Gigantes plaki

Gigantes plaki

gigantes plaki

Being vegan during Greek Easter is hard. In the weeks prior to Easter, when all the fields are covered with lush grass and beautiful wild flowers, you see lots of sweet little lambs frolicking around, enjoying the spring sunshine and trimming the ‘lawns’. They seem so happy and carefree and it makes me sad when we drive past one week later and there are no more lambs… 🙁 .

We used to get invited to traditional Easter lunches but we cannot bear to watch a poor little lamb rotating on the spit while everybody around us goes on about how juicy and delicious the meat is and how much they love lamb (clearly not the happy and carefree kind). They will also be utterly confused as to why we don’t want to eat it or not even a bit of feta cheese.

It is ironic that a lot of modern Greeks do not seem to grasp the point of being vegan (or what it even entails) as the idea of abstaining from eating animal products stems from ancient Greece and in its agricultural past.

In fact, Greeks used to eat lots of healthy, beautiful meat-free dishes. Even today devout Greeks typically consume these plant-based dishes in the 40 days preceding Easter, although you get the sense that meat abstinence is a bit of a chore for them.

Gigantes plaki is the best example of these plant-based dishes and one of our favourite ‘mezedes’ (small plates). It’s beautifully fragrant, simple to make and utterly delicious! It’s a nourishing and satisfying meal with plenty of plant-based protein. It may seem like it takes a long time to make, but it really doesn’t – the oven takes care of most of the work for you! 🙂

hot gigantes plaki served

gigantes plaki served

gigantes plaki baked

gigantes plaki lunch

gigantes plaki close up

20 min
120 min
20 min
120 min
  • 250 g / 2 cups dry giant / butter beans, soaked overnight
  • 45 ml / 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 x 400 g / 14 oz tins of chopped tomatoes*
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp brown sugar or maple syrup (optional)
  • a good pinch of chilli powder (optional)
  • approx. 1 generous tsp fine sea salt
  • few grinds of black pepper
  • handful of parsley, finely chopped
  1. Discard soaking water and rinse the beans well. Put them into a medium pot and cover with plenty of water. Bring to the boil and then simmer (with a lid mostly covering the pot) for about 45 minutes (make sure you gather the foam that has come to the surface and discard it). At this stage, the beans need to be cooked ‘al dente’ as they will finish off cooking in the oven.
  2. Heat up olive oil in a medium frying pan. Once hot, lower the heat and add chopped onion. Fry on low heat until translucent, stirring from time to time. Add in garlic and fry for another minute or two.
  3. Decrease the heat to low and add in cinnamon and chilli (if using) to the onion and garlic mixture. Fry for another minute, coating the onion and garlic in the spices. Stir often as spices are dry spices and burn easily.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 180° C / 355° F.
  5. Add in tomato paste, diced tomatoes, oregano, salt, sugar (if your tomatoes are a bit too tangy) and pepper. Simmer for about 30 minutes – until tomatoes are starting to thicken. Add in drained beans and mix everything together.
  6. Transfer the mixture to an oven safe dish adding about ½ cup of bean cooking water. Stir through well.
  7. Bake for about 1 hr, until the sauce has thickened nicely and the beans are soft and creamy.

*If using fresh tomatoes, use about 8 medium ripe tomatoes (peeled).

3 g
13 g
2 g
14 g
53 g
*per serving
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7 reviews, 25 comments
Teresa Sterns:
My sister’s boyfriend’s mom is Greek and makes these with a lot of oil. I’m mostly oil free. It seems your recipe only used oil to fry the onions (tho it doesn’t say when the oil goes in). So I’m going to water saute the onions and garlic and proceed. It all sounds great.
    Hi Teresa,
    Yes, you are correct, I only use oil to fry the aromatics. I don't tend to use a lot of oil but I feel that some is nice or else the dish will dry out too much, but having said that you are probably used to no oil cooking so it may not be an issue for you. Hope you'll enjoy my take on this Greek classic. Ania
Phyllis Straus:
This looks delicious but I’m looking for marinated recipe. Any ideas!
    I would love to help, but I am unsure what it is that you mean by saying 'marinated recipe'?
I tried your recipe today and it came out nicely.!
Most Gigantes plaki recipes require you to cover the dish with aluminum foil while it bakes in the oven, but that doesn't seem to be necessary. The consistency was just right after 1 hour in the oven.
I used fresh tomatoes rather than canned ones and doubled the amount of tomato paste to compensate for the less intense tomato aroma.
    Thank you for your kind words, Oliver! I am really happy to hear that you enjoyed these beans! Covering the dish with foil traps the steam in and makes the beans wetter, but I personally prefer this intensly tomatoey, baked flavour and texture. I am happy that you do too. x Ania
Hi Ania, We are looking forward to coming back to Greece soon, and while we wait I have just made your wonderful recipe for Gigantes Plaki. Other recipes were full of huge superfluous amounts of oil, or were not as flavorful (love how the simmer of the tomato sauce brings out the best of the jammy tomato and onion), and yours was the first I found that added cinnamon. So very delicious! Thank you.
    aw, thanks Anne! I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed my take on Gigantes Plaki and yes, I am quite oil-phobic and so I tend to slash the amount of oil whenever I cook anything, but Greek dishes in particular (like this moussaka, for example) x Ania
I'm going to try these as soon as I can get to a supermarket. I usually eat ready made ones from a can or when I'm on a Greek island.
    Great, I hope they will hit the spot! x Ania
Darryn von Maltitz:
Hi there
This recipe looks delicious. Do you shell the beans before cooking them or do the shell come off during the cooking process?
    Hi Darryn,
    I don't shell them at all, I don't feel that there is any need to be honest with you, but feel free to override me. Cheers! Ania
Hi... can't wait to make these. I am vegan and adored the Plaki all over Greece this summer. I cam home and tried to reproduce the dish using giant lima neans but the texture was all wrong. I have found gignes on amazon and just ordered a 5 pound bag. Your rexipe will be the one i use! Thanks for sharing!
    Thanks, Karen! I am excited that you are planning to make this dish, I hope it will hit the spot! Ania
Help! Smells wonderful, sauce is wonderful, but the beans have been in the oven now for 2 1/2 hours. I have added a total of 4 more cups of water and they are still crunchy! I soaked them overnight in a covered pot, then dumped that water, rinsed the benas, put fresh water to cover them by a couple of inches, and simmered them for a full HOUR. They were somewhat crunchy, but I figured maybe that was what you meant by “al dente”, so I proceeded as the recipe directed. After the first hour in the oven, uncovered, I added hot water and covered them, hoping that would help. There was a slight improvement, so I have done that now for a total of four additional cups, gping on the third hour, covered. The water is being absorbed even with the lid on... I keep checking and that is why I add more. I am uisng a Le Creuset dutch oven at 355F. Thoughts? It smells really good...Thanks!
    Hi Cindy,
    Oh, no, I am so sorry to hear that. I assume you have used the same type of beans as I did, so the only reason that comes to mind is that you might have been sold really unfresh beans perhaps? Sorry I cannot be of more help. Ania
    Cindy, add acidic foods (lemon juice, vinegar, tomatoes, wine, etc.) after beans are cooked as these foods can prevent beans from becoming tender. I learned this from my son who is a chef.
Anita W:
Had been searching for this style dish to use my Rancho Gordo corona beans,this looks exactly what I need.
Do you cover the dish while it bakes in oven?
Thank you,(another) Anita
    Hi Anita,
    Great, I hope you'll like it. I didn't as I liked them a bit dried up on top, but if you prefer them more saucy you could do that for sure.
    PS: It's Ania, actually :)
This recipe looks delicious. What would you recommend as a side dish? Is this something you could pair with quinoa? My companion is slightly picky and is the type that can't eat things like just plain pasta with red sauce or just lentils. I can't wait to make this.
    Thanks, Dana! I'm glad to hear you are planning to make this. I would recommend crusty / toasted sourdough bread to mop up all the delicious sauce, a big green salad (Romaine lettuce, spring onions, cucumber, capers for example) and a glass of white wine works well too! :) Hope that helps! Ania
Will this recipe work okay with the smaller Lima beans as well? Would I have to adjust liquid at all?
    Hi Anna,
    I haven't tried myself, but it should work the same. They will need a shorter cooking time before you mix them into the sauce. Good luck! Ania
Maha Khan:
Wonderful recipe.I like this and I think this is very delicious.
I am going to make this recipe for my family and husband
Thanks for sharing
    Thanks so much, Maha! I'm delighted to hear that you liked it! Hope it goes down well with your family too! x Ania
Richard Jerina:
Hi. Can I use tinned butter beans to cut out the over night soaking and if so how much would I need.?
    Hi Richard,
    I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I don't think tinned beans will work in this context. The reason being that they need to be not quite fully cooked before they get baked or otherwise you'll end up with a bit of a mash and lack of texture. Hope that helps, Ania
Hello thank you for your recipe, can I use canned beans and if so how much?
    Hi Maryanne,
    I don't think they will work, I'm afraid as they are already fully cooked and by the time you take the dish out of the oven they will have turned into mash :( Ania
Oooh. I get sooo excited when your recipes come through.
Please can you explain what giant beans are xx
    Thanks so much, Caroline! So nice to hear :) Yes, you are right, I forgot that they are probably not available that easily outside of Greece, sorry. I would go for the largest butter beans you can find! Hope that helps! Ania
      Fab. Thank you xx😉
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