good 15-20 minutes, until the onions are really soft, melting together, and starting to colour a little.
  • Add the cooked beans, dry sherry (or wine), veg stock and olive oil. Bring to the boil, then cover with the lid and transfer it to the oven. Cook for 30 minutes with the lid on, then another 30 minutes with the lid off.
  • Remove from the oven, stir and season generously with salt and black pepper. (Don’t be alarmed by the brown sides to the pan, it comes off very easily once soaked.)
  • Serve immediately, either with crusty bread for a light lunch, or my preference, spooned over mashed potatoes with wilted spinach. A poached egg on top is also delicious, if you’re not vegan.