Food

Beans ‘n’ Cheese

You know, like mac ‘n’ cheese, minus the mac, plus the beans….

This recipe came about the way a lot of recipes come about these days — my daughter, Abby, walked into the kitchen, saw a pot of beans on the stove and said, “You know what would be really good? If you made beans the way you made mac and cheese.” And she was right. Partly. Because here’s the beauty of this dinner: The whole béchamel sauce thing that is usually so crucial to making mac and cheese? I skipped that part. The cream? Skipped that, too. The multiple pots and pans thing? Nope! This meal cooks in one pot. Its relation to mac and cheese lies mostly in the garlic-spiked crunchy topping and the peppery cheese mixed in with the beans — for me, the best version of mac and cheese always has a combination of sharp cheddar, gruyère, and Parm. And lots of pepper.

Here are a few ways you might like to deploy this recipe:

  • You are trying to convince a young (or not so young!) vegetarian to like beans
  • You have a macaroni and cheese obsessive in the house and would like to expand their horizons
  • You have odds and ends of cheese in the fridge that you’d like to use up — this recipe only calls for a single cup of cheese, significantly less than most mac and cheese recipes.
  • You need something on the table fast.

And lastly, you would like that something to taste excellent.

Beans ‘n’ Cheese
I served this with the simplest chopped tomato salad — basil, olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced red onion — but any simple green salad (and maybe a piece of crusty bread) would be fine.

6 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion chopped (about 1/2 cup)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
4 1/2 cups (or 3 15-ounce cans) cooked white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup shredded gruyère
1/2 shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme

Set oven to broil.

In a large oven-safe deep skillet set over medium heat, add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, onions, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add beans, and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Turn heat to medium-low, add gruyère and cheddar, and stir until melted. Remove from heat.

In medium bowl, mix together the panko with the garlic powder, Parm, remaining olive oil, and more salt and pepper. You want all the panko crumbs to be damp. Using your hands, top the beans with the panko mixture. It will feel like a lot of topping, but persevere. You’re going to want the crunch.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil 5 to 8 minutes until crumbs are golden brown. (Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.) Remove the skillet using an oven mitt — the handle will be very hot! Let rest for about 5 minutes to let it set.

Serve topped with fresh thyme.

P.S. Five-ingredient dinners and a smashed chickpea sandwich.

  1. Amanda says...

    I made this today as a quick lunch and am so impressed! My Mac-n-cheese disliking husband and toddler even approve. This will likely become a weekly staple in our house

  2. Debbie says...

    what a simple but delicious dinner! thanks Jenny.

  3. Ro says...

    I was home alone for the first time in forever last night, so I made this for myself (no gruyere in the house, so used all cheddar). It was amazingly quick, as advertised (which is usually never true!) and totally hit the spot.

  4. Irene says...

    Great recipe! I just made this with two boxes of canellini beans, gruyere (no cheddar in the house), and dried thyme (crushed and sprinkled lightly over the beans before the panko topping). This will definitely go in the regular rotation. Next time, I would add maybe a 1/2tsp of dijon mustard to the beans. I think there needs to be a little something acid.

  5. Emma says...

    Oh this sounds sooooo good and easy. I love and eat anything with beans, give me a can of cannellini, chopped onion, 4/5 cloves of garlic and a strip of bacon, cook for around 20 minutes and eat with french bread and spinach/tomatoe salad…..

  6. Denise says...

    Do you think it might work with chickpeas as well? Just asking because I don’t have white beans in the pantry right now, but I do have chickpeas, and this looks like one of the recipes that need to be made ASAP ☺️
    Thank you for sharing!!!

  7. rex says...

    Oh my YUM!

    Yes, please! I’ll be there in 15 minutes!

  8. Elisabeth says...

    Thanks for writing the recipe for canned beans! As a working mom with two littles, I do not have the bandwidth most days to cook my own… I’m looking forward to trying this soon!

  9. Lydia Williams says...

    Just popped it in the oven! Used chickpeas and black beans (adult dinner) and a little honey mustard, oh and three tbsp cream cheese and cheddar- stuff I had on hand! Smells amazing!!!

  10. CPH says...

    My kids love macaroni and cheese almost as much as they love beans so this is such a good idea! Can’t wait to try it.

  11. Laura says...

    I love this! I am a former bean-hater who fell in love with the Alison Roman white bean stew with harissa, and now I love white beans and am always looking for more recipes using them.

  12. sanchez says...

    I used to do this with rice! Cheesy rice but with the tomato salad mixed in! Was my favorite after school snack with leftover rice in the fridge. Back then, I would use a couple slices of American cheese and a chopped tomato. Will definitely try this recipe with good cheese and beans! I can also somehow see this as a tartine topping, too, on a slice of sourdough.

    • sara says...

      recipe please! american cheese and tomato? yes!

  13. Em says...

    God I love beans.

    • Meghan says...

      Same

    • Same

  14. Kris says...

    Looks delicious! Would cast iron skillet be okay for this meal? That’s my go-to for recipes that require stovetop to oven but I worry I dont know if there are types of food that should not go in the cast iron…

    • Jeanne says...

      That’s a really good idea. I would totally cook it in a cast iron skillet! Honestly I cook everything in my cast iron, even acidic foods like tomato sauce. I’ve never had a problem. Just wash that day and dry.

  15. Julie says...

    This looks great, and I have to say I am waiting SO IMPATIENTLY for your Weekday Vegetarians cookbook! My husband and I are trying to go beyond meatless Mondays and he’s loved everything I’ve made of yours.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      I am probably more impatient than you, but THANK YOU. I can’t wait for you to have it!

    • Rosalie says...

      I’m super impatient for this book, too!!! You know it’s going to be amazing.

  16. A K says...

    Perhaps you could replace the “his and her” with “their” to be more inclusive?

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      sorry about that– fixed. Thanks so much.

    • B H says...

      Perhaps you could avoid being a totalitarian and mind your own language.

  17. Sadie says...

    Last month in a bout of empty-fridge-desperation I invented PIZZA BEANS. A can of white beans, a blop of left over marinara, and parmesan cheese (maybe there was some chopped vegetable?). It was a low culinary moment that my roommate and I often refer to when things in the kitchen are looking grim. Thanks to Jenny my next bean dinner will be elevated.

  18. Linds says...

    Mmm yes please.

  19. Amanda W. says...

    Any kind of recipe that highlights beans is a win for me! The only club I’ve ever belonged to is the Rancho Gordo Bean Club, so I always have some on hand and try to incorporate beans into all the things.

    This could easily be made vegan with vegan cheese shreds, and almond parm on top, I think. Going to give it a try this week!

  20. Em says...

    This looks amazing! Unfortunately, I’m adhering to the autoimmune protocol, so beans, cheese, and breadcrumbs are off the table. Everyone, please enjoy an extra serving for me!! :)

    • Em says...

      P.S. Would love to see a paleo/low-glycermic/autoimmune protocol recipe sometime! For five years, I’ve been eating nothing but roasted/sauteed veggies + chicken/fish + berries on repeat.My health is much-improved, but I would love to mix it up! Thanks CoJ team for all you do!

  21. Erica says...

    This sounds perfect! Quick question: the step about the topping mentions “reserved cheese” but I don’t see any instructions about how much to mix in vs save for the topping. Is the topping just parm or should I save a little of the cheddar/gruyere, too? Thank you!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Yes, sorry that’s confusing and is fixed now. Originally I was thinking would be good to save a little of the gruyere and cheddar for the topping because they are more melty cheeses…but in the end I opted to just focus on the crunch since you get plenty of melty-ness with the beans. But def add the parm with the topping to give it a little bite. Thanks for the good catch!

  22. Kari T. says...

    Genius!! Thanks Jenny!

  23. Maclean Nash says...

    I have been following DALS (Jenny) for ages and every thing I have ever made of hers has been delicious and a huge crowd pleaser.
    I could write an essay on her pork ragu. Her artichoke sauce – literally good on everything and so simple! Her white bean soup marks the start autumn in my house!
    Jenny being on COJ brings me an inordinate amount of joy just knowing that she is reaching more people and that others will hopefully get the same amount of pleasure I do cooking and eating her recipes.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      me too!!!!!! I feel exactly the same.

  24. Brittany says...

    Well, I know what I am making tonight. Thanks Jenny and CoJ team!

  25. Eloise says...

    Chances this would work with Trader Joe’s precooked (!! – key for impatient me!!) lentils?

    • Jojo says...

      I’m not Jenny (ha, duh), but as a bean freak, I don’t think lentils have the right size/texture for this. But she uses canned beans, so it’s just as fast!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Yeah, I think Jojo is probably right. I mean, it’s not like it’s going to be bad, but, lentils are so tiny, I don’t think they’d hold their shape very well and it might get mushy. Though I do love those pre-cooked lentils from Traders. It reminds me that I should make this TJ-hacked salad again very soon: https://www.dinneralovestory.com/cooking-in-someone-elses-kitchen/

  26. Annie says...

    Yes! keep the veg recipes coming :)

    • Mandy says...

      Agreed!!!! Yum!

  27. Abby says...

    This is probably a silly question, but as someone who is currently trying to eat healthier – I assume that one of the benefits of this recipe is that it is slightly healthier than its pasta counterpart?

    (I get that, you know, there is still a cup of cheese in here, but beans are probably better than the carbs, right?)

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Not sure how to answer that question (I need my carbs!!) but for me, since my house is going in the vegetarian direction these days, this kind of dinner is just a more protein-y option than yet another pasta dinner — which are delicious and frequent, of course, but sometimes just a little too easy to fall back on.

    • Rachel says...

      Beans are a good source of protein and fiber! And no, it’s not zero-carb because of the bread crumbs, but it’s still healthier than a box of pasta.

      The cheese isn’t so bad either–a good source of calcium and protein.

      Can you tell I like justifying my “guilty” pleasures? ;)

    • celeste says...

      Hey Abby, I’m trying to eat better too and it is SO TOUGH, our society seems to mark foods as “good” and “bad” and I even joined the Noom app and it’s exhausting, etc. I’d say less carbs, yes, but the beans have fiber and are more filling. Do you ever eat spaghetti or pancakes and feel hungry an hour later? That’s where this recipe may help.

    • Samantha says...

      Abby, that will depend on the type of pasta you use! In my house we always eat chickpea pasta, which has more carbs than white beans, but also a lot more protein. so it really depends on your goals!

    • Ellen says...

      I’m a former vegetarian (and still eat a very bean-heavy diet). I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with my second, and was put on a diet with strict “carb allowances” for each meal. Beans have carbs for sure–but they also have protein, hurray–and they also made my blood sugar spike way less than the equivalent amount (in terms of carb allowance) of grains. So…yeah, they have carbs…but nutritionally (and in terms of the effect of the carbs on the body?) they’re definitely not exactly the same as grains. For whatever that’s worth! (And of course grains have their place in a diet, too!)

    • Heather says...

      Hi Abby – for me eating healthy is about moderation of stuff as well. Would I love to eat just a huge plate of this and thats it? YES! But unfortunately I just can’t swing that – so instead I’ll have smaller helpings of this and then just make the worlds laziest salad with spinach (literally dumping it out of the bag onto my plate) and olive oil and cherry tomatoes.

      I feel like my special life skill is that I can convince myself anything tastes good if I know how good it is for me – so at this point in my life, I actually think spinach is tasty? Or maybe its that I don’t think its gross, but that I eat it happily because I know how good it is for me and that it allows me to eat delicious cheesy goodness.

  28. Kendra says...

    I think you need to add a step to spread the topping on the beans before it goes in the oven. It seems intuitive, but I wasn’t sure if you brown the topping separately, then spread on top…

    • Kendra says...

      Not being critical! Just confused! Trying to be kind to CoJ.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      GOOD CATCH KENDRA! It absolutely goes on top of beans before the broiling. All fixed…Thank you!

  29. S says...

    genius!

  30. Maryn says...

    Okay, YUM. I want this right now. I know what I’m buying in my next grocery run. Thanks, Jenny!

  31. Geri M. Gaskill says...

    Brilliant! Chef’s kiss to your daughter & you!

  32. SARAH MASSON says...

    All of my favorite recipes lately have come from Cup Of Jo. I appreciate how simple, but yummy they are. This is my kind of meal. I’ve started making red beans in a dutch oven in my oven instead of on the stove (throw beans, water, seasoning and veggies into a the dutch oven, cover, pop in oven at 325 for a few hours, they get sooooo creamy and there is no need to stir). I’ve been meaning to make white beans in my dutch oven that way and now I have the perfect excuse!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “I appreciate how simple, but yummy they are.” = agreed! Jenny is best in that way! so lucky to have her.

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      That makes me happy, thank you Sarah (and Joanna ;)