Beans care a nearly perfect, plant-based protein, and they are chock full of healthy fiber to keep your digestive system running smoothly. Another positive is beans aren’t restricted by season. Dried beans are just as nutritious as fresh or canned (canned can have additional salt to preserve them, so always rinse canned beans).
From velvety black beans that you often find alongside corn in salads or served on top of rice as a side dish to cannellini beans that can be stewed with tomato sauce and dill, bean varieties are as diverse as they are nutritious. You can serve beans in salads, soups, or as a side dish for a filling and nutritious boost to any meal.
If you are consuming fresh beans, which are typically planted in late spring and harvested mid-summer in North America, you need only to remove them from their pods and give them a rinse; however, if you plan on using dried beans (which have a shelf-life of at least a year) you will need to soak them for several hours to revive them, and activate the proteins in the beans.
We have rounded up some of the most common types of beans, such as black beans, pinto beans, butter beans, lima beans, and more to showcase the unique qualities of these beans, and some of our favorite ways to prepare them.
Black beans have a smooth, creamy texture, and a mild taste. They pair well with rice and crunchy corn, or they can be added to soups for texture. You will most often find this type of bean canned or dried.
If you are using canned beans in your recipe, be sure to rinse the beans thoroughly before adding to your dish to wash off any excess salt in the packing liquid.
For dried black beans, soak your beans overnight in a large pot of water. Then rinse the beans, cover with water, being sure the beans are submerged with about three inches of water on top. Bring the water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook covered for about 30 minutes, and seasoning, and continue to cook 30 more minutes or until done.
Flavor your beans with garlic, onion, and spices as in this recipes for Quail, Chorizo, Bean, And Heirloom Avocado that incorporates classic Mexican flavors or check out this recipe for a Cuban-Style Black Beans and Plantains Over Oatmeal, which uses the mild flavor of black beans to add a heartiness to the oatmeal sweetened with plantains.
These small beans are easy to identify because of their characteristic black spot. For dried black-eyed peas, you will need to soak them overnight in a large pot of water or you can quick-soak them by covering them with water in a large pot, and bringing them for a boil for two minutes. Then, drain the beans, start with fresh water, and continue cooking as the recipe directs.
These white and red speckled beans have a mild chestnut flavor. Fresh, these beans take about 45 minutes to cook in simmering water. Dried, these beans require soaking overnight, rinsing, and then cooking in simmering water until tender.
Butter beans, also known as lima beans are green or white. Butter beans generally refer to the mature flat, white lima beans. The canned varieties are creamier in texture than dried lima beans or young, green limas, which can have a firmer, starchy texture.
If you are looking for that firmer bean, there is nothing better than pairing your sweet, summer butter beans with smoky ham hocks as in this recipe for Fresh Butter Bean and Smoked Ham Hock Soup. However, if you are cooking in the winter, feel free to replace with canned beans, just note the different texture.
Often, cannellini beans are used interchangeably with Great Northern Beans because they share a similar mild taste and texture. Enjoy this Italian bean variety in simple broth-based soups, like this Tuscan White Bean Soup with Broccoli Rabe.
Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are the most widely consumed bean in the world. They have an intense nutty flavor and firm texture. For dried chickpeas, you must first soak them overnight in cold water before discarding any spoiled beans that float to the top. Drain the beans and cover in a pot with three inches of fresh water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for one and a half hours, until the beans are tender.
These large beans are popular in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Also known as broad beans, horse beans, English beans, faba beans, and Windsor beans, they are large, flat, and greenish-brown when dried and bright green when fresh. They have a firm texture and nutty flavor that makes them ideal for soups, salads, dips, pasta dishes, and even as a substitute for garbanzo beans in falafel recipes.
This mild white bean is used in soups and salads. You can typically find this bean either canned or dried. Soak the beans overnight to reinvigorate them, and then proceed as your favorite recipe suggests. These beans are small and readily absorb the flavors of their surrounding ingredients, which makes them ideal for soups.
You can find kidney beans dried or canned throughout the year, making them an ideal pantry staple to stock for those last minute meals. However, if you plan to use the dried kidney beans, they will require an overnight soak or a quick soak that can take up to two hours. To quick soak kidney beans, place them in a pot and cover with about two to three inches of water. Bring them to a boil for two minutes; turn off the heat, and cover. Let the beans sit for about two hours.
Use navy beans to add texture and heartiness to your recipes. Because of their mild flavor, they adapt well to many different dishes. Here, the navy bean adds heartiness to this Ham Ramen with Kimchi and Navy Beans recipe. In this Wild Rice, Mushroom, and Navy Bean Burgers recipe, the beans’ firm texture is used to form the “meat” of the burger patty.
Add flavor to these creamy beans with seasonings and spices. The smooth texture makes for a delicate veggie burger patty, like in this recipe for a Pinto Bean Veggie Burger. Additionally, you can use their starchiness to amp up your chili recipe, like this one for a Pinto Bean Chili with Pan-Roasted Spices and Chipotle.
The Cajun classic, Red Beans and Rice, is a hearty staple served weekly by most Louisiana natives. The dish isn’t as simple as boiled rice and beans. Often, the dish is flavored with ham hocks, sausages, and a heavy-handed seasoning with herbs and spices. It can be a main course or a side dish depending upon the occasion.