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What are Haricot Beans?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Haricot beans are small dry white beans which are a staple in baked bean dishes along with soups and chilis. When people think of beans, some think of haricots, as they are rather ubiquitous. Many markets sell haricots, and they can also be grown at home, if you have enough room in your garden for beans. In addition to providing a source of food, beans are also nitrogen fixers, so they will enrich the soil that they are planted in.

There are numerous alternate names for haricot beans including Boston beans, navy beans, pearl haricots, and fagioli. The beans are roughly oval shaped and flattened, with a pure white edible skin. The flavor of haricot beans is relatively bland, although the beans are rich in protein, folate, iron, thiamin, and magnesium, so they are an excellent addition to a healthy diet. Vegetarians in particular use haricot beans extensively, and they can supplement and enrich an assortment of dishes.

Like other dried beans, haricot beans will keep for a year or more when stored in a cool dry place out of the sunlight. When selecting haricot beans in the market, avoid beans which are discolored, as they may have been poorly handled while they dried. When you are ready to use the beans, first rinse them and pick through the rinsed beans to remove small stones and organic material which may have been packaged with them.

The beans will cook more quickly and be easier to digest if they are soaked first. Soaking helps to soften the outer skin of the bean, allowing the beans to absorb more water and break down as they cook. Undercooked beans can cause intestinal distress and the infamous “toot” associated with excessive bean consumption, so make sure that the beans are all the way cooked before you serve them. If a recipe calls for haricot beans and none are available, try using lima beans, great northern beans, or cannellini.

To grow haricots, obtain seeds from a gardening company and plant them in a sunny place in the spring, providing stakes to support the plants as they grow. When seedlings appear, thin them out so that the bean plants will not be crowded, and keep the soil well watered. Allow the beans to mature and dry on the vine, and then collect the beans and shell them for storage. You may also want to try growing the classic Central American “three sisters,” allowing beans to climb stalks of corn while squash keeps the ground cool and shaded.

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.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon127833 — On Nov 17, 2010

Its is very healthy thing to eat for vegetarians. It can be grown easily and even prepared very easily.

By momothree — On Jul 22, 2010

@waterhopper: I don’t know how close this recipe might be to the one that you had, but it is really good. It calls for 8 oz. haricot beans, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf, 2 tsp. tomato puree, 8 Tbsp. olive oil, black pepper, juice of 1 lemon, 1 tsp. sea salt, ½ pint water, 1 thinly sliced onion, and 2 cloves of crushed garlic.

You need to soak the beans for 2-3 hours. Drain and rinse them well. Cook the beans until they are almost tender and then drain the water. Take a big saucepan and heat the oil. Add the beans to the oil and cook them on low heat for about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, sea salt, tomato puree, thyme, bay leaf, and water. Simmer without a lid until the liquid is thick and the beans are tender. Let cool and then add the lemon juice and sliced onion Sprinkle some pepper on it and stick it in the fridge. Let it chill for an hour or two and it’s ready to eat!

By WaterHopper — On Jul 22, 2010

I used to have a recipe for haricot bean salad that was absolutely delicious. I can't find the recipe now and I was wondering if anyone might have a recipe to share.

By watson42 — On Jul 19, 2010

Like many common beans, haricot beans are an inexpensive alternative to meat, both for vegetarians and those concerned about healthy eating on a budget. Their versatility as a cooking ingredient also makes them a useful source of protein.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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