October 18, 2021


This version of Prebranac, also known as Serbian Baked Beans, is unbelievably comforting , wholesome, and sweetened only with onions!


A friend of mine once suggested I learn to make prebranac / пребранац (pronounced pre-BRAH-nats), otherwise known as Serbian Baked Beans.  At the time, upon researching, there weren’t too many English translations so I relied on studying the numbers, observing textures through imagery, and making sense of descriptions and key factors. (And a fair amount of questions for my friend haha!)

Alongside my friend confirming details, some translated guides that helped were:

Since my friend is vegetarian and practically vegan, he advised mimicking the smokiness from meat that this dish would often have, using smoked paprika to add depth.  However, this dish is notorious for its simplicity and there is even a saying in Serbia that goes, “simple as beans.”  As in, this dish is not to be overcomplicated or it would ruin its integrity.

“Serbian baked beans – Prebranac is probably one of the best fasting dishes in Serbia which will make even those “meat eaters” feel full for a very long time and won’t complain about feeling hungry quickly “because they ate only veggies”. This dish is often prepared in Serbia during Christmas fast and usually with Serbian baked beans is served Roasted Red Pepper Salad, Ljutenica or Ajvar. For Prebranac is used bean called Tetovac, but any bigger bean such as Butter Bean will do.”

Nonetheless, this dish, when made with care, dedication and patience, has a way of comforting and soothing the soul.

It is sweetened by the natural sugars of the onions, creamy from the beans, and thickened by the starches harmonizing.  The flavors are smoky and homey.  It as if, with each bite, there is a hug wrapping the tastebuds.  It’s one of those things that you have to try for yourself to know what I mean.  And needless to say, it is no wonder it is a mouthwatering staple of many Balkan’s childhood memories.

Though I may not be Serbian, prebranac has a special place in my heart as well.

“The Serbian idiom prosto kao pasulj (“simple as pasulj”) equates to the English as easy as pie and French simple comme chou.” — Živorad Kovačević

***In these images the Prebranac was fresh from the oven so it appears more liquid-y. When the beans have enough time to soak it is heavenly and makes quite a difference! I encourage trying when fresh out of the oven and then after time passes to taste test and compare. The beans continue to absorb the juices which translates to an overall “creamier” texture. The surface also sinks in, kind of creating a “skin” if you will. Though, skipping this process will still taste good, it just won be “as good”. You’ll know what I mean when you observe for yourself! (All I’ve gotta say is: Patience is KEY!)

Prebranac (Serbian Bean Casserole/Balkan Baked Beans)



  • 1 lb dry lima beans (also known as butter beans, though great northern beans or other white beans work as well)
  • 3 large Vidalia/sweet onions (about 2 lbs), sliced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbs (Hungarian) sweet paprika
  • 3 garlic gloves, sliced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1-2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

METHOD for Prebranac / Serbian Baked Beans:

  1. Soak beans overnight (or at least 9 hours) in 9 cups of water.
  2. Drain the beans and transfer to a large pot with water (3 cups water for every 1 cup of beans). Bring beans to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a medium-low simmer, stirring occasionally for 1.5-2 hours (or until tender). Drain the beans and discard the water.
  3. Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large pan add the oil, onions, salt, paprika and pepper and cook over medium heat, cooking for about 30 minutes or until caramelized. It should look transparent with a gorgeous Amber hue.
  4. Next, add the garlic, stir and cook until incorporated. When the garlic is fragrant (about 1-2 minutes) remove from the heat and gently mix with the drained beans.
  5. Transfer the mixture into a casserole baking dish, carefully smooth out the surface with the back of a spoon.
  6. Pour the vegetable stock over the mixture and fill until just enough to submerge and completely cover the beans by about 1/2 inch, then place the bay leaves on top.
  7. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for approximately 30-45 minutes or until the stock evaporates and begins to brown on top.
  8. Increase the heat to 425°F for an additional 9-12 minutes to deepen the color on top, keeping an eye on it to ensure it does not burn. Next, remove from the oven and allow to completely cool before transferring to a fridge overnight (this helps the beans to soak, marinate, and overall harmonize the flavors).
  9. When ready to eat, eat cold or reheat in oven and serve alongside fresh, crusty bread. Enjoy!


  • Cook the onions throughly until caramelized; you want the flavor to develop and sweeten. They turn translucent as this process develops.
  • The smoked paprika is to replace the smokey flavors that meat would otherwise provide in a more traditional recipes.
  • Unlike American baked beans, the sweetness comes solely from the onions versus added sugar.

For more delicious recipes to create or pair alongside, visit the Kitchen Journal.