Kuru fasulye – Pilav… Ultimate Comfort Pair for a Turk…

You know there are some word pairs that when someone says one, you have to say the other. Say “Marco” and see how quickly the next person say “Polo”.

“Kuru fasulye-pilav” would be the one for many Turks…We would not be able to resist saying “Pilav” if someone says “Kuru fasulye” .

Because if there is kuru fasulye (cannellini bean stew) on the table, there will be pilav. The lack of it is not acceptable to many hard core lovers of this dish – like me.

We do not have a common Turkish phrase for “comfort food”. The descriptions such as “home-made”, “just like my mother used to make” reflect that feeling slightly in its undertones. Everyone has one food that takes them back home instantly when they eat it. This would come in Top Ten list, I believe, for many Turks.

Every household has a favorite version of this cannellini bean stew, made with or without meat, served over or with the side of rice. It is simple, warming, no-fuss type of stew that only a bowl of buttery rice will highlight its flavor and make it your comfort food on a cold winter night.

One common type of meat added to this dish in my household is Turkish soujuk. Especially spicy one. However, we just use whatever we have at hand in terms of meat and sometimes go without it. I love the soujuk version because it already has garlic, spices and heat along with fat incorporated in the meat, adding a wonderful flavor. If you can not find Turkish soujuk and if you like spicy sausage, you can add Andouille sausage instead.

Any rice will do to serve this dish but the Turkish way requires white rice, sauteed in butter, sprinkled with orzo or very thin vermicelli pieces, cooked in flavorful stock. It requires a tad bit more effort than just dumping the rice in boiling water, like package instructions suggest. But it will taste a whole lot better.

In Turkey, making the rice proper way carries a lot of weight when it comes to judging your cooking skills. Even though we have many rice dishes that include pinenuts, currants, saffron, vegetables, or meat that will let you hide behind those flavors, the taste and texture of just plain Turkish pilav you cook will tell people how seriously you are taking this cooking thing. Because those little white grains will give you away, no kidding!

I have learned several steps from my grandma Emine, and I follow them everytime I make Turkish pilav. In Turkey, we heavily use Baldo type rice. You can try with short-grain white rice that you can buy from your grocery store. I have tried many and finally settled on “Egyptian rice” that I found at Halal Market in Charlotte, NC.

Here are the tips I learned from Grandmother Emine during our talks by the stove:

– Soak up the rice in warm water for half an hour.

– Wash several times until the whiteness from starch goes away considerably.

– Always saute your rice in butter until it turns translucent.

– Use chicken or beef stock (I normally use chicken) in combination with water. Add a little bit salt if you are cooking with stock.

– Once the rice is cooked, put a paper towel or clean dish towel under the lid, put the lid back on and let it “steep” ,as we say, for 15 minutes before you serve the rice.

Once kuru fasulye is cooked and pilav is resting, you can bring the pickled vegetables (in our house, it was mostly pickled baby cucumbers, green beans, and cabbage) and Aleppo pepper to the table to serve with your dish. I love making a bed from pilav, then load spoons of kuru fasulye on top of it. Sprinkle some Aleppo pepper and you are in comfort heaven…no matter what language you speak.

Kuru Fasulye (Cannellini Bean Stew)and Turkish Pilav

  • 2 cups of uncooked cannellini beans
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium Cubanella or sweet banana peppers
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 medium very ripe tomatoes (peeled and grated)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Couple sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dry thyme

1.Soak the beans overnight.

2. Heat the pan and add the olive oil.

3. If you want to add meat, brown 1/2 to 3/4 lb stew meat in olive oil quickly and set it aside on a plate.

4. Add chopped onions in the heated pan, saute until they lose their firmness.

5. Add garlic and chopped Cubanella peppers, saute for 2-3 minutes.

6. Mix grated tomato, tomato paste and all spices and herbs in a small bowl. Add to the pan.

7. Add the soaked beans and add water until beans are covered (I use the same small bowl I mixed the spices in for adding water, this way, I can rinse whatever left in the bowl into the pan).  At this point, if you are using meat, add it back to the pan.

8. Bring it to a boil, cover with the lid and reduce the heat to medium-low to simmer. Cook until all done.Add more water if necessary during cooking process. It should not be soupy but it should have enough liquid to make it stew like.

9. If you are adding Andouille sausage or Turkish soujuk instead of stew meat, add it half way through cooking.

Turkish Pilav

  • 1 cup of Egyptian or Baldo rice(or your choice of rice)
  • 1.5 cup of water/chicken broth mix (or see what the package is saying for your rice in terms of cooking liquid amount)
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons of orzo or 3 tablespoons of thin vermicelli
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (increase to 1 teaspoon if you are using only water)

1. Soak the rice for half an hour in warm water. Wash to get rid of starch several times.Drain.

2. Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Add vermicelli or orzo, saute a minute or until they slightly brown.

3. Add the rice to the pan, continue sauteing until rice turns translucent.

4. Add water and salt. Bring it to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover and let it cook for about 20-25 minutes or until all water is gone.

5. Put a clean dish towel or paper towel under the lid, cover, set aside for 15 minutes before serving.




  1. by Jen Y.
    7:01 am
    Jan 7, 2013


    You’re the second person to mention Aleppo pepper in as many days. I may need to borrow a little from you to see what it’s all about!

    Also the stew sounds fabulous. I have some cannellini beans that need to be used, and I’d love trying them this way with chicken andouille sausage!

  2. by Angie@Angie's Recipes
    5:45 am
    Jan 8, 2013

    The pilav looks homey and delicious, perfectly to pair with bean stew.

  3. by john@kitchenriffs
    10:26 pm
    Jan 9, 2013

    I love beans of any kind, and this dish looks terrific. And I’m really intrigues by the pilav – I’ve never seen a pasta like orzo added to the rice (I’ve seen it used instead of rice, but not added). I really like the idea! Really terrific recipes – thanks so much.

  4. by thyme (Sarah)
    9:22 am
    Jan 10, 2013

    This dish looks so wonderful. The way the rice is cooked and the flavors added sound really delicious. I am trying so hard to get some of the dishes you describe to “stick” in my brain…..because….we are going to ISTANBUL! We did it. We’ll be going the end of May. I still have that hotel you recommended bookmarked and am looking into it. We thought about an apartment but I really want to be in the “old town” to make getting around easier since language will be a barrier. I am so excited, Ilke, and I really appreciate that lovely long packed with info. e-mail that you sent to me.

  5. by lisaiscooking
    6:08 pm
    Jan 10, 2013

    Just the other day, I was talking about how beans and rice is a favorite of mine. There are so many versions and combinations of those two things, and I love them all. This sounds so great with the pickles and Aleppo pepper on side!

  6. by Ilke
    7:54 am
    Jan 12, 2013

    That sounds so true, every cuisine is a version of a bean-rice dish :)

  7. by Shelley
    12:55 pm
    Jan 13, 2013

    It’s so interesting to read about other culture’s foods and to marvel at the differences and yet how much is the same. Beans and rice seem to be a staple in almost all cuisine. I’d love to taste this- it sounds delicious!

  8. by Joy in DC
    2:20 pm
    Jan 24, 2013

    You just opened my eyes to soujuk being used in stews (instead of just with my morning eggs)! Thanks so much. I’ll have to give this a try.

  9. by Mrs Ergül
    2:29 am
    Mar 1, 2013

    This really reminds me of my days in Turkey! The way family adds orzo or bits of vermicelli into pilav!! I’m gonna make some Turkish food this weekend just to soothe some love sickness for Turkey.

  10. by Colleen
    11:07 am
    Aug 20, 2014

    I am making this today for my “husband”. He is Turkish and I am American. I have made it before but love your blog post and can try some different methods to see which he likes best. One thing I did do differently is buy Great Northern Beans instead of Cannelini because they looked more like the Fusulye beans I have bought before. I hope it doesn’t ruin it completely because he is truly picky but it has lots of spice so I’m sure he’ll be okay with it. I’m sure I will never make it like his Mom, but I can at least give him a taste of home since he hasn’t been there for over 10 years now:( We have wonderful Turkish produce markets in our area and I can buy most of the ingredients that are imported.

  11. by Ilke
    8:50 am
    Aug 21, 2014

    10 years is a very long time. I am sure he will love any version you are cooking for him. :))

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