Sunday, March 3, 2013


Fabada--maybe the best bean dish in the world.
Just when I thought spring was around the corner, a cold front moving across southern Spain dumped snow on the nearby mountains and left me again huddling by the fire. Perfect weather to cook up a pot of beans, which keeps the kitchen windows steamed up and fills the house with its aroma.

I like all kinds of beans, but possibly my favorite bean dish is fabada asturiana, beans and sausages cooked in the style of Asturias. Asturias, in the chill northern Cantabrian coast, is noted for its cheeses (such as blue Cabrales), its fabulous seafood and this singular bean dish. Fabada is so popular that it turns up all over Spain. Sort of as Boston baked beans are not limited to Boston.

Fabes beans.

The proper beans for fabada are Asturian-grown fabes. These are extra-large white kidney beans that cook up creamy and tender. (They can be ordered in the US from If these are not available, however, I suggest substituting butter beans or cannellini beans.

Asturian smoked morcilla.
Fabada may be one of the few dishes in Spanish cuisine that contains no olive oil. Panceta, ham bone and two kinds of sausages provide the flavor package. Asturias, with its damp maritime climate, produces chorizo and morcilla (blood sausage) that are, unusually in Spanish charcuteria, smoke-cured. If these traditional sausages are not available, use regular cooking chorizo and morcilla, but add a spoonful of pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika) to the beans as they cook.

For an insider's view of Asturias, the sausages and fabada, have a look at this site, with a video clip, produced by Jeffrey Weiss, whose book, CHARCUTERIA--THE SOUL OF SPAIN--comes out in the fall.

 The beans need to be soaked for 12 hours (or overnight) before cooking. I have extremely hard water, so I use a pinch of baking soda in the water or else bottled water with low mineral content to correct the hardness. Otherwise, the beans never get really tender. Drain the soaked beans and put them to cook in fresh water.

Fabada is best cooked in a cazuela, a wide earthenware casserole, but any shallow pan will work. Add water to a depth of two fingers above the beans. Keep the beans barely covered with liquid so that the skins don’t split.

Savory beans with sausages.

Fabada Asturiana
Asturian Beans and Sausages

Serves 4 to 6.

Soaking swells the beans (left).
1 pound dried large white beans, soaked 12 hours
8 ounces lean bacon or panceta, in one piece
Ham bone or a chunk of cured ham
8 ounces chorizo sausage (preferably smoked Asturian)
8 ounces morcilla sausage (preferably smoked Asturian)
2 bay leaves
Pinch of crushed saffron
Salt and pepper

Drain the beans and put them in a cazuela. Blanch the bacon in boiling water for 2 minutes and drain. Add it to the beans. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil and skim off the froth.

Add the piece of ham, chorizo, morcilla and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and skim again. Add saffron, dissolved in a little liquid.

Cover and cook until beans are tender, 1 to 2 hours, adding cold water as necessary so beans are always covered with liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Don’t stir the beans, but shake the casserole from time to time. Let the fabada rest 15 minutes before serving. Use scissors to cut the bacon, ham and sausages into bite-sized pieces.

©Janet Mendel


  1. My husband's all-time favorite bean dish, which I make using judiones from Castrillo de los Polvazares just off the Camino de Santiago. He had them in Segovia and saw them later on the menu at el museo del jamón. Going back this fall, God willing! Sue Yurick (not really anonymous!) I love cooking the foods I loved in Spain!

    1. Sue: Those judiones surely are related to the Asturian fabes. Where is the Museo del Jamón?

  2. It is so hard to avoid red meat and still eat the foods of Spain, though I managed when I walked the Camino last fall. If you could feature some vegetarian dishes, or those with chicken and seafood, I would really appreciate it!

    1. Darlene: You would probably like another Asturian dish, fabes (beans) with clams. Cook beans with onion, garlic, bay, parsley, olive oil and saffron. Open clams separately. Add the clam juice to the beans. Remove clam shells and add the clams to the beans and heat.

      You'll find lots of chicken and seafood recipes in past blogs as well as some vegetarian dishes. My vegetarian adaptation of paella is here:

  3. Dear Janet

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  4. Janet thank you.........I'm from Spain (extremadura), but I leave in the U.S.A (New Mexico), thanks for giving the types of beans I can used when I don't have the beans from Asturias, I have not seen them yet (only the kidneys and northen beans), but I will keep trying....I can't wait to do a fabada, :)

    1. Anonymous from Extremadura: definitely try substituting other beans, but you can mail order real fabes from La Tienda in the US. Or, in New Mexico, check out The Spanish Table in Santa Fe--lots of imported products from Spain.

  5. Hola, fantástico blog, yo soy de A asturias y decirte que tiene muy buena pinta, vivo en la zona de la faba con denominación origen , un saludo. Mi nuevo blog aunque tenga nombre francés es español como yo y como la cocina q vivo

    1. Asturiano: Un saludo a ti. Tu foto de merluza a la sidra tiene muy buen aspecto!

  6. Hhmmm... and to think that I only thought that Fabada came in a can. I'll be sure to give this a try assuming that I can find some morsilla. Thanks!

    1. S/V: You're welcome. Hope you find the morcilla.

  7. This sounds very much like a dish I had at the El Duque in Segovia. Are these the same beans they use?

    1. LaTrelle: The bean dish you enjoyed in Segovia is made with judión de La Granja--actually bigger and fatter than the white kidney beans, fabes, of Asturias. They may be similarly cooked, with morcilla and chorizo.