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Jul 11, 2011 04:56 PM

"Best " White Beans: Tarbais?, Cannelini?, Great Northern?

Has anyone compared these 3 beans, cooked?Any final preference? I guess 'best' for me would be creamier and more flavorful/ meatier. i have not cooked tarbais but i have preferred Great Northern over cannelini when i've compared them. I generally prepare white beans as a side dish, as a spread, or in cassoulet/stews. I am willing to splurge when taste warrants it (i.e. anson mills grits over others) and I have experimented a bit with heritage beans (rancho gordo) but often my best intentions turn into beans that hang out way too long to be fairly judged when cooked. thanks much.

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  1. I tend to prefer thin-skinned beans (I like molasses- or yellow-eye beans for making baked beans, for example). I believe of those three, Tarbais has the most delicate skin.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Karl S

      karl et al, are tarbais only grown in France? you buy them $$ prepackaged in dean and deluca type shops? th much.

      1. re: opinionatedchef

        Sort of.

        "Tarbais" officially refers to beans grown in the region around Tarbe in southwestern France. They're trying to put an AOP or AOC in place that will supposedly protect the name so that no one else can use it.

        In reality, plenty of other growers use the term...and Tarbais beans make an incredibly velvety and luscious cassoulet (which is what they're grown for) -- but as above, it all depends on what you're using them for as to what the best bean is (and yes, great northern beans make a fine cassoulet -- not as velvety, but very good)

        1. re: sunshine842

          my googling so far has only turned up imported tarbais at $11-$16 lb.!!!!!!!! peasant food in one land is hedge fund food in another!

          1. re: opinionatedchef

            they're not peasant food any more, even in France -- I paid 12 euros for a kilo (2-1/4 pounds) a few months ago -- that's about $6 a pound, even right from the producer.

    2. Tarbais. Not only do they taste great, they're tender and they hold together in their skins.

      1. It depends on the style of cooking and the result I want, Italian, that would be cannelloni: southern style would be the giant white limas; soup would be the white northern. .Beans for the purpose. They are all good.

        1. For me Haricot de Tarbais are the golden fleece of beans. As s842 said, velvety is the perfect description, plus they crust wonderfully on top of long baked dishes. They are expensive. Bought them at a farm stand in Tarbes and cost me 9 euros/kg, about $6/lb. Also would use them within 12-18 months of purchase as tend to dry out and not be as creamy if held too long.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

            (*snap* - -sorry, just echoed this post upthread)

          2. The best white beans I've had in my life were white runner cannellini beans from Rancho Gordo. Though they are not cannellini beans. But they are white :) The flavor is so naturally good that I ate them from the pot without a speck of seasoning. Tasted like baked potatoes. My second favorite would be gigantes beans for texture and flavor.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Suzanne

              suzanne, ya got my attention here, but i'm a bit confused.They're called white runner cannelini beans but they're NOT cannelini beans? or did you mean they're not TARBAIS?

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                They are different varieties of beans. I think the only thing they have in common is they are both white, lol.

                Cannelini beans are Phaseolus vulgaris
                White Runner Cannellini beans are Phaseolus coccineus

                Cannellini beans are small, while White Runner Cannellini beans are very large.

                Cannellini beans are annual plants, while the runners are perennials.

                If you haven't tried white runner cannellini beans, you should definitely go for it! They are unbelievably good :)