Recipe: Bean Bourguignon

I was reading Runner’s World recently, and found a very good looking recipe in it.  Generally, I find their recipe’s too look great, but be way too high in sugar for my preference.  It’s funny – usually they have naturally sweet ingredients (like fruit), but then add more sugar, honey or maple syrup on top of that, and I never know why they do that.  Of course, by, “it’s funny,” I mean, “it’s sad and unnecessary.”

So, with a bit of skepticism, I read a recipe for making a classic, rich, savory dish into one a bit healthier.  Bouf Bourguignon is an old French classic for a rich, flavorful, slow-cooked treat. If you’ve seen the movie Julie & Julia, you may recognize the dish’s name.  Runner’s World replaced the beef with white beans, so as to be more health-conscious while still providing lots of protein. Oddly enough, they add in prosciutto for flavor, thus dashing any hopes of this being a vegetarian or vegan dish.  My version kept with the meat, but I have a couple of ways to move further away from carnivority (if that’s a word, which it isn’t).

So, here’s the Runner’s World recipe, as it appears on their site, save for one edit.  They left out re-adding the mushrooms, so I’ve written that in below (see the blue text). This comes from


Photo courtesy of Runner’s World

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 package (10 ounces) baby portabella mushrooms, quartered, or cut into sixths if large
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, minced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup flour
1 cup dry red wine, such as cabernet sauvignon, burgundy, or merlot
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
3 cans (15 ounces each) white beans, drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms. Cook for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until liquid evaporates and mushrooms start to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add remaining tablespoon of oil and onion to the pot. Cook onion, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes, or until translucent. Add prosciutto, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves.
Add the cooked mushrooms back in. Cook for 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir. Whisk in wine and broth. Stir in the beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in the parsley and serve. Serves 6.
Nutrition Information
Calories Per Serving: 377
Carbs: 44 g
Fiber: 9 g
Protein: 22 g
Fat: 11 g

It’s a very simple dish, actually, with the toughest part being, well, just about nothing. OK, if you use fresh thyme like I did, picking it from the stems is time-consuming.  It’s basically about throwing things in a pot, sometimes taking some out before adding them back in – but you could even skip that, and just add the onions after the mushrooms cook.  I wouldn’t, but it’s probably not that big of a deal.

So, what did I do to alter this?  Well, first, I don’t drink, so the wine had to go.  This allowed me to make this recipe while sticking to my Clean14 pledge of no alcohol (along with other things). I was trying to think of what to use instead, and my wife had a brilliant idea – seriously brilliant – use pomegranate juice. It has a similar flavor profile and tartness.  It is very sugary, though, which is my only concern. A serving of POM Wonderful has over 30 grams of sugar. You could also use tart cherry juice. I just looked at a concentrate version on Amazon, and it has 14 grams per serving, so that would work nicely, too.

The second thing I changed was to ditch the white flour. That has the nice effect of making this a gluten-free dish, while also replacing wasteful carbs with more productive carbs and protein.  You can go several ways here, but I chose a mix of almond and coconut flour. The coconut flour is closer to white flour in consistency, while the protein and carb profile of almond flour is really nice. I also think it gives a richness to dishes while not adding rich stuff.  I was also a little concerned with the coconut flour giving coconut flavor to the dish.  I can say this didn’t happen at all given how flavorful the other ingredients are, and how little you’re using (it’s only a 1/4 cup of flour, so even all coconut flour should’t do much).  As always, I’d recommend Bob’s Red Mill for your flour needs.  They’re a great company with great products and great values.

Third thing I changed was to use natural, black forest bacon.  Nothing wrong with prosciutto if you’re ok with meat (and pork), but the really good stuff without junk preservatives can be very costly.  I added 20 strips of well-cooked bacon (I bought pre-cooked, but you can cook it yourself – I just didn’t have the time) for about 1/4 the price of 6 ounces of prosciutto.  This gave a lot of great flavor to the dish.

To avoid pork, you could easily use turkey bacon (I actually intended to, but the Whole Foods I went to was out of it when I went).  To go vegan, you can use vegan bacon. It doesn’t have the same flavor, but it has a good flavor, and I think would definitely do the job. If you don’t want to do that, you could add probably a tablespoon of liquid smoke to get the same effect.  Lastly, if you want to avoid adding something like that, you could use shiitake mushrooms, which have a nice, woody, smokey flavor to them.  I’d do another 10 ounces (so doubling the amount of mushrooms), and make sure they’re nicely cut up to release as much flavor as possible.  To keep it vegan, you could easily use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth (as RW points out), but you could even possibly use miso soup (Whole Food’s 365 brand has a miso broth that has a very light flavor, and could help make up for the lack of wine by adding a bit of fermentation to the dish).  I haven’t tried doing it with miso, but a gentle miso broth could work nicely here.

My only other change was to add way more thyme than they recommend, and to do so with fresh thyme.  I love the taste of thyme, and it can help to make up for the lost flavors from rendering beef, wine or prosciutto.

The whole thing, including picking the thyme from the stems, took about 40 minutes, with 30 of that being cooking.

So how did it taste?  Honestly, unreal.  The house smelled amazingly, too.  I got three good-sized servings out of it, but I’m not sharing them with anyone because I’m stingy and like it took much.  This would go really well over brown rice or quinoa (tip – cook them in chicken, veggie or miso broth for an even better taste), or on its own.  I put it over a little bit of chicken-stock-cooked brown rice.  It would also pair really nicely with some rutabaga chips.

About bryan falchuk

bryan falchuk is the founder of, a certified personal trainer, behavior change specialist and the best-selling author of "Do a Day". bryan coaches people on their whole health - the physical, mental and emotional combination of wellness that we need to thrive and change our lives.

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