Borlotti Beans: Facts and Recipes

Borlotti beans are one of the staples of our diet in my house in Calabria, so it’s about time we talked more about them, don’t you think?

Borlotti beans are also known as cranberry beans or French horticultural beans and are some of the cutest darn beans around if you ask me.

Don’t get too excited about how festive they look, though, as that color goes away with cooking. They eventually turn brown.

What do they taste like? I’m not a bean expert or anything, but to me, borlotti beans taste most like what those of us who enjoy baked beans are used to having. They’re meatier than your average white cannellini bean, aren’t at all sweet, and hold up *extremely* well with tomatoes in particular. I speak from experience (we’ll get to that in a minute).

Here you can find borlotti in all kinds of ways–dried, fresh, jarred, canned. If you get the dried version, you’re going to have to soak them overnight before using them.

And they’re good for you! They’re high in protein (23.03g in 100g dried) and fiber (24.7 g). See more nutritional information at (where else?!)

So now I’m sure you’re wondering what to do with these loverlies. Well, they’re great in just about any type of dish from soups and stews to cold salads, so I do encourage you to use your imagination.

For some guidance, though, I posted a recipe a very long time ago, my very first recipe ever posted in fact, so you may have missed it:

Borlotti Beans with Tomatoes, Garlic, and Basil

We eat this literally once a week here throughout the winter, so it comes *highly* recommended.

For some other ideas on what to do with borlotti, check out what some of my blog friends have shared:

What is your favorite bean dish, borlotti or not?

28 Beans of Wisdom to “Borlotti Beans: Facts and Recipes”
  1. Gil

    Sounds mouthwatering good! Are fresh beans available this early in the season in Calabria?

    No, these aren’t around yet; the photos are actually from last summer, but I figured if I waited to write about them, I’d probably forget by then, so I should just go ahead and do it now…we always freeze a whole bunch though (after parboiling), so we do tend to have them year-round πŸ™‚

  2. 03.10.2010

    I’ve always thought these beans look simply beautiful but I must confess I’ve never tried cooking them. I am definitely going to give your recipe a shot though!

    I hope you enjoy them Alison!

    .-= Alison ´s last blog ..Frida Kahlo at Bozar Brussels =-.

  3. I’ve never seen the fresh version – they’re so pretty! I love beans, but don’t grow my own, so tend to buy the tinned versions. One of my favourite quick suppers is cannellini beans with pancetta and whatever green stuff I have in the fridge (usually broccoli or cima di rape). Chuck the pancetta in the pan to start cooking, along with a sliced garlic clove. Drop in the greens and saute quickly, then add the beans, along with a little added water. Leave to simmer until the beans break down a bit, and you have a thick, soupy texture. Serve with a little sour cream or butter stirred through it. Yummy! (It’s also good the day after, but I rarely manage to leave it that long hehe.)

    Sounds wonderful! Pancetta really adds something special to any dish, and I love beans and greens, especially chicory πŸ™‚

    .-= Katja | Driving Like a Maniac´s last blog ..Not Without My Children =-.

  4. 03.10.2010

    I love borlotti beans! I use them as a substitute for pinto beans when I’m craving some Texas Chili! (or just when I feel homesick and I want a bowl of beans).

    Yes, I’ve used them in chili here too! P doesn’t care for chili, though, so I don’t have it nearly often enough for my liking…plus without the cheddar, it’s kind of sad, but *still* better than no chili at all! Thanks for the comment, Sonia πŸ™‚

  5. 03.10.2010

    Cannellini are my choice… but theyΓ¬re all good. I sometimes cook some of the rarer beans you find in various locales, too, but they can cost more than meat.

    Yes, gourmet beans! And not Jelly Belly!

  6. 03.10.2010

    I like these beans too, but they’re not so easy to find here. They’re great in a specialty of the region where my relatives live (near Piacenza) called “Pisarei e Faso,” which is basically a pasta and beans dish in a tomato sauce.

    I really love how these beans pair with tomatoes; that sounds like a dish I would love!

    .-= Ciaochowlinda´s last blog ..Torta Di Grano Saraceno (Buckwheat Cake) =-.

  7. I have to say, Michelle, is it just me or are the beans, in general just better here? I was gonna say “in Calabria,” but maybe it is an Italian thing? πŸ™‚

    Completely with you, Cherrye; I was never much of a bean girl until I came here…now we have them all the time. Love ’em!

    .-= Cherrye at My Bella Vita´s last blog ..Travel Tip Tuesday: Three Things You Should Know Before Visiting Southern Italy =-.

  8. Ciao – I was reading the article and got to the part about wondering what to do with them and said to myself: “who cares, they’re just so pretty to look at!” Great pics

    Haha, they certainly are cute!

    .-= Lisa at Wanderlust Women´s last blog ..LBI provides perfectly magical beach getaway for solo travelers =-.

  9. 03.10.2010

    They look so beautiful but to me they don’t have too much taste. I prefer chick peas and I’m a big, big fan of lentils.

    Hmm, you need to try some of our southern Italian ones, Jenny; I think they’re rather flavorful for a bean indeed…much more than our chickpeas here (although it depends on the brand).

    .-= Jenny Woolf´s last blog ..And what about this for a Cheshire Cat – Croft on Tees =-.

  10. I had never had them before I made the Cowboy Beans with them. But now I am hooked! They really ARE cute! Your salad sounds delicious, as do all the other recipes!

    Hope you give them a go, Jenn!

    .-= Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen´s last blog ..Localvore Dinner at Applecheek Farm in Hyde Park, VT =-.

  11. 03.10.2010

    man those beans look cool.

    My favorite bean dish is black beans and rice. Roast and grind the cumin prior for better flavour. Plus don’t forget that jalapeno pepper. Put it in a tortilla along with some sour cream for a satisfying supper.

    Yes please! And seconds! Great to “see” you πŸ™‚

    .-= running42k´s last blog ..Monday deep thoughts =-.

  12. 03.10.2010

    how I miss fresh beans. Cleaning them was a tipical summer activity. you’d buy a huge bunch from the market, spend a long time cleaning, and then you can freeze them, they keep very well. A spring substitute, available also in less climatically blessed lands, is fresh peas – can’t wait for them. Will spring eventually come?

    Sure…eventually πŸ˜‰ I *love* fresh peas…I never had them until I came here, and *wow* are they amazing!

    .-= Caffettiera´s last blog ..Not exactly pretty =-.

  13. Leslie

    These beans are absolutely beautiful. Saw them for the first time at the market in Pieve Fosciana di Garfagnana last summer. Wanted to buy some but wasn’t sure what to do with them. Now I have recipes! Thanks!! Have never seen them in the states but will look for them this summer when I’m back and cook ’em up. YUM
    Tried to attach my photo of them but it wouldn’t work?????
    Anyway, Thanks!

    Hmmm I don’t suppose I have this set up to accept photos? Anyway, thank you for sharing your story, and I do hope you’ll try some of the recipes πŸ™‚

  14. 03.10.2010

    Thanks for the reminder…I’ve not made them in a long time. As for pancetta…I walked up to the nearby Italian market yesterday only to find that they’re struggling more than I realized. There was a sign that said they’ll be open only between 11:30-2pm for purchases other than meals. Wah. This will teach me to forget about making the very slight detour for my “Italian needs.” I so want them to be able to stay in our too-gentrifying neighborhood. Anyone who reads this (in the States anyway) & thinks, “Well I can get that at the regular supermarket…” I urge you to reconsider. Some things one cannot really get at the “regular” market…& these folks need to make it through the bad times, too.


    Great reminder, Susan; it’s so easy to forget those Mom and Pops πŸ™
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..The Plum Plum =-.

  15. 03.10.2010

    Hi Michelle,
    These beans look so pretty! That’s too bad they turn a blah-ish brown when cooked! Thanks for sharing the recipe links above. Will definitely check them out. I’m always looking for new stuff to feed my family. As my husband is an Italo-phile (is there such a word? LOL!), I’m sure he won’t have complains eating these beans!
    By the way, thanks for your kind words over at my blog. I enjoy your blog, so consider yourself blogrolled! Hope to get to know more about your life in Calabria!

    Thanks so much, Jen! I’ve been enjoying your place as well πŸ™‚
    .-= jen laceda´s last blog ..Le Petit DΓ©jeuner Journal =-.

  16. Linda

    Me? I make whatever bean is on hand the way my grandmother did – slow baked with olive oil , garlic and fresh rosemary. Then I flash saute a bit of escarole in garlic and oil, get out my best, sky blue plate and arrange the sauted escarole as a bed. I spoon the baked beans on top. By this time, my husband has wandered into the kitchen, enticed by the aromas floating up to his study – the beans, the garlic and the fresh baked Italian bread. He never believes me when I try to explain to him that this is *peasant* food. Ahhhh, life is good.:-)

    Peasant food is the best! Simple and delicious πŸ™‚

  17. 03.12.2010

    Oh they look so cute! Like Jelly Beans πŸ™‚ Thanks for all the tips on how to cook these, I see borlotti beans in my future.

    Enjoy Patty! Thanks for coming over πŸ™‚

  18. 03.12.2010

    I would love to try these beans! I have not seen them locally, they may offer them in Beirut though; anything cooked with garlic, tomatoes and basil is going to taste good in my book!

    Hope you find them! Thanks for coming by πŸ™‚

  19. 03.12.2010

    I was looking for a vegetarian recipe for dinner and I think yours hits the spot! And it’s still cold enough up here to justify a stick-to-your-ribs dish like this one. Unfortunately I only have canned beans. I could also make chili too! The possibilities are endless. Oh man, now I’m hungry!!

    Yeah, I love chili…I may just have to make some for me since P doesn’t care for it….

    .-= milanese masala´s last blog ..Little Panino and Lapo’s Big Fail =-.

  20. Yum. This recipe sounds fantastic and I love how easy it is.

    I’m going to look for them at my market.

    For fresh, you’ll probably have to wait a bit, but they really are great in a can/jar; the canned/jarred stuff here is so amazingly good!

    .-= nyc/caribbean ragazza´s last blog ..Flashback Friday – Young MC – "Bust A Move" =-.

  21. 03.12.2010

    Count me as a lover of these beans, cara Michelle. One of my favorite ways of making them is cooked to appropriate softness, mashed up with a fork and sauteed in olive oil, salt, garlic and tons of fresh, finely chopped rosemary. Served on/with whole grain bread and a salad! I love your recipe and will give it a whirl.

    Mmmm…they’re also good with sage, I hear πŸ™‚

    .-= Diana Strinati Baur´s last blog ..Gratitude Friday: Loyal Friendship =-.

  22. 03.12.2010

    I’ve never had these beans before…but I can’t wait to try them now.


    .-= The Food Hunter´s last blog ..Quick, Easy & Expensive…. =-.

  23. 03.13.2010

    I have something for you. Green beans in tomato sauce with borloti beans, otherwise known as “chandres” or “beads”. They make green beans look more dressed up!

    Sounds great, Irene; thanks!

    .-= Irene´s last blog ..On PCs, asking, and a broken nail =-.

  24. 03.13.2010

    I have become a lover of beans over the last couple of years. An easy thing to keep on hand to add some substance to a veggie dish, or to eat on their own. I will have to try and find some of these borlotti beans!

    Hope you enjoy them as much as we do, Kalee!

    .-= Kalee´s last blog ..Feeling Much Better =-.

  25. 03.16.2010

    I’m trying out a few Italian recipes at the moment so thought I’d give this one a go – it’s the kind of recipe I like – simple ingredients, easy to follow instructions, and not much can go wrong with it (I’m not known as the best of cooks).

    You’re right – it was delicious and a real ‘winter warmer’ – so thank you for that Michelle.

    But ooooohhhh – the wind …

    Hahaha, I think we’ve built up a bean tolerance or something πŸ˜‰

    .-= Cath´s last blog ..Mar 15, Italian Easter pie : one of the tastiest dessert recipes from Italy. =-.

  26. 06.15.2010

    I love these beans. I sell them at my local farmers’ market and they are a big hit. I tell all my customer’s to use them like they would any other bean in any recipe and their dish will be 100 times better. They make great hummus and bean dip.

    Definitely some of my favorite beans! Thanks for coming by πŸ™‚

  27. mary [new zealand]

    thanks michelle for the recipes, i have grown my own ‘blushing’ berlotti’s for the first time ever this year, here in nz [north island ] seem to be great for them, the first flush we ate as green beans and have put a second and thrid crop in to be able to storeplenty for the off season. hope to enjoy for many years to come. hey guys try growing your own its not hard, pop in the ground and watch the little things grow, then enjoy ciao!!

    michelle Reply:

    Sounds great, Mary! Thanks for commenting!

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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