Friday, December 5, 2014

White Navy Bean Pie

This past Thanksgiving I went to Dallas with a friend to visit her relatives. We had a great time, but somehow the subject of bean pie came up. Some of her younger relatives were horrified. Bean pie?

Bean Pie

I know, it does sound kind of nasty, beans in pie? But it's delicious. Hailing from Chicago I've enjoyed bean pie pretty much my whole life. It doesn't seem to be popular in the south, and I haven't seen it in the Houston grocery stores - and trust me I looked.

My friend's relatives were both disgusted and intrigued by the thought of bean pie, so they asked a lot of questions. What does it taste like? It's a lot like sweet potato pie or pumpkin pie in flavor and texture. What kind of beans are in it? Hmm. We searched the internet and discovered it's navy beans. They were created as a healthier alternative to traditional pies, but I'd never tried to make one. After all the discussion and learning the ingredients are so simple (beans, milk, sugar, spices) I decided to make one. In part to bless my friend's family & others who haven't been exposed to bean pie, and partly so I can make bean pies whenever I want.

Organic Raw Navy Beans

I was so eager that I stopped by Whole Foods on the way home from Dallas and picked up some navy beans. Many of the recipes I found on the internet called for canned navy beans so I had to prepare them myself.

Preparing the beans wasn't too bad. It just involved soaking the beans for hours and then cooking them. It's still cheaper, fresher, and better than using canned beans. What I didn't anticipate is how much the beans would expand upon soaking and cooking. I used 2 cups of raw beans to be on the safe side, but ended up with almost 5 cups of cooked beans. When cooking the beans the ratio is 3 cups of water for every cup of beans so I had about 14 cups of water! Fortunately I had a huge pot but it was still quite full. Next time I'll probably start with just one cup of raw beans.

The recipes I found suggested evaporated milk, but I try to avoid dairy. I used vanilla almond milk and it worked great. Vanilla is part of the recipe so this just added extra flavor.

The pie filling was superb, but I need to perfect the crust. I used wheat flour, which is harder to manipulate than white flour. The recipe said to flatten the dough into a disk and chill for an hour. I think it would've worked better if I'd rolled it out immediately. It was too stiff after refrigerating, and I struggled to roll it out. It was a little too thick in the end and the edges of the crust burned, but I won't give up on making my own crust. I'm open to suggestions.

Homemade Bean Pie
Here's my bean pie recipe:


*You only need 1 cup raw beans.

Wash beans and drain. 
Cover with cold water, discard floaters and soak 4 to 8 hours in cool place. 
Add 3 cups of fresh water for every cup of beans. 
Cover and bring to a boil. 
Simmer until soft. Approx 1 ½ hours.


1½ cups flour

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 teaspoon. kosher salt
¼ cup ice-cold water
1 cup vanilla almond milk
2 cups navy beans, cooked and drained
1 cup sugar (I use organic coconut palm sugar and/or raw brown Turbinado sugar)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1½ tablespoons flour
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1-2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs (some recipes call for 3 eggs)

1. Make the crust: Pulse flour, butter, and salt in a food processor into pea-size crumbles. Add water; pulse until dough forms. Flatten dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap; chill 1 hour.

2. Make the filling: Heat oven to 350°. Purée almond milk, beans, sugar, butter, flour, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and eggs in a blender until smooth. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12″ round. Fit into a 9″ pie plate; trim edges and crimp. Pour filling over dough; bake until golden brown on top and filling is set, about 1 hour. Let pie cool completely before serving.

A rather nifty thing about bean pie is the crust is made in a food processor, and the filling is made in a blender. No cake mixers nor egg beaters - simple and convenient.

Butter for the pie crust

In all the excitement I think I "forgot" to put butter or oil in the filling, but it still turned out perfectly.

Wheat Crust dough flattened into a disk

My sad crust, not quite covering the pan

Pie Crust (I'll get better with practice)

Before the pie went into the oven
Another before baking image

Baked bean pie

Going fast

Same angle with different lighting

A slice of delicious bean pie

Bean pie is similar to sweet potato or pumpkin pie in texture & taste

My favorite blog reader, I hope you won't be frightened off by the name bean pie, and will try it for yourself!

As I mentioned earlier, I ended up with a surplus of cooked navy beans. I plan to use them to make veggie burgers and hummus. Look for the recipes COMING SOON!!

References & Inspiration

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