Cooking With Beans: A Guide to Fearless Enjoyment of Nature’s Perfect Food

Cooking With Beans: A Guide to Fearless Enjoyment of Nature’s Perfect Food Photo by lenetstan / Shutterstock.com

Beans are cheap, filling, low-fat, high-protein and, when prepared well, delicious.

Some of the world’s oldest and most venerable cuisines — think Middle Eastern, Mexican and East Indian, for example — are built on this nutritious staple.

So are all the bean-based comfort foods you loved growing up — like chili, baked beans, bean soup, hummus, Mexican rice and beans, Cuban black beans, three-bean salad and Hoppin’ John, to name a few examples.

So, here’s everything you need to know to embrace this perfect food and start working more beans into your diet — from how to avoid digestive gas to how to cook homemade beans:

Canned beans versus dried beans

Reach for canned beans when convenience is your priority. Pop open a can and sprinkle beans on your salad, throw them onto a tortilla with cheese, or toss them into a casserole, chili or soup.

If cost or taste is more important to you than convenience, go with dried beans.

You don’t have to cook beans every time you want to eat them, though. Cook up a batch and freeze the beans in small portions. You’ll enjoy the convenience of canned beans at a fraction of the cost.

The Bean Institute ran the numbers a few years ago, and found that a family of four that eats beans once a week will save around $80 a year by using dried beans over a national brand of canned beans.

Here are the institute’s price comparisons for pinto beans:

  • Dry — $0.15 per serving
  • Canned (store brand) — $0.34 per serving
  • Canned (national brand) — $0.48 per serving

Homemade dried beans are also tastier than the canned equivalent.

“Canned beans are never going to be as good as home-cooked dried beans, no matter how many seasonings you add to your pot,” raves The New York Times food writer Melissa Clark. “They’re like any other convenience food … fine in a pinch but never transcendent.”

Yet another advantage of dried beans is that you get to decide what else goes into the pot — which is important if you are trying to cut down on sodium.

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