Cedar-Braised Beans

Sean Sherman


Beth Dooley


“Just a small branch of cedar adds flavor to these beans and helps to stimulate digestion and strengthen the immune system. We make up a big batch of these beans each week, then work them into a variety of dishes—appetizers, soups, and entrées. The first step is to soak the beans before cooking; it cuts the time in half. (This recipe is easily doubled or tripled.)

We like to use a mix of heirloom beans for a variety of colors, textures, and flavors. Because of the varied cooking times, we cook them separately and then combine them in a soup, hot dish, or salad before finishing the dish. Be sure to save the bean cooking water for a stock to use in soups and stews.” —Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley in their 2018 Beard Award–winning cookbook, The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen


  • 1 cup dried beans
  • One 5 to 6-inch branch cedar
  • Salt and freshly ground juniper to taste


Put the beans in a large pot or bowl, and cover with cold water by 3 inches. Allow the beans to soak for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain the beans and transfer them to a medium saucepan or soup pot.

Add 3 cups of cold water to the pot and lay the cedar branch over the beans. Set the pot over high heat and bring it to a boil. Cover the pot and let simmer until the beans are very soft. Begin tasting the beans after about 25 minutes of simmering. Remove and discard the cedar. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid for soups and stews. Serve the beans or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for several days or freeze.


  • For Maple Beans: stir 1 to 2 tablespoons of maple syrup into the pot before removing the beans from the stove.
  • For Mashed Beans: put the beans and a little of the cooking liquid into a large bowl. Using an immersion blender, food processor fitted with a steel blade, or blender, purée the beans to make a thick paste. Season the mashed beans with salt and ground juniper.


From The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley (University of Minnesota Press, 2017). Copyright 2017 Ghost Dancer, LLC. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the University of Minnesota Press.


2 1/2 to 3 cups