By Ali Lopez
MRG Contributor

Hello from my kitchen to yours. I hope you are all staying safe and healthy, getting outside when you can and eating healthy food! Based on what I have seen on the shelves at the markets, everyone is buying canned beans. Holy moly! But are you eating them? That is what I have been wondering. 

Personally I have always bean (ha!) a bean lover. Whether it is dried beans from scratch or straight from the can, I have never met a bean I didn’t like. Besides being tasty, beans are a delicious, inexpensive source of plant-based protein. They’re also a great source of healthy fiber, particularly soluble fiber, which helps keep you feeling full longer. And beans go well with so many things, and can be eaten heated or cold.  So I thought I would take some time today to share some of my quick, easy and delicious ways to use a can of beans.

Rice and beans 

This dish is a staple meal in so many cultures. If you are looking for an easy way to make lunch or dinner from a can of beans, this is the perfect place to start. And the varieties are endless depending upon which bean and how you flavor the dish. Also, instead of rice, feel free to use the grain of your choice here — quinoa, farro, millet, barley, couscous. It’s all good. Here are a few ideas:

Start with a cooked grain. First sauté a little onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Then add your cooked grain and cook over a medium heat until grain starts to get a little crispy. Then add your canned, drained beans and heat until warm. Add salt and pepper to taste. That’s it. Then you can take this base and add roasted veggies on top or steamed greens underneath. Get the idea?

Depending upon the kind of beans you use, here are some seasoning suggestions.

Pinto, black or kidney: Go with a little cumin, maybe chili powder. Add some hot sauce or lime juice for acidity.

White beans: Add a little dried (or fresh) basil, parsley, some canned tomatoes, a little tomato paste or some balsamic vinegar. And maybe some fresh grated parmesan on top.

Garbanzos: Add a little curry powder or curry paste, some minced ginger, a big squeeze of lemon or lime juice, tamari or apple cider vinegar.

I think you get the idea.

Quick vegetable bean soup 

This is a great way to stretch canned beans and get some veggies into the meal. Fresh or frozen! 

Start with some onion, celery and carrots. Saute them in some olive oil then add any other fresh veggies you have on hand that you want to cook.  If you don’t have fresh veggies, no worries; you can use frozen, and they just don’t have to cook as long. Then add the liquid of your choice — water or stock is fine here. Maybe some canned tomatoes. Then dump in your canned beans. As many varieties and cans as you like. Get creative. Add herbs and spices. If you have leftover odds and ends of cooked meat, you can add that as well. Finish the soup with a good drizzle of your favorite vinegar or lemon juice. And of course don’t forget the salt and pepper.

How about making your own Hummus? I’ve been making my own hummus for years using dried beans, but I have a really easy quick recipe from canned if you need a snack NOW! 

Chef Ali’s Easy Peasy Hummus

Ingredients

2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

3 medium cloves garlic

1/3 cup tahini (although you can use any nut or seed butter if you don’t have tahini) 

Juice of 1 lemon (or less, depending on juiciness of lemon)

Few glugs of olive oil

Teaspoon or so of cumin

Salt and pepper, as needed

Method

Place chickpeas and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chickpeas are roughly chopped. Add in tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin and 1/4 cup of water. Puree until REALLY smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of the bowl as needed. Thin with additional water if necessary. Add salt, pepper and pulse to combine. Taste! 

The variations are endless. You can add fresh basil (or pesto), sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, roasted beets, roasted garlic, artichokes. And you can use any bean here. And vary up the spices and add-ins.

More ideas on how to use a can of beans.  

  • In the mood for Mexican? Tacos, enchiladas, burritos. AND, if you still haven’t tried it, my MRG approved Chili recipe uses a bunch of canned beans.
  • Is it pasta night? Toss a can of beans in with your favorite pasta sauce, or add to your baked lasagna filling and yes, even a pizza topping. You can keep the beans whole and sprinkle on top or puree and use as a base.
  • Are you a smoothie fan? Add a can of beans to your next morning smoothie. Seriously. Great source of protein and fiber and you won’t taste it. White beans or garbanzos are the most neutral and won’t change the color of your smoothie. Black beans work really well in a chocolate smoothie.
  • Salad Lover? Take a can of beans and toss them with some olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice and some fresh or dried herbs and you have a tasty simple bean salad that you can eat on its own or add to any salad as a power-packed topper. Add them to my Superfood kale salad.
  • And the last suggestion may seem a little odd, but it is a guilty pleasure of mine. I call it my “hobo meal.” I open a can of baked beans and eat them right out the can. Yup!  Sometimes I get fancy and heat them up and pour them over a baked sweet potato or white potato. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Stay safe, stay home, stay healthy. Keep cooking.

Ali Lopez is a northern Michigan runner, chef and health coach. You can learn more about her at her web site Healthy Chef Ali. She’s also on Facebook here »

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