What is cassoulet?
A traditional French cassoulet is a time consuming creation. You should expect it to take actual days to complete. If you want to go that route and can source all the ingredients, check out these recipes from Bon Appetit or The Kitchn. They are showstoppers for sure.
If, however, you can’t or don’t want to go through the process of cooking dried beans overnight or confiting duck legs, this easy cassoulet recipe might be the option for you!
Variations on the classic
Most cassoulet recipes require soaking dried beans overnight. I skip that entirely and use canned white beans. I know, I know…. but we’re in the middle of a pandemic! And it’s what I’ve got on hand! AND it’s just all around easier. So step 1: use canned beans – check!
Step 2: instead of using duck legs, you could absolutely substitute chicken quarters or bone-in thighs. I omitted the poultry altogether, so that’s another option.
Instead of a traditional pork sausage, I used chorizo. I love the flavor of chorizo, and it works so well with tomatoes and white beans. It’s got slightly more heat than plain sausage due to smoked paprika and chile peppers, but it’s definitely not spicy. It works well here!
To add a touch of umami, I use a heaping teaspoon of anchovy paste. Trust me, you’ll never know it’s there. Mostly it adds a little depth of flavor.
I will be the first to admit that this looks like a lot of ingredients. In some ways it is… this is more ingredients than I usually feature in a recipe. But the payoff is huge, and once you get everything in the pan, it’s a hands off recipe. The oven does the majority of the work, leaving you plenty of time for a glass of vino!
- chorizo sausage (I used pork, but you could use chicken!): a smoked or cured pork sausage that adds serious depth of flavor to this dish
- pancetta: salt cured pork belly that is cubed
- red onion: when sautéed, the onions become more mellow and sweet
- shallots: less intense than red onions, but add a similar flavor profile
- garlic: to add flavor to the whole dish!
- crushed and whole canned tomatoes: you can use fresh tomatoes, but I find canned is easier, especially during this crazy time
- white beans (such as navy beans, cannelini beans, or northern beans): while larger gigante beans are more traditional, these canned white beans are widely available nationwide. The beans add a creamy texture that absorbs the delicious sauce!
- anchovy paste: to add umami and depth without biting into an actual anchovy
- chicken stock (low-sodium): for moisture and to help create that luscious sauce
- lemon zest: adds brightness to an otherwise heavy dish
- bay leaf: dried bay leaf is used to flavor the sauce
- fresh thyme: fresh herbs add immense flavor to any dish (other herbs can be substituted!)
- fresh breadcrumbs or store-bought breadcrumbs: mixed with butter and fresh herbs to make a crispy topping for the cassoulet
- unsalted butter: melted and mixed with breadcrumbs to form the topping
- kosher salt: to season everything
- freshly ground black pepper: to season the dish
- fresh parsley: for the crunchy breadcrumb topping and to garnish the dish before serving
How to make cassoulet
Instead of layering all the various meats in a traditional cassoulet, the assembly of this dish is astonishingly simple:
In a large, heavy dutch oven or cast iron skillet with deep sides (I love all things Staub!), sauté pancetta until crispy, then cook aromatics (onion, shallot, garlic) until fragrant. Add anchovy paste, canned tomatoes, fresh herbs, and white beans, then toss to combine. Nestle chorizo sausage into sauce, then pour in chicken stock (or water) and top with breadcrumbs. Bake slowly, then serve!
How long to cook
A cassoulet should cook slowly in an oven. For this recipe, the chorizo cassoulet cooks for a total of 2 hours at 325F.
Halfway through the cook time, you’ll add an additional layer of breadcrumbs for a super crispy topping! I use homemade pumpernickel breadcrumbs mixed with butter, and it is THE BEST.
What to serve with this easy cassoulet
A great cassoulet needs nothing else. It is so hearty, so filling, it’s an entire meal all on its own. If you’re craving something green, a light arugula salad would be an acceptable side dish, but I say SKIP THE SIDES and move straight onto a classic french dessert. I love this updated twist on a traditional mille feuille with caramel mascarpone cream!
If you make this Easy Chorizo Cassoulet, please let me know by leaving a rating and review below!
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For more easy dinner recipes, check out the following:
Easy Chorizo Cassoulet
- 1 ¼ lb chorizo sausage
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 oz pancetta cubed
- 1 medium red onion about 2 cups, diced
- 1 large shallot minced
- 5 cloves garlic peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp anchovy paste
- 1 (28 oz) canned crushed tomatoes
- 1 (14 oz) canned cherry tomatoes
- 2 (15 oz) canned white beans such as navy beans, cannelini beans, or northern beans
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 dried bay leaf
- ½ cup low-sodium chicken stock
- 3 cups homemade pumpernickel breadcrumbs see note below
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 1 ½ tsp kosher salt divided
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- zest from 1 lemon
- fresh parsley for garnish
- Preheat oven to 325F. Heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat, then add pancetta and cook until crispy on all sides, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pancetta to a paper-towel lined plate or bowl.
- Increase heat to medium-high, then add onion and shallot. Cook 2 minutes, until translucent, then add garlic. Cook 1 minute more.
- Add anchovy paste, then use a wooden spoon to break up and dissolve. Next, add tomatoes, beans, cooked pancetta, thyme, and bay leaf, then toss gently to combine. Season with 1 tsp kosher salt and ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper.
- Nestle uncooked chorizo into sauce, then add ½ cup chicken stock.
- Meanwhile, make breadcrumbs. Combine 3 cups fresh bread crumbs with 6 Tbsp melted unsalted butter, ½ tsp kosher salt, and lemon zest, then toss to evenly coat. Sprinkle half the breadcrumb mixture evenly on top of chorizo and sauce, then bake for 1 hour. Sprinkle on remaining breadcrumbs directly on top of cassoulet, then bake an additional hour. Sprinkle with parsley, then serve immediately.
- Chorizo and pancetta: traditional French cassoulet is made with a variety of meats — usually pork and duck — but you can use chicken chorizo or other types of sausage and cured meats if you prefer!
- Tomatoes: Any type of canned tomatoes are fine — whole, crushed, diced, puréed. Use what you’ve got.
- Beans: traditional cassoulets use dried large Tarbais or Corona beans that are soaked overnight. The beauty of this time saving cassoulet is that it’s totally acceptable to use canned! You can, of course, soak beans overnight and use those instead if that’s desired.
- Breadcrumbs: if you don’t have or don’t want to use homemade breadcrumbs, substitute 2 cups panko breadcrumbs. If you’re using fresh, you can use any bread you have on hand — sourdough, baguette, country loaf, whole wheat, rye!
- Anchovies: you can substitute 2 jarred anchovies in place of anchovy paste. You’ll still dissolve them with a wooden spoon in the pan before adding tomatoes.
- Freeze: cassoulet is best enjoyed fresh, but you can assemble and freeze either before or after baking. After cooking sauce, allow to cool completely, then transfer to a casserole dish. Once cool, add uncooked chorizo and freeze without breadcrumbs. When ready to cook, defrost overnight, then top with breadcrumb mixture and bake according to cook time above. If freezing cooked cassoulet, simply defrost overnight then reheat in 325F oven until warmed through.