Giant beans—gigantes—are one of the great ingredients of the Greek kitchen, despite their American provenance! All white beans are New World crops. Giant beans are cultivated in a few specifi c parts of Greece, mostly in the high-altitude areas around Prespes in Macedonia, and in Feneo, a beautiful mountainous region in the northwest Peloponnese. Gigantes are very versatile and make for great soups, casseroles, and even purees. You can substitute butter beans for them in most recipes.


1 pound (½ kilo) dried giant beans

2 leeks, trimmed and chopped

5 large garlic cloves, minced

²⁄³ cup extra-virgin Greek olive oil

1 cup dry white wine

6 fresh thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Fresh strained juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 small bunch fresh dill, stems removed, feathery leaves snipped


Soak the giant beans overnight or for at least 8 hours in a large pot with enough water to cover by about 3 inches.

Drain, then fill the pot again with enough cold water to cover the beans by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Partially cover the pot and simmer the beans for about 1 to 1½ hours, until al dente. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Drain the beans and reserve their cooking liquid.

Place the beans, leeks, garlic, 1⁄3 cup of the olive oil, white wine, thyme, and bay leaves in an ovenproof glass or ceramic casserole or baking dish and stir to combine. Add enough of the bean cooking liquid to come just below the surface of the beans. Cover the baking dish and bake the beans for about an hour, or until tender and buttery but still retaining their shape. About halfway through cooking, season to taste with salt and pepper and continue baking, covered. The beans should have absorbed most of the liquid by the end of the baking time.

Whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, and remaining olive oil. Remove the beans from the oven and remove and discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Gently stir the lemon-mustard mixture and snipped dill into the beans and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

From The Ikaria Way, by Diane Kochilas.  Copyright ©2024 by the author, and reprinted with permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group.


  • DIANE KOCHILAS, celebrity chef, award-winning cookbook author, and cooking school owner, has been at the forefront of bringing healthy, delicious Greek cuisine to a wide international audience for many years. She is the host and co-executive producer of My Greek Table, a 13-part cooking-travel series about Greece and Greek cuisine airing nationally on Public Television. She runs the Glorious Greek Cooking School on her native island, Ikaria.