Like any true Macedonian kitchen, a weekly menu without Tavce Gravce (TAHV-cheh GRAHV-cheh), or Macedonian Style Baked Beans, does not exist. It’s a Friday staple. Most Macedonians are Christian Orthodox, thus in a traditional Macedonian home Friday night dinner is meatless.
And no other food screams success and prosperity more than beans!
No, really! Beans, in some cultures, represent fortune and growth because of their shape; they look like coins and thus represent prosperity.
In the South, black-eyed peas symbolize good luck and are traditionally prepared on New Year’s Day. In other countries, beans, pomegranates, pork act as good fortune and are eaten on New Year’s Day in hopes of a great year ahead.
Because New Year’s Day is during Christmas Lent for those of us that follow the Julian Calendar, a traditional Macedonian household will have Tavce Gravce on the table this New Year’s Day because it is one, customary, and two, because it is meatless.
This is Macedonia’s National Dish. It is a traditional meal that dates back centuries, and its preparation method has changed ever so slightly to accommodate today’s cook. Home cooks would prepare this dish a day in advance by placing the beans in a dutch oven over a wood fire to slowly cook through the night and be ready just in time for lunch the next day.
Nowadays, instead of a wood fire, we use our oven. And, instead of waiting an entire night for the meal to cook, Tavce Gravce is now done in about 2 hours. If you use canned beans, you can do it in 30 minutes! But, don’t do that. You will kill the tradition, and my ancestors will haunt me in my dreams tonight. I did that once and my Mother just about murdered me… it’s that serious.
You can enjoy Tavce Gravce as a side dish to any meal, or as a meal on its own with a side-salad sprinkled with white sheep’s cheese or feta cheese, and a loaf of crusty bread.
Macedonian Style Baked Beans (Tavce Gravce)
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 2 hrs
Total Time: 2 hrs 15 mins
Calories: 290 kcal
- 4 cups Great Northern Beans , washed and cleaned according to the directions on the package
- 3 tablespoons Canola Oil
- 1 large onion , quartered
- 2 dried whole chili peppers
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 large onion , sliced into 1/8-inch thick rounds
- salt and pepper to taste
- Chopped parsley
For the Roux
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- Place the beans in a 5-qt. or 6-qt. pot and cover with water about 2 inches above the beans.
- Pour in the oil.
- Add in the quartered onions and dried chili peppers
- Cook the beans over medium-high heat until soft, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- Stir often and add warm water as it evaporates. You are looking for a stew-like consistency.
Once the beans are cooked, prepare the roux. Do not remove beans from heat.
- Slightly heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
- Stir in the paprika and keep stirring until just thoroughly combined and fragrant.
- Pour the roux into the pot with the beans and stir.
- Mix in a tablespoon of salt and continue to boil for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat.
- Preheat oven to 400.
- Carefully pour the beans into a large casserole dish, a dutch oven, or a large clay pot. You don’t want to pour in all the water; add enough water to barely cover the beans.
- Place the sliced rounds of onions and the cooked chili peppers on top as a garnish.
- Taste for salt and pepper.
- Bake the beans for 30 minutes, or until a crusty layer forms on top of the beans.
- Remove and let cool 15 minutes before serving.
- Add chopped parsley for garnish.
You can enjoy Tavce Gravce as a side dish to any meal, or as a meal on its own with a side-salad sprinkled with white sheep cheese or feta cheese, and a loaf of crusty bread.