These giant baked lima beans, AKA, Gigantes Plaki, is a traditional Greek dish often used during the lenten season. Weather you are following a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle or just looking to add some more beans to your diet, this is a great recipe to try. Although it can take some time due to the soaking and cooking of the beans, the actual hands on time is minimum. If you don’t have a large chunk of time to do this recipe from start to end, you can do it in stages. Soaking the beans is an important step as it will help the beans cook easier and decrease the gassy effects on your GI tract. The beans can be soaked ahead of time (a couple days in advance or weeks/months in advance and freeze them).
Lima beans or butter beans are packed with nutrients and can be a great addition for anyone trying to add more plant-based foods to their diets. Lima beans are low in calories but pack a lot of nutrients making them a “nutrient dense” food. They are high in healthy complex carbohydrates and fiber. These high fiber foods are important to not only keep you full longer, helping with weight control, but can also help to slow blood sugar spikes and help decrease unhealthy blood cholesterol levels. Another important macronutrient that lima beans provide is protein. Achieving our optimal protein intake on a vegetarian/vegan diet can often be difficult. Just one serving of lima beans packs 11 grams of protein. One caution for those who are avoiding animal-based foods, lima beans are not a complete protein and so eating a variety of protein-based foods throughout the day is key to acquiring all the amino acids your body needs.
Enter the quick biochemistry lesson here!
There are 20 amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins. Think of them as letters in the alphabet- each letter is an amino acid and when strung together the letters form words, the word being the protein. If you only had one letter in the alphabet you wouldn’t be able to create many words, but with 26 letters your word choices are endless. Same goes for amino acids, with 20 amino acids, the body can create whatever protein it needs. When you eat protein, the body breaks that protein apart into the amino acids it contains. There is a “pool” of amino acids in the body called get this…… the Amino Acid Pool, where the body can then take whatever amino acids it needs and assemble them into specific proteins that the body needs at that moment. There are 20 amino acids and 9 of them are essential, meaning, we need to consume them from our diet. The other 11 our bodies are able to make. A protein source is considered a “complete protein” when it contains all these 9 essential amino acids. Often, plant-based protein sources are not complete proteins and therefore are lacking in 1 or more of the essential amino acids. When eating in this way, a person would need to ensure that they are consuming a variety of plant-based protein sources throughout the day to obtain all the essential amino acids- this is called protein complementation.
Why is this important? Well in the body, proteins build all our body tissues, from our nails, skin, hair to our organ tissue, muscles and get this…… our immune system. Being deficient in protein status can impair your immune system (something that has been on the forefront of our minds over the past year). The 9 essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Where lima beans lack is in the amino acid methionine. Eating complementary proteins is the best way to get all of the 9 essential amino acids in a vegetarian/vegan diet. Again, this is when you eat 2 plant-based proteins that make up for the essential amino acid the other food is lacking. I found this handy chart on Nutrition.org that shows you which foods you can combine to get a complete protein.
|Food||Limited Amino Acid||Complement|
|Beans||Methionine||Grains, nuts, seeds|
|Vegetables||Methionine||Grains, nuts, seeds|
Moving on from the macronutrients. Lima beans are packed with vitamins and minerals including folate, thiamine, manganese, potassium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron. Iron is an important nutrient to note here as again on a vegan or vegetarian diet, iron is often a nutrient that is lacking. Lima beans are a good source of plant-based iron. A tip to help absorb plant-based iron is to consume vitamin C along with the iron source. Studies show that consuming vitamin C with meals can help to increase plant based iron absorption. This can be done by eating high vitamin C foods or by taking a vitamin C supplement. Foods that are high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, bell peppers, melons and strawberries among many other fruits and vegetables.
Now that I have bombarded you with all of this information. Here is what you have all been waiting for! The recipe to these delicious beans. Want to incorporate all the tips mentioned above? Pair this meal with some leafy greens for vitamin C to help absorb the iron and a whole grain like brown rice so that you get all of the essential amino acids (or some grape leaves/dolmades like I did!) and you are set to go!
Giant Baked Lima Beans/ Gigantes Plaki
- 1 pound dried large lima beans
- 1 large chopped white onion
- 2 tsp. chopped garlic
- 1 Tbsp dried parsley
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. pepper
- 2 cups crushed tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups reserved cooking water from beans
- 1 cup water at room temperature
- Soak beans for 6-8 hours or overnight to speed up cooking time and to reduce undesirable GI effects.
- After they are done soaking, drain the beans and with new water, boil them for about 1 hour.
- When the beans are done boiling, reserve 2 cups of the water the beans were boiling in before draining them.
- Drain the beans and set aside. If the beans are not 100% cooked, do not worry as they will continue to cook in the oven.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a frying pan, over medium low heat, sauté the chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about a minute.
- Add the parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper mixing to combine. Cook for another minute.
- Next, add the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Cook for a few minutes then add the reserved bean water. Bring sauce to a boil.
- In a 9 X 13 in pan, evenly spread out cooked beans and pour the sauce over top. Add an additional cup of room temperature water and bake uncovered for 1 hour 30 minutes.
- During this time, stir beans every half hour or as needed and add additional water if beans look like they are drying out.
3 g fat
46 g carbohydrates
13 g dietary fiber
15 g protein