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This hearty White Bean Stew brings all the rich, fresh flavors of Tuscan cuisine to the table with an added bonus: it’s completely vegan! It’s the perfect family dinner for a busy weeknight or an easy meal prep recipe!
You'll Love This
- It’s quick and easy! Tuscan cooking is all about simple, inexpensive meals (“cucina povera” or “poor cooking”), and this white bean stew fits right in. It all comes together in one pot, and it’s on the table in just over a half-hour.
- It’s unbelievably hearty and flavorful! Even your biggest eaters won’t notice this is vegan. All these veggies, in a creamy broth, with rich white beans will make sure everyone leaves the table satisfied. Serve it with some crusty bread and a simple garden salad for a balanced meal!
- It's loaded with vegetables! Have I mentioned all these veggies? The hardest part of a vegan main course is usually protein, but the addition of Great Northern white beans ensures that your family is getting lots of good, plant-based protein and fiber.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Olive Oil - This is our family's favorite brand of olive oil. Try to find something cold-pressed and organic.
- Mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery) - This classic trio is the base for so many delicious soups and stews and it gets the job done in this dish by creating a delicious aromatic flavor base.
- Fresh Garlic - If you're in a pinch you could use ½-1 teaspoon garlic powder in place of the freshly sliced garlic, but I highly recommend keeping a head of garlic in your pantry for days when you need a hearty vegan soup or Tuscan pasta.
- Dried thyme, oregano, and sage - You could also use Italian seasoning in place of this dried herb trio. But I love the flavors that they each bring to the stew.
- Tomato Paste - For those who don't use tomato paste often, I recommend buying an 8 oz. can of it, using what you need and then freezing the rest. I like to flatten it in a small Ziploc baggy so it doesn't take up much space in the freezer. Then when I need tomato paste for a recipe, I slice off a bit of the frozen tomato paste and pop the rest back in the freezer. It will stay good in the freezer for several months.
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes - This is an ingredient that I have grown accustom to keeping a jar or two of in the cupboard at all times. Whether I'm throwing together Mediterranean Flatbread, Creamy Tuscan Pasta, or this stew - I always prefer to use oil-packed julienne cut sun-dried tomatoes.
- Great Northern Beans - You can also use cannellini beans or even pinto beans in place of the Great Northern beans.
- Vegetable Stock - You can also use veggie broth in place of the stock. I just prefer the extra richness and flavor that stock brings to this stew.
- Full-Fat Canned Coconut Milk - This is our favorite brand of coconut milk. You want to make sure you're using a full-fat canned coconut milk - not coconut milk from a carton or light coconut milk.
- Split Red Lentils - Split red lentils work well in this stew because they cook quickly in the rich broth. You could use other lentils in their place, just keep in mind that other varieties of lentils take considerably longer to cook so you'll need to increase the cooking time.
- Kale - You could also fresh spinach in place of the fresh kale.
- Apple Cider Vinegar - This may seem like an odd ingredient, but trust me here! The vinegar is going to boost all the other flavors of the dish and cut the richness from the coconut milk. You could also use white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar in it's place.
Add garlic, oregano, thyme, and sage along with a couple pinches of salt and pepper and cook for another minute.
Create a well in the pot. Reduce heat to medium, and add tomato paste directly to the surface of the pot.
Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato paste turns brick red. Add a splash of veggie stock and deglaze the pan, scraping all the yummy bits off the bottom of the pan.
Once simmering, add lentils. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in kale until wilted.
Then add apple cider vinegar then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, vegan Parmesan, and croutons!
- This is a great meal prep recipe! The rich, warm Tuscan flavors in this soup deepen beautifully with a little extra time. Make this white bean stew ahead of time or just store leftovers in the fridge for the rest of the week. It will thicken a bit, so add a splash of veggie broth before reheating.
- Don’t rush the veggies! When you’re in a rush, it seems silly to cook the veggies first. Why not just put everything in the pot and cook it together? There’s actual science about chemical reactions related to aromatic compounds, but what it comes down to is this: Sauteing the veggies well, in the beginning, creates a smoother, more balanced, better integrated (and slightly sweeter) flavor for the whole dish.
- Skip the coconut milk for a brothy soup! I like the deep, hearty flavors of Italian white bean soup in a creamy soup, but if you prefer a clearer broth, just skip the coconut milk! (If you’re worried about the flavor of the coconut milk, though, rest assured: It will add the tiniest bit of sweetness, but no noticeable coconut flavor.)
The main difference between soup and stew is the amount of liquid in the dish. A soup is primarily liquid. A stew is primarily large chunks of meat and/or veggies with just enough liquid to stew the other ingredients.
All white beans are the best white beans! Which ones are the best for a given recipe depends on what flavors your working with, how they're being cook, and what you want them to do.
Cannellini beans have an earthy flavor profile and hold their shape well when cooked. This makes them best for soups, stews, and chilies with a hearty, earthy feel.
Great Northern beans have a slightly nutty flavor profile, but also adopt the flavors around them very well. They also hold their shape and texture when cooked, so they're best in soups, stews, and chilies where you want to add just a touch of rich, fatty texture.
Navy beans are smaller and round than cannellini or Great Northern beans. They cook quickly and mash smoothly. They're best for thickening soups and stew, or blending into bean dips.
Baby lime beans are small and have a creamy, buttery flavor. They're also very starchy and are best for soups or stews that want a thicker broth or and extra touch of creamy texture.
Most white beans are generous about adopting the flavors of whatever they are cooked with. So you don't need to worry about flavoring them first, if you're using them in this stew. The mirepoix, dried herbs, fresh garlic, tomato paste, and sun-dried tomatoes are going to come together to flavor the white beans in a rich, hearty broth. And don't worry - you won't taste the coconut flavor of the coconut milk in this stew, but it does give it a luxuriously creamy texture.
The main difference between cannellini beans and Great Northern beans are the size and subtle flavor notes. Cannellini beans are larger than Great Northern beans, and generally have a more earthy flavor - while Great Northern beans are slightly nutty. Both, however, blend well with the other flavors they are cooked with, and both hold their shape well during cook, so they are virtually interchangeable.