Vermont Cranberry Shell Beans with Shiitake Mushrooms

Cranberry beans win the beauty prize of beans, but love their beauty raw, once cooked they pale to beige.

This is the time of year when you’ll find fresh shelling beans at the farm stands. A quicker cook than dried beans, makes comfort food fast!

New Englanders love their beans! Baked beans were the traditional Saturday night supper for decades, still are in many households, and most cooks had their own special recipe. I know my mom did! Baked, they are delicious, but we also love them stewed. If you stew a fresh shell bean, it is a much quicker process than using dried beans, yet you still know you are eating bowl of comfort, and maybe some memories as well.

The show-off of the bean world

The star of fresh beans is the Vermont Cranberry Bean, the show-off beauty queen of all beans, often just referred to in these parts as shell beans. They are pretty. Speckled and striped, these vibrant pink and fuchsia pods hide equally flashy beans inside. If you see them, you’ll want to buy them even if you have no idea to cook them! 

Alas, beauty fades

Here’s the sad thing. Once cooked, they fade to beige! But in my memory, they are still beautifully decorated.

Cranberry beans are native to Columbia, but are grown all over the world. In Italy, you’d call them Borlotti beans! They are packed full of nutrition. Low in fat and high in both protein and fiber, they are also a great source of zinc, potassium, magnesium, folate, calcium, magnesium, iron, and other vitamins and minerals.

The actual time it takes to stew can vary greatly depending on when the beans were harvested, and how hot your “simmer” is, but usually cook in about 30 minutes. They might take up to 40 minutes, or as little as 20, but the best way to judge is simply to taste and cook them until they are tender and creamy. There is no set schedule for a bean, they are done when they are done!

We need to use shell beans as soon as we get them; the same day is best, but store them no more than two or three days in the refrigerator. 

A little bit of this, and that

The shiitake mushrooms add a different texture to the dish, and the paprika a mild smoky flavor. I added a blend of herbs from my still thriving, but slightly tired looking, herb garden, and the Coleman’s mustard because my mother would have added it! 

The scallions offer a nice spicy bite, and much needed color to the finished dish!

If you don’t have a source for fresh shelling beans, no worries, the dried cranberry beans can be found in many markets, or you can order them online. The easiest way to cook the dried beans is in a pressure cooker, or let them simmer on the back burner for a few hours. Additionally, you can also substitute pinto beans.

Fresh Vermont Cranberry Shell Beans with Shiitake Mushrooms

  • 2 lbs. fresh cranberry shelling beans
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 10 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large leek, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tsp. Coleman’s dried mustard
  • Bouquet garni: a few fresh sprigs of thyme, sage, rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • Fresh shallots to garnish

Wash the beans, then remove them from their pods. 2 lbs. will yield a little more than 2 ½ cups of beans.

In a heavy bottomed soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the mushrooms and leeks. Sauté until the leeks are tender, and add the garlic and dried mustard. Cook for a few more minutes, then add the bouquet garni, bay leaves, paprika, salt, some fresh ground pepper, vegetable stock, and the beans!

Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer.

Cook until the beans are tender and creamy, around 30 to 35 minutes, maybe less so check them at 20, and correct the seasoning.

Serve with a garnish of scallions on top, and perhaps a squeeze of lemon juice. You can also stir in some spinach or Swiss chard at the end of cooking to add a little more flavor and visual interest.

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  1. Just what my spirit needs on this lovely but socially distanced day. Thank you!

    1. Thank you! The air is crisp here, after the rains, and we are delighting still in our fall colors. This always makes me want to cook comfort!

  2. I so wish to have that bowl for my supper!!!

    1. Thank you! I’ll save you some next time!

  3. Abby Krim says:


    This looks really good but when do you add the beans? During the sauté? With the broth?


    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Oops! I will correct this. You’d them after the sauté and along with the broth and other ingredients! I apologize for this most important omission!

  4. Looks delicious!!!

    1. Thank you! They were tasty indeed!

  5. Maurodigital says:

    It looks delicious!

    1. Thank you so much! It was delicious indeed!

  6. Ashkenaz says:

    Looks delicious! What beans would you recommend if you can’t find cranberry beans in your area

    1. Pinto beans would be a really good substitute! Happy cooking!

  7. The stew looks so hearty and tasty. Also love the bread you’ve served it with. 🙂

    1. Thank you Ronit! It’s our favorite from a local bakery, a hearty olive bread that is divine!!!!!

      1. It definitely comes through the photo! 🙂

  8. looks so delicious and comforting!!

    1. Thank you, it really is. We crave beans once the weather turns!

  9. CARAMEL says:

    Perfect winter warmer!

    1. Thank you! It really does warm the body!

  10. Vermont Cranberry Shell Beans with Shiitake Mushrooms

  11. writinstuff says:

    Oh, I love cranberry beans but I didn’t know that’s how they came! Looks delish.

    1. Pretty gorgeous huh?

  12. I confess I’m not much of a bean lover, but this could make me a convert!

    1. Thank you! I just love them, and they are a carb I feel good about because they have so much fiber!

  13. Ally Bean says:

    Looks perfectly yum. It’s at this time of year that my fancy turns to dried beans, not knowing where to find the fresher ones that you feature here.

    1. I get them at a local farm stand late September to now. They are a fleeting thing, but I certainly snap them up when I can. The dried will keep us through the rest of the winter, and I love them too, these are just a quicker to cook!

  14. SandyL says:

    When I was in North Carolina I remember going to the market and seeing these beautiful fresh beans for sale. They were so good looking but I didn’t know how to cook them. In Toronto I’ve never seen fresh shell beans for sale. If I do, I will try your recipe.

    1. Ah! Now you know how easy and tasty they are. Good luck in your hunting!

  15. CarolCooks2 says:

    Such a pretty bean… I love these beans and your dish looks so inviting…One of my favourite meals a bowl of goodness with beans and lovely bread 🙂

    1. Thank you Carol! I agree, the beans are the meal in our house, not a side dish!

      1. CarolCooks2 says:

        I agee. Dorothy.. X

  16. Carolyn Page says:

    This is the type of dish, Dorothy, that I have, first time around, as a hearty soup with some crusty bread. I always make enough for, at least two meals. The second time around is usually as a stew over potato mashed with nutritional yeast and perhaps some soy milk for that extra creaminess. I also like to add a little coconut milk to the stew/soup. It adds that little extra bit of wow!
    I can’t help but think of Johnny Mathis and his rendition of ‘Moonlight in Vermont’ – a favourite of mine since childhood. It has that autumn comfort feeling; just like this recipe.

    1. Carolyn, this really is Autumn comfort food, and beans are so versatile. I love them best with a little coconut milk as well! My mom always put warmed cream on our stewed beans growing up, and it was heavenly. I substitute the coconut milk now as well and couldn’t be happier. My second day is simply mashed on toast for breakfast, and I love them over rice!

  17. Julia says:

    What beautiful pictures! Your soup looks so good.

    1. Thank you so much Julia! It is very comforting.

  18. Let's Cook says:

    So delicious

    1. Thank you, it’s one of our seasonal favorites.

  19. Looks delicious 😋😋

    1. Why thank you so much! We enjoyed it a lot.

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