From Latin America to India and the Middle East, and from red to black, white, or pinto — beans are a staple food in multiple regions worldwide. In fact, alongside chickpeas, beans are one of the most consumed legumes in the world (
Aside from being a delicious and versatile ingredient, beans are highly nutritious. Like most legumes, they are a rich source of plant-based protein and fiber (
Due to their nutritional characteristics, their intake is associated with improved body weight, extended longevity, and the prevention of chronic diseases such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (
In addition, beans — both dry and canned — are an excellent food choice from a price and convenience perspective, as they’re a low-cost source of multiple nutrients (
They’re also shelf-stable, which means they’re safe for a very long time if stored correctly in a cool, dry place (5).
Aside from their high nutritional profile, bean spreads are incredibly versatile. You can enjoy them from breakfast to dinner or serve them as a snack.
Here are 10 simple meal ideas to make with beans.
Casseroles typically combine lots of ingredients, bind them with a starchy or carb-rich element such as flour, potatoes, or pasta, and top them with a crunchy or cheesy component. As such, beans can be added to many quite effortlessly.
You could add your preferred type of bean to your favorite casserole recipe or give a meatless casserole recipe such as this enchilada casserole a try, which includes three different bean varieties: black, pinto, and kidney beans.
Adding beans to meals can help keep your blood sugar levels from spiking after consuming a carb-rich meal, such as casseroles (
Adding beans to salads and bowls is probably one of the easiest ways to increase your bean intake and improve your diet quality.
According to the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) — a measure that determines whether a set of foods aligns with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans — beans provide significant amounts of fiber and protein. Their intake increases your diet score, indicating a better diet quality (
This recipe uses white beans for a more filling take on the traditional Mediterranean salad, which you can make a day ahead for maximum flavor.
Whipping up a bean spread or dip is pretty similar to making hummus.
Bean spreads work great when smeared on bread or tortillas for your next sandwich or wrap, or enjoyed with tortilla chips or veggies.
Again, you can make a bean spread with just about any type of bean. Try this white bean dip recipe if you’re looking for a mild flavor or this spicy red bean spread for when you want to spice things up.
Maybe beans are not the first ingredient that comes to mind when you think of pasta. However, mixing beans with pasta might be just what you need to take an already comforting food to the next level.
Pasta e Fagioli — or pasta with beans — is a heartwarming dish served throughout Italy that combines small pasta with kidney beans and tomato broth.
Adding beans to the pasta increases its protein content and provides a meaty texture without the meat, making it ideal for vegans and vegetarians.
Bean soups are common dishes served in multiple countries around the world.
For example, Italians enjoy bean minestrone, a soup consisting of pasta noodles, veggies, and white beans, while Greeks enjoy fasolatha during the winter, a white bean and tomato soup.
In contrast, Latin Americans drink sopa negra — black bean soup — which can be served with hardboiled eggs, cheese, rice, beans, sour cream, and avocado, depending on the country.
No matter which type of bean you have at hand, you’re surely going to find a recipe out there that’ll have you enjoying a comforting bowl of soup in no time.
Due to their meaty texture and mild flavor, beans make a great plant-based meat replacement for burgers — and even meatballs.
By using beans to make the patty, you’ll get a fiber-loaded version of an otherwise low-fiber meal. Having a veggie burger made with beans can help increase your intake.
This is especially important in America, where more than 90% of women and 97% of men don’t meet the recommended dietary fiber intake, which is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic diseases (
Much like adding beans to salads or bowls, adding them to tacos and quesadillas is a quick and easy way to add beans to your diet.
You could throw them in whole as part of the filling or use a bean spread to help bind the rest of the ingredients to your tortilla.
The best part is that no matter which type of beans you choose, you’ll always end up with a delicious and nutritious meal. Try this avocado black bean quesadilla recipe or this vegan white bean tacos recipe if you’re looking for some flavorful ideas.
A dish consisting of rice and beans is a staple in Latin American cuisine. Each country has its variations, and sometimes there may be more than one version within the same country.
For instance, the dish is known as rice and beans in the Caribbean. Yet, Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans call it Gallo pinto, Hondurans and Salvadorans call it Casamiento — marriage — and Cubans call it Moros y Cristianos — Moors and Christians.
Consuming rice and beans together is a great way to improve the protein quality of grains. Since beans have a high content of the essential amino acid lysine, they complement rice’s low lysine levels (
Baked beans are another heartwarming and comforting way to reap the benefits of beans.
This is another dish you can enjoy from breakfast to dinner. Still, it is an all-time favorite for gatherings among families and friends.
Baked beans may include ground beef, bacon, or sausage, depending on the recipe. However, avoiding animal-based ingredients can also make an equally delicious vegan version.
Believe it or not, beans can also make their way into your dessert menu.
Like plant-based burgers, bean-based desserts take a dish typically low in protein and fiber and turn it into one with better nutritional quality.
If you are curious about trying a dessert made with beans, give these flourless black bean brownies a try for a fudgy, decadent chocolate treat.
Beans are a highly nutritious, affordable, and convenient food rich in plant-based protein and fiber.
They also make quite the versatile ingredient, which you can use to make numerous dishes, from breakfast to dinner, snacks, and dessert.
Give the recipes on this list a try if you’re looking for new ways to use beans.
Just one thing
Try this today: Don’t worry if you don’t have time to cook beans from scratch. Canned beans are a practical and nutritious pre-cooked alternative that will have you enjoying all of the benefits without the long cooking hours. Rinse them before eating them to lower their sodium content.