If you are not sure what a French cassoulet is, basically it is a hearty dish, consisting of copious amounts of sausages, meat, and beans. The traditional cassoulet recipe takes ages and ages.
Traditionally in France, the recipe involves the beans have to soak overnight, and it takes at least 24 hours to make a duck confit. Luckily for us, these days we have the Instant Pot, and can simply buy a duck confit.
With a few “basic” conveniences, we can actually cook a delicious French cassoulet today in less than an hour. Technology! This classic recipe is now accessible as a weeknight dinner for working families and people short on time.
The dish dates back to the mid-1300s from Castelnaudary in south-west France, about 40minutes away from the famous tourist town of Carcassonne. (The Carcassonne version of cassoulet adds partridge meat to the recipe, but that might be a bit more difficult to find!)
At the time, the Hundred Years’ War between France and England was in full force. Legend has it that the dish was born during the siege of Castelnaudary by the Black Prince, Edward the Prince of Wales, in 1355. With food running out, the residents of Castelnaudary gathered all the food they could to make a giant stew to feed their soldiers.
It worked, and the city was eventually able to drive out the English. With such success, it is no wonder that Cassoulet remains a popular dish in France.
The word cassoulet comes from the earthenware casserole it is cooked in, the cassolle or cassolo, which is made by local potteries nearby.
Aficionados of the cassoulet will note however that is a “guerre des cassoulet” (meaning “war of the cassoulet”) between Castelnaudary, Carcassone and Toulouse. Each has its own variation, with differences between the sausage used, how long it is cooked and more. Each year cook-offs are usually held to see who takes home top prize with bragging rights.
☞ READ MORE: ABC of French Cuisine (the Food Dictionary)
The traditional Cassoulet recipe uses either a bean called coco de pamiers, or the Tarbais. However, neither one of these beans is the easiest to find, even in France! So we will stick to the regular white cannellini beans, which do just as well in the recipe and are easy to find in a can.
There are also quite a variety of pork products added into the recipe, from sausages to pork bellies. In terms of what sausages, use fresh sausages such as the saussice de Toulouse or diots de Savoie.
Now only the heartiest of French chefs attempt to make duck confit themselves. This is something that you can easily buy at a fine boucherie (butcher shop) or Whole Foods. With the duck confit also including duck fat, I confess it is not the healthiest of recipes. But everything in moderation!
If you do decide to eliminate the duck confit and use chicken legs instead, I promise I won’t tell anyone.
☞ READ MORE: Classic French Recipes remade in the Instant Pot
Frequently asked questions
What to serve with a cassoulet?
A cassoulet is a meal in itself, but it has one big drawback: the lack of green. As an accompaniment, in France, it is usually served with a salad. My favorite is an arugula salad with cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette.
What drinks to serve with it?
As you may have guessed, a cassoulet should be served with wine. A local wine from the same area, around Languedoc and South-West France, should go well with this dish. Try a Cahors or Bergerac red. If you don’t like reds, try a white wine such as a Limoux or a Gaillac.
☞ READ MORE: Easy Guide to the French Wines
Can you freeze it?
Yes, after cooking let the cassoulet cook and then put it in airtight plastic or glass containers, ready to stick in the freezer.
- 2 cans of drained white cannellini beans
- 2 medium duck confit legs*
- 4 sliced sausages (saucisse de Toulouse)
- 2 pork bellies chopped into cubes
- 35g of canned tomato purée
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 2-3 sprigs of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- 4 cups of chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- Handful of seasoned or garlic breadcrumbs (or croutons)
- 2 tablespoons of flour
- Turn the Instant pot to Sauté and sear the sausages, pork belly and duck confit in the pan along with the olive oil for about 5 minutes.
- Add the rest of the ingredients (except the breadcrumbs and croutons) and cook over high pressure for 20 minutes with natural release.
- Once depressurized, make a flour slurry and mix into the cassoulet.
- Set Instant pot to Sauté and mix the cassoulet well.
- After the Instant Pot finishes, quick release the cassoulet stew.
- Move the stew to oven-friendly individual bowls or a pan and top with breadcrumbs.
- Put in oven for 10 minutes at 400F (200C).
- Serve when top looks lightly crispy.
*Substitute 3 chicken legs for the duck confit for a lower fat version of cassoulet.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 829Total Fat: 53gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 31gCholesterol: 153mgSodium: 3431mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 6gSugar: 6gProtein: 47g
Note: We are not certified nutritionists and these estimates are approximate. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. This website is written and produced for informational purposes only.
If you enjoyed that, check out our other classic French recipes that are easy to prepare. Bon appétit and à bientôt !
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