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White Beans with Rosemary and Caramelized Onions
White Beans with Rosemary and Caramelized Onions Photo courtesy of Erin McDowell

Crossing stuff off the to-do list. Buying birthday presents. Cooking beans. Some things are just better when you do them yourself. So don’t be tempted by the convenience of sodium-laden canned goods. This dish proves it’s infinitely better to start from scratch. The finished product can be remixed into a soup or sprinkled on a cold salad and always boasts of good home cooking.

Makes 8 to 10 side-dish servings
Start to Finish: 10 hours (includes soaking time)


1 pound white beans (cannellini or Great Northern)

1 small sweet onion, peeled and quartered

2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

3 fresh rosemary sprigs

1 fresh sage sprig

1 bay leaf

¾ teaspoon ground cloves

Kosher salt to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 small sweet onions, thinly sliced


1. Soak the beans: Place the beans in a large bowl and cover completely with cool water. Soak overnight (at least 8 hours). Drain the beans in a colander.

2. Cook the beans: Transfer the beans to a medium pot and cover with 1½ inches of water. Add the quartered onion, garlic, rosemary, sage, bay leaf and cloves. Stir gently to combine.

3. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the beans start to become tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Season the beans with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the beans are completely tender and the broth is flavorful, 10 to 15 minutes more.

4. Caramelize the onions: While the beans are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onions, season with salt, and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes.

5. To serve: Remove the herb stems and bay leaf from the beans. Ladle the beans into a serving dish (if desired, you can use a slotted spoon to drain the beans from the broth). Top with the caramelized onions, some freshly ground pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately.

Finishing Touches

It's the details that count! Try these tips

  • Don’t have time for the overnight soak? Try this quick soaking method: In a medium pot, cover the beans with an inch of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower to a simmer for a couple minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, let the beans soak for one hour and you’re ready to cook.

  • Try stirring a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar into your caramelized onions. It adds a gorgeous color and deepens the flavor.

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