Fasolia Yabsa, which literally translates to "dry beans" is one of the most classic iraqi dishes. It's made up of tender lamb or veal, white kidney beans (also called cannellini beans) and tomato sauce and served over rice. It is known to be an "everyday" dish. As in, we would cook this as a weekday meal for the family (not necessarily for occasions/parties). But it's such a special "everyday" dish, full of flavour and nutrition, and surprisingly so easy to make with a few of my tricks.
How to make Fasolia the Iraqi way
The star flavours in this dish are the white beans (obviously), the meat, the onions and the tomato sauce. It's a really simple dish but when the ingredients all simmer together, it's really delicious. The white beans are so nutritious and pack a lot of protein, and they have such a deep umami flavour. If I'm using dry beans, I typically use my Instant Pot to cut down cooking time, or you can use any pressure cooker. This is how it goes:
- Start by soaking the dry beans overnight in water (this takes 2 minutes! more on why I use dry beans below)
- For the meat, you can use lamb, veal, or beef. I found that using veal is best since it's usually more tender than beef, and I also use lamb from time to time. Beef can be used too but generally yields a tougher consistency. The meat can be in small cubes or larger pieces, and the amount can be adjusted based on how many people you are serving. Generally speaking, a small amount of meat is added to add flavour to the stew, so you don't need to add a lot. The Fasolia beans are the star here! Make sure you season the meat with salt and pepper and sear on all sides.
- Add the diced onions and continue to cook it with the meat for a few minutes
- Add tomato paste, salt and pepper and caramelize the tomato paste to give it extra flavour. You can also use tomato sauce and adjust the liquid accordingly, but I find that using tomato paste gives me more control with how thick/thin I want it to be. Everyone has different preferences for this.
- Add the Fasolia or white beans along with the water and pressure cook for about 8 minutes if you're using an Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Otherwise you can boil the beans for 1-2 hours until tender
- Check the seasoning and adjust the water level by simmering it for 10-15 minutes. The simmering process is important as it'll help you either thicken your stew (by adding more tomato paste and/or boiling off some water) or thin it out by adding a bit more water. Taste it until it's perfect and you're done!
Dry white beans vs. canned white beans
You can definitely use canned beans in this Fasolia recipe. Simply rinse them out and add them to the pot after you follow the same recipe steps, but you won't need to cook them for long. They will need about 30 minutes to simmer. I do this a lot if I've forgotten to soak the beans! And sometimes you just need a quick meal on the table - I totally get it. This would also be a good solution if you don't have a pressure cooker.
If you have an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, I do recommend trying it with the dry beans, they really do taste better in my opinion, and the soaking takes 2 minutes if you remember to do it the night before.
How to make this dish vegetarian
Often times, to cut down our meat consumption, I will make Fasolia vegetarian. Simply skip the meat and add another onion to get more flavour into the stew. Also use vegetable broth instead of the water, or replace half the water with vegetable broth. You will have to reduce the amount of salt, because you don't have meat in there and also depending on the type of broth you're using. It will still taste so good!
How to serve Fasolia
Fasolia is best eaten with a serving of white rice, and a side of salad. In Iraq, we actually like to serve it with some green onions on the side, and I LOVE it that way. You simply take a spoonful of the rice and Fasolia, then you bite into the green onion. So good! You can also eat it as if its a chilli with a crusty piece of bread, too.
If you make this Fasolia, you have to let me know by leaving me a comment and a rating below! I absolutely love hearing what you guys have to say. 🙂
For more Middle Eastern recipes, check out:
Fasolia Yabsa (Iraqi White Bean Stew)
- 2 cups dry white beans
- 0.5 to 1 kg diced boneless stewing veal amount per preference. see notes
- 2 onions roughly 2 cups when diced
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 5 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 and ¼ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Start by soaking the white beans in a bowl overnight in 5 cups of water. They should roughly double in size the next day and yield close to 4 cups of beans
- Season the meat with ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Add the vegetable oil to the instant pot (or a regular pot if you're using stovetop directions) along with the meat and sear for 5-6 minutes on sauté mode, flipping on all sides until browned
- Meanwhile finely dice the onions, then add them to the pot and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Add ½ teaspoon of salt to help the onions cook down
- Add 5 tablespoons of tomato paste and stir with the onions and the meat, allowing it to caramelize for 2-3 minutes
- Add the drained beans along with 5.5 cups of water, 1 and ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Mix everything together
- Pressure cook on high for 8 minutes. If you're using the stovetop, boil everything for 1 to 1.5 hours until meat and beans are tender. You may need to replenish the water as the level goes down, so check on it every 20 minutes or so adjust
- Manually release the pressure and open the lid. Check the stew for seasoning and simmer it for 10-15 minutes on sauté mode. This step will help thicken the stew broth and balance all the flavours
- Serve with white rice, salad, and some yogurt and enjoy
- Veal is what I commonly use in this stew, however, you can use stewing beef, lamb chops, or even chicken pieces. It's versatile!
- To make this vegetarian, use an extra onion and replace the meat broth with vegetable broth. You will have to reduce the amount of salt used, so adjust it to your taste.