Greek Beans with Honey, Dill, and Parsley (“Gigantes Plaki”)

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

Gigantes (γίγαντες, pronounced YEE-gahn-tess) or elephantes (“giant” or “elephant” beans) are large, white, kidney-shaped beans which belong to the species Phaseolus coccineus (multiflorus); scarlet runner beans also belong to this species. Sometimes gigantes are mistakenly referred to as lima beans, butter beans, white kidney beans, Phaseolus vulgaris, Phaseolus lunatus, or Phaseolus limensis.

Gigantes, or large lima beans, must be soaked overnight, then boiled until tender, and finally baked in a sauce. When properly cooked, these beans are meaty, and have a crisp skin and velvety flesh.

The length of cooking time differs depending upon the freshness of the beans. Soaking the beans overnight enables them to require less time to cook. Freshly picked beans are tender after boiling for 30 – 40 minutes. Older beans can take up to an hour. Test the beans after 30 minutes and then in 5 or 10 minute increments. Stop cooking the beans as soon as they are tender, to avoid splitting their skins or making them mushy.

Gigantes in tomato sauce (Gigantes Plaki – Γίγαντες Πλακί) is a popular meal in homes and tavernas throughout Greece and typically served as part of the Greek appetizer course called mezedes (μεζέδες). Gigantes are also delicious when boiled and seasoned simply with olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, and salt for a salad, or pureed with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt for a wonderful bean skordalia.

Gigantes are available at Greek and Middle Eastern markets, as well as Wegmans’ and Whole Foods.


Heart-Healthy Greek Beans With Honey, Dill, and Parsley (“Gigantes Plaki”)

Servings: 6-8


  • 1 pound dried gigantes, large lima beans, or white beans, soaked if necessary for 8 hours or overnight in 2 quarts of water and drained (Smaller lima beans normally do not require soaking)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large onions (yellow, Vidalia, or sweet red onions), finely chopped
  • 3-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 16-ounce bag of baby carrots or 3 large carrots, cut into 1/3″-1/2″ slices
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with liquid
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried, crushed oregano
  • 3-4 tablespoons honey
  • 4-8 tablespoons tomato paste (I use the whole 8-ounce jar)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley


1. Combine the drained beans and enough cold water to cover them by 3 inches in a large soup pot or deep saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook until tender and lightly caramelized, stirring often (about 10-15 minutes). Stir in garlic and saute a few minutes. Remove from heat.

3. After the beans have cooked for 30 minutes, drain them carefully. Add them to the pot with the onions, carrots, and garlic. Add the undrained diced tomatoes, bay leaves, oregano, honey, tomato paste, and 2 cups water or enough to just cover the beans. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes. Add the vinegar and pepper. Cover and simmer for about 30 more minutes, or until the beans are tender and the mixture is thick.

4. Stir in the dill and parsley*, cover, and let sit 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot or at room temperature, with whole grain bread or pasta, brown rice, or quinoa.

*At this point, the bean mixture may be spread evenly in an oven-proof dish and baked, uncovered, in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for about 1 hour or more to further tenderize the beans, thicken the mixture, and create a crispy top. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Another version of “Gigantes Plaki:”

Gigantes in Savory Tomato Sauce (Γίγαντες Πλακί) (1)
Serves 6 – 8

2 1/4 cups (1 pound) gigantes
3 bay leaves
4 cups diced onion, 1/4” dice
1 cup diced celery, 1/4” dice
1 cup diced carrots, 1/4” dice
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. dried oregano, crushed
1 Tbsp. dried thyme, crushed
1 – 2 tsp. Aleppo pepper, or 1/2 – 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 cups (or one 14.5 ounce can) diced tomatoes and their juices
4 – 8 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 – 4 cups bean cooking water
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup minced parsley


  1. Place the beans in a large pot, cover them with water, and let soak overnight. The next day, drain and rinse the beans. Return them to the pot; add the bay leaves and enough water to cover the beans by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, cover, turn down the heat to medium low, and cook the beans for 30 – 60 minutes (see headnote), just until the flesh is tender. Drain the beans, reserving the bay leaves and 4 cups of bean cooking water to use in the tomato sauce.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F and oil a 13” x 9” baking pan.
  3. Sauté the onion, celery, and carrots, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil until the onions soften and begin to turn golden. Stir in the garlic, oregano, thyme, and Aleppo pepper, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, reserved bean cooking water, reserved bay leaves, and sugar. Bring the sauce to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer the sauce for 20 – 30 minutes, or until it thickens and the flavors blend. Taste and add salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed.
  4. Stir the cooked beans and parsley into the tomato sauce. Pour the mix into the oiled baking pan, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the beans from the oven, stir in 1 cup bean cooking water, and bake for an additional 30 – 45 minutes, or until the sauce is rich and thick.
  5. Serve hot or at room temperature. If making the beans ahead to serve the next day or after, stir the remaining cup of bean cooking water into the sauce after removing the beans from the oven the final time.


  1. Constantino, Laurie. “Gigantes in Savory Tomato Sauce (Γίγαντες Πλακί).” 01/21/08. (Source:…/recipe-gigantes-in-savory-tomato…)
  2. Shulman, Martha Rose. “Recipes for Health; Greek Baked Beans With Honey and Dill.” The New York Times. 02/26/10.

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