The Trader Joe's 'Giant' Canned Beans Inspired By A Flavorful Greek Dish

It's easy to understand Trader Joe's appeal; through a secretive supply chain, the company attractively packages globally-influenced flavors. Purchasing something as simple as canned vegetables can invigorate new culinary discoveries, and many of the offerings are incredibly delicious, too. An example of such an internationally-influenced product is the company's 'giant' canned baked beans, made with cannellini beans soaked in water, then mixed with an aromatic tomato sauce loaded with herbs, seasonings, and a bit of a crushed red pepper for a kick.

This product reinterprets gigantes plaki, a bean dish popular throughout Greece. The dish's characteristic element, which lends the oversized moniker, is a large bean variety called gigantes. As part of their preparation, the gigantes get soaked overnight in water; such a technique gives the beans a plump softness, making them ready to absorb all the flavors. Boiled and then baked to perfection, gigantes plaki is a hearty dish emulated by Trader Joe's and sold conveniently in a can.

What makes authentic gigantes plaki different?

Although the size and flavoring of the two bean-based foods are similar, they do have distinct differences. The cannellini variety utilized at Trader Joe's is different than the gigantes employed in the Greek dish. Cannellini is a variation of the common bean, known as a species called Phaseolus vulgaris. Meanwhile, gigantes are a separate species called Phaseolus coccineus, sharing more qualities with butter beans. The gigantes beans have a unique meaty texture, which offers the dish a satisfying savoriness. They don't lose their shape as readily, instead remaining firm during the baking process. Celebrated in Greece, this legume varietal is interlinked with specific growing regions — all typically grown for the beloved gigantes plaki.

Not to say Trader Joe's variety is worse; it's just different. The canning process and prolonged soaking in liquid will no doubt alter the bean texture more than the overnight soak. As a result, picking cannellini beans instead of traditional gigantes beans was likely done for a good reason, leading to a better final result. Ultimately, the decision showcases what the grocery chain does so well: infusing a global influence into a product uniquely their own.