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What are Brown Beans?

Niki Acker
Updated May 16, 2024
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Brown beans are a type of common bean, or Phaseolus vulgaris, often available dried. They are light brown with a small white eye and are harvested from a bush. They are closely related to pinto beans, black beans, cranberry beans, and kidney beans. Because they are native to Sweden and are widely used in Swedish cuisine, these beans are sometimes called Swedish brown beans.

These legumes were introduced to the Americas in the 19th century, when Swedish immigrants brought them to Montana. For this reason, they are popular in Midwestern American cuisine as well as in Scandinavian cuisine. In both traditions, they are typically a home-cooked comfort food. Brown beans are sweet, nutty, and mild, making them ideal for baking or in soups and stews.

It may be hard to find this type of bean in some areas, but natural food stores and Swedish markets often carry them. Like other dried beans, brown beans should be stored in a cool, dry place in an airtight container. They can keep for up to a year before cooking if properly stored. To prepare these beans, soak them overnight in salt water. After removing the beans and discarding the water, boil five cups of water for each pound of beans, then reduce heat, add the beans, and cook for 1.5 to 2 hours.

In Sweden, brown bean casserole is one of the most popular uses of these beans. The dish is very similar to American baked beans. The beans are sweetened, combined with a hearty meat, and sometimes pureed. Meats commonly served with brown beans include ham, bacon, various types of sausage, Swedish meatballs, and game meats.

In addition to casserole, brown beans can be the centerpiece of soups, chowders, and chilies. They also make an excellent side dish when prepared with butter and fresh chopped parsley.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a DelightedCooking editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
Discussion Comments
By anon292747 — On Sep 21, 2012

Using salted water for soaking prolongs the soaking time, so it's better to add it when cooking instead.

By ahain — On Jun 09, 2011

Thank you, WiseGEEK! I have always wanted to try to cook beans, but for some reason the idea seemed really intimidating up until I read about it here. The instructions sound simple enough...I'm going to give it a try tomorrow.

Are there different cooking times and different cooking instructions involved if you use different kinds of beans? I only have red kidney beans, and apparently they're bigger than the brown beans talked about here, so I wonder if that means I should adjust the cooking time to cook longer so they have longer to soften up?

By seHiro — On Jun 09, 2011

It sounds like most people commenting here like to boil their beans for soup. Does anybody else enjoy beans in salads like I do?

I kind of made the recipe up on my own, so the ingredients can vary, but it goes something like this: I either buy beans fresh or boil them to soften them up, rinse them in cold water, then mix them cold with other ingredients like cole slaw, lettuce shreds, chopped up veggies, mayonnaise, bacon bits and bits of hard boiled egg.

The result is a really delicious salad. It's great plain, or on a sandwich, and the beans really add protein to it while at the same time adding a great flavor and texture that the salad just wouldn't have without them. When I have it on a sandwich, I prefer rye bread. Yum!

By SkittisH — On Jun 06, 2011

@Hawthorne - Right on, soup with beans is one of my favorite things to do with them. If I bought a few big bags of beans to have around for emergency backup food if, say, food supply lines were cut off and I couldn't buy anything at the store, I wouldn't be suffering any. I love beans, I wouldn't barely change how I usually eat!

When you're not cooking them with ham, beans also absorb the flavors of other meats very well, even chicken. If you've ever made tortilla soup, you know that beans can be a great addition to thicken the broth and get that Mexican food flavor in the soup.

The only complaint I could have about beans is that they can be extremely bland unless you add lots of salt, so you have to watch your sodium intake when you eat a lot of them.

By Malka — On Jun 05, 2011

Are brown beans the kind that are used for making refried beans? I'm talking about the kind you buy canned in the store, not fresh beans. I ask because I'm curious how expensive it would be to try making my own refried beans and canning them.

Canning food is a useful and practical skill that I've just started learning. It's a hobby so far, but someday having food stores put up will probably come in handy, with how turbulent the world is getting to be!

So, does anybody know any good recipes for using brown beans like these to make refried beans with the intent to can them? Do you just prepare them like you normally would and then can the leftovers, or what?

I'm really new to this, so sorry if these questions sound stupid -- I want to learn to do this well.

By Hawthorne — On Jun 03, 2011

I've got to say, beans are some of the most filling and cheapest foods you can have in your home, especially for food supplies in case of emergency. A big bag of dry beans costs very little compared to those dehydrated fancy food emergency kits that they sell in the stores, and a pot of beans can feed a family of four for days.

Dry beans are best because they have a shelf life of years -- decades, even, if you store them right! When you want to prepare them, you just leave them soaking in a pot of water overnight, and then cook them the next day by boiling them.

The soak overnight will have softened them up enough; remember to let them soak long enough, or they'll be a bit crunchy. If they don't turn out great first try, don't be too hard on yourself -- like rice, they take practice to cook, and they're so cheap that you haven't wasted much if you have to throw a pot of them out!

Boiling a ham bone with them makes for a great pot of beans, and is a good way to use up leftovers without being wasteful.

By MissMuffet — On Jun 03, 2011

I really love baked beans, so I feel quite inspired to try the casserole idea. I'm sure you can cook beans in a slow cooker, and have them all ready to go when you get in from work.

By Denha — On Jan 22, 2011

Brown beans can be very tasty with the right sauce, though I personally do not think they have much taste of their own without it. but then, I prefer things with a bit of spice, and both Scandinavian and Midwestern cuisine tends to be on the bland side. If that isn't your thing, though, it can still be tasty- I just recommend making sure you have some black pepper on hand.

By sputnik — On Dec 22, 2008

Darker beans have more antioxidants than lighter beans. So for example brown beans will have more antioxidants then white beans, but less then black or red beans. However, all beans are a very good health food.

Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a DelightedCooking editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range...
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