Serbian Baked Beans / Prebranac
A true staple in Serbia and across the Balkan region, Serbian Baked Beans / Prebranac. This slow cooked dish is one of the many vegetable-based dishes found in most households and nowadays, restaurants. It is mostly made during the winter months or for special occasions, and as always, with slightly different variations or methods of cooking. It really doesn’t get more traditional than these comforting and delicious baked beans.
In Serbia, you will find prebranac as one of the top recommended foods to try and with good reason. Aside from it being a delicious traditional dish, it is also prepared during Orthodox fasting, when no meat is consumed, or for other special celebrations.
You may have seen or tasted prebranac prepared with meat. However, a vegetarian prebranac is most common. To make the dish is not as laborious as it may seem. Most of the process is about soaking the beans and slow cooking. It is also a mostly inexpensive dish to prepare which still results in rich and comforting flavours. Made with lots of onions, a ton of beans, paprika, bay leaves, salt and pepper, this staple dish is simple, yet delicious. If you ask me, I think that Serbian Baked Beans / Prebranac can be enjoyed any time, especially if you opt for meat-free alternatives often.
The traditional way
Traditionally, Serbian Baked Beans / Prebranac are prepared the night before. Soaking the beans in water overnight is what takes up much of the preparation for this recipe. If you make this dish in the traditional way, you will need to soak the beans in water for at least 10 hours, drain them completely the next day and cook in a fresh batch of water on high heat for 30 minutes. It is important to drain the water one last time and cook the beans again (in fresh water) with bay leaves, paprika, salt and pepper until the beans are completely cooked. Overall, the process requires the water to be changed over 3 times.
In a separate pan, cook the onions and garlic until soft and caramelized, then you add the beans. The onions and beans are then transferred to a baking dish. Everything is baked in the oven where the liquid is reduced. In the end you get delicious, comforting baked beans, packed with flavour.
Making the beans in the traditional way is simple but soaking and cooking raw beans takes time. While the traditional way is just that – traditional, you certainly can make prebranac with canned beans. You can use cannellini beans or butter beans.
This makes the recipe easy and accessible no matter where you live. If you can get your hands on dried beans – great! However, if you want to skip the soaking process or get straight into cooking the beans, using canned is a good alternative.
This recipe also uses vegetable stock instead of plain water. As for the leek – I have tried prebranac with leek years ago, and I loved it! That gave me the inspiration to create this version with mostly leek and some yellow onions.
Lets make it
This recipe has been simplified so that all you need to do is prep the ingredients, cook everything on the stove top, transfer to the oven and bake. Cook all the ingredients in a pot, then transfer to a baking dish. Start by heating the olive oil, add the chopped leek and chopped onions. Season with salt, cook stirring often, until the onions begin to caramelize (20 minutes). Add the crushed garlic, butter beans, vegetable stock, dried paprika, bay leaves and pepper. Cook on the stove-top, covered with a lid for a further 20 minutes, stirring halfway.
In the meantime, heat the oven to 180°C. Transfer the beans into a baking dish and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on your oven). Cover with foil and bake. The butter beans should thicken, and most of the vegetable stock should evaporate. A good rule of thumb is that 80% of the liquid should have evaporated. The beans should not be completely dry. Remove from the oven, taste, and adjust for seasoning. Allow it to cool slightly and remove the bay leaves before serving.
Looking for more recipes?
If you are looking for more traditional Serbian recipes, try one of these:
Once you try this mix of caramelized onions and beans, you will love it! If you do, feel free leave a comment below and if you have a moment, please leave this recipe a rating. I would love to hear what you think, and if you make this recipe, you can tag me over on Instagram.
|2tbsp olive oil|
|1 leek, chopped|
|3 brown onions, chopped|
|2tsp crushed garlic|
|700g canned butter beans, rinsed|
|1L vegetable stock|
|1tsp dried paprika|
|2 large bay leaves|
|salt & pepper to taste|