A Greek recipe which combines giant beans (gigantes) with a mixture of greens.
Γίγαντες με λαχανικά. Have you met our parents? If you have, in person, then you have hopefully visited them in the summer and taken a stroll through their garden. They love sharing this outside oasis with family, friends and people they just met. A garden is a lot of hard work, but the payoff is priceless. The pride of growing your own food, knowing that it is as fresh and as clean as possible – well, there is nothing better. It also offers a perspective that you can’t really appreciate otherwise. A garden, big or small, gives you a glimpse into the work that our farmers and agriculturalists experience every day to keep us fed.
We have never known life without a garden. When our home was an apartment on the second floor of a building in the city’s Mile End district, vegetables were potted and placed on the balcony and on the steps of the outdoor staircase leading to our front door. Then, when they had access to a backyard, our parents took full advantage. They went from a few pots of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers to rows upon rows of vegetables, herbs and fruit trees. The eggplants they still kept in pots however.
Some of the things that our parents grow are greens. There is always spinach, chicory, swiss chard, lettuce, parsley and amaranth greens being tended. They use these in all sorts of recipes like their spanakorizo and stewed swiss chard recipe and this recipe for giant beans (gigantes) with greens
This is the sort of meal that we just love. Giant beans (gigantes) with greens is a perfect vegan meal that can easily feed a meat-loving family with confidence! The flavours are sublime and fresh. The beans are hearty, making this a filling meal. Serve with some nice fresh bread to help sop up the sauces and you will be very, very happy. Promise!
What are gigantes?
If you have never heard of gigantes, don’t feel badly. They are an elusive bean, and although very common in Greek recipes they are not always easy to find outside of Greece and Greek markets. As a result, people often refer to them as giant lima beans, and use them interchangeably. Although they do look similar, gigantes are creamier, meatier and hold their shape better than lima beans when cooked. In actual fact, they are white runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus). Colloquially they are sometimes referred to as elephant beans. We think that understanding gigantes is important, particularly because they are so special in Greek cooking. They are so special, in fact, that certain regions of Greece have varieties of gigantes which have been accredited as Protected Geographical Indication products.
Purchasing dried beans
We love dried beans for their versatility, variety and price. Pound per pound, beans are way cheaper than meat, fish and poultry and are packed full of nutrients. Although dried beans keep for a very long time, do try and purchase your beans from a store with a high bean turnover. Older beans (a dusty bag high up on a grocer’s shelf is a clue) will take longer to cook and their flavour and texture may be impacted. When making giant beans (gigantes) with greens, it may be helpful to shop in a Greek or Mediterranean market.
How to prepare giant beans (gigantes) with greens.
You will need to start thinking about this recipe the day before you plan to serve it because you have to soak the beans. White runner beans (gigantes) need to soak for at least 12 hours in order to facilitate the cooking process. Even at that, you will need to boil the beans for up to 2 hours, until the beans are fully tender.
In terms of the greens, any variety of greens will work well. We like to use two to three varieties in order to maximize flavour. We chop our greens coarsely (that is, not finely minced) and after we wash them we remove the excess water but are not concerned with thoroughly drying the greens.
Adding lemon to finish the giant beans (gigantes) with greens.
The bright burst of fresh lemon juice right before serving is just what this meal needs to take it from delicious to superbly delicious. We like to use the juice of an entire lemon, but you can add as much, or as little as you like.
Do you like our giant beans (gigantes) with greens? If you do, check out these recipes:
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Giant beans (gigantes) with greens
- 250 grams White runner beans (gigantes), soaked overnight see Recipe Note
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) olive oil divided
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 leek, chopped white part only
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 6 spring onions, chopped white and green parts
- ¼ cup chopped dill
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 380 grams mixed greens See Recipe Note below
- ½ cup parsley, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 lemon
- Soak your beans in cold water overnight.250 grams White runner beans (gigantes), soaked overnight
- Drain and rinse your beans. Fill up a large saucepot with cold water and add the beans (be sure that the water covers the beans by at least 2 inches). Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium heat. Cook for 1½ to 2 hours, uncovered, until your beans are tender. You may need to add additional water as the beans cook. Drain and set aside.
- While your beans are cooking, prepare your greens by chopping them into 1 inch pieces or so and washing them well. There is no need to dry the greens. Set aside.380 grams mixed greens
- In a large frying pan set over medium heat add 1/4 cup olive oil and saute the onion, leek, garlic, green onions, dill and oregano for about 7-8 minutes. Stir regularly to prevent burning. Next add as many greens as can easily fit into the pan and allow them to cook down. Repeat, adding more greens until all have been incorporated. Be mindful not to allow the greens to burn. Remove from the heat.1 yellow onion, chopped, 1 leek, chopped, 2 cloves garlic, chopped, 6 spring onions, chopped, ¼ cup chopped dill, 1 tsp dried oregano
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Transfer the greens to a lightly greased 9 x13 baking dish and spread them across the bottom. Top with the fresh chopped parsly and then layer the drained beans on top. Add 1/2 cup of boiling water and the salt and pepper.. Top with an additional 1/4 cup olive oil. There is no need to mix.½ cup parsley, chopped, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper
- Bake on the bottom rack of your oven, uncovered, for approximately 30 minutes.
- Before serving, drizzle with additional olive oil, and squeeze the juice of a lemon over the contents in the pan. Add additional salt and pepper if desired. Stir well to combine and enjoy!