Cape Malay Sugar Bean bredie is a slow cooked lamb and bean stew that uses minimal spices, caramelised onions and meat on the bone, to add maximum flavor. Whenever I return home to Cape Town, summer or winter, there must be Cape Malay Sugar Bean bredie on the menu, because it’s a taste of home like no other.
Cape Malay bredies are a favorite winter meal eaten with rice or bread and utilizes dried beans like in this recipe or vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, green beans, pumpkin, butternut squash or sweet ripe tomatoes. Click on the pink link for more tips on how to make authentic Cape Malay bredie.
This is one of the main courses that has two camps of flavor profiles. On the one side we have those who love their Cape Malay Sugar Bean bredie on the sweet side, adding copious amounts of sugar. On the other side we have those who add little or no sugar, resulting in a rather sour end result. I prefer a bit of sugar but definitely not syrupy sweet, it is food after all and not dessert.
The closest that I have tasted to my mother’s Cape Malay Sugar Bean bredie was the Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and bean soup) at Carluccios in Dubai Marina Mall. Whenever I felt the need for a taste of my mother’s cooking I would go there and order a big bowl, then add a pinch of salt and sachet of sugar, and it tasted just like home!
Tips for the best Cape Malay Sugar Bean bredie ever
- There are different ways to cook dried beans, but for this recipe it is preferable that the beans be soaked overnight (12 hours) or at least 6 hours. This will reduce the hands on cooking time significantly and make the beans more digestible when they are cooked.
- Do not add salt to the beans when boiling them as it will cause the beans to toughen.
- Boiling the beans on the stove top in the traditional way will take between 1/2 – 2 hours, depending on how long they have been soaked. Cooking it this way does take much longer but one is able to check the doneness of the beans more accurately. While the beans are cooking you can start the stew and the braised meat should be done around the same time as the beans are soft.
- During the first boil of the beans there will be a lot of white foam on the top. Its just air trapped when the soaked beans release the indigestible sugars that cause flatulence. We rinse it to make the end result more digestible.
- If you decide to use a pressure cooker it should be cooked for no longer than 15 minutes under pressure. It can rather be slightly undercooked and finish cooking with the stew, than be pressurized to bean mash.
- Caramelise the onions before adding the meat. If you are unsure how to do that please read my post on How to make Caramelised Onions like a Pro for tips.
- Add the meat to the caramelised onions and reduce the heat so that the slow braising both softens the meat and reduces the onions to a gravy.
Even now, my favorite way to eat Cape Malay Sugar Bean bredie is with a few slices of fresh white bread, not rice. I love to break off pieces of bread and dip into the sauce or use the bread as a receptacle to scoop up some of the sauce. Pure bliss!
PS: Leftovers , IF ANY, taste even better the next day.
Click on any of the links below for more Cape Malay Recipes.
Cape Malay Sugar Bean bredie
Cape Malay Sugar Bean bredie is the quintessential comfort food, flavorsome and filling.
- 2.5 litre water, divided enough to cover the beans completely
- 250 grams dried sugar beans (half white pinto beans), soaked overnight
- 45 ml oil approximately 3 tablespoons
- 280 grams onions, finely diced approximately 2 medium onions
- 800 grams lamb pieces on the bone is best
- 15 ml crushed garlic approximately 1 tablespoon
- 1 medium tomato, grated
- 15 ml tomato paste approximately 1 tablespoon
- 3 green chillies, sliced use less if you want it less spicy
- 5 ml salt adjust to taste
- 1.25 ml black pepper, freshly ground adjust to taste
- 30 ml granulated sugar approximately 2 tablespoons, adjust to taste
Preparing the Beans
Soak the beans overnight in 500 ml water or enough to cover the beans completely. Cover and refrigerate.
The following day, rinse the beans and place them in a medium size pot. Cover with 1 liter cold water and bring to the boil.
Remove the beans from the heat as soon as it boils, decant into a colander then rinse under running water.
Rinse any scum from the pot then put the beans back in and cover with fresh water again and bring to the boil once more.
Reduce the heat and cook gently for 1 1/2 hours or until fully cooked and soft. Add more water if required. See notes for alternative cooking method.
Do not strain the cooked beans and set aside until ready to use.
Making the stew
While the beans are cooking, heat the oil in a medium sized pot then add the onion and saute for 20 minutes on medium high until softened and beginning to caramelize. Do not let the onions burn.
Add the lamb pieces and garlic and cook on medium low for another 25 minutes until the lamb is brown and the onions are disintegrating into a caramel color sauce.
Add grated tomato, tomato paste, chillies, and salt and cook on low for a further 40 minutes until the meat is tender but not falling apart. If it gets too dry add one cup of the beans cooking liquid.
Add the beans and sugar with the remaining cooking liquid and cook together for a further 10 - 20 minutes or until the flavors have melded.
Adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper, as required.
Serve with cooked basmati rice or fresh bread and tomato and onion salad.
- You can also use a pressure cooker to cook the beans according to the manufacturer's instructions. In this case do not add all the beans cooking liquid to the stew when adding the beans as it may not have reduced enough as with slower cooking.
- Do not add salt to beans when boiling because it will toughen them.
- The cooked beans can be frozen for up to 6 months.
- The cooked stew can be frozen for up to 3 months.
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