Beautiful Five Bean Stew

This is the patron recipe of working single mothers and students working to put themselves through college.  It is simple, healthful, cheap.  My mother made this beautiful five bean stew in her crock pot when I was little and I made it a lot when I was in college.    I have not made this recipe in years, because I have mentioned before, after college I needed to eat something other than beans for a while.

I have been newly inspired to make this stew (and beans in general)because I recently bought a five bean sampler from Rancho Gordo.  These beans are so beautiful, so special, that I was having a hard time cooking them!  They look so pretty in a jar and they are heirloom varieties that I am unfamiliar with.  This recipe was a good way to try out a small amount of each of them and get the lay of the land.

That said, this recipe is great made with cheap drained beans from a can.  Just don’t add any extra salt and plan to freeze some of the stew since 5 cans of beans makes a whole lot of stew!  Also, you will need to increase the amount of onions, garlic, celery and tomato.   Of course you can also make this stew with any dried beans that have been soaked and cooked in advance.  In college, I used to use dry black, kidney, garbanzo, northern and lima beans.  Whatever beans you use, it’s nice to have a variety of shapes and colors.  This is a beautiful stew.

For this batch I used Tepary beans (which taste like little boiled peanuts!), Rio Zape (pinto-like), Christmas Limas (pretty white limas with red speckles),  Cargamanto Cranberry beans (these were my favourites) and Runner Cannellini Beans (big white pillows).  Since Rancho Gordo beans are fresher than your typical dried bean, you do not need to soak them for as long.  I soaked them all together and discovered that the Tepary Beans needed longer even though they  are the smallest ones!


  • 1/4 cup each of five kinds of dried beans.  Choose a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • a bit of olive oil
  • 2 small or one large onion diced
  • a bit of salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stock celery minced
  • 28 ounce can of good quality of stewed tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp of liquid smoke
  • cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
  • chili powder to taste (optional)
  • ground cumin (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Sour cream or tart yogurt for garnish
  1. Soak the beans overnight.
  2. Cook the beans in lightly salted water until they are tender and then drain them.
  3. Warm the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and a bit of salt and cook until the onions are translucent.
  4. Add the garlic and celery and cook for one or two minutes more.
  5. Add the drained, cooked beans and the canned tomatoes along with their juice.
  6. Simmer for about 10 minutes and then season with liquid smoke, spices, salt (if needed) and pepper.
  7. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or tart yogurt.

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