This Pasta with White Beans and garlicky kale is a classic combination of beans and greens the whole family will love! It’s a budget friendly, fast, and flavorful meatless meal. Just a handful of ingredients and the amount of time it takes to boil the noodles is all you need to get this dish on the table.
This dish proves that simple can be delicious. It’s incredibly flavorful with garlic, lemon, and thyme and just enough heat to keep it interesting. This easy dish is going to become one of your new favorites!
Ingredients you need
Ingredients notes and substitutions
Pasta ~ I like this pasta dish with spaghetti noodles. Our favorite is the Yellow Lentil Brown Rice spaghetti from Trader Joe’s. It’s gluten free and holds its shape perfectly. It does not get mushy.
Any variety of pasta will work, so use your favorite. Choose gluten free, if needed.
Beans ~ Obviously, you’ll need white beans for this Pasta with White Beans recipe. We like cannellini beans for their creamy texture and mild flavor. They’re sometimes called white kidney beans.
Great Northern or navy beans would also work.
I used canned beans for convenience. Be sure to drain and rinse them well before adding to the dish. You could also used cooked beans from scratch.
Kale ~ I’ve used Lacinato kale for this recipe. It’s the flat kind and is also known as dinosaur kale or Tuscan kale.
You could use curly kale if you prefer.
Collard greens or Swiss chard are other varieties of study leafy greens that would work well. You could even use fresh spinach if you prefer.
I don’t recommend using frozen kale for this recipe.
Spices and Herbs ~ Dried thyme and a pinch of red pepper flakes bring just enough added flavor while still letting the beans and greens shine.
The red pepper flakes have just a mild kick of heat that pairs so well with the ingredients in this vegan pasta recipe. If you are sensitive to spicy heat, you can leave it out.
Or, instead of red pepper flakes, you can add a couple of dashes of hot sauce or sriracha to individual bowls when serving.
Seasoning ~ Nutritional yeast adds a nutty, savory vibe, kind of like parmesan cheese does. It’s optional though, so you can leave it out if you don’t have it or don’t like it.
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice brightens up the whole dish. You could also add some lemon zest if you like, as well, for an extra citrus punch.
Extras ~ I love the simplicity of this dish as is, but if you want to add some extras here are a few options: halved cherry tomatoes, chopped artichoke hearts, sliced mushrooms, chopped zucchini, sliced sun dried tomatoes, or vegan parmesan cheese.
How to make the recipe
This pasta with white beans and kale is so easy to make. You need just a handful of ingredients and it all comes together in the amount of time it takes to boil the noodles.
Cook your spaghetti noodles in a large pot according to package directions in well salted water. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining.
Meanwhile, sauté the onions, salt, pepper, thyme, and red pepper flakes (1).
Add the chopped kale and garlic (2) and sauté until the kale is bright green (3).
Add the white beans and stir to combine (4).
Add the nutritional yeast, if using, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and the spaghetti noodles. Stir well to combine.
Add the reserved pasta water to loosen everything up. Finish with some fresh cracked black pepper.
This Pasta with White Beans recipe is best served immediately, but leftovers can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
It will freeze well in a freezer-safe plastic bag or container for up to 3 months.
Pro tips and tricks
~ Salt the pasta cooking water really well. It is recommended to use 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of salt per pound of pasta. Since this recipe calls for 12 ounces of pasta, I suggest ¾ to 1 tablespoon of salt.
~ Cook the pasta until al dente. Do not over cook.
~ Reserve about 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining.
~ Use fresh garlic. I do not recommend garlic powder, garlic salt, or pre-minced jarred garlic for this dish.
~ Use fresh kale, not frozen. And be sure to remove the tough, woody kale stems.
~ Use canned beans to make this dish super quick and easy. Be sure to drain and rinse them well.
~ Unless you are very sensitive to spicy heat, don’t skip the red pepper flakes.
~ For gluten-free, choose your favorite gluten free noodles.
~ For oil-free, sauté in water or broth. Please note, this option won’t be quite as flavorful as sautéing with oil.
Cannellini beans sometimes go by the name white kidney beans. And while they aren’t the same as great northern beans, they are very similar. Either variety will work in this Pasta with White Beans recipes. You could also use navy beans or even chickpeas, if you prefer.
Yes, canned beans are already cooked. They just need to be heated through in this pasta dish. If you’re making a cold pasta salad, they can be eaten as is…no need to heat. Drain and rinse them well before adding to the recipe.
More vegan pasta recipes
- Vegan Mac and Cheese
- Spaghetti with Spinach and Cranberries
- Vegan White Sauce Pasta
- Cauliflower Scampi in Lemon Garlic White Wine Sauce
- Easy Hummus Pasta
- Vegan Pasta Primavera
- Garden Veggie Pasta
I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! If you tried it, please use the rating system in the recipe card and leave a comment below with your feedback.
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Pasta with White Beans and Kale
- 12 ounces spaghetti noodles or pasta of choice; gluten free, if necessary
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ yellow onion diced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 bunch Lacinato kale woody stems removed; chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 can (15 ounces) Cannellini beans drained and rinsed; or other variety of cooked white beans.
- 1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast optional
- squeeze of fresh lemon to taste
- Cook the pasta according to package directions in well salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté 4 to 5 minutes, until soft and translucent.
- Add the thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add the chopped kale and garlic. Sauté 3 to 4 minutes until the kale has wilted slightly and is bright green.
- Add the white beans and stir to combine. Sauté 2 to 3 minutes to heat through.
- Add the nutritional yeast, if using, and stir to combine.
- Add the cooked pasta to the skillet. Stir to combine. Tip: Kitchen tongs are easier to use here than a spoon or spatula.
- Add ½ cup of the reserved pasta cooking water to thin the sauce and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Add the remaining ½ cup of pasta cooking water if you like it saucier. *If you forgot to reserve the pasta cooking water, you can use vegetable broth.
- Garnish with fresh cracked black pepper, if desired, and serve immediately.
Storage/Freezing This recipe is best served immediately, but leftovers can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. It will freeze well in a freezer-safe plastic bag or container for up to 3 months.
Nutrition facts calculated using Trader Joe’s Yellow Lentil and Brown Rice Spaghetti. Different varieties of pasta will yield different nutritional amounts.