Classic Toulouse Cassoulet Recipe Made in Céret in Southern France. Cassoulet Recipe, Céret, France. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Classic Toulouse Cassoulet Recipe Made in Ceret in Southern France

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This classic Toulouse cassoulet recipe makes a hearty stew of haricot beans, pork, sausages, and duck confit, one of countless versions of cassoulet. I made this in Ceret in Southern France, including making it one evening for a Toulouse-born local we invited for dinner. Although I almost didn’t pull it off as the Catalan butcher refused to sell Lara Toulouse sausage!

That’s not from here, we make Catalan sausage! Catalan sausage is better!” exclaimed the butcher in Ceret. Lara had asked the butcher for saucisse de Toulouse (Toulouse sausage), an ingredient of the classic Toulouse cassoulet recipe I was using for the Ceret edition of my series The Dish on the quintessential dishes of places we’re travelling to this year.

While the butcher had been happy to chat to Lara cheerily in her broken French and English when she’d asked him a few minutes earlier about his duck confit, he changed his tune when he put two and two together and realised what we were making…

Classic Toulouse Cassoulet Recipe Made in Céret in Southern France. Cassoulet Recipe, Céret, France. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

“You’re cooking this, aren’t you?” he asked her, picking up a tin of pre-prepared cassoulet he had on the shelf.

“This isn’t from here! It’s foreign. We’re Catalan!” the butcher exclaimed.

And with this the red-faced man returned to the back room where he’d been slicing meat when Lara arrived. He wasn’t going to be selling Lara anything today, not even the innocent and more neutral duck confit.

Classic Toulouse Cassoulet Recipe Made in Ceret in Southern France

So why did the notion of Lara making cassoulet in Ceret send the angry butcher running back to his slicer – despite, ironically, him selling canned cassoulet in his own shop?

Well, for anyone who identifies as Catalan, traditional French dishes such as cassoulet represent far more than just a stew of haricot beans, pork, sausages, and duck confit (just one of the many versions of cassoulet).

Cassoulet represents an ongoing form of French cultural oppression. And you thought it was just a casserole?

Classic Toulouse Cassoulet Recipe Made in Céret in Southern France. Cassoulet Recipe, Céret, France. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Castelnaudary, about 180km from Ceret, is the self-proclaimed capital of cassoulet, which is named after the cassole, the earthenware pot it is often cooked in. Some 65km north of Castelnaudary, Toulouse is also a centre for this homely, filling stew. And despite what the butcher says, the dish is popular in southern France.

There is a woman who sells cassoulet at the market every Saturday in Perpignan and the Ceret supermarket shelves would be far emptier without the endless variations of cassoulet in cans.

Even a restaurant in Ceret specialises in cassoulet, although we never saw anyone eating it there and it had to be ordered in advance. Never a good sign.

Classic Toulouse Cassoulet Recipe Made in Céret in Southern France. Cassoulet Recipe, Céret, France. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

After a week of experimenting with this classic Toulouse cassoulet recipe, I tried my final version out at a small dinner party we hosted in our holiday rental in Ceret for our new friend Carl from Perpignan and a Toulouse-raised local, Yvan, his partner.

Yvan told me that there was as many versions of cassoulet as there are villages in the south of France. Phew.

Tips to Making this Classic Toulouse Cassoulet Recipe

After looking at a million classic Toulouse cassoulet recipes I decided to put into the cassoulet what I thought instinctively was right. Pork belly, pork and garlic saucisses (sausages), and duck confit were the main meat components of the cassoulet.

The haricots blancs (white beans, sourced from Castelnaudary) made up the base of the dish, and here there is no cheating with this at all. The beans need to be soaked for 24hrs.

Then the white beans need to be cooked to achieve the right level of softness, which I prefer to mean just firm enough to get a little taste of fibre as you bite into the bean, not soft and mushy like some I tried.

Classic Toulouse Cassoulet Recipe Made in Céret in Southern France. Cassoulet Recipe, Céret, France. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

I found the sauce quite bland with some cassoulets I sampled and one had way too much duck fat. To make a more palatable sauce, I used some tinned tomatoes, certainly not used in all cassoulets, but, look, even making cassoulet in Ceret is contentious!

The other controversial issue is whether cassoulet has breadcrumbs baked on top. This is added when the duck pieces are added, near the end of a long cooking process. We didn’t prefer it either way and while the breadcrumbs added texture, it’s already a dish with plenty going on, so add them if you wish. Or not.

So, how was the final version of my classic Toulouse cassoulet received by the Toulouse native?

Classic Toulouse Cassoulet Recipe Made in Céret in Southern France. Cassoulet Recipe, Céret, France. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

“You’ve made a nice cassoulet with great flavour,” Yvan said, “But there’s not enough sauce for me. We like to soak up the sauce with some toasted bread with garlic, and I also like boudin noir in my cassoulet.”

Yvan also said that a cassoulet can be cooked for a whole day; way more than my few hours. Despite these shortcomings, Yvan certainly finished his plate. The rest of us thought that the dish was heavy enough without the addition of blood sausage.

This classic Toulouse cassoulet is definitely a dish made for those with a huge appetite on a cold winter’s night or after a day skiing, hiking or chopping wood!

Classic Toulouse Cassoulet Recipe Made in Céret in Southern France. Cassoulet Recipe, Céret, France. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Below is my final classic Toulouse cassoulet recipe. You must use dried beans soaked for 24hrs and you need to judge the dish at several stages along the way – it’s best to start this dish mid-morning to have it ready that night for dinner…

And if you love a traditional stew, do check out our collection of best stew recipes for more hearty comforting stews.

Classic Toulouse Cassoulet Recipe

Classic Toulouse Cassoulet Recipe Made in Céret in Southern France. Cassoulet Recipe, Céret, France. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Classic Toulouse Cassoulet Recipe

This classic Toulouse cassoulet recipe may take a few hours to cook, but it’s a hearty winter’s dish with pork belly, pork and garlic saucisses (sausages), and duck confit.
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 5 hours
Course Main
Cuisine French
Servings made with recipe4
Calories 1015 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 300 g poitrine salée - pork belly or streaky bacon, cut into bite-sized chunk
  • 500 g pork and garlic sausages - chopped into bit-sized pieces
  • 4 pieces duck confit - some chefs cut this into smaller pieces too
  • 600 g dried haricot beans - soaked overnight in plenty of water (they expand like crazy)
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 400 gram 14 ounces tin peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of duck fat - you may have enough from the duck confit tin or jar
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Dash of white wine
  • Chopped parsley to make it look pretty when serving - optional

Instructions
 

  • Drain the beans and place in a large saucepan. Add the bacon/pork belly and plenty of cold water. Heat until boiling and then put it on a slow boil for 30 minutes. Discard the water.
  • Chop the celery, onion and carrot into bite-sized chunks. Remove the skin of the garlic and crush slightly with the heel of a knife. Using a good flame-proof casserole dish, add the duck fat and the vegetables and cook over a low heat until they start to colour. Add the sausages.
  • If you’ve done this right and the sausages are now fragrant, neighbours will probably start knocking on the door inviting themselves over to dinner. Preheat the oven to 120°C (250°F).
  • When the sausages are browned, deglaze the dish with a little white wine. Add the tomatoes and the bouquet garni.
  • Add the beans and pork to the vegetables and sausages and add 1 litre (2 pints) of water. Bring to the boil, then turn off the heat. Transfer the cassoulet to the middle shelf of the oven.
  • Cook for 2 hours, checking occasionally to see if it needs more water.
  • You can stop the cooking process here if you’re making this for another night. Some would say this makes it taste even better – some argue that two days is better.
  • If you’re serving the dish the same night, remove the cassoulet from the oven and place on a bench. Check the beans. That means eat some. Are they to your liking in terms of firmness? If they are, then you only need to cook the duck (the next step) for about 30 minutes. If not, when you add the duck, check the beans after an hour. If they’re too soft already, you’re probably using beans from a tin. You cheat, you lose!
  • Place the duck confit pieces in the cassoulet dish, making sure to cover the pieces of duck with the bean mixture. This will stop the duck from drying out, confirming people’s suspicions that duck confit is dry – and we don’t want that! Return it to the oven.
  • The duck confit usually take around 15 minutes to reheat when serving it on its own. But we want the flavours of the duck to go through the dish, so leave it in the oven for at least 30 minutes. If you want, add the breadcrumbs now.
  • At this stage check the beans again. If they’re still too firm, may I remind you that I suggested making this at the start of the day. It can take another two hours!
  • At this stage, the other thing to look for is whether the dish is becoming too dry. A perfect cassoulet has slow, thick bubbles at the edge of the dish, indicating the sauce is moist and thick. If it appears dry, add a little water.
  • When the beans are to your liking and you have the slow, thick bubbles at the edge of the dish, it’s ready.
  • Pour yourself a big glass of red. You’ve done well!
  • Serve a piece of duck for each guest and a fair share of all the other goodies. Sprinkle some chopped parsley on top to make it pretty.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 1015kcalCarbohydrates: 26gProtein: 60.8gFat: 75.7gSaturated Fat: 30.6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 45.1gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 141mgSodium: 3052mgFiber: 11.3gSugar: 13.9g

If you liked our classic Toulouse cassoulet recipe, do see my other recipes in this series in which I searched for and learned to make quintessential regional dishes from the places we’re travelling to this year. So far they’ve included everything from a chocolate snack I learned from a Michelin-starred chef in Barcelona, to rabo de toro (oxtail stew) in Jerez, and lamb tagine in Morocco.

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AUTHOR BIO

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Terence Carter is an editorial food and travel photographer and infrequent travel writer with a love of photographing people, places and plates of food. After living in the Middle East for a dozen years, he settled in South-East Asia a dozen years ago with his wife, travel and food writer and sometime magazine editor Lara Dunston.

20 thoughts on “Classic Toulouse Cassoulet Recipe Made in Ceret in Southern France”

  1. The Cassoulet you prepared was delicious.
    We both enjoyed it. Great food and wonderful company.
    Don’t worry about the Ceret butcher. The wonderful
    butcher we go to here in Perpignan will serve
    you with a smile any day.
    I think also the French take a while to warm to people.
    They are more polite I find once they know
    you live here. Keep up your great reports Lara and Terry.
    French bisoux to you both Carl and Yvan

  2. Loved the intro to this. Should have been titled “Terence’s subversive cooking in Ceret.” While it looks delicious, I don’t think I’d try this one until I’m out of grad-school – so labor intensive!

  3. LOVE this recipe. i think it is so wonderful, the people you meet (and share with us) and the FANTASTIC food you make. i’d have loved to have been there!5 stars

  4. Carl, you’re clearly to kind! Yvan was gracious with his critique – thankfully!

    Heather, it’s a perfect winter’s stay-at-home dish you *can* make while studying. It’s not labour-intensive, it’s more like baby-sitting a well-behaved child with manners!

    Jessie, the offer is open!

  5. Of all the cassoulets I’ve tasted and seen in my travels, I never heard of boudin noir in it! I agree that the best way (if possible) is to have it cook for a whole day, or even overnight but I don’t have the time or the patience! :)

    Bravo, Terence. Well done on your dish!

  6. A girlfriend and I made this together a few years back, though the recipe we used was nowhere near as good as this. This is such a tasty winter warmer.
    It’s perfect weather to be making this here in Australia right now.5 stars

  7. With winter coming on strong here this was the perfect cassoulet recipe for me to try. It was amazing! I agree with you about the boudin noir, that would make it too heavy.

    That’s such a French story about the butcher and the sausages and still selling tins of it in his shop!5 stars

  8. Hi Jane,
    Thankfully the French are a bit more friendly these days! You can’t beat the logic of not wanting to sell items to make cassoulet but selling tins of it in your shop. Go figure.
    Glad you enjoyed making it, it’s a bit of an effort, that’s for sure!
    Cheers
    T

  9. Guys, longtime lurker here, first time commenting, just letting you know I’ve been making this cassoulet since you published it and it’s just brilliant, works every time. Made it on the weekend for the first time this year as the weathers getting colder and it was like meeting an old friend. Merci!5 stars

  10. Hi Charles, so lovely to ‘see’ you here after all these years. And so pleased to hear this! Delighted the dish is on a seasonal repeat! Thank you so much for dropping by to share this :)

  11. Love this recipe!!!! I made it a lot last winter. First time I made it on the weekend as it feels like winter is already hear and it was like a warm hug from an old friend. Thank you!!!5 stars

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