Gigantes Plaki

Gigantes Plaki literally means ‘Really Big Beans’! I’m heading back to my Mediterranean roots with this simple but delicious dish. I can have it for dinner, then lunch the next day and pulse any leftovers into a soup. It makes me chuckle to see these spicy butterbeans retailing for almost £5 per pot in certain supermarkets, when they’re really just bigger, better baked beans. you can either soak dried beans overnight in cold water – which means they will need to be drained, rinsed and boiled vigorously for 10 minutes separately to the sauce in order to get rid of any toxins – or use a tin of ready-prepared butter beans, which is more expensive but more convenient. If cooking with dried butter beans, use only 150g. I like to serve this dish with rice and green beans as a vegetarian meal, or it is great with baked chicken or fish.

Serves 2

1 onion
1 fat clove of garlic
a splash of oil
a pinch of ground cinnamon
1 x 400g carton or tin of chopped tomatoes
a splash of lemon juice
1⁄2 a bunch of fresh basil, plus extra to garnish
1 x 400g tin of butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 vegetable stock cube
75g Greek cheese (such as feta), crumbled

Finely chop the onion and garlic and put into a large saucepan along with the oil and cinnamon. Cook on a low heat until the onion is softened, then add the chopped tomatoes and continue to simmer on a low heat for a few more minutes.

Chop all the basil stalks. Add the lemon juice, chopped basil stalks and half the basil leaves (leaving the other half aside for a garnish) and stir in, continuing to simmer.

Stir in the butter beans and crumble in the vegetable stock cube, with a little water if necessary. Stir well to dissolve.

Simmer all together on a low heat for approximately 20 minutes.
Ladle into bowls and serve garnished with the crumbled cheese and remaining basil leaves.

Tips: Gigantes Plaki can also be eaten cold as a mezze or snack, or mixed with leftover rice and stuffed into a pitta bread for next day’s lunch – it’s delicious cold and perfectly portable.

If you don’t have any basil, this is also very good made with parsley or mint…

You can make fab burgers from this mixture. Just strain off the tomato sauce, crush and add an extra clove of garlic and a pinch of dried chilli flakes, then gently mash the beans and shape into burgers with floured hands. Fry for a few minutes on each side.

Photography by Susan Bell.

Photography by Susan Bell.


  1. Brilliant thankyou Jack! I saw this on the menu in a Greek restaurant in Covernt Garden today! I also have eaten these in Crete and can now have a go at making it,
    Carol S.

  2. Giant baked-beans, lovely served with a little crumbled feta.
    Gotta love dried beans too! Super frugal way to cook, and without the waste of lots of tins. I boil up the whole 500g at one go and freeze leftovers in batches to use in other dishes.

    • Good idea! I bought some dried chickpeas and cannelini beans recently because I was sick of having to buy a tin for the best part of a pound and find a use for the leftovers every time I wanted something with beans in. I had been wondering where I’d find the time to boil a handful of beans for an hour and a half, though… Now all I need is to eat some of the massive food hoard in my freezer drawer so I can fit the damn things in there!

  3. Just made for lunch and had with your lemon and herb bread. Ate the whole lot rather than saving, opps! Agree Penniless Veg re cooking the a big batch of beans up in one go and freezing rather than in portions. Makes life and lot easier and as well as being economical dried beans generally taste far nicer than tinned ones.

  4. having a crack now. this is a great little website, simple/unpretentious and emminently doable. Efxaristo.

  5. just wanted to check, are the beans supposed to be cooked in the oven after simmering? My mate says yes, but I can’t see it in the recipe and wonder if I’m doing it wrong (New to cooking) THANK YOU

  6. Success! I Irish-ed it up… no, not booze, but some new potatoes I got reduced at supermarket for being out of date. Yummy. Thank Jack (And more of this sort of thing)

  7. I made this yesterday & also baked it in the oven whilst the potatoes were baking. It was gorgeous! My husband has always complained that he doesn’t like butter beans but there were no complaints last night. Thanks Jack 🙂

  8. 500g Butterbeans soaking – going to make this tonight and portion up for the freezer. Love your blog Jack. I have huge debts and am on a debt management plan via stepchange, but your writing has made me grateful for being ‘just skint’ and not at the level where I don;t know how I am going to feed my children. I looked at all the tins, spices and supplies in my cupboards last night and felt humbled to be in such a position after reading your ‘hunger hurts’ post.

  9. Jack, you are amazing! i came across your blog via guardian just a few days ago and already addicted! love your style of writing & recipes. can’t wait for your book – will be getting it for sure. keep going, you are such an inspiration! best wishes!

  10. Absolutely delicious, served warm last night & cold today for lunch. I see this recipe becoming a regular feature in my house. Thank you!

  11. I made this (herbs, stock parts slightly amended to suit my cupboard contents) tonight but with a 230g can of butter beans (I couldn’t find dried on tesco online) so I doubled up the other ingredients. It served three (two adults, one child) with enough left over for prob two more portions. But it since occurred to me that it wasnt over double the butter beans because in the recipe they are dried.
    Any advice please?

  12. Thanks deekers.
    I now double up the ingredients (mixed herbs, salt snd pepper are used in absence of a stock cube and basil and i often use a cheap carton of passata in place of one can of chopped toms) and use a 400g tin of beans instead of dried. I put all the ingredients cold into a le cruset with the lid on, plus a splash of water to rinse out the tom carton and put the oven on 150. We leave it in the oven whilst we are out doing our animals and when we get back two or three hours later it is ready and tasty and the heat from try oven has started to warm the house for us. Pasta and pitta break to accompany it tonight. Yum!

  13. Is there anything I could use instead of the cinnamon please? I don’t have any in, and I don’t have the spare change at the moment to buy any. I already have cumin, tumeric, paprika (unsmoked), garam masala, chilli powder, fine chilli flakes and cayenne pepper, if any of those could be used instead?

    Really love the blog, and the book, by the way!

      • Brilliant, thank you! I’ll give it a go tonight or over the next few days and report back 🙂

      • Made it for tea tonight with the tumeric instead, a teaspoon of boullioun powder (all I had left) and dried basil instead of fresh. Had it on toast with the last bit of the green pesto at the back of the firdge and some grated red leicester cheese- absolutely delicious!

  14. These are soooo good. Made them for the 2nd time last night (I subbed in dried oregano as I don’t keep basil in & chicken stock cube as am out of veg ones), my hubby adores them. Had the leftovers in my lunchbox today.

    They will definitely become a regular on our menu 🙂

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