Primal Cassoulet

Primal CassouletCassoulet is often thought of as a massive undertaking that requires days to cook. It’s also often assumed that cassoulet can’t be made without beans. In this Primal version, neither is true. In a few hours you’ll have one of the meatiest meals imaginable. Incredibly rich and hearty with layers of different flavors, this is a meal not to be missed.

Cassoulet is made with all kinds of meat and can get a little pricey, depending on what you choose. This recipe is mid-range, as it blends pork shoulder and sausage, duck, and bacon. You can go all out and use more duck or even duck confit. You can scale back and add more pork shoulder and no duck at all. Or, you can use lamb if you want.

At this point, if you’re starting to feel like cassoulet is a casual one-pot meal that’s improvised depending on what’s on hand, then that’s good. This is not fancy French food, it’s French comfort food, so there’s no reason to be intimidated…even after you glance below and see how many ingredients and steps are involved.

Don’t sweat it. This is an easy version of cassoulet. All the recipe really involves is buying a bunch of meat and vegetables, chopping them up, browning everything and then simmering for several hours. This is cassoulet for people who don’t have time to spend three days cooking, but still want a big flavor pay-off at the end.

The beans usually found in cassoulet are replaced here with rutabaga, a root vegetable with a sweet, earthy flavor and creamy texture that is surprisingly close to beans. And oh, yeah, about that traditional bread crumb topping….you don’t really need that either. Try finely chopped oven-roasted cauliflower instead to give your cassoulet a toasted, buttery finish.

Servings: Six to eight

Time in the Kitchen: One hour of active cooking time, plus two hours of simmering



  • 2 tablespoons butter (30 ml)
  • 1 pound pork shoulder, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, cut into 1-inch cubes (450 g) (25 mm)
  • 1 pound of duck legs or breasts (breast works much better for recipe, unless you want to splurge and buy duck confit) (450 g)
  • 8 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (30 ml)
  • 1 pound pork sausage (sweet Italian works well) cut into 1/2 inch slices (450 g) (12 mm)
  • 1/2 pound pancetta or bacon, cut into small pieces (230 g)
  • 2 cups whole peeled canned tomatoes, broken up with your hands (300 g)
  • 2 to 3 cups chicken stock (500 to 750 ml)
  • 2 rutabagas, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes (12 mm)
  • 1 bay leaf, 4 sprigs of parsley and 4 sprigs of thyme tied together with twine
  • 1/2 a head of cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (30 ml)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley (60 ml)
  • Pinch of sea salt


Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or other ovenproof pot (five quart or more) over med heat.

Add the pork and brown on each side, about six minutes total. Remove the pork from the pot.

Add the duck and brown, about eight minutes. Remove from pot.

Browned Meat

When it cools, pull the meat off the bones (if using legs) and shred. If using the breast, simply slice the meat into chunks. The skin can be discarded or left on. It will add flavor to the dish, but also a lot of fat.

Turn the heat up to medium-high under the pot. Add the garlic, onion, celery, carrot and fennel. Cook until lightly browned, about ten minutes.

Add the tomato paste and mix well.

Step 1

Add the sausage and pancetta/bacon to the pot. Cook five minutes until sausage is browned. Add pork and duck back to the pot.

Add the tomatoes and simmer for ten minutes.

Add two cups of stock, the rutabaga, and the bundle of herbs and bring to a boil. Push the rutabaga and meat down with a spoon so they’re mostly under the liquid.

Simmering Cassoulet

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for one hour.

While the cassoulet is simmering, make the cauliflower topping. Preheat the oven to 400 °F (205 °C). Cut out the inner core of the cauliflower and slice the cauliflower thinly. Toss with olive oil. Lay the cauliflower in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake (don’t stir it!) until really brown and crispy around edges, about forty-five minutes.

Take out and set aside. Chop up finely and mix with the parsley and a pinch of sea salt.

Reduce the oven heat to 350 °F (176 °C)

When the cassoulet is done simmering on the stove, remove the bundle of herbs. If you prefer a brothy cassoulet (rather than one with no broth remaining) then add the remaining cup of broth right now.

Put the pot in the oven and bake, uncovered, for roughly one hour and fifteen minutes. There is no need to stir it.

Sprinkle the cauliflower on top of the cassoulet. Place under the broiler for a few minutes to warm the cauliflower and brown the top of the cassoulet.

Serve immediately or over the next few days – it gets even better with time.


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38 thoughts on “Primal Cassoulet”

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  1. I’m always looking for new ways to cook pork shoulder. I usually stick it in the slow cooker with a dry rub, but this is a great new idea. Thanks!

    1. I just perfected my recipe for pork shoulder! I always used to do it in the slow cooker, but I’ve discovered that I actually prefer it in the oven. Seems to get more flavorful when cooked at a higher temperature. Anyways, you’ve probably done something very similar to this because it’s not that new or different, but I think the combination of flavors is excellent (: Here’s the link if you want to try it!

  2. Awesome! I was just reading the fantastic book The Forgotten Skills of Cooking last night and wondering how I could primalize a cassoulet. Thanks for doing the leg-work!

  3. The cassoulet sounds terrific. I’ve made it with in the past using my French cookbook, which calls for a variety of meats plus navy beans. Unfortunately beans and I don’t get along, so I didn’t eat very much even though it was delicious. I will try it again using the rutabaga instead.

      Recipe: Macaroons — GAPS, Paleo, Primal

      April 3, 2012 · 26 comments

      242 158 1592

      Macaroons are the most obvious treat for someone who is going grain-free. However, all the recipes I tried have turned out very dry and unappetizing. I’ve finally hit the jackpot with this one! These macaroons turn out moist and tasty every time!

      Macaroons were originally almond meringue cookies that had a crisp crust and a soft interior. They were made from egg whites and almond paste. The name comes from the Italian maccarone (mah-kah-ROW-nay),the word for pasta/macaroni and dumplings.

      Some culinary historians claim that the original macaroons can be traced to an Italian monastery. Italian Jews adopted the cookie as a Passover treat because it has no leavening agents in it. After a while, coconut replaced the almond paste in most recipes.

      I like this recipe because it uses the whole egg and I don’t have to think about how to use left over whites. It is also amazingly moist and gets better as it stays in the refrigerator. It is a great treat for Passover as well as any other holiday or time of the year.

      ?5 cups shredded coconut (where to buy unsweetened shredded coconut)
      ?4 tablespoon honey (where to buy honey)
      ?1/2 cup coconut cream (where to buy coconut cream)
      ?2 teaspoon vanilla
      ?2 tablespoon ghee or butter (how to make ghee)
      ?2 medium eggs

      1.In a food processor chop 3 1/2 cups of the shredded coconut until it is very small pieces, keep 1 1/2 cups aside
      2.Remove the chopped coconut and place in a pot with 1 1/4 cup of warm water
      3.Mix on a warm burner on top of the stove until it is soft and like a paste (about 5 minutes)
      4.Put it back into the food processor and process with the honey, ghee, eggs, vanilla and coconut cream
      5.As the last ingredient, add the 1 1/2 cups of shredded coconut and mix
      6.The batter should be thick
      7.Place a small tablespoon of the batter into mini cupcake papers set on a cookie sheet
      8.Bake at 325 degrees F for approximately 20 – 30 minutes until just browning
      9.Let cool
      10.These taste awesome after being refrigerated

        1. Macaroon or Macaron? “Macaroons” are usually made with shredded coconut and are not French (their version of this is called something else). But you’re probably thinking of “macarons”, which are the small, light “cookie” sandwiches and come in an array of pretty colors and flavors. Luckily for you, they are made with all primal ingredients already (except for white sugar, if you’re a purist), as the flour used for them is almond flour and not wheat.

        2. Thank you Elizabeth, I was thinking of the latter. I didn’t realize the spelling difference. Now and then some sugar is okay. As well as a croissant. 🙂

  4. Hey Mark

    That looks incredible. I am getting more and more into slow cooked casserole type foods these days. Quick to prepare, tender, and easy to digest. Just got my wife a tagine for chrimbo and have eaten the first beef casserole, talk about tender.

    Thanks for a great resource, loving it as always.

  5. I’ll have to make this for my boyfriend. He loves rutabaga and anything French. I love all of the meats in this. It’s perfect!

  6. I once spent a couple of days making a Toulouse-style cassoulet. It was worth it, but I think I like this idea better, and not only because it’s primal. Thanks!

  7. This looks great. I think I even have most of the meat ingredients in my freezer – might sub bear sausage 🙂

    Mark, if you can, could you start working on a primal version of haggis? It’s almost that time of year and I LOVE haggis but the oatmeal in it doesn’t love me. I’m okay with a once-in-a-while cheat but oatmeal causes me actual intestinal pain so it would be awesome to have that lovely, filling, peppery stodge without the pain eight hours later.

  8. Cassoulet has beans. This sounds like a delicious dish but it isn’t cassoulet anymore than cauliflower “rice” is rice. Pffft!

    1. Don’t take cassoulet too seriously. 😉 It’s just French stew and I have no doubt it was originally developed to use a bunch of leftovers. Leaving out the beans would be a perfectly fine (and French) thing to do if they weren’t on hand. After all, this is the cuisine that raised onions, beef bones, and some old cheese and bread to a little slice heaven in a bowl. (Onion soup…*sigh* It’s even good without the crouton.)

  9. I’ve made cassoulets with duck confit, goose confit or rabbit confit plus my homemade duck, goose or lamb sausages. And don’t let making the confit intimidate you. It simply involves cooking meat in fat for twelve hours at a low temperature (180 to 220 degrees). (I use a crock pot.) Goose or duck fat is best, although butter, lard or olive oil can also be used.

  10. Looks delicious and with or without beans I really do not think that is matters that much, but if it were me I’d let it sit for a day before eating.

  11. That’s great article. You know – this is exactly what I was looking for. I shall give you a big thanks for this great piece of information. Keep it up.

  12. I look quickly at the recipe, and an essentiel ingredient is missing : powder nutmeg.
    Breadcrumb is absolutly not necessary for most pepole.

    It is typically a French dish that could not be made without the discovery of America (tomatoes, corn to forcefeed the duck, to a certain extend nutmeg).
    The american tourist here love it.

    A french cook from Toulouse (capitale of the Cassoulet – with Castelnaudary.

  13. This was delicious and popular with the husband as it was basically a one pot meat fest!

    1. I don’t see any reason not to include the venison – it would add a lovely rich gamey flavour. I’m going to make this tomorrow and I’ll reply to say how it goes. I’m tempted to try it in the slow cooker, but I’ll follow the recipe for the first time to see what it comes out like.

  14. Just ate it for dinner.. Yum!! My 2.5 year old even had seconds!

  15. I am currently making this for dinner, and cannot stop tasting it! We made confit duck legs ahead of time, thus defeating the whole “only takes a few hours” perk (ditto an overnight chicken wingtip stock), but I’m sure they’ll be a worthy addition. We are going to crisp them up under the grill and add them at the end, though, rather than having them in the pot throughout.

    Perfect thing for a snowy evening!

  16. Do you have the recipe with some leaner meats? Like fish, poultry?

  17. Have been trying to figure out a way to make a good primal cassoulet. I think I just found it! As much as I enjoy the pictures accompanying the recipes, I am wondering if you could provide a way to print the recipes without pictures? Save a tree, etc.

  18. Amazing recipe! I used a bit too much tomato paste, and I cheated and used panko instead of cauliflower rice at the end because I seriously dislike cauliflower rice, though it probably would have worked here. (I think toasted quinoa, finely chopped hazelnuts, or gluten-free bread crumbs would work just as well.) The rutabaga was brilliant and a perfect substitute for the beans usually found in this dish.