Probably one of my fave Turkish dishes is only around for a short while in the summer when borlotti beans are in season. While you can find these beans in many countries, the Ottoman dish Barbunya Pilaki in my opinion is the best way to prepare these beans that any culture has come up with! They are easy to make, full of flavor, and I have made them with fresh, dried, and even canned barbunya with great success (though the fresh beans really can’t be beat).
Barbunya is the Turkish name for what is called elsewhere borlotti beans, cranberry beans, romano beans or rosecoco beans. If you grow them or can get them fresh in the pod, they grow in gorgeous pink and white speckled pods, which unfortunately have a really short season. These beans are the darlings of late-spring to mid-summer markets in Turkey. Luckily they can be found dried all year round!
Remember: this is a summertime dish, and barbunya is traditionally served in Turkey, and it is great either cold or at room temperature as a side to Çiğ Köfte or Tabouli. If you are making it from dried beans, and want to eat it warm in the winter, that’s totally cool. Just not exactly the authentic Turkish-style barbunya experience.
“Pilaki” is a style of dish from Western Turkey, the side of the country whose food is more influenced by the Eastern Mediterranean. Pilaki dishes start with onions, garlic, and sometimes tomatoes braised in plenty of good olive oil (like zeytinyağli dishes, such as Zeytinyağlı Kereviz Yemeği).
Making delicious borlotti beans is easy, but perfecting it is another story. A little attention to the details in the step-by-step process I share in this recipe will help you bring the beans to the next level. So, arm yourself with a pot of beans, and the best ripest tomatoes you can get, and let Barbunya Pilaki inspire your next mezze!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
✊Vegan AF: Barbunya Pilaki is a dish that is naturally vegan (except in some parts of Turkey where people add fish to it). This recipe I am sharing is 100% plant-based, and is also gluten-free.
Just a handful of ingredients: This dish comes together in a snap and doesn’t require a ton of ingredients to make.
✅Tested and Approved Worldwide: Like all of the recipes on my blog, this Barbunya Pilaki has been tweaked to perfection by me personally, and then tested and reviewed by a team of recipe testers I work with all around the world, including in Turkey. Rest assured, whether you’re in a bustling city or in the quiet countryside, with varying ingredients and kitchen gear, this recipe has been proven to perform flawlessly.
Notable ingredients and substitutions
Known as “Barbunya” in Turkey, these vibrant maroon-hued beans are the soul of Barbunya Pilaki. These little gems are bursting with plant-based protein and dietary fiber and add a delightful bite to each spoonful. It’s best to get the fresh beans during the summer to make this dish, but I wrote it using dried beans, as that will be available to everyone, any time of the year. Common substitutes are navy or pinto beans if you can’t find borlotti beans.
Tatli Biber Salcasi
Turkish sweet pepper paste imparts a rich, tangy depth to Barbunya Pilaki. It’s a concentrated puree made from sun-drenched sweet peppers that brings a hint of sweetness and a touch of smokiness to the dish. If you want a spicier dish, you can substitute it with Aci Biber Salcasi, and if you can’t find either, you can get away with using tomato paste.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Remember: this dish is a Pilaki, which means good quality olive oil forms the backbone of the dish! I recommend using a first cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and antioxidants. To substitute, opt for other cold-pressed oils like avocado oil to maintain that lush, almost buttery essence.
📖 How to make flawless borlotti beans
Looking for some protein to add to a summertime meal of Yalya Corbasi? Here are all the steps for making perfect barbunya! Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Rinse dried romano beans under cold water to remove any dust or debris. Place them into a large jar or into a spacious bowl and cover them with water. Let the beans soak overnight or for 8 hours. After their beauty rest, drain and rinse them once again using a trusty colander or a mesh strainer.
Bring the beans to a boil over high heat in a pot with water to cover. Once it’s boiling, slap on a lid, lower the heat to medium, and let them simmer for about 40 minutes until just tender.
In a thick-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. After 60 seconds, when the oil is hot, add the diced onion and sauté for 5-6 minutes until golden. Then add the minced garlic and continue to sauté for 1-2 more minutes.
Stir in the tatli biber salçası (if you want a spicier dish, swap it for acı biber salçası) and cook with the onions and garlic for another minute.
Add the thinly sliced carrots and diced tomatoes to the mix. Let them cook together for about 3-4 minutes until the tomatoes start to break down.
Stir in the cooked borlotti beans, along with the parsley, sugar, salt, and 2 cups of water (or unsalted veggie stock). Let the mixture reach a gentle boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot, and let it simmer and reduce for 20 minutes.
Once your beans are tender, take the pot off the heat. Give it a taste test and, if needed, add a little extra seasoning. Serve either hot, room temperature, or chilled with thinly sliced lemon wedges and some fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, or some shatta sauce added for extra heat.
Barbunya is a simple gem of Turkish cuisine on its own. But here are some great dishes to serve alongside yer beans to bring your Barbunya Pilaki experience to the next level:
Barbunya Pilaki shines as the star of your mezze spread, offering a delightful pairing with classic dishes like Lahana Sarma (cabbage rolls), Vegan Labneh, and Ezogelin Corbasi (Turkish lentil and bulgur soup). Its inviting flavors mingle seamlessly, transforming your table into a mezze paradise that’s perfect for sharing and savoring.
🕰️ Pre-Soak and Drain for Perfect Beans: Take the time to pre-soak your dried borlotti beans. This step helps soften them, reducing cooking time and ensuring a consistent, tender texture. Be patient! Beans cooked at too high of a temperate tend to burst without getting the creamy texture you are gooing for. Make sure you discard the soaking water before cooking the beans as the soaking liquid will contain amino acids that cause gas that you want to get rid of.
😌 Gentle Simmering: When you bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover the pot with a lid, and let the magic happen a little slowly. This will result in fewer burst beans, and a more creamy bean texture, that has soaked up more of the flavor of the onions, garlic, and tomatoes.
🍅 Are your tomatoes a little weak? If your tomatoes aren't all that, add a little lemon juice and a dash of extra sweetener to the dish to make up for the fact that your tomatoes suck.
Absolutely! They will be more ready-to-eat, and will not require the soaking, rinsing, and cooking that the dried ones do. To substitute them for the dried beans you will need 4 cups of drained canned beans.
The pepper paste adds a unique depth of flavor, but you can substitute it with tomato paste and red pepper flakes for a similar kick.
To make Barbunya Pilaki with fresh borlotti beans, start by shelling the beans from their pods. Blanch the shelled beans in boiling water for about 2 minutes, then drain and cool them. Follow the recipe as usual, skipping the soaking and boiling steps for dried beans. Add the blanched fresh beans to the pot after sautéing the aromatics, and adjust the cooking time to simmer until the beans are tender, usually about 20-25 minutes.
Yes, Barbunya Pilaki is entirely plant-based, making it a wonderful choice for vegans and vegetarians.
Absolutely. This Barbunya Pilaki recipe is completely gluten-free!
If you plan to freeze the Barbunya Pilaki, portion it into meal-sized servings.
Place each portion into a freezer-safe container.
Seal the containers tightly and label them with the date.
Store in the freezer for up to three months.
✌️See ya later, ‘frigerator
Allow the Barbunya Pilaki to cool to room temperature before storing it.
Transfer the leftovers into an airtight container.
Store the container in the refrigerator for up to four days. For longer storage, follow freezing instructions.
🔥 Stovetop Reheating
Gently transfer the desired portion of Barbunya Pilaki from the refrigerator or freezer into a saucepan.
Add a splash of water or unsalted vegetable stock to the saucepan to prevent sticking.
Warm the dish over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it's thoroughly heated. This should take around 10-15 minutes, depending on the portion size and whether it's fresh or frozen.
☢️ Microwave Reheating
Transfer the desired portion of Barbunya Pilaki to a microwave-safe glass or ceramic container. Loosely cover the container with a microwave-safe lid or a microwave-safe plate.
Reheat the dish using the microwave's "reheat" or "medium" setting, checking and stirring every minute to ensure even heating. Reheating times will vary based on portion size and whether the dish is fresh or frozen.
✌️You might really wanna make these too.
These are some of my favey dishes to serve with these tender creamy beans:
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Barbunya Pilaki (Turkish Borlotti Beans)
- 2 cups 340 grams dried borlotti beans
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons tatli biber salcasi mild Turkish pepper paste
- 1 large carrot peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and thinly sliced
- 1 ¼ cup diced tomatoes
- ⅓ cup minced parsley
- 1 ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups water
- Thinly sliced half lemon wedges
- Flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Thoroughly rinse the dried borlotti beans under cold water. Place them in a large bowl and cover them with water. Allow the beans to soak overnight or for at least 8 hours. Drain and rinse the beans again in a colander or wire mesh strainer.
- Place the beans into a large pot with water to cover. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 40 minutes until the beans are tender. Drain the cooked beans in a colander or wire mesh strainer.
- In a thick-bottomed cooking pot or a dutch oven, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. After 60 seconds when the oil is hot, add the finely chopped onion and sauté until it turns translucent and slightly golden, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Stir in the tatli biber salçası and sauté for another minute to combine and allow the pepper paste to caramelize a little. If you want a spicier finished dish you can substitute acı biber salçası in place of the mild pepper paste.
- After a couple of minutes when the paper paste becomes fragrant, add the thinly sliced carrots and tomatoes to the pot and cook for about 3-4 minutes, allowing the tomatoes to break down a bit.
- Add the cooked borlotti beans to the pot. Sprinkle in the sugar and salt. Pour in 2 cups of water or unsalted vegetable stock to ensure the beans are well-covered. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid, and let it simmer and reduce for 20 minutes.
- Once the beans are tender and the other ingredients have transformed into a thin sauce, remove the pot from the heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve the Barbunya Pilaki hot, garnished with thinly sliced half lemon wedges and fresh chopped parsley leaves.