What Are Borlotti Beans?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Borlotti beans

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As far as legumes go, borlotti beans are some of the most colorful and pretty beans out there. Also called cranberry beans, this hearty ingredient has a light, beige-pink color with spots of red-brown speckled all over. Use it for casseroles, as a side dish, mix into a soup, or cook and cool to serve in a salad. Popular in Italy and Portugal, the borlotti bean is versatile, easy to use, and simple to prepare. Even if the legumes lose their vibrant color while cooking, they gain their signature creamy texture.

Fast Facts

  • Substitutes: Dark and light kidney beans, cannellini beans, pinto beans
  • Shelf life: Can last years when stored well
  • Other names: Cranberry bean, shelling bean, French horticultural bean, Roman bean

What Are Borlotti Beans?

An offshoot of the wild bean species, the borlotti bean is a close relative of the kidney bean, or Phaseolus vulgaris. Unlike the smooth, single color of the kidney bean, the borlotti bean (also often called cranberry bean), is a speckled sample sporting pink, red, brown, and beige colors. It's certainly a pretty food, though once cooked these vibrant hues fade into a light brown color. 

The borlotti bean is a staple in Italian and Portuguese cuisine, found in dishes such as stewed beans with olive oil and tomato, pumpkin farro soup with borlotti beans, and Feijao a Portuguesa, made with the beans, paprika, bacon, sausage, chile peppers, tomatoes, and garlic. Ironically, most of the borlotti beans eaten in these countries come from the Americas, the two continents they are native to. In these countries, this legume is often called a cranberry bean, whereas the name borlotti is more common in Europe. 

Borlotti beans are typically sold dried and shelled. For best results, they should be soaked before cooking. Fresh borlotti beans should be shelled and do not need to be soaked before cooking. They are slightly more expensive than many other dried and fresh beans simply because they are a bit of a specialty item in the U.S.

How to Cook With Borlotti Beans

When cooking dried borlotti beans it's best to soak overnight. Alternatively, you can utilize a pressure cooker for a faster prep time. One nice thing about the borlotti bean is that it isn't easily overcooked; it holds its shape well in a soup or baked dish, even after reheating.

Prepare and serve borlotti beans much like any other bean. The creamy texture shines alone as a side dish or as the main bean in a casserole or salad. Or, mix it with meat and vegetables for a hearty stew and toss with other beans in a pickled three-bean salad. The ways to eat and serve this bean prove endless, and its sweet, nutty flavor works well with many herbs, spices, vegetables and proteins. 

Borlotti Beans
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What Does It Taste Like? 

Plump borlotti beans have a rich creaminess to them, similar to a cannellini bean, which is also in the kidney bean family. There's a hint of nutty sweetness to the legume. It also has a smooth texture, making it a bean that works well cold, hot, at room temperature, and in a salad. 

Borlotti Bean Recipes

The borlotti bean is a versatile legume that can be exchanged for just about any item in the kidney bean family. That means instead of white beans add the borlotti, or if the recipe calls for dark kidney beans, then lighten it up with this colorful option. Try them in soups, as a side dish, stews, and salads.

Where to Buy Borlotti Beans

The borlotti bean can be called by many names. The most common alternative name is cranberry bean, but shoppers may also find it under the monikers rosecoco bean, French horticultural bean, Roman bean, gadhra bean, shelling beans, romano bean, and saluggia bean. When shopping for this product look for it fresh and dried, in any of these names. 

Dried borlotti beans will be found in bulk or in bags in the beans and grains aisle at specialty supermarkets and online, though it's not as common as other options. Also unlike other beans, the borlotti isn't sold in canned form. Sometimes these beans can be found fresh at markets sold by the pound, often encased in the similarly-colored pods they grow in. 

Storage

As a dried bean, the borlotti can last years in an airtight container in a dark, cool place as long as no moisture gets in. Many bags of beans will have an expiration date, but often the food will keep well past that time. Note that older dried beans will sometimes take longer to cook than fresher dried beans.

Once cooked, these legumes can be put into a sealed container and sit in the refrigerator for about a week. They can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to three months. Frozen beans should be defrosted in the fridge and are best for use in hot dishes like soups and stews. Fresh beans should be eaten within a couple of weeks or can be dried for longer storage.

Nutrition and Benefits 

Borlotti beans pack in a lot of nutrition, making them a great food for healthy eating. A serving of these beans contains zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, protein, and more. There's also a lot of fiber in borlotti beans and they are high in carbohydrates.