How to Cook Cannellini Beans

Cannellini beans are a kind of kidney bean.  If you've eaten Great Northern beans or Navy beans, cannellini taste VERY similar.  Cannellini beans shown here are the size of red kidney beans.  There are other varieties that are smaller.

I found these cannellini beans in the bulk bin section at the foodie mart.  They were $3.19 per pound compared to Great Northern and Navy at $1.19 per pound.  Seeing that I wanted to explore and compare them to the others, I bit the bullet and brought them home.  I have to say, I enjoy how well they held up during the cooking process.  I can't say they have MORE flavor. But because of their size, there's more bean to the bite.

Cannellini beans are hardy enough for soups, stews, anywhere you need beans in a recipe.  Commonly associated with Italian cooking, however, I think they'd make a great filling for white bean burritos.  Refried cannellini beans, sauteed onions & bell pepper, jalapeno jack cheese, drizzled with a little adobo sauce...mmm, mmm!

*POOF!* What was I talking about before? oh yea...

Here's two methods to cooking cannellini beans: the long way & the short way.  One method is not better than the other, nor does one produce a better flavor over the other.  It comes down to how much time do you have and how your schedule works out.

Both methods call for the same amount of ingredients.

  • 2 cups dried cannellini beans
  • 2 to 4 bay leaves
  • 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Pick over the beans carefully, discarding any stones or other particles.


Soak the beans in a large bowl of cold water overnight.  Drain.  Place the beans in a large sauce pan of water, bring to a boil, and cook for 20 minutes.  Drain.  Return the beans to the pan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil again.  Add the bay leaves, garlic, oil, salt & pepper and cook until the beans are tender, 1-2 hours.  Reserve the bean stock for soups. Discard the bay leaves.


Place the beans in a pressure cooker, cover with 2 inches of water, add bay leaves, garlic, oil, salt & pepper.  Bring water to a boil, cover and lock lid into position and place pressure regulator on lid.  Continue to keep heat on medium high until the pressure regulator begins to chatter, then immediately REDUCE HEAT to medium low.  You want a medium slow rhythmic chatter from the regulator.  If it sounds like Thomas the tank engine on speed, then the heat is too high, you'll lose steam or water too quickly before the beans are cooked.

Cook with a medium slow chatter for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow the pressure to drop on its own accord.  When the air vent/cover lock has dropped, remove pressure regulator, unlock lid and remove it.  Scoop out the bay leaves, and stir beans.  Garlic cloves will dissolve in the liquid when you stir the beans.

That's it.  You're ready to use the cannellini beans for any recipe.  Divide them into servings, store them in good freezer containers and put them in freezer for later.

They work great in this Simple White Bean Soup recipe.

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  • Rebecca Cervantes

    I am cooking your recipe for cannellini beans in the pressure cooker as i type this. Question, your recipe fails to mention what the pressure should be — 5, 10 or 15? I wasn’t sure and ended up placing at 15. Hope this is correct. Please mention this next time. Thanks for the recipe. By the way do you have a recipe for pasta fagule (spelling is wrong I know)?

    • Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Rebecca.

      My Presto pressure cooker came with a 15 lb. regulator, so that’s all I know to use. Your question reminded me that my grandmother kept the other size regulators. It’s too late for me to ask her how she used them.
      But I can ask you, right?

      When am I suppose to use the other sizes?

  • I never thought to make refried Cannellini beans before, delicious! I can’t wait to try it!

  • Kaustubh Barve

    Hi, I did cook today with a pressure cooker to make a veg of cannellini beans and they were hard after cooking. I had done 8-10 whistles in a pressure cooker but it didn’t get soft. After this I searched and read your instructions and might get it right the next time I cook these beans. Even red kidney beans get cooked in 3-4 whistles. thanks for your info.

    • Hi Kaustubh,
      I’m sorry the cannellini beans didn’t work out. Red kidney beans seem to cook faster than pinto beans, even though they’re a little larger. Have you ever noticed that?
      I’ve never heard the term “whistles.” How many minutes are in a “whistle?”

  • Joe M

    Never ever ever cook any beans in salted water unless you have all day. Beans will cook tender without pre-soaking in 1/3 to 1/2 the time in unsalted water. After they are cooked you can add salt and all the spices to the broth.

  • Debbie

    What does it mean when the skins of my cannellini beans start to separate 5 minutes into soaking?

    • Debbie, the first thing that comes to mind is that the beans are old. Try another bag from a different source and see what happens.

    • dpc

      To keep them whole slow release the pressure cooker. i.e. turn off the hob & leave it loose pressure. It will take up to 20 mins. This might need a few minutes taken off the cooking time.