Brothy beans with kale is a comforting, warming, and nutrient-dense vegetarian lunch or dinner recipe. Beans are flavored with browned onion, garlic, celery, and carrots plus plenty of herbs and a parmesan cheese rind and they pair perfectly with crusty bread or crackers. If you’ve never cooked dried beans before, this recipe is beginner friendly: it’s made in one pot and doesn’t require any fancy techniques or ingredients!

ceramic bowl with brothy beans and greens, topped with parmesan cheese on a plate with a spoon

There is something incredibly comforting about a pot of these brothy beans and greens simmering on the stovetop.

Your kitchen is filled with the savory aroma of onions, garlic, and fresh herbs as the beans cook.

As a Registered Dietitian who follows a primarily plant-based diet, I love to include beans and legumes in my diet.

Beans are one of the healthiest foods on the planet, and they are one of the best sources of plant-based protein.

If you too love the idea of savory brothy beans slowly simmering on the stovetop, you’ve got to try this recipe!

This recipe is simple and easy even if you are new to cooking dried beans. Follow my step-by-step instructions on how to soak beans, and how to cook them so they become perfectly soft and silky.

Brothy beans with kale is vegetarian, gluten free, nut free, and soy free.

This recipe makes A LOT – you will have plenty of beans for 6-8 meals and it keeps well in the fridge.

If you pre-soak your beans, this recipe cooks up in an hour to an hour and a half.

Brothy beans ingredients measured out

Ingredients

  • Dried beans: I used cranberry beans for this recipe. You can also use any variety of white bean, such as cannellini or Great Northern.
  • Kale: Choose curly kale or lacinato kale for this recipe – not baby kale, because it is too tender. If you prefer, you can use another hardy green instead of kale – try it with collards, chard, or mature spinach.
  • White onion: White onion is one of the aromatics that serves to add flavor to the beans and cooking water. You’ll brown it up in the pot to bring out the flavor.
  • Garlic: Lots of fresh garlic helps build the base flavor.
  • Celery: Celery is browned in the pot and adds flavor to the beans as they cook.
  • Carrots: Carrots are a classic flavor-builder ingredient in soups and broths, and they add flavor here when combined with celery, garlic, and onion.
  • Rosemary: Along with the other fresh herbs, rosemary is an aromatic to add flavor to the beans.
  • Thyme: Rosemary and thyme pair perfectly together in this recipe to add flavor to the beans.
  • Parsley: Fresh parsley is a classic ingredient to build a flavor base in soups.
  • Bay leaf: Dried bay leaf is another aromatic ingredient to help build the base flavor in these beans.
  • Parmesan cheese rind: The rind from a wedge of parmesan cheese is an excellent savory, salty flavor-add to soups and these beans!
  • Olive oil: Cook the aromatic vegetables in olive oil to brown them before adding the beans and water.
  • Salt and pepper: You’ll add a generous amount of salt to the beans while soaking and for seasoning. Freshly cracked black pepper is delicious on top of a bowl of brothy beans!
  • Lemon juice: This brightens up the flavor of the beans when you add it at the end of cooking.
  • Parmesan cheese: Freshly grated or shaved parmesan is the perfect topping for a bowl of beans.

Kitchen tools needed

speckled bowl with cranberry beans

How to soak dried beans

Soaking beans is critical first step if you want your beans to cook in 1-2 hours.

This bean cooking guide from the New York Times is comprehensive and helpful – here’s the gist of it:

  • Pick through the dried beans and discard any that are discolored or shriveled, along with any debris such as pebbles or twigs.
  • Put the beans in a large bowl.
  • Fill the bowl with water, covering the beans with at least 2 inches of water.
  • Add 1 tbsp fine salt to the beans.
  • Soak the beans for at least four hours, and up to 12 hours. If soaking overnight, put the beans in the fridge.
  • When you’re ready to cook, drain and rinse the soaked beans. They should have expanded significantly in size!

Step-by-step instructions

Cranberry beans soaking in water in a large bowl
1. Soak beans in salted water for at least four hours, or overnight.
Bundle of herbs tied with twine
2. Create a bouquet garni, or an herb bundle, by gathering the parsley, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf and tying them together with kitchen twine (optional, but this step makes removing the herbs much easier).
brothy beans ingredients on a wood cutting board
3. Prep the aromatic vegetables: Quarter the onion, peel and smash the garlic, and roughly chop the celery and carrots.
Browned onion, garlic, celery, and carrots in an enameled cast iron pot
4. On the stovetop heat olive oil over medium heat in the large pot. Brown the onion, garlic, celery, and carrots, seasoned with salt.
Aromatic vegetables and herbs in water in an enameled cast iron pot
5. Add water, herb bundle, parmesan cheese rind, a generous pinch or two of salt, and beans to the pot. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover with the lid slightly ajar.
Pot of cooked beans with vegetables
6. Cook beans for 45 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season generously with salt to taste and lemon juice. add the kale until wilted.

Beans are done cooking when they are tender but not mushy. Give them a taste test after 45 minutes – they are done if they’re cooked all the way through the center.

two ceramic bowls of beans and greens next to a linen towel
7. Use tongs to remove the cooked aromatics, herb bundle, and parmesan rind. Portion into bowls and garnish with freshly chopped parsley, shaved parmesan cheese, and black pepper.

Storage

This recipe makes A LOT of beans, so you will likely have some leftovers. Let the beans cool down to room temperature, then you can store them in the fridge or freezer:

  • Fridge: Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  • Freezer: Freeze beans in their brothy liquid in a freezer bag, silicone baggie, or airtight container. Remove as much air as possible if using a bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Defrosting: Put frozen beans in the fridge to defrost them 24 hours before you plan to eat them.
  • Reheating: You can reheat individual portions in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until warmed through. Or, reheat larger portions in a saucepan on the stovetop. Bring the liquid to a gentle boil then remove from heat.

Serving suggestions

Serve brothy beans with crusty bread, crackers, or even a grilled cheese sandwich.

Additionally, these beans would pair well with a simple salad, such as my everyday side salad or kale and romaine salad.

ceramic bowl with brothy beans and greens, topped with parmesan cheese on a plate with a spoon

Beans nutrition benefits

Beans and legumes are some of the healthiest foods on the planet!

They contain an abundance of nutrients, including dietary fiber, plant-based protein, and minerals.

One half cup of cooked cranberry beans (the type used in this recipe) provides:

  • 7.7 grams of dietary fiber (28% of your daily needs), including soluble fiber, which can help lower LDL cholesterol
  • 8.3 grams of plant-based protein
  • 1.9 mg iron (11% of your daily needs)
  • 184.23 mcg folate (46% of your daily needs)
  • 44.5 mg magnesium (11% of your daily needs)
  • 1.01 mg zinc (9% of your daily needs)

Because they provide protein and iron, beans are an excellent food to enjoy regularly if you follow a plant-based diet.

Let me know if you love this post by leaving a comment or star rating below, and check out Instagram and Pinterest for more healthy lifestyle inspiration. Thanks for stopping by!

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ceramic bowl with brothy beans and greens, topped with parmesan cheese on a plate with a spoon

Easy Brothy Beans Recipe with Kale and Parmesan

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  • Author: Alex Aldeborgh, RD
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Soaking time: 4 hours
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: serves 8
  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian
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Description

Brothy beans with kale is a comforting, warming, and nutrient-dense vegetarian lunch or dinner recipe. Beans are flavored with browned onion, garlic, celery, and carrots plus plenty of herbs and a parmesan cheese rind and they pair perfectly with crusty bread or crackers. If you’ve never cooked dried beans before, this recipe is beginner friendly: it’s made in one pot and doesn’t require any fancy techniques or ingredients!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 lb dried beans, such as cranberry beans, Cannellini beans, or Great Northern beans
  • 1 tbsp fine salt, plus more for seasoning the beans
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 white onion, peeled and quartered
  • 7 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
  • 3 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 5 stems parsley
  • 1 dry bay leaf
  • 810 cups water
  • 1 parmesan cheese rind
  • 3 cups curly kale
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • For serving: shaved parmesan cheese, fresh chopped parsley, black pepper


Instructions

  1. Soak beans: Pick out shriveled, discolored beans and debris. Place beans in a large bowl.
  2. Fill the bowl water, at least 2 inches above the beans. Add 1 tbsp salt.
  3. Soak for 4-12 hours in the fridge.
  4. Drain and rinse the soaked beans.
  5. Heat olive oil in a large pot on the stovetop over medium heat.
  6. Add onions, garlic, celery, carrot, and a generous pinch of salt.
  7. Cook until the vegetables have started to brown, about 5 minutes.
  8. Create a bouquet garni with the rosemary, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf: bundle them together and tie with kitchen twine.
  9. To the pot with the aromatic vegetables, add the water, the herb bundle, parmesan cheese rind, and the rinsed beans, as well as a few generous pinches of salt.
  10. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar.
  11. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour and a half, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender but not mushy. Start checking for doneness at 45 minutes by tasting a bean or two – if they are cooked all the way through, they are done.
  12. Use tongs to remove the aromatics – the chunks or large vegetables, parmesan rind, and the herb bundle.
  13. Stir in kale and lemon juice until wilted.
  14. Add salt to taste.
  15. Ladle beans and broth into bowls, and garnish with shaved parmesan cheese, parsley, and a few cracks of black pepper.

Notes

Storage

This recipe makes A LOT of beans, so you will likely have some leftovers. Let the beans cool down to room temperature, then you can store them in the fridge or freezer:

  • Fridge: Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  • Freezer: Freeze beans in their brothy liquid in a freezer bag, silicone baggie, or airtight container. Remove as much air as possible if using a bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Defrosting: Put frozen beans in the fridge to defrost them 24 hours before you plan to eat them.
  • Reheating: You can reheat individual portions in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until warmed through. Or, reheat larger portions in a saucepan on the stovetop. Bring the liquid to a gentle boil then remove from heat.