Smoky White Bean Stew

We split a pig from a local farm with friends a couple of times a year. While the meat is processed into cuts we specify there always seems to be one big package of smoked ham hock that makes it into our order from the processor (the excellent Dennison Meat Locker in, well, Dennison). These tend to hang out in our massive chest freezer for a while till I remember that I can use them when cooking dried beans. And I remembered I had a pack just last month while looking at my last packet of Large White Lima beans from Rancho Gordo. Their Royal Corona beans get all the love, but I quite like the Large White Limas too. I improvized a simple stew in an Indian style. By which I mean not that this is a traditional Indian dish per se but that I approached it the way I would if making a more traditional Indian bean curry: I cooked the beans till almost done, made a rich masala base while the beans were cooking, mixed the two and simmered it all till they were done. The few spices I used were Indian as well—zeera/cumin, methi/fenugeek, tez patta/dried cassia leaves, Byadgi chillies [affiliate link] and haldi/turmeric powder. There’s no reason really that you couldn’t call the finished dish a curry but as I mostly ate it out of bowls by itself I’m calling it a stew.

By the way, while I have not done this myself, you could easily make this vegetarian by using smoked tofu in place of the ham hock—though on Twitter someone recommended smoked tempeh instead. If you did that I imagine you wouldn’t cook it with the beans but instead add it at the end with the masala.

If you follow me on Instagram you know that I spend all my time these days making shoddy cooking reels. Very low production values and very avant garde camera work but you can get a good sense of what things look like at each step in those videos. And, yes, I do have a reel of this dish being made which you should look at if you’re thinking of making this.


  • 1 lb Rancho Gordo Large White Lima beans or other large white bean of choice
  • 1 lb smoked ham hock (ideally with the bone; 1/2 lb if using the boneless portion)
  • 2 tez patta/dried cassia leaves
  • 1 large onion, cut in half and sliced thickly
  • 5 cloves garlic, each clove cut lengthwise into 3-4 slices
  • The following ground together to a coarse powder: 3 Byadgi chillies or other mild-medium hot dried red chile of choice (adjust for size); 1 tblspn zeera/cumin seeds; 3/4 tspn methi/fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 1 tspn jaggery/dark brown sugar
  • Salt
  • 2 tblspns neutral oil of choice
  • Water
  • 1 tblspn chopped dhania/cilantro


  1. Rinse the beans in a few changes of water, place in your bean pot, cover with a few inches of water, bring to a hard boil and hold it there for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Add the ham hock and the tez patta to the beans, add more water to cover again by a few inches, bring to a simmer, cover the pot and cook till the beans are almost done (1-2 hours depending on the bean you use).
  3. While the beans are cooking, prepare the masala as follows:
  4. Heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet or saucepan and when it is hot add the sliced onion. Saute the onion for 10-15 minutes, stirring often, till they are a golden brown.
  5. Add the sliced garlic and saute for another 3-5 minutes, stirring all the while.
  6. Add the haldi and the ground masala, mix in, and saute for another minute or two.
  7. Add the tomatoes, jaggery and the salt and cook down over medium-low heat till the contents of the pan are reduced to a thick, aromatic sludge. Stir often to make sure it doesn’t stick/burn at the bottom.
  8. When the beans are almost done—they should still be resisting the tooth a little—add the cooked masala to the bean pot, mix in thoroughly, cover the pot again and continue to simmer over medium-low heat till the beans are done to your liking.
  9. Remove the ham hock from the pot, shred the meat off the bone, mix it back in with the beans, garnish with the chopped dhania and serve with rice or hot chapatis/tortillas, or just straight out of the bowl with a wedge of lime on the side.


  1. Now, you may be thinking: can’t I make this spicier? Well, of course you can and I couldn’t stop you if I tried, but I would recommend against it. The idea here is to just provide some counterpoint to the smoke from the ham and the sweet-sour of the onions and tomato in the cooked masala.
  2. If you don’t have Byadgi chillies you could use one milder Kashmiri. Or you could try subbing in one ancho or similar.
  3. I made these with the Large White Limas because that’s what I had at the time. But this will work just as well with the almighty Royal Coronas or Ayocote Blanco, or even a smaller bean like the Alubia Blanca.

One thought on “Smoky White Bean Stew

  1. If one doesn’t mind having only one texture in the dish, a few black cardamom pods can be used in lieu of the hocks or smoked tofu/tempeh to lend a smoky flavor to the stew. I get my black cardamom from Penzeys.


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