True red cranberry bean

Cranberry Beans

The Cranberry Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) is closely related to the pinto bean. These heirloom beans are sometimes known as “borlotti” or “saluggia” beans in northwestern Italy where they’ve long been prized for their plump, creamy texture and stunningly swirled red and brown skins.

Like many edible beans, cranberry beans are believed to have originated in South America, but these super-foods were introduced to Europe in the 15th century by Spanish explorers. Known as a quality, inexpensive source of protein and other nutrients (such as folate and other B vitamins as well as dietary fiber), they have become diet staples in many cultures and are now widely produced in Asia, Italy and North America.

Cranberry beans are often used as a key ingredient in many well-loved Portuguese recipes like fejioada. Cranberry beans may be best known for the part they play in pasta e fagioli, a pasta and bean soup.

These popular beans are members of the larger family of legumes, a genre of plant species used for their edible seeds and pods, which boast a high nutrient density with low-maintenance production and storage. They contain high levels of protein, essential minerals and fiber while maintaining a low level of fats.

Borlotti Beans

Borlotti beans, also known as cranberry beans, are a medium-sized legume. These dried beans are grown in the USA, are non-GMO and have no added preservatives. Borlotti beans have a mild nutty flavour, natural savoury aroma and a creamy texture when cooked. These red striped legumes are delectable in savoury dishes. They pair with subtle Indian flavours or hotter spices equally well and are great in vegetarian recipes.

How to Use:

Borlotti beans should be pre-soak in plenty of cold water (in a large bowl with room for beans to double in size) for a minimum of 4 hours before cooking. This removes the naturally occurring Lectin and Saponin found in many pulses, which can impede digestion. Drain, rinse well and place beans in a pot of cold water, 1:2. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until tender. Do not add salt while cooking, as this can make outer skins of legumes tough. Drain and use or refrigerate for up to 2 days. Yummy cooked Borlotti beans can be chilled and added to salads or used hot in hearty soups and hotpots. They are particularly good in curries and spiced dishes; try cumin and coriander seeds with freshly grated turmeric and ginger or add chilli for extra zing. Red Borlotti beans are also wonderful refried in Mexican burritos and enchiladas. Left-over spicy beans are a scrumptious topper for baked potatoes with grated cheese or sour cream. These beans are a delicious ingredient for vegetarian burgers, while smashed Borlotti beans are great in dips; mix with spicy salsa and serve with avocado and crackers.


Borlotti Beans. Preservative Free, Non-GMO, No Added Sugar.


This product contains No Known Allergens. May also contain traces of allergens due to possible cross-contamination.


Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Refrigeration recommended in warm climates.

Shelf Life:

Up to 24 months, when stored as above. See Best Before date.

Please contact your local store to check availability. Not available in all stores. Images for illustrative purposes only.

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Cranberry beans are a common substitute for pinto beans in some parts of Mexico. I’ve been looking forward to experimenting with them and finally opened up a few packs that have been sitting on the counter for the past couple weeks.

They’re hard to come by in my neck of the woods so I ordered some from Rancho Gordo. I don’t have any affiliation with Rancho Gordo, but people seem to rave about the quality of their heirloom beans.

They have similar markings as pinto beans but you’ll quickly notice where they get their name as the cranberry colored splotches will even cover entire beans.

Making a batch of Cranberry Beans

You are welcome to soak the beans overnight but this batch was fresh out of the box so I didn’t bother.

We rely on some home-rendered lard to make batches of beans, but you can always substitute oil for the lard and get an equally good result. I’ll briefly describe the pot bean process here but it’s worth checking out our Frijoles de Olla post if you want to make a batch of homemade beans in a similar manner.

Basically you start with 2 cups of dried beans. Rifle through them and discard any rocks or shriveled beans. Add water to give them a rinse and get rid of any floaters.

Drain the beans and add them to a wide saucepan or pot. Add enough cold water so that the beans are covered by at least 2″ of water. For this batch that was around 12-14 cups of water.

Add 2 Tablespoons of lard and a roughly chopped half onion (or a single small onion). Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer for 2-3 hours, always making sure that the beans are covered by water. I added another 4-6 cups of water for this batch.

Beans are done when they’re done and that’s as specific as they’ll ever be with you. Start biting into single beans after 1.5-2 hours; if it’s still grainy or hard they need more time. After two hours this batch was mostly there.

Surprised to see their color? So was I! They eventually turned brown and did a great impersonation of cooked pinto beans.

Add 1 teaspoon of salt when they are getting close and let them simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Take a final taste for salt; I added another generous pinch of salt to this batch.

You’re left with a delicious batch of homemade beans that will easily outdo any canned beans you bring home from the store.

And the flavor? The flavor also did a pretty good impersonation of pinto beans. They are milder, and a bit creamier, but overall I was surprised how similar they were to cooked pinto beans. I am calling them Pinto Beans Lite and I think they are perfect for people who want their beans a little less “beany”.

They also make delicious refried beans. Since this was my first time working with them I wanted to try a mostly flavor-free batch of refried beans to get a better sense of their potential.

So this is one cup of beans and their broth sauteed off in a small dollop of lard with some finely chopped onion added in. You can use a potato masher to smoosh the beans but lately I just use a firm spatula to break them down in the saucepan over mediumish heat.

The result? Definitely good enough to be eaten on their own and far superior to canned refried beans. But of course it’s worth seeing how well they work with others. Lately that means cheese, basic guacamole, cilantro stems and hot sauce in a warm, crispy corn tortilla.

So good! Super easy to make on-the-fly meals like this if you keep a batch of these beans in the fridge (or freezer). These 2 cups of dried beans made six 1-cup sized portions of cooked beans along with some broth. See the Pot Beans post for more details on storing them.

I do have to admit that Peruano beans will still be at the top of my Favorite Beans list, but these Cranberry Beans are a great alternative when you’re after a mildly flavored bean in the Pinto realm. I’ve been eating them all week and now getting curious how they would do in a batch of Enfrijoladas.

Buen Provecho.

Cranberry Pot Beans

You can think of these Cranberry Beans as Pinto Beans Lite. They have a similar flavor to pintos but are creamier and slightly less ‘beany’. A great option for refried beans. 4.25 from 4 votes Pin Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 2 hours Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes Servings: 12 (6 cups) Calories: 120kcal Author: Patrick Calhoun | Mexican Please


  • 2 cups dried cranberry beans
  • 2 tablespoons lard (or oil)
  • 1/2 onion roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 cups water


  • Sort through the beans and discard any rocks or shriveled beans
  • Rinse the beans and drain well
  • Add beans to a wide saucepan or pot and cover with at least 12 cups of water, or so the water level is 2″ above the beans
  • Add the roughly chopped onion and 1-2 tablespoons of lard (or oil)
  • Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let simmer for 2-3 hours. Ensure that the water level is well above the beans by adding more water if you need to (I added an additional 4-6 cups of water to this batch).
  • Start biting into them after 1 1/2 hours. If they are hard or grainy they need a little more time.
  • Once done add 1 teaspoon of salt and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Take a final taste for salt. (I added another generous pinch to this batch).
  • If you want, portion into 1 cup sized bags (or jars). Include plenty of the broth in the portion bags.


When adding additional water to the cooking beans, using hot/boiling water will reduce cooking time. Like this recipe?Click the stars above to rate it or leave a comment down below! @mexplease

One of our most popular vegetarian recipes is this Spicy Avocado Hummus.

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In Season: Cranberry Beans

Also known as borlotti, pink-flecked cranberry beans are available fresh in the late summer and fall. Creamy and flavorful, they’re delicious in soups or stews or can be tossed with olive oil and herbs for a simple side dish (though they lose their gorgeous coloring once cooked). If fresh cranberry beans are no longer available in your area, buy dried ones and soak overnight before cooking.
How to Store: Fresh, unshelled cranberry beans can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for three to four days. Dried cranberry beans stored in a cool, dry area will keep for up to a year.
How to Cook: Fresh cranberry beans are very easy to shuck. One pound of beans in the pod yields about 1 1/3 cups shucked beans, or enough for about two to three people. To cook, shell the beans and put them in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. To cook dried cranberry beans, soak overnight in plenty of water. Drain beans, transfer to a medium saucepan, and cover with water by two inches. Bring water to a boil and simmer beans until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.
What to Make:
Fresh Cranberry Bean and Arugula Salad
So simple: just beans, arugula, and herbs dressed with a garlicky vinaigrette.
Cranberry Bean Gratin
WWMD (What Would Martha Do) with cranberry beans? Sauté them with aromatic vegetables and bake in a gratin dish topped with crispy breadcrumbs.
Borlotti Bean Mole with Roasted Squash
Intimidated by mole? The easy version in this recipe inspired by Denis Cotter’s Wild Garlic, Gooseberries…and Me is a good place to start.
Fresh Cranberry Bean Soup with Basil-Walnut Pesto
You can’t have a round-up of cranberry bean recipes without including a soup. This one is puréed until velvety and topped with a dollop of fragrant basil-walnut pesto.
8-Hour Baked Beans
Pop some beans, a ham hock, and canned tomatoes in the oven and cook overnight over low heat for a showstopping make-ahead brunch.


Roman beans or speckled sugar beans

What is it?

Cranberry beans, also known as Roman beans or speckled sugar beans, are smooth, pinkish, oval-shaped beans with gorgeous dark-red speckles. They’re medium size, plump, and soft in texture, with a sweet, chestnut-like flavor. Originally grown in Columbia, they became particularly popular in Italy, where they’re known as borlotti. Cranberry beans are ideal for chili, soups, and baked beans, and they make a delicious addition to pastas and salads.

Don’t have it?

If you can’t find them, try Tongue of Fire beans, cannellini, red or pink kidneys, or pinto beans.

How to choose:

How to prep:

It isn’t mandatory to soak dried beans before cooking them, but soaked beans do cook more quickly and evenly and are easier to digest. There are two ways to soak dried beans: A cold (long) soak, which guarantees fully hydrated beans, or a hot (quick) soak, which is speedier but leaves the possibility that some beans won’t be fully hydrated and may therefore not cook as evenly.

Spread the beans out and pick through them, discarding any rocks, bits of debris, and shriveled beans. Then rinse the beans under cold water to remove any dust or dirt.

For a cold (long) soak: Put the beans in a large metal bowl with enough cool water to cover by about 3-inches. Soak at room temperature for six to eight hours, adding more water if the level gets low. Drain and rinse before cooking.

For a hot (short) soak: Put the beans in a large pot with enough cool water to cover by about 3-inches. Bring to a boil; boil for two minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for one to two hours. Drain and rinse before cooking.

Cook gently, and season at the right time:

• Cook soaked beans in fresh water to reduce gas-causing oligosaccharides, hard-todigest complex sugar molecules found in legumes.

• Never let beans boil, except at the very beginning. Gentle simmering keeps the beans intact and creamy, not mealy.

• Wait to add salt until the beans have begun to soften, usually about halfway through cooking. That way, the salt can pass through the beans’ softened skin and bring out their flavor.

• Add acidic ingredients such as tomatoes, vinegar, wine, or citrus juice once the beans have softened; if added too early, acid can thicken the beans’ skin and extend cooking time. Non-acidic seasonings such as herbs, garlic, and onion can go into the pot from the start.

• Don’t bother skimming off any foam that rises to the top of the cooking liquid. It’s simply water-soluble protein released from the beans and will dissolve on its own.

• Always taste several beans to check for doneness. Some beans may be cooked through, while others need more time.

How to store:

Recently harvested dried beans cook up creamy and tender. They’ll be shiny, bright, and evenly colored, with no wrinkles. Look for freshly dried beans at farmers’ markets.

Store dried beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry place and try to cook them within six months. Technically, they will last indefinitely, but they lose moisture as they sit. Old beans take longer to cook, and they fall apart more easily. Really old beans may refuse to soften at all.

Cooked beans will keep for up to five days, stored in an airtight container in the fridge. You can also freeze them in airtight containers or freezer bags for up to six months; freeze in small amounts so they’re easier to defrost and use. Frozen cooked beans will retain their shape better if you thaw them slowly in the refrigerator.


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What Are Cranberry Beans: Planting Cranberry Bean Seeds

Searching for a different bean variety? The cranberry bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) has long been used in Italian cuisine, but has more recently been introduced to the North American palate. As it is a difficult bean varietal to procure, if you’re growing cranberry beans, it is a great idea to save a few pods for next year’s garden.

What are Cranberry Beans?

The cranberry bean, also known as the Borlotti bean in Italy, is fairly difficult to find unless your community has a large Italian population or farmer’s markets. Cranberry beans are usually found in the mass market as packaged and dried unless one encounters them in the independent local farmer’s market where they can be seen fresh with their beautiful coloration.

More widely known as shell beans, the cranberry bean is unrelated to a cranberry plant, and in fact, most closely resembles the pinto bean, although the flavor is dissimilar. The exterior of the cranberry bean is a mottled cranberry hue, hence its common name, and the interior beans are a creamy color.

Just as with all beans, the cranberry bean is low in calories, high in fiber, and a fabulous source of vegetable protein. Unfortunately, when the bean is cooked, it loses its lovely color and becomes a drab brown. Fresh cranberry beans are reported to

taste akin to a chestnut.

How to Grow Cranberry Beans

Cranberry beans are an easy to grow plant. Neither pole nor bush beans, the cranberry bean grows on a stalk, which can attain a height of up to 6 feet. Due to this great height, the cranberry bean needs to be staked and grows well planted in a large container, such as a half barrel or even a 1-gallon pot. Growing cranberry beans can also be planted against a traditional trellis support or a tepee-shaped support can be created, against which several plants can be grown.

However you decide to grow and stake your cranberry beans, remember they prefer a warmer climate than most bean varieties and definitely dislike frost. Soil temperature for cranberry beans should be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

Select an area with well drained soil and a pH of 5.8 to 7.0 or amend the soil to reflect the requirements.

Growing Cranberry Beans from Seeds

Cranberry bean plants can be started from either dried seeds or from fresh picked pods. To start from dried seeds, soak some quality potting soil with water until the consistency of mud, poke in a few dried cranberry bean seeds and allow to dry slightly. Transfer the still moist soil and seed combination into smaller pots, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area to germinate.

To start cranberry bean plants from fresh picked pods, squeeze the bean pod gently to split and remove seeds. Lay the seeds out on paper towels or the like and air dry for about 48 hours. Fill planting pots with seed starting medium and place them in a pan of water with the liquid reaching to the halfway mark on the pot sides. Leave in the water bath for about an hour or until the soil surface is wet. Germination of your cranberry bean seeds will occur in about a week in warm conditions.

Cooking Cranberry Beans

This super nutritious bean variety is also super versatile in the kitchen. The cranberry bean can be pan fried, boiled and, of course, made into soup.

To pan fry the cranberry bean, simmer in water for 10 minutes, dry off on a towel and then sauté in a hot pan with a little olive oil. Cook until outer skins have crisped, season lightly with salt or seasoning of your choice and you will have a crunchy healthy snack.

True Red Cranberry

True Red Cranberry


snap (possibly), dry

Growth Habit




Flower Color


Pod Color


Seed Color

dark red

Seed Pattern


Name and History

Unlike the tan-and-red beans that usually have “cranberry” in their names in the US, these actually look like their namesake fruit. A very old kind of bean, grown in the northeastern US for hundreds of years, with a long association with Maine and the Abenaki people. In 1863 Fearing Burr wrote that Red Cranberry “is one of the oldest and most familiar of garden-beans, and has probably been longer and more generally cultivated in this country than any other variety.” Despite this enduring popularity the 1900s were less than kind and it (and many other heirloom vegetables) nearly vanished. Intrigued by seeing a red cranberry bean listed in a 1700s garden catalog, John Withee of Wanigan Associates searched for it for 11 years without success before being given some by Mr. Taylor of Steep Falls, Maine. In 1981 John donated True Red Cranberry and the other 1185 bean varieties in Wanigan Associates’ collection to Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa, who were instrumental in getting it back into general circulation.

The Vegetables of New York (1928) calls it Red Cranberry Pole and lists as synonyms: Arlington Red Cranberry, Boston Market Pole, Cardinal, Horticultural Pole, Medium Imperial, and Pearl. Of those it says that Boston Market is almost identical except for being two weeks earlier and more productive, and that Arlington Red Cranberry is an 1885 selection from the original with larger, stringless pods.

The Vegetables of New York also suggests that True Red Cranberry may be the bean described in Marc Lescarbot’s Histoire de la Nouvelle-France (1612) as being sown amongst corn by Armouchiquois Indians, but upon looking up that book I could only find mention of “many-colored beans” being interplanted with corn. If anyone reading this has a better 17th-century source please drop me a line!

This bean appears in:

Page 488 of The Field and Garden Vegetables of America by Fearing Burr, published 1863.

Page 73 of The Vegetables of New York Volume 1 by U.P. Hedrick, published 1928.

Page 65 of Heirloom Vegetable Gardening by William Woys Weaver, published 1997 (online excerpt).

The Slow Food Ark of Taste.


Growth: Climbing plants that can get quite tall and bushy. Many people describe them as slow to get started. Late season.
Flowers: Very pale pink.
Pods: Green, with a lumpy profile. 4-8 seeds per pod. When fully dry the pods are hard-walled and constricted around the seeds, making them difficult to shell by hand.
Seeds: Large, fat, oval beans. A lovely solid dark red.

Uses and Opinions

Nowadays used primarily (exclusively?) as a dry or shell bean, but The Field and Garden Vegetables of America says it was “principally grown as a string-bean,” so I suspect it’s probably a tender-hulled snap bean that fell out of favor once stringless varieties gained market dominance. If you try the snaps let me know how they are!

The dry beans are reputed to be excellent for baking. Many people & companies’ descriptions mention them having a “rich” flavor. I haven’t eaten these in years but remember liking them very much, and that they had a texture and flavor kind of like a baked russet potato.


  • Dry seeds. Santa Clara County, California.

  • Flower. Santa Clara County, California. 17 Oct 2012.

  • Dry seeds. Santa Clara County, California.

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