Friday 29 September 2023
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15 Nutritious Vegan White Bean Recipes

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White beans are packed with nutrients, including folate, fiber, calcium, iron, and protein. They’ve also got a wonderful, buttery texture and are extremely versatile! These 15 nutritious vegan white bean recipes will help you to feature this simple superfood in your plant-based meals.

A slice of toast is topped with smashed white bean salad, artichokes, and microgreens.

As a registered dietitian, I’m always giving my clients gentle nudges toward variety. Eating a variety of foods, we know, is the best way to maximize our intake of both micro and macronutrients.

For example, we’re encouraged to “eat the rainbow” because the different colors of vegetables signal different phytochemicals, or plant compounds that give vegetables their distinctive colors. And each phytochemical has been associated with different preventive health benefits.

I’m pretty good about vegetable variety, though of course I have my go-tos (I probably eat broccoli every day).

But variety also matters when it comes to macronutrient sources, including the foods we rely on for protein and complex carb intake.

Different plant proteins provide different amino acids. While we don’t need to eat “complete” proteins within meals, but it is essential to source all of the amino acids that we need through eating adequate protein and a variety of foods.

It’s always a good idea, then, to mix things up when it comes to what we eat. I can be pretty repetitive, especially when I’m busy or stressed.

Lately, I’ve noticed that I’m defaulting a lot to chickpeas and lentils for my legume intake. There’s nothing wrong with that in the sense that both are wonderfully nutritious plant proteins.

But there’s a wide world of beans out there, and too often I find myself eating only two of them.

Fortunately, there’s another type of bean—several beans, really—that I also love. White beans have always been a favorite legume, and I have a lot of recipes that feature them.

For whatever reason, I tend to associate white beans with spring and summer recipes and produce. For example, I love to pair them with both tomatoes and artichokes. So it feels like a good time to be sharing fifteen of my favorite vegan white bean recipes.

What are white beans?

“White beans” describes a family of beans that share the same color, rather than a single type of bean.

In the US, the most commonly available types of white beans are:

  • Cannellini beans (sometimes called white kidney beans)
  • Navy beans (sometimes called Boston beans, because they’re the bean typically used to make Boston baked beans)
  • Great northern beans (sometimes called large white beans)
  • Lima beans (also called butter beans)

These are not by any means the only white beans. The Rancho Gordo company sells some heirloom varieties, such as alubia blanca and ayocote blanco.

Because of my background, I know that the Greek dish Gigantes plaki is often made with large lima beans, though it’s my understanding that it can also be made with a variety of runner beans as well.

When one of my vegan white bean recipes calls for “white beans,” I’m thinking of cannellini beans, great northern beans, or navy beans, which can be used interchangeably. But the heirloom varieties mentioned above will work, too.

How to cook white beans

The process of cooking white beans is similar to that of making other beans.

You begin with two options: cooking your beans from scratch, or using canned.

I won’t lie: I almost never cook beans from scratch. Over time, I’ve found that it’s an extra step that isn’t worth it to me from a taste or cost perspective. I like canned beans, they’re super convenient, and while cooking dry beans from scratch is cheaper, canned beans aren’t expensive.

If you do prefer to cook beans from scratch, then you have more options. You can use a pressure cooker or an Instant Pot (I don’t have either) or you can soak the beans overnight and boil them the following day.

My experience has been that overnight-soaked white beans need about 75-105 minutes of boiling in order to be cooked through. Navy beans take less time to cook than cannellini or great northern beans.

Cooking beans from scratch

In the unusual times that I do cook beans from scratch, I soak them in overnight first in a pot of water. The following day, I drain and rinse the beans before cooking.

If you prefer to do a quick soak method or to not soak beans at all, that’s always an option. Not soaking the beans will just lengthen their cooking time.

I like an overnight soak for the shortened cooking time, and it creates no extra effort for me.

After soaking, draining, and rinsing, I return the beans to the pot and cover them with fresh water—enough to submerge them by 3-4 inches. I bring the water to a boil, then I turn the heat to medium low, or enough to keep the water at a simmer.

I cook the beans, uncovered, until they’re tender but still hold their shape well. When it’s time to test the beans for doneness, I recommend tasting a few, so that you can be sure that all of the beans are cooked uniformly. Cooking time for dry beans can vary considerably with their age.

Storage & freezing

You can store cooked beans in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. And you can freeze cooked beans for at least 8 weeks.

If you scratch cook a whole pound of beans, it’s easy to freeze a portion of the batch and defrost them whenever you need quick, nutritious protein for soups, salads or bowls.

Dry beans can be stored in airtight containers in a cool, dry part of your home for up to a year or two.

Are white beans good for you?

I’m pretty resistant to ever claiming that a particular food is “good” or “bad” for anyone—context is everything, of course. But white beans are certainly good for anyone who already enjoys and feels good eating beans!

White beans are very nutrient-dense. They’re good or excellent sources of all of the following:

  • Protein
  • Dietary fiber
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc

White beans also supply calcium, thiamine and Vitamin B6.

It’s wonderful when a single food offers so much varied nutrition. Better still when that nutrition is packaged with all sorts of culinary potential.

What to make with white beans

There are a few vegan recipes that I associate specifically with white beans, and you’ll find some of them below.

For example, I pretty much always make this brothy pot of beans, these burgers, and the smashed bean salad recipe that I’m sharing today with white beans.

However, white beans are versatile and can be used in so many ways. They can be added to any bowl or salad for protein. I love adding beans to pasta dishes: this beans & greens pasta is one of my favorites, and white beans are excellent in it.

Pile some white beans, or white beans and tomato sauce, onto your favorite toast or a burger bun. You can stuff them into a wrap, along with some vegetables and a good dressing, like my vegan Caesar.

White beans are excellent on top of savory oatmeal. They make a good addition to simple, whole grain dishes and to vegan risotto.

In short, there’s no shortage of ways to use these buttery-textured, nutrient-dense legumes.

If you need some more specific recipe inspiration, I’ve got you! Here are fifteen of my favorite ideas.

15 Nutritious Vegan White Bean Recipes

Best Brothy White Beans

These are the best brothy white beans! Turn a pound of dry white beans into a tender, savory, all-purpose vegan protein. This is a one-pot recipe that's versatile, simple to make, and freezer-friendly.
Two matching, white bowls are filled with beans, broth, and torn pieces of fresh bread.

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Artichoke, White Bean & Quinoa Burgers

These vegan artichoke white bean burgers are packed with Mediterranean flavor and healthful ingredients! They're also gluten free and super versatile.
An angled photograph of a vegan artichoke white bean burger, served on a bun with greens and a creamy dip.

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Vegetable White Bean Pasta

This vegetable white bean pasta is an easy, one-dish meal that includes nutritious white beans and lots of fresh, summery produce.
A bowl full of white bean pasta and tomato sauce rests on a linen napkin.

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Vegan Kale White Bean Caesar Salad

This vegan kale white bean Caesar salad is a non-traditional take on the classic. It's made with kale, protein-packed white beans, and a cashew based dressing. It's exceptionally nutrient-dense and so satisfying.
A nutritious, green salad is being served on a round, white plate with some crackers nearby.

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Cheesy Vegan Quinoa Bake

This cheesy vegan quinoa broccoli bake is the epitome of comfort food, but it's made with wholesome, plant-based ingredients, including quinoa, beans, and broccoli. It's kid-friendly, freezer-friendly, and easy to make ahead.
A ceramic plate rests on a gray linen cloth. It holds a cheesy vegan quinoa bake.

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Creamy Vegan Kale White Bean Soup

This Italian-inspired, creamy vegan kale white bean soup is so nutritious. Silken tofu provides protein, and it's loaded with leafy greens.
A ceramic bowl has been filled with a cream-colored soup and leafy greens. It's resting on a white surface.

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Pesto White Bean Bowls

These pesto white bean bowls are made with whole grains, white beans, and vegetables. The grain bowls are topped with vegan pesto. They're brimming with nutrients, colorful, and bursting with the flavors of summer!
A white bowl has been filled with tomato, zucchini, eggplant, whole grains, and legumes. It rests on a white cloth.

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Artichoke White Bean Wraps

These white bean artichoke wraps are a tasty, healthful lunch idea. They're made with a garlicky white bean artichoke spread and nutrient-dense kale. I like to heat them up in a pan, similar to quesadillas, and serve them with a green herb dipping sauce!
Artichoke white bean wraps have been cut into quarters and drizzled with a green sauce.

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White Bean Avocado Panzanella

This non-traditional panzanella salad is made with a tart, creamy avocado dressing, tender white beans, zesty radishes, and pieces of your favorite bread. It's refreshing and light, yet filling, thanks to lots of healthful fats and fiber.

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Quinoa Bean Salad with Tahini and Pumpkin Seeds

This quinoa bean salad with tahini and pumpkin seeds is packed with nutrition, protein, fiber, and flavor! It's a fast and healthful lunch option that can be made ahead of time. It also happens to be a no oil vegan recipe.
A white, rimmed plate is covered in green spinach leaves and a red quinoa bean salad. It rests on a white surface.

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Warm Leek White Bean Salad

This warm leek white bean salad is perfect for winter. Leeks are sautéed and tossed with nutritious white beans in a Dijon vinaigrette, then served warm or at room temperature. Serve the recipe with lettuce leaves, over a bed of greens, or with your favorite crackers or toast.
Vegan hors d'oeuvres with beans and crackers have been served, along with lettuce leaves.

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Vegan Spaghetti & White Bean Balls

This dish of spaghetti & white bean balls is a vegan interpretation of a classic pasta dinner! The white bean balls are great with marinara and spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine. However, they're a versatile vegan protein that can be served in many additional ways!
A white bowl has been filled with a mix of spaghetti & white bean balls, along with marinara sauce. It's topped with fresh, sliced basil.

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White Bean Dip with Fresh Herbs

One of my older recipes for Food52, this dip remains a favorite of mine for the spring months!

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Polenta Tomato Tart with White Bean Spread

This polenta tomato tart with garlicky white bean spread and roasted cherry tomatoes looks fancy, but it's simple to prepare—and delicious! A perfect summer appetizer.
An angled image of a polenta and cherry tomato tart, which is topped with a white bean spread.

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Garlic Tahini Smashed White Bean Salad

If you like chickpea "tuna," then you need to try smashed white bean salad! It's a flavorful, protein-packed spread for toast, sandwiches, wraps, or dipping. This version is made with an irresistable roasted garlic tahini sauce.
An overhead image of a piece of toast with white bean salad and microgreens. It sits on a white, rimmed plate upon a white surface.

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Garlic tahini smashed white bean salad

That last recipe—garlic tahini smashed white bean salad—has made a comeback in my kitchen in the last few weeks.

It’s an older recipe, but I remember loving it when I first made it, and it has stood the test of time.

Yes, chickpeas are great in a smashed bean salad. But white beans, especially cannellini and great northern beans, give them a run for their money.

The substantial size and creamy texture of these beans is great for mashing. The resulting bean salad has some mashed beans, some whole ones, and they’re all brought together by a savory, roasted garlic tahini dressing.

The smashed white bean salad is ideal for meal prep. Serve it in a wrap, on toast or in a sandwich, as part of a bowl, with vegetable crudités, or however you like. It can be part of lunch or a great snack.

If you’re as eager for lunch variety as I am these days, this is a good option to bookmark and enjoy all summer long. Here’s the recipe.

A smashed white bean salad is held in a white, ceramic bowl, resting on a white surface.


  • 1 head garlic, top sliced off crosswise
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup tahini (70g)
  • 1/3 cup water (80ml)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 cups cooked white beans (480g cooked beans, or two 15oz / 425g cans, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 large stalk celery, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed, chopped fresh herbs of choice (such as parsley, dill, or basil; 10g)
  • Optional toppings or mix-ins of choice (such as microgreens, artichoke hearts, toasted pine nuts, or cashew parmesan cheese)


  • Preheat the oven to 375F. Rub the teaspoon of olive oil over the exposed garlic cloves. Wrap the whole head of garlic in foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until the head of garlic is very soft and the cloves are lightly golden.
  • Place the tahini, water, lemon, mustard, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor. Squeeze all of the cloves of garlic from the roasted head into the blender. Blend the ingredients on high till creamy and smooth.
  • Place the beans, celery, shallot, and herbs in a mixing bowl. Add about three quarters of the dressing (you may want to hold off on using all of it until you mix up the salad and see whether you'd like to use more). Use a potato masher or fork to mash the dressing up with the beans and to smash about half of the white beans (you want about half of them to stay intact, or adjust the texture to your liking).
  • Taste the salad, add more dressing as needed, and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper, additional salt, and/or additional freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  • Spread the salad on toast and add any optional toppings you like, or serve it as desired. The smashed white bean salad will keep for up to four days in an airtight container in the fridge.

I’m always inspired by how the simplest and most foundational plant-based ingredients, beans and grains, can create countless meals.

If you love cooking with these foundational vegan ingredients and want more inspiration, you can check out my roundups of lentil recipes, sweet potato recipes, chickpea recipes, and quinoa recipes.

In the meantime, I hope that this post will spark or revive your love of white beans!

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