Meatless Monday: Gigantes Plaki (Greek Baked Bean Casserole)

March 21, 2011 · 18 comments

in beans and legumes,dairy-free,greek,healthy,vegetarian

I’m not really sure that “baked bean casserole” is the best translation of this dish, but it’s the best I could come up with!  Gigantes (pronounced yee-gahn-dess) are a staple in Greek households, especially during lent. They are giant beans (no…really) baked in a tomato sauce until they soak up most of the sauce and then form a nice crispy top. Like nearly all Greek food, the dish is very comforting and homey. It’s  nothing show-stopping or fancy, but it’s a simple, delicious dish. Unless you have a Greek grocery nearby, chances are you won’t actually find gigantes, which look like this. (See?  Giant!)

However, large butter beans or lima beans are a good fit with this dish.

Like all dried bean dishes, this does take a bit of time to cook.  But, the active prep time is minimal, so it’s certainly nothing labor-intensive.  You just need to plan out when you’re going to make it since it will take about 3 hours to make that day, and you also need to soak the beans overnight beforehand.

I’m sure you’re SHOCKED to see that I made these in a cast iron skillet, right? :) It’s really a great vessel because I used it to make the tomato sauce, which meant I could just add the beans right in and not worry about moving everything to a separate baking dish. You can certainly use fresh tomatoes in this, but it’s not quite tomato season yet so I opted not to. Of course, I still threw some on the Greek salad on the side.  Oh tomatoes, I wish I could quit you (in the winter).  I happened to have half a leftover bell pepper so I threw that in here as well.  I liked the addition but it’s certainly not a requirement or a traditional ingredient.  Feel free to adapt this to your tastes!

Gigantes Plaki

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1 lb. or 500g dried gigantes beans, or large butter or lima beans
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped (optional)
2 large carrots, sliced
2 large celery ribs, sliced
3 bay leaves
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp. tomato paste or 1/2 tsp. tomato powder
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes, chopped, with juice
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2+ cups water or liquid from boiling beans
1/3 cup chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped dill

Place the beans in a large bowl or baking dish and cover with water by about 2″.  Soak overnight.

Add the beans to a large pot and cover them with water.  Bring the water to a boil and cook the beans for about an hour or until tender, but still with a little bite.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce.  heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.   Add the onions, bell pepper (if using), carrots, celery, and bay leaves.  Sauté until tender, and then stir in the garlic and tomato paste, cooking for about a minute before adding the tomatoes, oregano, and red pepper flakes.  Season to taste with salt, and simmer the sauce for 10-15 minutes.  Mix together with the parsley, dill and beans (in the same skillet or in a separate casserole dish) and add about 2 cups of water or liquid from boiling the beans…enough to cover the beans.

Bake for about 1.5  hours, checking occasionally and adding more hot water if necessary, until beans are tender.  The top will look crispy.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

janet March 21, 2011 at 4:46 am

I am always on the search for more bean recipes and bonus if it includes new beans! I have seen recipes like this and must try it out soon. :) Thanks for sharing!

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Joanne March 21, 2011 at 5:30 am

So funniest coincidence EVER but I made these this weekend as well! And am posting them today! Great minds think alike chica! I loved them, but since mine are likely nowhere near as authentic as yours I’d LOVE to give yours a try!

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notyet100 March 21, 2011 at 6:08 am

this looks so superdelicious,..

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Peter March 21, 2011 at 6:42 am

Elly, love the dish and it’s indeed filling – great for a meat-free day. Your recipe is similar to mine which means…it’s delish!

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Peter G @ Souvlaki For The Soul March 21, 2011 at 10:34 pm

This is one of my most favourite Greek vegie dishes…gigantes are def comfort food…and they really are giant sized beans!

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bellini March 22, 2011 at 4:55 am

I will have to keep my eyes open for gigantes Elly. I may have seen them canned at our Mediterranean Market.

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Kelsey March 22, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Oh Elly, this looks incredible! I’m thinking I’ll make it this weekend before it gets too darn hot to run the oven for that long. (And yes, I realize how annoying this comment is to you. My apologies.)

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Cara March 22, 2011 at 7:12 pm

You’ve totally brought me back to Greece with these! This was a dish I really enjoyed there.

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Joan Nova March 22, 2011 at 7:14 pm

That’s the best looking version of that dish that I’ve seen. It’s obvious all the ingredients really melded together.

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Josie March 22, 2011 at 9:05 pm

I have never seen giant beans, but I’m going to keep an eye out now – this dish looks like something we’d really love.

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Heidi March 23, 2011 at 5:51 pm

This looks so good! I might have to sub some different beans though, I’ve never seen giant ones like that :) I love that you made it in a cast iron skillet as well, I’m always looking for new things to make in mine.

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Ivy March 25, 2011 at 3:11 am

This is surely one of my favourite dishes but lately I have been using the Greek black giant beans from Kozani, which are even better in taste.

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josephine September 9, 2011 at 8:26 am

wow! looks amazing, i love the gigandes from my local greek place and this looks better!

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lisa September 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm

this looks delish!

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Beth Anne September 13, 2011 at 12:06 pm

This was a really tasty dish. Thanks for posting! In the future I would use less dill because that flavor was too strong for my taste, but again, it was an excellent meal. I had no idea lima beans could be so tasty!

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JB December 6, 2014 at 3:36 pm

I made your recipe for the first time a few years back and then lost it and refound it on Pinterest. SO GLAD! I love this dish in my cast iron in the winter.

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elly December 7, 2014 at 10:24 am

So happy to hear that JB!

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