If you are looking for a simple yet meaty and delicious dish, then this French Cassoulet is certainly it. Abundantly full of protein from the beans to the various meat portions that are embedded in this one pot dish.
French Cassoulet is a dish native to the French as one can deduce from the name. It comprises white beans baked with various meats.
This dish which started as peasant food with few ingredients and embellishments is now an elaborate dish that includes many rich ingredients and condiments.
As a result, French Cassoulet is a dish that is both nutritious as it is tasty.
Origin of French Cassoulet
Apart from being tasty and nutritious, the French Cassoulet has a rich history connected to it.
The dish started in the southwestern part of ancient France.
The dish got its name from the cooking pot used to make it, the cassole d’Issel.
The first pot of French Cassoulet was, however, made in the town of Castelnaudary, Occitanie.
The town was one of those under the siege of the English fighters during the Hundred Years’ War that raged between 1337 and 1453.
Legend has it that the townspeople gathered all the food items and ingredients that they could find and made a large pot of stew to fortify the soldiers that were defending the country against the invaders.
The French soldiers eventually won the war and saved the town, and the entire country from occupation, and this contributed to the popularity of the dish.
The basic dish that was first prepared has beans combined with ham, pork, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and onions.
As the popularity of the dish grew across France, people started adding more condiments to the dish.
For instance, partridges and mutton were added in Carcassonne while people in Toulouse added Toulouse sausages duck and goose fat to their version of French Cassoulet.
That being said, our dish is the replica of the Toulouse version as we are using the duck and its fat into our dish.
We did not use the actual Toulouse sausage, but we are using beef sausage that is more readily available here in the U.S.
Duck confit may not be readily available in some parts of the U.S, therefore we opted to cook our own duck legs while embedding the remaining duck fat in the dish to maintain authenticity.
The type of beans used for the French Cassoulet also depends on the area or region where it is made.
In the southern part of France, the Tarbais bean is a widely used option. The beans grow at the foot of the Pyrenees.
Up north, the beans used for the French Cassoulet are the flageolet beans.
The sophistication that the French Cassoulet undergo didn’t come into play until the 1850s when local farm girls in France went to work for the bourgeois class and started adding more ingredients to make it befitting for those in the higher social class.
Nowadays, this dish is such a big deal in France that there is a body called the Grande Confrerie du Cassoulet which translates as the Grand Brotherhood of the Cassoulet.
Cassoulet is such a popular dish that it has many different versions throughout the Mediterranean region and Europe.
For instance, Spain’s version of the cassoulet is the “Cazoleta” while the Turkish version is called “Etli, Pastirmali Kuru Fasulye”; which is made with beef and dried pastirma (dried meat).
Having touched on the history and origin of the dish, let us discuss some of the key ingredients used in making French Cassoulet.
Beans are the main ingredients used in making French Cassoulet.
This protein-rich, gluten-free staple has been the cornerstone of the dish since its invention and that is not changing anytime soon.
Due to the evolution of the dish, many people used different types of beans for making their French Cassoulet.
However, this stance is not shared by many French people or lovers of French Cassoulet. They maintain that the best type of beans for making the French Cassoulet is the Tarbais beans.
Whether it is the historical attachment that the beans have with the dish or its impressive taste, a lot of aficionados of the dish won’t touch a French Cassoulet that is not made with Tarbais beans.
And rightly so, because the beans have a creamy and enticing taste and the mingling of the meat and seasoning used in the dish makes it taste a lot better.
However, you don’t have to use Tarbais beans for your French Cassoulet before it comes out well.
The Tarbais beans are a bit expensive and it is not very easy to get especially around the U.S. Many people who are looking to make the French Cassoulet for the first time might also run into trouble when trying to use the Tarbais beans.
Therefore, it is better to use the readily available option.
Since we could not obtain Tarbais or other dry white beans in our area, we opted to make this recipe with can white beans (Cannellini beans).
Cannellini beans are also known as white kidney beans, northern beans, fasolia beans, and or Italian kidney beans. The Italian version of the cassoulet is actually made with cannellini beans.
You can use Navy beans or ordinary beans. As long as it is well cooked and you follow our recipe accordingly, your French Cassoulet will come out quite alright.
From the history and brief description of the dish, it is evident that meats are also a very important ingredient in the French Cassoulet.
And similarly, with beans, there is a wide range of meat options available that you can use when making your French Cassoulet.
For some people, chicken is the perfect meat option, for some, the traditional goose fat, duck meat and confit, pork, and sausage is the best option.
For the duck confit, depending on where you are it may be hard to obtain. The duck confit is simply cooked duck legs embedded in its own fat.
For this recipe, we did however got a whole duck in order to use the legs, but don’t worry the remaining duck was not wasted.
Cook the duck on its own fat in a cured cast iron skillet without any other oils. Duck is an extremely fatty meat and will produce its own oil and fat as you cook it.
You will later utilized that fat in the same skillet as you bake the cassoulet.
Traditionally, Cassoulet is made with pork belly, pork sausage, and spicy dried pork sausage. In our recipe, we used several beef variations.
If you so chose to use other meat options, feel free to use the same measurements in this recipe.
The bottom line is that you can use any type of meat as long as you get the process and recipe right.
For our recipe, we are using all beef products, but your imagination is your only restriction in choosing the type of meat to use.
Ingredients to make this dish and cooking method
2 Cans of 15.5oz of Cannellini Beans
64oz Beef broth (2-32oz reduced sodium bottles)
2 garlic cloves
2 thyme twigs
2 Parsley twigs
2 Bay leaves
2 tablespoon Tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
2 pcs Duck legs
½ lbs. Beef short ribs
6oz Hillshire beef sausage (half of the kielbasa sausage)
4oz beef salami (half of an 8oz package)
½ lbs. beef tips tenderloins
In a medium to large pot, add the beans and the beef broth and all the spices (garlic gloves, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper, and bay leaves).
Since we are using can beans, let it simmer for 20 minutes so the beans can soak up all the flavors (DO NOT COOK ON HIGH HEAT).
If you are using dry beans, use about 1lbs of dry beans, cover the beans with water and soak it overnight. Drain the old water and replace with 8 cups of clean water.
Cook the bean on medium heat for an hour (check periodically) or until tender but not fully cooked and follow the remaining procedures for the recipe.
Make sure to add more water as needed if too much of it evaporated.
Clean the duck legs under cold water and pat dry. In a cast iron skillet, cook the duck legs with salt and pepper to taste on medium-low until tender and brown throughout.
Using the same skillet with the duck grease in it, cook the beef short ribs than remove. Continue in the same skillet, cook the sausages and the tenderloins.
Cook the beef meats until they are perfectly brown on the outside but not all the way cooked inside. Do keep in mind they will continue to cook in the oven.
Remove the beans from the broth but do not discard the beef broth. Add the beans in the cast iron skillet, arrange all the meats evenly in the skillet.
Add the broth to cover all the ingredients and sprinkle the bread crumbs to fully cover the casserole. Bake for 1 ½ hours at 350º while checking every 30 minutes to make sure the broth has not been totally evaporated.
Add broth as necessary by inserting a small incision at the top of the casserole. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Add remaining broth in the serving plate around the cassoulet to eat.
How to pair / serving suggestions
To get the best out of your dish, you can combine the French Cassoulet with the following side dishes;
- Flavorful Dessert such the French Mousse au Chocolat or the French Lemon Load Cake
- Salad Nicoise
- Marinated Cucumber Tomato Salad
- Vegan Asparagus Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
- Wine such as Madiran, Cotes du Rhone Villages, Cahors, and Hearty Languedoc Reds, among other options. If you are serving the dish with wine we have a full list of wine suggestions here and how many ounce is in a bottle of wine.
Storing Your Classic Cassoulet
As with many dishes, you can store the French Cassoulet by freezing or refrigerating it. The duration of the storage determines which of the two options you use.
Whether you are refrigerating or freezing, these are the steps involved in storing your French Cassoulet;
Allow your French Cassoulet to cool
You need to ensure that your dish is cool or at least, at room temperature before transferring it into the freezer or refrigerator.
Use Safe Containers
If you are going to freeze your French Cassoulet, you may want to transfer it into a safe container before putting it into the deep freezer.
Seal and Label
You must seal the French Cassoulet, especially if you are freezing for a long period, say 3 to 6 months. You can also label the container, showing the date you prepared it.
Important tips when storing this classic dish
You can thaw and reheat the dish after freezing. However, it helps to add water before thawing. This way, you can ensure it cooks well when you defrost it.
However, you mustn’t add too much water so as not to water down the taste.
It warms our hearts to see the recipes you make from this site, and we’d especially would love to know if you tried this recipe.
Tag us on Instagram or Facebook so we can see your beautiful dish.
Also, we would appreciate if could give it a star rating below!
Classic French Cassoulet Recipe
- Baking Dish Optional
- 2 Cans of 15.5oz of Cannellini Beans
- 64 oz Beef broth 2-32oz reduced sodium bottles
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 thyme twigs
- 2 Parsley twigs
- 2 Bay leaves
- 2 tablespoon Tomato paste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 pcs Duck legs
- ½ lbs. Beef short ribs
- 6 oz Hillshire beef sausage half of the kielbasa sausage
- 4 oz beef salami half of an 8oz package
- ½ lbs. beef tips tenderloins
- In a medium to large pot, add the beans and the beef broth and all the spices (garlic gloves, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper, and bay leaves). Let it simmer for 20 minutes so the beans can soak up all the flavors (DO NOT COOK ON HIGH HEAT). If you are using dry beans, use about 1lbs of dry beans, cover the beans with water and soak it overnight. Drain the old water and replace with 8 cups of clean water. Cook the bean on medium heat for an hour (check periodically) or until tender but not fully cooked and follow the remaining procedures for the recipe. Make sure to add more water as needed if too much of it evaporated.
- Clean the duck legs under cold water and pat dry. In a cast iron skillet, cook the duck legs with salt and pepper to taste on medium-low until tender and brown throughout. Using the same skillet with the duck grease in it, cook the beef short ribs than remove. Continue in the same skillet, cook the sausages and the tenderloins. Cook the beef meats until they are perfectly brown on the outside but not all the way cooked inside. Do keep in mind they will continue to cook in the oven.
- Remove the beans from the broth but do not discard the beef broth. Add the beans in the cast iron skillet, arrange all the meats evenly in the skillet. Add the broth to cover all the ingredients and sprinkle the bread crumbs to fully cover the casserole. Bake for 1 ½ hours at 350º while checking every 30 minutes to make sure the broth has not been totally evaporated. Add broth as necessary by inserting a small incision at the top of the casserole. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Add remaining broth in the serving plate around the cassoulet to eat.
Thanks for sharing your recipe
Comfort food at its best! My husband (who has French roots) said it was the best cassoulet he’s tasted in years! So hearty, filling and full of flavours and textures! Thanks for the recipe 🙂
Thank you, Leva!
You really nailed the classic here and I respect that. The addition of short ribs is bold but smart. This dish is the epitome of comfort food and I love how you dialled in the rich history of this great dish.
Thank you so much, Devan!
I love cassoulet, having lived in France it was a regular meal. I love the different flavours in this version and how easy it is to make.
So glad to hear that Amanda. Thank you.
Omg this dish totally took me back to my days in France! It was hearty, comforting and so delicious!
This brought a smile to my face. Thank you, Anjali.
I’ve only ever tried French cassoulet in restaurants before. It’s so nice to find a good recipe here. It’s a bit of a project, but it’s totally worth all the effort.