Gigandes plaki (γιγαντες πλακι)

A variety of beans are used in Greek cooking. Small beans, such as haricot beans are used in fasolada soup or chilled summer salads. However, giant white beans, known as 'butter beans' in English are the sole contenders for being baked in the oven in a classic dish called "gigandes plaki" also spelled gigantes or yigandes (γίγαντες πλακί).

While many there many different regional recipes for this dish, most commonly the beans are first cooked in water to soften them and then baked in fresh tomato sauce with carrots and celery. In some areas, particularly in northern Greece, a more hearty winter version of the dish calls for spinach, sausage or even spicy whole chili peppers to be added. In our family, my mother in law's Zakynthian origins shine through in this recipe with a classic Ionian style freshly grated tomato sauce, flavoured with plenty of parsley and garlic. You can reduce the amounts of these in the recipe if you prefer a more mildly flavoured dish. 

When it comes to serving, small bowls of gigandes plaki are a classic meze, just waiting for an ouzo or a glass of wine. I recently served them alongside some swiss chard dolmades and roasted red peppers, marinated with plenty of olive oil, wine vinegar and garlic. 

Gigandes plaki (γίγαντες πλακί)

Serves 6; cooking time around soaking overnight, plus 1&1/2 hours


500 grams dried giant beans
500 grams ripe tomatoes, grated
1 cup olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk , finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
3 - 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of honey or petimezi
1-2 tsp boukovo or dried red pepper flakes
1 cup hot water
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
Crumbled Greek feta, to serve
Greek dried rigani, to serve 


1. Put the beans in a pot, cover them with plenty of water and let them soak overnight. The next day, rinse the beans well and discard the water.

2. Return the beans to the cleaned pot and add enough water to cover them. Simmer for about 1 hour or until tender. Don't add salt as soon as you start cooking the beans because they will become tough. Rinse the beans again, drain well and put into a baking pan.

3. Preheat oven to 200C. In a separate saucepan, pan put half of the olive oil, add the onion and cook until tender. Add tomatoes, celery, parsley, chili flakes, carrots, garlic, hot water, honey and cook the sauce for 20 minutes to let the flavors to combine. Season to taste.

4. Pour the sauce over the beans in the baking pan, so that they are well coated, and drizzle with the rest of the olive oil. You can also cover the beans with some slices to tomato at this point, but it is an optional touch. Cook for the beans for about 40-45 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Serve warm garnished with parsley, a sprinkling of dried rigani and crumbled feta.

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Maira Gall