This New England classic tastes like no other bean, and can be slow cooked all day on the stove, in the oven, or in a slow cooker. However, you can make them in a fraction of the time in a pressure cooker, or multi-cookers.
My mother was known for her baked beans, a long-baked dish enhanced with mustard and spices and maple syrup, and usually with pork of some sort, bacon or salt pork. They were served up with baking powder biscuits or old-fashioned Boston brown bread. The beans would cook in the oven all day, so this was a winter dish, at least until she got her first slow cooker and she never looked back!
Even better than baked, for some of us!
But another of the family favorites was stewed yellow-eyed beans, another long-simmering bean dish perfect for the slow cooker. These beans have a distinct flavor, and cook up to a beautiful creamy consistency. We had a lot of these when I was growing up, ad they were my father’s favorite. Mine too.
Lighten this one up for a healthful profile
Mom used a big fat chunk of salt pork or bacon in hers which, if you are so inclined, can still be found in most New England markets. I have omitted this from the recipe because of the saturated fat and excessive salt, both of which are not regulars on my husband’s heart-healthy diet. In my earlier vegetarian versions, the dish tasted flat, missing both the salt and the smokiness of the pork. You can’t just take those flavorful things out, you have to replace them in some way.
The dish needed salt, so I threw caution to the wind and ignored every warning about not salting beans before you cook them and added a teaspoon of salt in the soaking liquid, and also a little more in the actual cooking. No, it did not prevent the beans from cooking, or make them split! Since then, I’ve done this with all my dried beans and I’ve found the texture to be even better.
Then there was the smoke from the bacon. I tried using liquid smoke, but it tasted revolting. I found some smoked peppers at a specialty store and used them in another batch. They added that nice smoky taste, but also added too much of a pepper flavor, plus sometimes it’ds hard to find just the right ones on a consistent basis.
Enter, Smoked Paprika!
My third choice is my favorite, smoked paprika. It adds just the right amount of smoky flavor, and is a healthful anti-inflammatory ingredient.
I also tried using stock instead of plain water to boost the flavor, but it added absolutely nothing to the dish, so straight-up water it is, unless of course I have some veggie stock in the refrigerator that needs to be used.
A bit of warmth
Because I like a little heat, my last change to the basic technique was to add either cayenne pepper or a small dried hot pepper (also, anti-inflammatory) from our local farm stand. Both work really well, as does hot, smoked Hungarian paprika, but you will need to adjust the recipe in a way that suits your family, or omit it altogether. This should add warmth, not a lot of heat.
I added the greens because I love greens and beans! This is not traditional by any means, but is really delicious, and further boosts the nutritional profile.
To top it all off!
This dish was always served with warmed milk or cream passed around the table at our house, and you don’t need a lot, just a little drizzle to enhance the creaminess. This, of course, is also optional, and easily swapped with coconut milk or fat-free half and half. I also like to add something crispy for a little texture: fried shallots, for example.
The recipe can be halved, and is actually better if made a day ahead and then reheated just before serving. It freezes nicely, too, so this really big batch is great to make to eat a couple of meals now, and freeze the rest for you future hassle-free dining pleasure.
Nutritional note: 1 cup of cooked yellow-eyed beans has 45 filling carbs and 18 grams of fiber, plus 16 grams of protein. A nutritional powerhouse!
New England Stewed Beans with Greens
- 1 lb. dried yellow-eyed beans
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 really large yellow onion, or a couple of large leeks, diced
- 1 small carrot, diced, a scant cup, optional
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 quarts water
- ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 heaping tsp. smoked, sweet paprika
- Salt to taste
- Large bunch of spinach or Swiss chard, thick ribs removed
- Optional: cream, milk, half-and-half, or non-dairy alternative
First, you will need to soak your beans. You won’t find these canned, even in New England. Weigh them out, pick through them to ensure there are no dried-bean “stones” in the mix, and then place in a large bowl. Cover them with about two inches of water, a heaping teaspoon of salt, and let them soak overnight, or at least six hours.
The next day, drain and rinse the beans and set aside. Sauté the onion or leeks, garlic, and carrots in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add the beans, water, cayenne, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Bring to a boil and boil rapidly for five minutes. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for four to six hours, or even all day. You want the beans soft and the broth thickened as some of the beans break down.
Remove the bay leaf, stir in greens, cover and set aside for a few mintutes for the greens to wilt. Add salt to taste, and serve up in shallow bowls, topping it all off with dairy or plant cream of choice, and perhaps something crunchy like crispy shallots or Brussels sprouts.
Pressure cooker method: Sauté the aromatics as above, then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to pressure, and cook for 45 minutes. Let naturally release.
Add a sidekick of Boston Brown Bread or Buttermilk Biscuits, both whole grain breads traditionally served up with beans in New England.
Go ahead and go green!
The optional ingredient to the beans is one of my favorites twists on the original – Swiss chard or spinach, stirred into the hot beans at the end just until wilted. We can get these greens grown locally all winter long, so it is a great addition to an economical meal, adding to the nutrition and flavor as well.
Now, Take Two…leftovers? Not if they are planned!
You’ll have leftover beans, of course, so top a serving with one beautiful local organic over-easy egg for a healthy and hearty breakfast, lunch, or supper!
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47 Comments Add yours
Perfect for cozy warm meal
Thank you! We’ve needed it with this cold spring here!
I have to say I’m not a bean girl, in fact I know very little about beans. But, I must say they look really tasty and if they were put before me I would be happy to gobble them up.
Must start getting acquainted with beans as my beans are usually green. :))
We had every type of bean growing up, and we learned to love them all. We knew they were tasty and filling, but at the time I doubt we knew how absolutely nutritious they are from the fiber to the vitamins and minerals. Give them a try! This is my favorite way to eat beans.
Your recipes almost always take me back to my grandmother’s table. Soaking beans reminded me that she use to refer to some of her beans as ‘soldier beans.’ I always appreciate your recipes and the memories that accompany them.
The soldier beans are very similar to the yellow-eyed beans, their markings are just a little smaller, but the two beans can pretty much be used interchangeably. I don’t usually see them in the markets any longer except in Maine. I guess like so many things they have fallen out of fashion. I can almost always find the yellow-eyes.
I like it when my kitchen is filled with the aroma of slow cooking beans all day long. 💜🍃
It really smells like home, doesn’t it? It’s a “I’ll just stay a while” aroma!
Absolutely. My mind goes crazy in anticipation of the meals to come. 😍🍃😋
And that is half the experience. The smaller half.
I love it! And it brings back lovely memories from my grandma’s kitchen 😋💝
Oh, those grandmothers stay with us always, just waiting for us to have a little memory jog!
I love the idea of serving this with an egg on top, how unique and delicious!
These are always more flavorful the next day!
Very nice hearty soup and you introduced me to a new bean I didn’t know about.
They are really delicious Jovina, and I’m sure you’ll see them now that you are aware of them!
This is my kind of meal. Thank you so much for sharing!
Thanks for stopping by!
The perfect comfort food, especially with the over-easy egg on top! 🙂
Thank you Ronit! So very delicious!
Those beans look sooo creamy and satisfying (especially with that egg)! I appreciate your notes about the salt, too. I’ve never had terrific luck with cooked-from-dry beans because they always taste bland. Next time, I think I’ll ignore that conventional wisdom and salt as inspired!
I always salt them before the soak now; never had a problem!
Yellow eyed beans are new to me, however they sound quite tasty! Adding cream, now that sounds intriguing!
It’s the best sweet finish Jan! So tasty!
I love beans and I’ve never heard of these. I’ve got to find them. I love that finished dish with the greens and cream. Yum.
Adding the greens at the end does perk them up a bit, and a little drizzle of cream or milk makes it all worth sitting down to the table!
Happy hunter gathering!
This sounds like a great recipe and I like that it has paprika in it—I love the smoky flavor paprika brings to different foods! I also like the idea of slow-cooking this all day on the stove—it would make the kitchen so cozy on a chilly day! 🙂
That’s the best! The house smells so good!
I used to put a hock of smoked bacon in mine when the kids were all at home they still remind me sometimes now when we are reminiscing about their childhood… with 8 mouths to feed I had to stretch every meal as far as I could I also added water not stock unless I had vegetable stock handy …I’m going to have to make this again just because I can…even though it’s hot here -smile-
I’m glad it brought back some memories, Carol! Nothing like a pot of beans, even if it not a cold day!
This looks pretty yummy Dorothy – I’m going to have to try this – but I’ll wait til I the family arrives!
The smoked paprika sounds like an excellent addition.
Thanks! It really filled out the flavors!
I have never heard of these beans nor tried them… so I would love to get some and make this. Another YUM!
You can find them in any market up here, not sure how widely available they are distributed, but they are readily found on-line. They are my favorite, packed with memories for me!
A hearty dinner, yum! Another great one to add to your collection here, Dorothy ❤️
Thanks Christy! I like to honor the past, but make the dishes a little more heart-healthy!
I’ve never heard of yellow-eyed bean. The soup looks delicious, it has everything I love in it, assuming I love said yellow-eyed bean.
They are the best, Ally!
This looks so yummy.
Thanks! One of my favorite ways to eat beans!
look so yummy, i wanna to try
They are one of my favorites from my childhood! Hope you enjoy!
This is great Thank you!!
I’m so glad you liked this! It is one of my childhood favorites, with a twist or two!