This vegan Italian-style dish makes a great side or main
Dark, leafy greens are some virtuous eats. Cooked Italian style, they bring on the flavor, too.
Best of all, greens cook quickly. So you can whip up this dish on a weeknight. It makes an extra-tasty side. Or pair it with some bread (we favor cornbread or garlic bread) and you have a complete meal.
Virtue never tasted so good.
Recipe: Braised Greens with White Beans
Greens are good any time of year, but we find them particularly appealing during the cool days of early spring. Plus, they’re nutritional and flavor powerhouses. Add beans to the mix, and you have one healthy dish.
Almost any kind of green works in this recipe. Escarole is popular. But you could also use Swiss chard, spinach, kale, broccoli rabe, mustard greens, or cabbage.
We used canned white beans in this recipe because they’re a convenient pantry staple (and their quality often is quite good). But the dish would taste even better with dried white beans that you soak overnight (cannellini beans are our favorites for this recipe). If you go this route, cook the beans long and slow.
Or you could skip the beans and just go with braised greens. The dish will be lighter and a bit less tasty, but still good.
A large bunch of greens (about 2 pounds) plus a 15-ounce can of beans yields 2 or 3 main-course servings (twice that many when served as a side dish).
Prep time for this dish is 10 minutes or so. Cooking time adds about 15 minutes.
Leftovers keep OK for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- 1 large bunch of dark greens (about 2 pounds; see headnote for choices)
- ½ medium onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons water (optional — see Notes)
- 1 15-ounce can white beans (or 2 cups cooked white beans)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (several grinds for us)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (optional)
- Wash the greens (no need to dry; let some water to cling to them). Cut off the tough stems, then chop the greens into pieces of 1 to 1½ inches.
- Peel the onion and cut it in half, reserving one half for another use. Cut the remaining half into thin slices. Set aside.
- Peel the garlic and cut it into thin slices or mince it finely. Set aside.
- Place a large, deep frying pan or a wide cooking pot (like a Dutch oven) on medium stovetop heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil. When the oil is heated (it’ll shimmer), add the onion. Season to taste with salt, then sauté the onion for 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for 1 additional minute.
- Add the red pepper flakes and the chopped greens (you’ll probably need to add the greens in several batches, adding a fresh batch as the previous one wilts in the pan). Cook the greens until they have all wilted (a couple of minutes). Add the water (optional – we use because we like soupy greens) and the white beans, then cover the pan. Cook until the greens are tender (8 to 10 minutes).
- Add black pepper to taste. If you want to sharpen the flavor of the dish, add a tablespoon or two of lemon juice. Add more salt if necessary, then stir to combine.
- Serve and enjoy.
- We often like to use a couple of different kinds of greens when we make this dish.
- If you don’t want a vegan dish, you can substitute chicken stock for the water (Step 5).
- Using water (or stock) isn’t strictly necessary in this dish – the water that clings to the greens will be enough to braise them. But we like this dish to be just a bit soupy, so we add additional liquid.
- In addition to adding lemon juice at the end of cooking, we like to top the greens with a shot or two of extra virgin olive oil right before serving.
- You can cook this dish with bacon if you want, although of course it will no longer be vegan. If you’d like to do that, here’s how: Cut two or three slices of bacon into ½-inch pieces, then brown them in the frying pan that you’ll be using to cook the greens. Remove the bacon pieces and set them aside. Then proceed with the recipe, leaving out the olive oil in Step 4 (the rendered bacon fat will take its place). Add the cooked bacon pieces to the dish right before serving.
- Ham also goes nicely with this dish. Stir in a cup or so of cooked, diced ham with the beans in Step 5.
- Rather than finishing the dish with lemon juice (Step 6), you could use balsamic vinegar.
- We use kosher salt for cooking. This is coarser than regular table salt, so it doesn’t seem as “salty” by volume. If you’re using regular table salt, start with about half as much as we suggest. But, as always, season to your taste, not ours.
Dish of a Different Color
“Love braised greens,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “They’re gorgeous! Not to mention tasty.”
“I’ll say,” I agreed. “And this dish pairs so nicely with the cornbread you baked. Comfort food!”
“Nice corn meal color, too,” said Mrs K R. “So, mellow yellow?”
“I’m green with envy at that joke,” I said. “Hey, we’ve almost finished this. Shall we just polish it off?”
“I’ll green light that,” said Mrs K R.
My Mrs K R. She likes to show her true colors.
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I love stirfried veggies and the add of white beans for the extra protein dose. Healthy and yum!
Hi Angie, the white beans do add a lot to this dish! Wonderful flavor and texture. Thanks for the comment.
Thanks you for reminding to me to eat more braised greens. They are so healthy and yummy. I will try your recipe.
Hi Gerlinde, braised greens are great, aren't they? So much flavor! And good for you. :-) Thanks for the comment.
So simple but a fabulous idea! I am partial to Swiss chard. And lots of garlic in there...so good. Must by green soon! Thanks for sharing!
Hi Evelyne, simple is who we are. :D Swiss chard is great, isn't it? One of the things we buy in sets, so the rabbits don't get it. We'll be growing that this year! Thanks for the comment.
More virtuous Mediterranean food, eh?
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
Hi Mae, yup! After all the heavy dishes we made this winter, we need it! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I do really love me some braised greens ... With what else? SALMON - he he he!
Hi GiGi, salmon is excellent with braised greens. Terrific flavor combo. :-) Thanks for the comment.
My chard plants made it through the winter and are already in production mode. A perfect recipe I can use now!
A wonderful idea, I need this on my menu. Thank John.
Thanks for the recipe- it looks delicious! Question for you: I don't see a little printer icon that leads to a printer- friendly version of the recipe. Am I missing it? If not, would you consider adding one for those of us who prefer using a printout instead of a device to cook your recipes?
Hi Deb, chard is wonderful in this! Enjoy. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amira, you do need it on your menu. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Elaine, alas, we don't have one of those printer buttons. Haven't been able to find a recipe plug-in that worked on the Blogger platform that I liked (although it's been awhile since I last looked). Copying and pasting into a text or word processor document and then printing works, but I agree that's a bit of a pain. Thanks for the comment.
This is a dish I've never made. I feel like it's something that you've grown up with. It looks so inviting and healthy though I'm certain I need to give this a try. Thank you for the inspiration!
Sign me up for this meal! I love kale and beans are so good for you. I don't eat them a lot, but I always love them. Great to have a new bean recipe to try.
Thanks. IIt would be nice if they developed one to your liking! In then meantime, I'll dust off my copy-and-paste skills. Keep the great recipes coming!
I should look again to see if there's something I like. Although in some of the recipes the Notes are really important, and the recipe plug-ins don't handle those at all. Another complication, alas. :-(
Hi Vicki, this is a wonderful dish -- you'll love its flavor! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, we love bean recipes! Tasty, and full of protein. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I'm not a greens person but honest to goodness John you make them look so inviting I might have to give it a try. I had some steamed spinach the other night and liked it; does that count?
What a great idea- cooking the greens on the stove top. I've always used greens in a fresh salad- never cooking them in oil, but it sounds like a good idea- particularly adding a bit of ham. Thanks for expanding my horizons!
Lovely! And so healthy...
Very nice, John, very nice indeed... and you could have seconds of this and still keep the halo shiny! x
I don't think I've ever eaten a dish of greens and beans before and I'm wondering why not. I love both! And with garlic bread (or corn bread) it's just a bunch of my favorite things on one plate :). This sounds wonderful!
Hi Barbara, steamed spinach is kinda sorta related to this dish! If you like garlic, you'll like this dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Fran, the ham adds a lot of nice, salty flavor. Really good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mimi, tasty, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Liz, seconds of this are mandatory -- if you're eating it as a main! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kelsie, garlic bread would of course be more classically Italian, but corn bread looks so nice, doesn't it? Thanks for the comment.
What a wonderful dish, I could eat this anytime of day. Love escarole!
Love this recipe. So comforting.
Hi Cheri, escarole is great! When we make this, we like to mix escarole with mustard greens. Or use just Swiss chard. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Madonna, isn't this nice? Truly good stuff! Thanks for the comment.
This sounds like a delicious, healthy dish. I could use something like this, coming off of winter.
Hi Jeff, we definitely need lighter dishes after all those hearty winter ones! But this has big flavor, so we won't feel deprived. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love keeping beans in the pantry because they make such a wonderful addition and it becomes a full meal. Looks good!
Yum, so healthy and delicious, I love your pics😍
Wilted greens are my absolute favourite, kale being at the top of my list. I was at a cooking class last December and the chef suggested leaving more of the stem in the dish because that is where a lot of the nutrients are, of course, you'd have to braise the stems a bit longer to soften them. Red pepper flakes go so well with wilted greens too. I love the addition of the beans, fortunately they have started to make healthier canned beans with less salt these days.
A healthy side dish for sure! I like the speckle of beans -- it adds interest and flavor we would appreciate. Good one! :)
White beans just LOVE greens. This looks perfect!!
Hi Maureen, beans are one of those good carbs -- full of nutrients and fiber, and pretty filling. Not to mention good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Natalia, tastes really, really good too! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Eva, I usually rinse my beans, so that removes at least a little of the salt. Good tip about the stems -- I didn't know that. I often do discard them (except when making soup) so I'll have to start keeping them! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Judy, beans make a good garnish, don't they? They're a bit more than that in this dish, but just a bit. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Cakespy, yup, beans and greens just go together, don't they? Thanks for the comment.
I love this dish John. I make something similar but with tomatoes too. Love adding beans and my favorite is Swiss Chard. Cornbread is a great side :) Love it too!
Looks so delicious and comforting! I need a plate, STAT!
Nice plate of greens and I like the idea of adding beans, especially the white ones...so much texture in this dish.
I hope you are having a great week John :)
I could use a little virtue! Manservant is not big on greens however beans will cure anything!As does that slice of cornbread!
Hi Tricia, I've had this with tomatoes (and/or mushrooms) too, but usually make it this way. Tomatoes are good, though. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kiran, you DO need a plate! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Juliana, after flavor, it's color and texture for us when it comes to food. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Abbe, Manservant will like these greens -- loads of flavor. And if not, well, there's always the beans and cornbread. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is such a great way to use up greens!!
Greens are always welcomed in my kitchen. I love the combination with beans. Nutrition packed side dish, it is.
Nice vegan dish John. Because of Mrs YR's diet restriction, I cook a lot of veggie dishes and am always in need of fresh ideas. I like the greens/beans combo idea. And your choices of greens are all excellent. Thanks for the inspiration!
Hi Holly, greens and beans are just meant for each other! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Alyssa, isn't this nice? SO tasty! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Yi, you guys will really like this, I think -- loads of flavor. And easy to add other ingredients to up the flavor if you want! Thanks for the comment.
Healthy yet so comforting... That piece of cornbread by itself made me so jealous.
Hi Denise, hard to resist cornbread, isn't it? Or greens, for that matter. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Love the idea of adding the beans to lift the greens up and make them a bit more substantial.
Scrumptious! A perfect combination. So healthy and enjoyable.
Hi Caroline, we like greens & beans as a dinner -- easy, tasty, and satisfying. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rosa, this really is a great dish! :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is such a satisfying combo, especially when it's really garlicky. So I appreciate the four cloves you use in it. ;)
Hi Carolyn, yup, you really taste the garlic in this! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I'm in a rut with side dishes, but a dish of braised greens sounds like a delicious change of pace! Hope you're having a wonderful weekend!
Hi Liz, this is a wonderfully tasty dish! You'll like. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I eat so many raw veggies that I totally forget that braised greens are so delicious. Thanks for reminding me.
This is such a great dish and you finish it off just like we do - a hot piece of cornbread. :) I like your addition of the lemon juice. That would certainly brighten it up a bit. A tasty and healthy staple! Thanks for reminding me to make this! We love it!
Hi Pamela, braised greens are wonderful! And easy to make. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi MJ, hard to resist cornbread, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
A perfect spring recipe! Thanks for sharing.
Hi Beth, it is, it is! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Yum. I've never thought to combine braised greens with white beans - it looks terrific.
Hi Pam, it IS terrific! :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is one hearty vegan meatless Monday dish! So delicious with just a little crusty bread and good olive oil.
Hi Bobbi, this is the perfect Monday dish! SO good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
"Beans 'n Greens" is a favorite here. So quick, easy, and filling. If my fresh spinach goes a little soft before I can make it into a salad, this saves it!
I love beans + greens! This dish looks super, especially with a side of bread to mop up all the yummy juices.
Hi Rosemary, great combo of flavors, isn't it? A real favorite of ours, too! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amy, we do like this dish just a little soupy so we can get all those great juices! Thanks for the comment.
I saw the picture, and without looking at the title, I thought to myself that your dish looks very Italian. I wasn't that wrong.
I have been craving white beans lately but I couldn't find any at the store. Looks awesome John and it sounds healthy. :)
Hi Helene, I love how Italians handle greens! And beans. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I always buy Italian Gigante beans when I see them. However, ratjer than use them I tend to hoard them. I think they'd work beautifully here. GREG
Hi Greg, those would work really well in this dish! Thanks for the comment.
This looks delicious John. I have yet to cook with White Cannelini Beans, I see so many recipes that Giada DL has made and they are on my bucketlist. This dish is so healthy and light. Thanks for your comment today.. made my day! You give me hope!!
I would love to have this as a light dinner! So healthy and delicious!
Hi Nisha, you'll love the flavor of cannelloni beans! SO good! And the greens too, of course. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Katerina, this makes a great dinner at this time of the year. Heck, at any time of the year! :-) Thanks for the comment.
You make beans and greens look so so good!
Hi Cara, they are good! :-) Thanks for the comment.
John, I wish I had the ingredients on hand - I'd jump out of my chair and make this dish right this minute!
Hi Jean, this is a good one! You'll have to go to the grocery store tomorrow. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Yum! John, I love this recipe with the awesome flavor profile. Nice idea of adding the beans!
Hi Pat, this is such a good recipe! Terrific taste. And good for us, too!:-) Thanks for the comment.
I agree about ham working in nicely with this dish! *yum* :) I will keep this in mind for using up Easter ham leftovers, John. Thanks for sharing the recipe!
Hi Marcelle, leftover Easter ham would be wonderful in this! Thanks for the comment.
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