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Serving beans on toast makes them a meal! This simple, sophisticated recipe pairs white beans with garlic, broccoli rabe, and Parmesan cheese.

Beans on toast

Beans on toast. It sounds humble, but when you taste this you’ll be amazed. The recipe comes to us from the new cookbook Cool Beans by our pal Joe Yonan of The Washington Post, a book just as cool as it sounds. The premise: beans are one of the most economical, delicious, and planet-friendly foods that exist. And we all should eat more of them. Of course, that gets a hearty Amen! from Alex and me. We’re long time proponents of eating all the beans. Eating these silky, savory nuanced white beans over toast makes them into a tasty vegetarian meal, and topped with aged Parmesan: they’re a revelation.

Cool beans

Why to eat more beans

Why do beans have a bit of a sore reputation here in the US? They’re certainly not considered glamorous food. Almost no one replies to “What meal did you eat to celebrate your birthday?” with “a pot of beans” or “beans on toast”. Author Joe says in the book that could be because worldwide beans have almost always been associated with poverty.

But there are lots of reasons to change our hearts about beans here in the US. Indeed, so many cultures around the world celebrate them with great dishes (falafel! hummus! refried beans! lentil stew!). Here’s why to eat more beans, per Cool Beans:

  • They’re the cheapest source of protein in the world. They’re the only food that’s both categorized as a protein and vegetable by the USDA.
  • They may help you live longer: the list of health benefits if beans is long: they’re nutrient-dense, rich in cancer fighting antioxidants and hearty-healthy fiber. Guess the commonality of Blue Zone diet countries where people live the longest in the world? They all eat 1 cup of beans per day.
  • They’re planet-friendly. Beans may be key to feeding the Earth’s growing population: they take less of a toll on the climate than animal proteins.
Beans on toast

How to cook dried white beans…with more flavor than ever!

Have you ever cooked dried beans? Alex and I often settle for canned beans out of convenience (sorry, Joe!) But when we have time, cooking a pot of dried beans results in a transcendentally more delicious end product. Especially if you add flavorings to the pot while it’s boiling! Now that we have an Instant Pot, we love making beans in the IP because it’s so quick (see our Instant Pot Black Beans, Chickpeas, Refried Beans & Pinto Beans).

All of the recipes in Cool Beans use dried beans: though of course you can substitute canned in a pinch. But why not use this as a challenge? Take this as an opportunity to take 1 hour and make beans the right way. Here’s how to make the white beans for this beans on toast recipe:

  • Soak your beans overnight (or 4 hours)! Soaking beans helps them cook faster and more evenly. You can get away with 4 hours if you forget to do it the night before.
  • Add flavorings! Here’s the key to getting the very best flavor: add a few simple flavorings to the pot with the beans. Here you’ll add 1 onion studded with whole cloves, 2 carrots, bay leaves and (here’s the kicker): a sheet of kombu! Kombu is dried seaweed often used in Japanese cooking. It’s 100% worth seeking it out for the nuance of flavor that it gives! You’ve got to try this.
  • Simmer in water for 1 hour. Just 1 hour gets them perfectly tender.
Beans on toast

Beans on toast: simple & sophisticated

The name for this recipe in the Cool Beans cookbook is this: “Garlicky Great Northern Beans and Broccoli Rabe Over Toast.” (Fancy.) We shortened it to “beans on toast” to be a little more internet-friendly…and, because beans on toast is a thing! It’s a British dish that’s basically baked beans served over toast. This version, though: is like beans on toast with a glam makeover. Here are a few notes about serving it:

  • Cook the beans with broccoli rabe. Broccoli rabe is a green with a pretty bitter flavor: but it works well here with the savory beans. If you can’t find it in the store, try broccolini (our fave!), broccoli or Tuscan kale, which will have a sweeter flavor.
  • Use an artisan-style loaf for the toast. Not any old bread will do. Find an artisan-style bread loaf (or try our sourdough, Dutch oven bread, or artisan bread).
  • Spoon the broth and beans onto the toast. It will seem like there’s a lot of broth: but that’s what’s intended! Spoon on the beans first, then the broth. It softens the toast into a chewy, delightful texture.
  • Top with aged Parmesan cheese (or Pecorino Romano). Wow, is this good topped with some aged Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese and a drizzle of olive oil! (If you eat fully vegan, please weigh in if you know of a good vegan Parm.)
Beans on toast

About the book: Cool Beans

Cool Beans is all about demystifying the humble bean: since it may be the key to the future of food! It’s full of 125 incredible flavor-packed recipes and ideas for eating the world’s most versatile plant-based protein. Alex and I give it a hearty 2 thumbs up!

Alex and I know author Joe Yonan through Voraciously: Plant Powered, our project with Washington Post Food. Joe is the Food and Dining Editor at The Washington Post and was incredible to work with. We’ve always been admirers of Joe’s work, but with this book he’s truly outdone himself! It’s an incredible resource that we’ll be turning to again and again. Hats off, Joe!

Get it: Cool Beans by Joe Yonan

This white beans on toast recipe is…

Vegetarian. For vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free, use vegan Parmesan or top with another savory element like capers.

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Beans on toast

White Beans on Toast

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x


Serving beans on toast makes them a meal! This simple, sophisticated recipe pairs white beans with garlic, broccoli rabe, and Parmesan cheese.


  • 2 cups dried great Northern beans (may substitute navy, cannellini, or other white
  • beans), soaked overnight and drained*
  • Water
  • 1 onion, peeled and studded with 12 whole cloves
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 (3 by 5-inch) strip kombu (dried seaweed)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large bunch of broccoli rabe, cut into 1-inch pieces (or substitute 3 to 4 cups broccolini or broccoli florets or roughly chopped Tuscan kale)
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 thick slices rustic sourdough bread, lightly toasted
  • 1 tablespoon chile oil (optional)
  • ¼ cup vegan or traditional Parmesan, grated or shaved


  1. Make sure to soak your beans overnight (or at least 4 hours), covered in room temperature water.
  2. Combine the beans in a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Add the onion, carrots, kombu, and bay leaves, turn the heat to medium-high, and bring the beans to a boil. Let then boil for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat so the beans are at a bare simmer, cover, and cook until the beans are very tender, about 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can cook the beans, water, and aromatic vegetables in a stovetop or electric pressure cooker: Bring to high pressure and cook for 17 minutes if using a stovetop model or 20 minutes for electric. Let the pressure release naturally, then open.)
  3. Discard the onion, carrots, kombu, and bay leaves and strain the beans, reserving all of the cooking liquid.
  4. In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Stir in the broccoli rabe and sauté until very tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until it starts to soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in the drained beans, 1 ½ cups of the reserved cooking liquid, and the salt. Cook just until the beans are hot and the flavors have melded, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the pepper, taste, and add more salt if needed. (Here we added about ¾ teaspoon extra salt until the flavor popped.)
  5. Divide the toast among shallow serving bowls. Drizzle with the chile oil, if desired, and spoon the bean mixture and broth on top of the toast (use the broth as a sauce to flavor the toast). Finish with the Parm and serve hot.


*This recipe is best when made with dried beans. But if you’d like to use canned, use 3 cans Great Northern or other white beans, with can liquid reserved and start with Step 3. In Step 4, use the can liquid topped off with water to make the 1 ½ cups “reserved cooking liquid.” 

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Boiled
  • Cuisine: Vegetarian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Beans on toast

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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