Beans don't have to taste like the bland, mushy ones your mom forced you to eat as a kid. These tips on how to cook beans will create nutritious and delicious dishes, guaranteed.

By Laura Rege
October 15, 2020
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You might have despised them as a child (and maybe still do), but beans are more than deserving of a spot on your plate.

“This modest yet incredibly versatile plant-based protein is the building block of all kinds of delicious dishes,” says Joe Yonan, the author of Cool Beans and the food and dining editor for the Washington Post. “Anything chicken can do, beans can do better.” (Not to mention, they stay good in the pantry for, like, ever.)

You can roast them, simmer them until they’re creamy, blend them into dips — the list goes on. Of course, they’re also super nutritious. Follow Yonan’s innovative tips to learn how to cook beans you'd eat in your dreams.

How to Cook Beans You'll Want to Eat 24/7

Swap Your Canned Beans for Freshly Boiled Ones

“They are pretty darn good straight from a can, but even better from scratch,” says Yonan. His boil method: Dump the dry beans in a pot, cover them with water by at least 3 inches, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt, half an onion, a few garlic cloves, a bay leaf, and a strip of kombu (a dried seaweed), and crank up the heat. The cooking time varies by type and age of bean, so you'll need to taste a few — they’re done when the beans have “a super creamy texture all the way through with the skins still intact,” says Yonan.

You can use this basic recipe in any dish that calls for cooked beans, but if you want to layer on some flavor, add orange halves and green bell pepper, and finish with orange zest and juice after cooking for a Cuban spin. Add dried chiles and Mexican oregano for some heat, or add oregano or sage and extra garlic cloves for a taste of Italy. There are no wrong answers here.

Make Them Super Crispy

Roast boiled or canned beans until they’re crunchy, and sprinkle them on soups or in salads in place of croutons. (You can even make chickpeas, for example, taste like sweet cinnamon-y cereal.)

Use up Your Bean Broth

“When you cook beans from scratch, you get a really incredible, delicious broth,” says Yonan. Use it in place of pasta water to add body and depth to sauces, stir it into soups, and add the broth to vegetable mashes and purees to thin them out and add flavor. Or cook rice in black bean broth to make arroz negro, a creamy dish with earthy notes from southern Mexico.

Toss Your Beans into Your Smoothie

Drinking beans doesn't sound all that appetizing, but white beans or chickpeas will give your smoothie a protein and fiber boost. “The bean flavor disappears, and they add bulk and texture just as bananas do,” says Yonan. Blend a cup of white beans or chickpeas with mango, coconut, mint, and ginger to create a tropical-tasting treat. (After dinner, you can also cap off the meal these bean-based desserts.)

Pair Your Beans with Veggies

One of Yonan’s favorites is Rancho Gordo Royal Corona Beans. “Big, creamy, and luscious, these are a revelation the first time you eat them, mainly because of their size, which makes them a great meat substitute,” he says. Use them in a Greek-inspired salad with lemon, honey, dill, roasted tomatoes, and kale. Or skewer them with vegetables, and grill. Serve over rice. (Related: What the Heck Are Lupini Beans and Why Are They Popping Up Everywhere?)

Shape Magazine, October 2020 issue

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