vegetarian cassoulet

Here’s a typical Deb story for you: Still making my way through my awesome bean sampler from Rancho Gordo, I decided to conquer the flageolet beans next–they’re the ones that look like miniature white kidney beans, about half of which have the prettiest pale green hue. Since they’re often used in cassoulet, but I find traditional cassoulet to be way too heavy and fatty for my tastes, I started scheming my way to a delicious vegetarian version, keeping the mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery), thyme, tomato, garlic, etc. but nixing the duck let confit, pork fat and garlic sausages. I looked at half a dozen recipes, taking notes, keeping this, skipping that, and when I told my fellow cooking geek my plan, she said, “oh, you mean like the Vegetarian Cassoulet from the March Gourmet?”

flageolet, driedflageolet a-drainingmise, mise misechunky mirepoix

Right, er. So, someone is behind on reading her food magazines again, isn’t she? So Gourmet’s vegetarian cassoulet it was! However, at this point I had such a firm idea of what I thought it should be, I made a few adjustments, swapping the water with stock, adding tomato paste (and I would add a can of tomatoes next time), cutting the vegetables smaller than the recipe suggests and then… well, then I did this:

all of a sudden

I broke the vegetarian cassoulet. As always, I blame Alex as he is nothing but trouble, always peering over my shoulder and saying things like, “you know what would make that good? Sausages!” and I had a weak moment and caved. If you’d like, we could pretend that these little discs are, say, vegetarian sausage, or even this turkey variety so not to offend the sensibilities of the pork-wary, I don’t mind. But I can’t lie: we used smoky, porky, fatty kielbasa and it was awesome. It added some of the richness that is lost in this super-healthy vegetarian version, without giving it that that… slick that always turns my stomach.

(mostly) vegetarian cassoulet

Speaking of stomach-turning! … Smells, that is, not food, of course: Alex, my sister and I took my parents to Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York yesterday for a long lunch to celebrate their 40th anniversary. Longtime readers might remember that Alex and I went up there for our first anniversary two years ago, but we had gone at night and it was raining, so we didn’t get to see much of the farm. Yesterday was bright and sunny, and even if not a whole lot was growing yet, we got to see the lambs, pigs and chickens doing their thing. It was great, the food was flawless as always and, well, even though I could be further from a farm today, I still can’t get smell those chickens and pigs out of my nose. Say it with me now: City slickers!

One year ago: Arugula Ravioli

Vegetarian Cassoulet
Adapted from Gourmet, March 2008

For cassoulet
3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
4 medium carrots, halved
lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
3 (19-ounce) cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained or 4 1/2 cups cooked dried beans (dried beans cooking instructions here)
1 19-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juice
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 quart stock

For garlic crumbs
4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Make cassoulet:
Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces, then wash well and pat dry.

Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, then stock, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.

Make garlic crumbs while cassoulet simmers:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.

Finish cassoulet:
Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf. Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.

How about some sausage with that! Slice one pound of cooked sausage into discs and mix with the bean and vegetable stew before adding the breadcrumbs. From here, you can either heat them through for another 15 minutes on the stove, then finish with the breadcrumbs, or add an additional cup of water/broth, scatter that breadcrumbs on top and bake it in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes until the sausage is heated through.

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85 comments on vegetarian cassoulet

  1. Drakenrahl

    If you want to cut down on the fat of the kielbasa, then cook them in a separate pan first. You’ll cook some of the excess grease out of them. You’ll still get all the flavor, but you can reduce some of the fat content.

  2. Kielbasa…yum. I get mine at Steve’s meat market in Greenpoint. And it is still the best I have ever tasted! You can expect to see some in the skybar this summer.

  3. This is perfect, because I actually have flageolet beans right now. I’ve made cassoulet before, but I think your version sounds great. I will also be adding sausage, because sausage is good.

  4. Dancer who eats

    YUM! Don’t laugh at me but I cooked with kielbasa for the fist time a few months ago. I made the kielbasa, kale and potato soup recipe from Bon Apetit Everynight cooking. So good. I have been a fan every since…..can’t wait to make this recipe…..

  5. hahaha, sausages with the vegetarian dish. i love it.

    oh btw, this sentence needs an ‘of’

    “I still can’t get smell of those chickens and pigs out of my nose.”

  6. Kathryn


    Haha, sorry, but oyur animal pictures have captivated me this time. I’ve heard of cassoulet many times before, but for whatever reason, it just never appealed to me; I guess it was just what you said, it always seems so heavy that I could never picture a time when I’d need all that food. But this vegetarian variation might be just what I’m looking for … =)

  7. I just told a coworker that it would be the perfect place to propose to his gf – he’s taking me up on that! :) Sausage makes everything better. And this is coming from a former vegetarian.

  8. gabrielle

    Thank you, Deb! I made this dish a couple of weeks ago strictly to the recipe as it appeared in Gourmet, and found it to be really bland. I’m going to try it with your tweaks next time!

  9. amy

    gah! i love these photos! how in the world do you get those colors? what is your secret technique? cassoulet looks great too but wah, those photos.

  10. I love the honest-ness, “fatty smoky kielbasa and it was awesome”. I too would add some ground beef or sausage, but in this case you could certainly use some of that Gimme Lean Sausage Style. I recently tried it and have been eating it consistently, it’s pretty good stuff.

    The Peanut Butter Boy

  11. Amy

    How funny; I made the Gourmet veg cassoulet this week and was regretting not adding some sort of tomato paste or diced tomatoes to it…it was good, but looked not nearly as luscious as yours! I think I’d probably add some sausages next time too. :)

  12. kasey

    Yum. I will definitely be attempting to make this sometime this week. I think Rachel Ray made a cassoulet type dish a few days ago on her show with 2 types of sausage and chicken but I kept thinking that it sounded like a LOT of meat. Veggies and sausage sounds awesome though. I love love love your site. :-)

  13. Rose Marie

    I was wondering what to do with about a 1/2 bag of dried navy beans. Now I know. Yes, sausage does make everything better. LOL

    On the subject of your wonderful photos, how did you get those blues so intense? I love them.

  14. I think you made the right decision there Deb! My boyfriend is exactly the same as your husband in that respect, if it doesn’t have meat, it ain’t a meal. Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh but I think it was good to cave on this one. I also loved the farm pictures, I’ve got such a hinga bout chickens. If only I didn’t live in a 1st floor flat in London I might get some…….

  15. Kim

    I thrilled to have found out about Rancho Gordo, my card is out and I am ready to order some beans! I am not a fan of kielbasa, brings back childhood memories of wanting to be a vegetarian and having to eat this sausage more times than I care to remember. Will try it though excluding the sausage, as it looks great!

  16. My mom made me an amazing vegetarian cassoulet about 3 years ago and when I saw this while flipping through the March Gourmet, I knew I had to make it. And your post just reconfirmed that fact. I, however, will keep it vegetarian…maybe a little veggie sausage…maybe.

  17. D

    I cannot wait to make this! I will be off to the market posthaste to purchase the ingredients to make this tonight. Thanks for such an enjoyable blogsite and for the opportunity to use the word “posthaste”.

  18. Laura Bee

    Made this for dinner tonight. It was tasty, but there was too much liquid when I made it. Turned into more of a soup. In future, I’d reduce the amount of stock.

    In other news, I love your site. I’m always eagerly awaiting the next recipe.

  19. Suzanne M

    Vegetarian schmegetarian….I am with Michael Pollan on that regard (did you read “Omnivore’s Dilemma”?) That said, I am with you on heavy cassoulet. A few years ago, I tried this recipe – which goes along with my grandmother’s mantra, “waste not want not”. Unlike you, I am big on leftover-delight, and this one makes leftover chicken into something new. My kids didn’t like it when I made it, but they are older now, and I think I’ll try it again. I’m in California, and this recipe was in Sunset Magazine a few years back. It is also a nice, hearty, easy and fairly quick recipe (if not exactly “foodie”): I also just tried the lemon rosemary no-knead bread that is in the Williams-Sonoma catalog (of all places). It was delicious and would be killer with cassoulet.

  20. dina

    I made this tonight!! It was great and the whole family( kids 11, 9 and 5) loved it.
    I did add the sausage, in this case Aidel’s Chicken and Apple. I browned it, then removed it and cooked the veggies in the fat(I know, not healthy).
    Anyway, it is fantastic!
    Thanks for turning us on to these great recipes!

  21. dee

    Hi Deb,
    I’m a first-time poster, but a long-time admirer! I love that you added the sausages – I like my meat! We don’t have kielbasa where I come from (hangs head in shame) but I was wondering if a chorizo would work too.

    By the way, you’ve inspired me to start my own blog. I’m a 2-post virgin and still fumbling my way through, but would love it if you could drop by for a visit.

  22. ladybug

    Hi Deb,

    I could use some advice here. I’m Christian and my oh, so thoughtful neighbors are Jewish (not kosher). They are so kind to my children at Christmas and I would like to repay their kindness by making them something for Passover. Can you recommend and do you have a recipe for something idiot-proof that is traditional for Passover?
    P.S. Still waiting for the B&W cookie recipe.

  23. Nan

    Oh, you little vixen you! You’ve gone and read my mind…if only you could beam me up a bowl of cassoulet – ala Star Trek…I’m in desperate need of a bowl, or even a cup, just a large soup spoon really – that would do it! I’ve been reading cassoulet recipes for the last week – ever since I purchased this new Southwest French cookbook – saw this recipe in Gourmet, tour it out and put it in the heap – I’ll get to it, eventually, but planned on using chicken…now I may just have to pluck some sausage instead…or use both – a gumbo cassoulet perhaps! I’m going to dream about this, I just know it! Nan

  24. Anna

    This looked so good, I immediately went out an ordered beans, but now I’m stumped. How much of the dried, uncooked flageolet beans did you cook to get four and a half cups cooked? I can’t wait to make it! Thanks!

  25. I know I’m a bit late to the party, but I just made this tonight and it’s fantastic! I didn’t add the meat, but added a few drops of liquid smoke instead and it’s great.

  26. deb

    I’m accustomed to 14 oz cans and 28 oz cans of beans and tomatoes. Am I missing something here with the 19 oz references? Anyone?

    another deb

  27. Julie

    This was *amazing*. I skipped the bread crumbs, forgot the stock entirely and seasoned it with some italian seasonings instead of the parsley and thyme sprigs (I was in a bit of a rush…). I also made it in the crock pot and it turn out perfect. I looked at the gourmet recipe and was surprised to find no tomatoes! Seriously- how can you *not* put tomatoes in this dinner? At the end, I also pulled out about 1/4 of the cassoulet and blended it in the blender and mixed it back in before adding the sausage. I think it added a nice thickness to it. We served it over brown rice. Yum! Thanks for the recipe. This one’s a keeper!

  28. Jenn

    I made this for dinner last night ( my husband is a meat and potatoes man, my kids ages 1 and 3 don’t like beans) It was out of this world!!!!! I’d give it 5 stars!!! My husband had a second helping and my kids LOVED it, they cleaned their plates! I used vegetable stock and I think next time I make it I’m going to use chorizo sausage.

  29. Liz

    Made the vegetarian cassoulet with chicken apple sausage and a bit of shaved gueyere on top…awesome! Thank you so much for a great take on this traditional dish! I paired it with an arugala salad and the chocolate torte from the 9/08 Gourmet Paris edition. Perfect for a book club dinner on a snowy Sunday night in DC. :)

  30. jenniegirl

    My husband has been so excited that I cooked this, since I put leeks on the shopping list, and he got “extra help” to figure out what that was in the produce aisle. He’s a new leek fan! I added meat, because although he always suggests we go vegetarian, if I make something without meat, he always wants to know what else we’re having for dinner with the side dish? BTW-this was so so good!

  31. Kat

    This is excellent, perfect for a household like ours with one veg, one not – he separated half out for me before adding the sausage. I love convertible recipes!

  32. Christina

    I saw cloves mentioned in the directions, but not listed in the ingredients. Maybe you’ll want to fix that? That’s an Interesting addition; I can’t wait to try this when the weather turns cooler!

  33. Anne

    Why do you have to add sausage? I guess keeping it strictly vegan was too “bland.”(?) Wow. What a typical response.
    ugh. I love smitten kitchen. I do not love “weak moments” and “caving in” to sausage. Oh well. I made this tonight (sans animal) and it was out of this world. Thanks.

  34. Sue

    Deb- made it tonight with the full 4 cups of stock and canned cannelini beans. Simmered it for (much) longer than recommended, consequently, and the beans sort of broth down making a nice thick, rich sauce. Delish any way. Almost skipped the garlic bread crumbs, so glad I didn’t, really made the dish. It’s a new family fave.

    PS and I added sausage. Avec animal. Out of this world.

  35. Mirka

    This recipe lacked salt. Maybe it’s because I used dried beans instead of canned?

    The tomatoes still tasted raw and canned after 30 minutes cooking, and the leeks were overcooked and a waste at the cost. ($6.50 for three leeks.)

    I’m going to make this again with adjustments because this style of stewing beans topped with toasted, herbed bread crumbs is outstanding in theory.

  36. betsy

    Cloves wasn’t listed in the ingredients, but mentioned in the process, so since I love them, I added a healthy pinch & loved the depth it gave………..did anyone else add cloves??? (Oh, and yes on the sausage……some local goodies even!!)

  37. Neil

    Calling it vegetarian and then featuring the sausage is pretty contemptible. If you can’t make it good and honest, then don’t post it.

  38. Diane from DC

    Since people are adding to the comments years after the original recipe was posted, I’ll share that during my kitchen renovation, I couldn’t cook for weeks because I didn’t have a sink or working stove. After I got a stove (but still no sink) I made this in the oven in a disposable foil pan. It was still amazing and such a welcome change to fast food. I look forward to making it again, properly on the stove top. And kielbasa sausage rules.

  39. Deb

    I made this today and it makes a very hearty and delicious meal. I know it is great as written but here are the changes I made: onion instead of leek and added cooked hot chicken Italian sausage. Since I’d taken this in an Italian direction I added a few cooked cheese ravioli to each serving. I guess it didn’t really end up being a cassoulet with these changes. But it was good.

  40. I made this tonight. I was originally looking for a vegetarian version but as we aren’t vegetarian anymore I’m not as strict and got sucked in with the mention of Kielbasa. I cooked it in the soup like you did, vs cooking separately because I’ve got a growing toddler and a cyclist husband who could use the deliciousness of the fat.

    I used Panko crumbs instead of baguette crumbs.

    Thanks for sharing this recipe, it’s a cold weather keeper in my recipe book now.

  41. Allison

    Cloves? The instruction says to add cloves but they aren’t listed in the ingredients. Cloves of garlic, but it already says to add garlic.

  42. cathy

    I have made this twice. The first time exactly as written and loved it. Tonight I made it using a 28 ounce can of tomatoes and served it more as a soup without the topping but with baguette,sliced horizontally, drizzled with olive oil, topped with parmesan cheese and broiled. Both versions are wonderful. Thanks for the great recipe.

  43. East West Coast Girl

    The breadcrumbs are garlicky goodness. I could sprinkle those on dog food and enjoy.
    I found this one pot dish delish but it needs a little oomph. I might spice it up with some red pepper flakes and/or lots of extra garlic next time.
    I de-vegetarianized with beef broth. I dig that beef heft with the beans and veggies.

  44. Sara

    I made this last week – staying true to recipe. It was DELICIOUS! Seriously, so good. Will be making it for many years to come. The breadcrumbs (used about a full fresh baguette), are such a wonderful addition.

  45. far out. this was amazing – i have made plenty of your recipes before but felt compelled to comment about this one even though all the previous ones have always more than delivered! i added some fried speck to the mix, threw in pumpkin, sage and rosemary and omitted the tomato/tomato paste and it was to die for. you rock!

  46. Christy

    My Accidental Cassoulet: When some of my Kentucky Wonders got a bit overmatureI saved a small handful for next year’s plants and dried the rest, exactly with the idea of a bean stew. What I ended up making was very similar to this, except I used acorn squash instead of carrots–just like the way it breaks down better. Used lots of garlic early on, and some shallot, and 1/2 a Spanish onion. So, three kinds of allium (leeks would have been great, but trying to use what I had), sauteed in oo, then smothered with the soaked beans and water just before it gets too brown. I let that simmer until it really liked itself. Then I added about 5 diced fresh tomatoes, a big pinch of herb Provence, salt and a bay leaf, simmered a bit more, added a few more minced garlic cloves and some fine celery. Only used water and the juice from tomatoes. It was very splendid. Since then I happened upon the Rancho Gordo Tarbais beans, and can’t wait to try these.
    I’m the only omnivore in my family, but honestly I didn’t miss the meat in my accidental Cassoulet.

  47. Teffer

    Oh hey! I grew up eating this, my family calls it cassoulet au maigre (“poor man’s cassoulet,” roughly.) I’ve actually never had true cassoulet, but I love this version.

  48. Nicholas

    I made the cassoulet tonight for dinner—with Tofurkey kielbasa. It turned out well, except for the beans (from Rancho Gordo, no less) that still had semi-tough skins after more than two hours of cooking (I soaked them over night and followed the Rancho Gordo directions). I, also, would like some clarity regarding the cloves and the 19-ounce can of tomatoes (I searched two different stores). I used a 28-ounce can and have no regrets. Next time, I might replace the leeks with onions. The leeks tasted great, but they were quite dirty and took awhile to clean. And I’ll be using real kielbasa… Thanks for all the great recipes! I could spend all day on your site—which is what I did yesterday!

  49. Jacqui

    I really like these kinds of recipes – I’m not totally vegetarian but eat meat rarely, and prefer to add it as an ornament to an already light and delicious vege recipe. Recipes built around meat are often “lazy”, relying too heavily (literally) on fat and salt for flavour.

  50. Thanks for the inspiration! I made it with ingredients I had on hand, which meant not all of the vegetables and a red wine/chicken broth sub for the apple cider. It turned out sooo good and leftovers are incredible. I can’t really imagine that meat would improve on this, maybe on the side would be okay.

  51. Rachel

    This looks AMAZING. As a vegetarian, I often want to add some fatty/salty/umami to mirepoix based soups like this one. Do you have thoughts about a vegetarian alternatives to the sausage that will provide something that approximates what the sausage does?

  52. As I prepare to make this on Saturday, I just have to tell you thanks since I’ve referenced this page so many times. For a few years now it’s been my Christmas Eve dish, because of the beautiful fragrance and warmth it fills the house with and how comforting it is to eat when it’s cold and dark outside, with a nice red wine. I make it exactly as you say but add in Italian sausage-style Tofurkey cause my man is veg. I’m a carnivore and don’t miss the meat. Thank you again!

  53. Mia

    Hi Deb (or anyone else who has made it),
    How many does the recipe serve? I’m deciding how many guests we can have for dinner tomorrow night. :)

    1. Kathryn

      Colin, I believe you overlooked the paragraph where Deb credited Gourmet March 2008. She credited the recipe, then discussed the changes she made to the recipe. If you are new to this site, you may not know this, but Deb always gives credit to her sources and inspirations.

  54. Barbara

    First time commenting! Not a vegetarian but Cooking this for vegetarian house guests on Thursday. What would be a compatible side salad. Love your book and your website!

  55. Joanne

    Made this last night intending to add sausage from our local farm. I had all the ingredients in the pot simmering except sausage when my husband needed help with a leaky radiator hose on the plow truck (snowstorm on the way!) so it ended up cooking for almost an hour and I never did get the sausage into it. But man it was good!! Great depth of flavor with such simple ingredients, definitely will make it again.

  56. Sarah

    This was ok. Nothing wrong with it. But a lot of it went into the compost because people got sick of it after about half a serving. I think that people who love this recipe either put the sausage into it (which makes it a completely different dish) or are responding to the garlic breadcrumbs (because, yeah, put garlic breadcrumbs on anything and it will be pretty good). Again, this tasted like a perfectly good pot of tomatoey beans, but nothing more. I wouldn’t serve it to guests, for example, except maybe as a side dish with the sausage in it if you’re not vegetarian. We are, and this was definitely not a satisfying main course for us.

  57. mks

    I don’t know how I missed this one! Easy and delicious for a cold weeknight. We scooped the beans over toasted bread rubbed with garlic. Thanks for another great meal!

  58. Kathy

    Making this now with my Rancho Gordo Cassoulet Beans. Yum,these beans are so delicious and creamy you won’t miss the sausage! I added a couple of fresh chopped ripe plum tomatoes.

  59. Averil Fessenden

    I just made this cassoulet sans sausage, and liked it. Cloves are in the list of herbs to add, but are not in the ingredients list. How many cloves?

  60. Ally

    This is a wonderful recipe!!! Such a good concept. I was so surprised at the depth of flavor from basic ingredients we always have in the house! Also very forgiving… the first time I made this I realized past the point of no return that we only had garbanzo beans, and it still turned out wonderfully. Only other tweaks I’ve done is use regular yellow onions and add some red wine before simmering. Will continue to make this for a long time! Thank you, Deb!

  61. Jackie

    Just made this as a hopeful antidote to the unseasonably cold weather – made as written with the exception of an additional tablespoon of tomato paste and half the amount of stock. Very flavorful however I am wondering about the listed can volumes (19 oz.) for the beans and the diced tomatoes as the cans I purchased were either 14.5 or 15.5 oz. and was what I used- I saw this question previously asked but not answered. Just curious. Otherwise thank you for yet another flavorful, quick and easy recipe.