I really love all types of beans, but my husband isn’t a fan of large beans (i.e. kidney and lima beans) so I’ve grown accustomed to using smaller beans in most recipes. I find these four types of beans meet most of my cooking needs:
Black beans have a rich earthy flavor and a soft creamy texture. They are ideal for Latin American inspired dishes such as chili, rice and beans, and burritos. They also combine well with corn, tomatoes and avocado in wraps and salads.
Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)
Garbanzo beans have a nutty flavor and a firm texture. They are most often associated Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. I enjoy them in the form of hummus and also like to add them to soup, salad and pasta dishes.
Pinto beans have a meaty flavor and a mealy texture. Like black beans, they are a good match for chili and other Latin American inspired recipes. I use them in the place of kidney beans. I also use them to make refried beans and veggie burgers.
Navy beans (and other white beans) are perhaps the most versatile beans. Their mild flavor and soft texture pairs nicely with a variety of cuisines – in soups, salads and casseroles. I enjoy making different white bean spreads for wraps and veggie rolls.
Beans are a great substitute for meat because they are rich in protein, high in fiber, low in fat and contain no cholesterol. They are also a good source of folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. Consuming different types of beans regularly may reduce the risk of:
- Heart disease
In addition to being good for your body, beans are also good for your bank account. They are one of the most affordable sources of protein – especially compared to fresh meat.
I store dry beans in sealed containers at room temperature. Theoretically, dry beans will last indefinitely, but after a year they may become brittle and take hours to cook. I typically purchase just a couple pounds at a time to keep things fresh.
I also keep some canned beans on hand for convenience. I look for low sodium options.
Cooked beans can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days, or in the freezer for up to six months.
1 cup of raw dry beans = approximately 2.5 – 3 cups of cooked beans
Rinse and sort through dry beans and discard any debris or shriveled beans. Place beans in a large pot or bowl and cover with at least three inches of cold water and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. (I soak beans overnight. There is a quick soak method – but the longer soak yields better results.)
Canned beans should be drained and rinsed prior to use.
Cooking Dry Beans
I have tried cooking beans in a number of different ways and have determined a simple stovetop approach yields the best results. I recall reading somewhere that dry beans should not be cooked in a slow-cooker because the low heat may not be sufficient to destroy the beans’ toxic lectins.
- Drain soaking water, rinse and place beans in a large pot and cover with at least three inches of water.
- Add one or two bay leaves. (Bay leaves help reduce the gas inducing quality of the beans.)
- Bring beans to a boil and skim off any foam that may appear.
- Reduce heat and partially cover the pot with a lid and simmer for approximately one hour. (Garbanzo beans and pinto beans will likely require another .5 to 1.5 hours to cook. Older beans may also require additional time.)
- Beans are done when they firmly hold their shape, but mash easily with a fork.
- Drain cooking water and add a few dashes of sea salt if desired.