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What Are Cranberry Beans?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Cranberry beans, also known as borlotti in Italian and "shell beans" in some regions, are high in nutritional value and make a great addition to a number of dishes. They get their name from the appearance of their pods, which are often red or pink. The beans themselves are usually white or cream in color with deep red specks, which typically disappear as they darken during cooking. Despite their name, cranberry beans are not related to cranberries and resemble pinto beans in terms of texture and size.

Flavor and Appearance

These beans have a mild flavor that is somewhat comparable to nuts, particularly chestnuts. While dried ones are quite striking in appearance, this is not typically a major consideration for their use. As cranberry beans are cooked, they lose their white and crimson-flecked appearance and take on a more common, light-brown color.

Choosing and Preparing the Beans

Dried cranberry beans should have a good color and no visible deformations. It may be difficult for shoppers to examine individuals beans, however, since they usually sold in bulk packages. They should be carefully washed and picked over before use to ensure no small rocks are mixed in. Much like other types of dried beans, they typically need to be soaked thoroughly before cooking. Fresh ones that have not been dried can be cooked immediately once removed from the pod.

Cooking Them

Boiling is among the most common and popular cooking technique used to cook cranberry beans, since it is simple and requires little long-term attention. Dried beans that have been thoroughly soaked can also be cooked in a skillet, usually dried off first and then sauteed in a little butter or oil. Similar to boiling, a chef preparing these beans in a soup can cook them within the broth, rather than as a separate process.

Possible Uses in Dishes

Cranberry beans can be used in a wide range of recipes, from stews, to baked bean dishes, to salads. Adding them to soups provides great nutrition and extra protein, and many people enjoy their nut-like flavor, which is somewhat subtle yet unique. They can even be cooked, lightly salted, and then kept chilled and eaten as a snack.

Nutritional Information

Like many legumes, cranberry beans are a good source of protein and other dietary needs. They are high in fiber: 1 cup (about 177 grams) has 17.7 grams of dietary fiber, or around 71% of the recommend Daily Value (DV) according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). These beans are also low in calories, with only 241 calories in a 1-cup serving. That portion also offers about 16.5 grams of protein and has less than 1 gram of fat.

While these beans are an excellent source of folate and have some thiamin and riboflavin, they are fairly low in vitamins overall. They do have some important minerals, however, such as potassium, copper, and iron. A 1-cup (about 177 grams) serving contains 88 milligrams (mg) of calcium, or about 9% of the DV, and 655 mg of potassium, or around 20% of the DV. These numbers are based on a 2,000 calorie diet and a serving that was boiled and lightly salted, so other preparations and ingredients would change their overall nutritional value.

Finding Them

Most people can find dried cranberry beans at health food or natural food stores, or in some grocery stores. A shopper might check an Italian grocer or deli, which sometimes sell them as borlotti. Consumers in some areas may be able to find fresh beans, though they might only be available during the late summer and fall.

Alternatives

Cooks who prefer redder beans for extra color, even after they are boiled, might choose kidney beans instead, since they retain their redness during the cooking process. The flavors of cranberry and kidney beans are quite different, however, so while they can serve as visual substitutes, they do change the taste of a dish. Pinto beans, on the other hand, are often the best substitute in terms of flavor, size, and overall taste.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Cranberry Bean?

Cranberry beans, also known as borlotti beans, are legumes belonging to the Phaseolus vulgaris family. Medium-sized beans with a spotted red and white exterior and a creamy interior. Cranberry beans are an excellent source of fiber, protein, and minerals, and can be used in soups and salads because of their mildly sweet flavor and creamy texture when cooked.

Where do cranberry beans come from?

Cranberry beans are indigenous to Central and South America and are widely cultivated throughout the globe. They are commonly used in traditional dishes in the United States, Canada, and Italy, where they are primarily grown.

What is the optimal method for cooking cranberry beans?

Cranberry beans may be cooked by boiling, scalding, simmering, or baking. They can be used in soups, stews, salads, and side dishes, as well as the primary ingredient in chili, burritos, and tacos.

What health benefits are associated with consuming cranberry beans?

Cranberry beans are rich in protein, fiber, and minerals, including iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. In addition, they contain B vitamins, such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate. Low in calories and fat, cranberry beans are an excellent complement to a healthy diet.

How long are cranberry beans shelf-stable?

Cranberry beans preserved properly can last up to a year. It is recommended to store them in a secure container in a cool, dark, and dry location to maximize their shelf life. For optimal flavor and texture, they should be consumed within six months.

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.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon992840 — On Oct 06, 2015

Answer to post 12-holly46 in Sacramento.

Cranberry beans are now in season, and you can find them at the farmers market under the freeway on X street on Sundays. They have fresh and dried bags $1.00.

There is a farm on hwy 160 via Florin Road going south; I believe the farm is called Jellys. These are the best tasting beans ever. Hope you can find them. These beans are also called borlotti and you may find at an Italian market. Look up cranberry beans on the net; it's a great source of info. Ruth

By anon984712 — On Jan 10, 2015

What do cranberry beans taste like? Do they taste similar to pinto beans?

By anon969488 — On Sep 10, 2014

Walmart Neighborhood Market sells cranberry beans.

By anon968471 — On Sep 03, 2014

@ anon272704 @ cmsmith10 -- Fid you happen to notice who made the first post? Posting no. 1 was cmsmiths request for cooking ideas. Thanks to Cmsmith10 for posing the question.

By anon335305 — On May 19, 2013

I discovered cranberry beans at the Fresh & Easy market in California. I love them.

By anon330034 — On Apr 13, 2013

Here in Borden, Indiana you can get them at the Jaycee Store. We buy a package of dried cranberry beans and plant them. When they are ripe and some of the shells have turned brown, we shell them, let them dry and plant them again the next year. I had never heard of them until I married my husband and he loves them. I hope you all can try this method of getting more of them if you can find them in a store.

By anon317682 — On Feb 03, 2013

I found these at Wal-Mart Neighborhood market of all places and had no idea what they were. Now that I know I'm going back to buy some. Lots of good prep ideas. Thanks everyone for sharing!

By anon313186 — On Jan 10, 2013

In Kentucky, I found cranberry beans on the bottom shelf at Walmart!

By anon311160 — On Dec 30, 2012

I found cranberry beans at our local Kroger, and they are delicious. I soaked mine thoroughly for two days, changing the water each day and then rinsing before cooking with fresh water two inches over beans, minced onion, chopped celery, salt, pepper, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/4 tsp ground allspice. Into the pressure cooker for 45 minutes. Wonderful!

By anon272704 — On Jun 02, 2012

cmsmith10, did you happen to read any of the posts? Some of them sound delicious.

By anon266452 — On May 05, 2012

My local Kroger store in Myrtle Beach, SC carries cranberry beans. They have them on sale this week for 99 cents for a pound of dried beans. I am going to buy several pounds to add to my "up a creek" hoard.

By anon265959 — On May 03, 2012

@holly46: I found dried cranberry beans at Sunflower Market in Roseville. Sprouts market (same chain as sunflower) in Citrus Heights might have them. Have you tried Whole Foods?

By anon223068 — On Oct 17, 2011

This article was very helpful to me. I went to the store looking for cranberry beans to make a particular recipe, and couldn't find them. But I read in this article that New Englanders call them shell beans - which I did see at the store (I'm located in Massachusetts). Thank you!

By anon221807 — On Oct 13, 2011

Whole Foods sells cranberry beans. The ones I buy are Laurel Hill brand. They are delightful!

By holly46 — On Sep 17, 2011

I just cooked my first cranberry beans last week, that I purchased at the local Farmer's market. By far, these are the best beans I have ever had. Now, no one will have any more for about two weeks. I can find them nowhere: dried, canned, frozen, or even fresh, cranberry beans anywhere in Sacramento. In fact, most grocers, don't know what I am talking about.

Does anyone out there know where I can find, or even buy online cranberry beans (even dried - or seeds to grow my own)? If you do, I'll be very happy.

By anon210349 — On Aug 30, 2011

We always shelled cranberry beans and cooked them with snapped green beans. I am having a hard time finding them. They add a lot of boost and flavor to snapped green beans cooked with ham or other seasoning. Yum!

By anon164807 — On Apr 02, 2011

In Central Florida you can get them at the Lake Mary's farmers market!

By anon163563 — On Mar 28, 2011

where do you get them? In Central Florida, we have tried all the regular grocery stores: Publix, Walmart, Sweet Bay, Winn Dixie. Any suggestions?

By anon152019 — On Feb 12, 2011

I soak over night,drain,rinse, cover with cold water bring to boil; pour off liquid, rinse again. Add ham bone and whole yellow onion cover with cold water. Bring to boil, simmer 2 or 3 hours.

I love these beans, and all I need for a meal is bread, beans, a fruit for dessert.

By anon148347 — On Feb 01, 2011

toeknee 66. Well, I would like to share with the way we make red cranberry beans in Colombia.

1. Soak the beans in water for approximately 12 hours, or till they soften. 2. On high setting, cook for 20 minutes in a pressure cooker.

3. Add green plantains, about two of them, cut them in medium to small pieces, chopped onions grated carrots, vegetable or canola whichever preferred and salt. Cook for 5 minutes on high setting.

4. Uncover pot and bring to a simmer for 20 minutes.

5. Now! if you would like you can add pieces of pork with or without the bone. FYI: it's best if you fry the pork on the side in a pan an then add to brand, trust me, it tastes better. or you can add sausages cut in pieces and stir fry them until brown as well.

for seasoning I use pure garlic, one packet of sazon goya, one Maggi chicken bouillon cube, and a dash of cumin. I hope you enjoy it.

By anon124685 — On Nov 06, 2010

I intend to cook cranberry beans for the first time in a couple of days.

My cajun/creole heritage will probably lead me to cook them as any good Louisianan would red (kidney) beans, to wit: soak overnight, place in large pot w/chopped onion, celery, green pepper (the "holy trinity")garlic (powder if you prefer to chopped fresh),salt pepper, dried basil, oregano and thyme. Season according to your taste buds. Add whatever smoked meat you like: ham hocks, turkey wing or leftover ham pieces.

Cover with water 2" above beans (if you live in area with hard water, add 1/8 tsp. baking soda to water, bring to slow, rolling boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for several hours until beans are soft.

I also put everything in a crock pot and cook on high. That's it!

By anon121359 — On Oct 24, 2010

We use them as we would regular dried beans. They cook faster and softer. My favorite is boiling them with a healthy does of paprika and cumin with a dash of crushed red pepper for a little zing.

By googie98 — On Jul 11, 2010

@cmsmith10: They are really good used in salads. After cooking them, drain them and then put them in the fridge. Add them to your tossed salad for extra flavor.

By alex94 — On Jul 11, 2010

@cmsmith10:I like to cook cranberry beans with pasta. Cook your beans as you would regular dry beans. Strain the beans, reserving your water. Add a chopped potato, a cup of chopped tomatoes, ½ pound of any pasta to your reserved water and cook until the potatoes and pasta are done. Return the cooked beans to the pot and stir well. Add whatever seasonings you like. It’s really delicious!

By cmsmith10 — On Jul 11, 2010

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to cook cranberry beans?

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen

Writer

With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
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