5 Recipes That Turn Canned Beans Into Treasure (2024)

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There are some special meals for which all else is put on hold: Red wine is glugged into enormous glasses, calls are muted, and three-hour playlists are queued. On those nights, flour is carefully measured, dough is lovingly rolled, and elaborate sauces are made from scratch. And then there’s most of the time—when you have limited ingredients and dinner needs to be on the table in a jiffy. For those meals, we turn to canned beans, the ultimate kitchen staple.

Food writer, recipe developer, and cookbook author Hetty McKinnon is a particular fan. “We really survive on them in our house,” she says. “Beans are the all-encompassing ingredient that I’ll add to my meals for heartiness, that extra bit of nutrition, and protein.” And while a humble can of beans might not, in itself, be terribly exciting, in these housebound and uncertain times, they’re having a well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

Here, McKinnon shares a few of her go-to ways to use everything from lentils to chickpeas to the underrated butter bean, in recipes from her cookbooks Family: New Vegetarian Comfort Food to Nourish Every Day and Community: Salad Recipes From Arthur Street Kitchen.

Cacio e Pepe Broccolini With Crispy White Beans

5 Recipes That Turn Canned Beans Into Treasure (1)

Serves 4

It’s salty! It’s peppery! It’s basically the beloved Roman pasta dish, but in salad form. And while you arguably might get scurvy if you lived off cheesy spaghetti every night (worth it?), you could eat this salad daily. “The flavor here really comes from the char-grilled broccolini, sharp cheese, and the bed of crispy, pan-fried white beans,” says McKinnon. “It’s got all of those same comforting flavors, without, you know, being hyper-indulgent.”

Ingredients2 bunches broccolini (about 14 oz), trimmed and each stem halvedExtra-virgin olive oilSea salt18 oz cooked cannellini or navy beans (about 2 drained cans)1 garlic clove, finely choppedHandful of chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves½ to 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper1½ oz Pecorino cheese, grated, plus extra to serve½ lemon, cut into wedges

Acceptable substitutions:For broccolini: broccoli, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, kaleFor Pecorino: Parmesan

RecipeHeat a large frying pan over medium-high heat (or use a grill). Coat the broccolini in olive oil and fry for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until there is some charring. Remove from pan and season well with sea salt.

Place the same pan over high heat and add a big drizzle of oil. Add the beans and fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, season well with sea salt, and fry for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring every now and then until the beans are crispy. If the beans become dry during cooking, add more oil.

Toss the broccolini, beans, and parsley together and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Spoon onto a serving plate. Sprinkle over the black pepper and grate over the Pecorino. Serve with extra Pecorino and lemon wedges on the side.

Extracted from Family: New Vegetarian Comfort Food to Nourish Every Day by Hetty McKinnon (Prestel Publishing 2019).

Black Bean Soup With Chipotle Tortilla Chips

5 Recipes That Turn Canned Beans Into Treasure (2)

Serves 4 to 6

Using canned black beans and their brine makes this soup thick and creamy, without the hassle. And the “crunchy bits” on top—pumpkin seeds and tortilla chips—add some fun texture. As a general rule, McKinnon says beans always need to be generously seasoned with salt and spices. “In this case I use cumin, ground coriander, and paprika for that richness and depth of flavor,” she explains.

IngredientsFor the soup:Extra-virgin olive oil1 onion, finely diced3 thyme sprigs2 garlic cloves, finely chopped2 bay leaves3 tsp ground cumin2 tsp ground coriander½ tsp smoked paprika1 green bell pepper, de-seeded and finely diced15 oz tomato passata27 oz cooked black beans (about 3 cans)3 cups vegetable stock½ cup pumpkin seeds, toastedHandful of coriander leavesSea salt and black pepper

For the chipotle tortilla chips:4 corn tortillasExtra-virgin olive oilSmall pinch of chipotle powderSea salt

RecipePreheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. For the chipotle tortilla chips, brush each side of the corn tortillas with oil and stack them on top of each other. Cut them in half, then slice each half into 1/4-inch strips. Spread the tortilla strips out in a single layer on a large baking tray, sprinkle over the salt and the chipotle powder and toss gently. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until crispy.

In a large pan over a medium-high heat, drizzle some olive oil and add onion and thyme. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring, then toss in the garlic and bay leaves. Add the cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika and cook for 1 minute. Add the bell pepper, tomato passata, black beans with brine, and vegetable stock; reduce the heat to medium; and cook for 15 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Taste the soup and season with sea salt and black pepper. Using a potato masher or the back of a large fork, randomly mash up some of the beans. This will thicken up the soup and create a lovely texture. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve topped with the tortilla chips, pumpkin seeds, and coriander leaves.

Extracted from Family: New Vegetarian Comfort Food to Nourish Every Day by Hetty McKinnon (Prestel Publishing 2019).

Jacked Sweet Potatoes With Lentils and Chili-Coriander Sauce

5 Recipes That Turn Canned Beans Into Treasure (3)

Serves 4 to 6

A roasted sweet potato on it’s own might be a somewhat sad dinner prospect. “But that’s the magic of beans,” says McKinnon. “They can transform a simple vegetable into a meal.” The salty olives, earthy lentils, and fresh coriander really balance out the sweetness in this dish. And McKinnon encourages adding as much chili as your palate can handle. In case you were concerned: “It’s perfectly acceptable just to use canned lentils here.”

IngredientsFor the sweet potatoes:4 to 6 small sweet potatoes, washedExtra-virgin olive oil½ cup black lentils, rinsed½ cup green olives, stones removed, roughly choppedHandful of coriander leaves3 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toastedSea salt and black pepper

For the chile-cilantro sauce:½ habanero chili, de-seeded and roughly chopped½ cup extra-virgin olive oil1 bunch of corianderJuice of ½ lemon, plus more if needed1 garlic cloveSea salt

RecipePreheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the sweet potatoes in a baking tray and drizzle with some olive oil. Season with sea salt and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender—test with a bamboo skewer or fork. Meanwhile, place the lentils into a pot and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a boil and add 2 big pinches of salt, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the lentils are just soft. Drain. (To save time, you can also use canned lentils.) Place the lentils in a bowl, add the olives, a few coriander leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil. Stir to combine.

To make the chili-coriander sauce, blend the chili, oil, coriander, lemon, and garlic until very smooth. Season with sea salt, and adjust the lemon according to your personal preference.

To serve, slice each sweet potato down the center to create an opening and push the flesh down with a fork to form a well. Fill with the black lentils and olive mixture. Drizzle over the green sauce and scatter over the pumpkin seeds and a few coriander leaves.

Extracted from Family: New Vegetarian Comfort Food to Nourish Every Day by Hetty McKinnon (Prestel Publishing 2019).

The Deconstructed Falafel Salad

5 Recipes That Turn Canned Beans Into Treasure (4)

Serves 4

All the fresh, lemony flavors of a falafel sandwich, with none of the time spent grinding, shaping, and deep frying: It’s perfection, dismantled. But, says McKinnon, the real star of the show is the crunchy roasted chickpeas: “They’re an ideal vessel for all those spices, like garlic, cumin, and paprika, that are in a typical falafel. And if you have any oil left over after roasting them, you can reuse it in the dressing.”

IngredientsFor the salad:Extra-virgin olive oil2 bunches kale leaves (approximately 6 cups)1 Persian cucumber, sliced into thin rounds3 cups store-bought pita chipsHandful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly choppedHandful of mint leaves1 lemon, cut into wedgesSea salt

For the crispy roasted chickpeas:18 oz cooked chickpeas (about 2 cans), drained and patted dryExtra-virgin olive oil2 garlic cloves, finely chopped2 tsp ground cumin1 tsp paprikaSea salt and black pepper

For the lemon tahini:⅓ cup tahini pasteJuice of 1 lemon, plus more if needed1 garlic clove, very finely choppedSea salt and black pepper

Acceptable substitutions:Chickpeas: white beans, butter beansOmit pita chips to make the recipe gluten-free

RecipePreheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the drained chickpeas into a small ovenproof dish. Cover with olive oil; season well with 2 big pinches of sea salt and black pepper; and add the garlic, cumin, and paprika. Stir to combine. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chickpeas are crispy. Set aside.

Place a large frying pan over medium heat and drizzle with oil. Add the kale, in batches, along with a pinch of salt, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until wilted.

To make the lemon tahini, pour the tahini into a small bowl and whisk in the lemon juice and garlic. Gradually add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until the sauce is the consistency of thickened cream. If the tahini “seizes” and becomes very thick, push through by adding more water; it will eventually come back together to form a cohesive creamy sauce. Season with sea salt and black pepper, and add more lemon juice if you like it lemony.

Combine the crispy chickpeas (and their cooking oil) with the kale, cucumber, half the pita chips, and herbs. To serve, drizzle over the lemon tahini and scatter over the remaining pita chips. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.

Extracted from Family: New Vegetarian Comfort Food to Nourish Every Day by Hetty McKinnon (Prestel Publishing 2019).

Fresh Mushroom, Butter Bean, and Cilantro Salad

5 Recipes That Turn Canned Beans Into Treasure (5)

Serves 4

This uncomplicated salad was inspired by a dish McKinnon tried at the iconic Damascus Bakery on Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue. “But I wanted to add more texture and heartiness, so I used butter beans, which are also just so creamy,” she says. “It’s a very unusual salad, but it’s very good.”

Ingredients1 bunch cilantro leaves, trimmed and roughly chopped1 clove garlic, very finely chopped½ tsp cinnamon2 sprigs thyme, leaves picked¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve¼ cup lemon juiceSea salt and black pepper2 cans cooked butter beans, drained1 lb white button mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced

RecipeMake the dressing by combining half the cilantro, garlic, cinnamon, thyme, olive oil, and lemon juice in a bowl. Season well with sea salt and black pepper. Adjust quantities to get the acidity you like.

Place butter beans and mushrooms in a bowl and add the dressing. Toss to combine. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, season a little more with sea salt, scatter with the remaining cilantro, and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to penetrate the mushrooms. The salad can also be prepared ahead of time; cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

Extracted from Community: Salad Recipes From Arthur Street Kitchen by Hetty McKinnon (Plum Books/Pan MacMillan Australia 2019).

See more stories like this:Follow Dimes’s Salad Formula and Never Make a Boring Bowl of Greens AgainAre You Storing Your Produce Properly?How to Make Dinner With What’s in Your Freezer

5 Recipes That Turn Canned Beans Into Treasure (2024)


What can I do with leftover canned beans? ›

Here are a few delicious recipes you can try using leftover canned beans:
  1. Bean Salad: Simply mix drained and rinsed beans with diced vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and red onions. ...
  2. Bean Tacos: Mash the beans with spices and sautéed onions and garlic, then use as a filling for tacos.
Feb 4, 2023

How to make a can of beans good? ›

Be sure to add some seasonings

In order to wake up the flavor of canned beans, you'll want to season them with the spices of your choice. Don't fall into the common trap of over-salting your beans—since most beans already contain a good amount of sodium, they actually don't require too much extra salt.

Can you reuse canned beans? ›

Yes. Unused portions of canned food may be refrigerated in the can, but to preserve optimum quality and flavor, place the unused portion in a food-grade glass or plastic container. Use within 4 days.

Can you eat canned beans straight out of the can? ›

The reason that beans are safe to eat straight from the can is pretty simple: They're already cooked. Per Epicurious, beans are blanched before being canned with water, salt, and other additives, and then sealed and cooked under steam pressure at a high temperature before landing at your local grocery store.

How to jazz up canned beans? ›

You can add crushed whole seeds (coriander, cumin, fennel, mustard, etc.), woodsy herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage), red pepper flakes, crushed garlic cloves, and of course salt and pepper.

How to make canned beans tastier? ›

I like to sprinkle in some taco seasoning, but you could add whatever spices you like — garlic powder, cumin, and chili powder are all good calls. Then, you mash the beans up directly in the pan and add just a little bit of vinegar at the end to really make the beans sing.

How do you make beans taste meaty? ›

Traditional seasoning meats such as salt pork, bacon, and ham are what provide that savory, meaty flavor in a pot of simmering beans.

How to make canned beans taste like restaurant? ›

Only put in water, beans—I use pinto beans, lard, & salt in them. Simmered them on low for quite a while, but I think you can boil them too and it's faster. You can add onion, but I don't usually. You MUST use LARD tho—it's the ingredients that gives it that taste like the beans you're used to at a restaurant.

How to make can beans taste like homemade? ›

A few ideas:
  1. Rinse the beans.
  2. Spice (cumin, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder) and warm them up.
  3. Mix with other ingredients (add vegetables, cooked rice, pasta, or use them as a filling for wraps or tacos)
  4. Mix with your own sauce (onion+bell pepper+carrot+canned tomatoes)
Aug 3, 2023

Why can't you boil canned beans? ›

2 Answers. Beans in the can are already well cooked--they are essentially pressure cooked as part of the canning process. While only a speculation, it is highly likely that they are now fragile and bringing them to a full boil would mar their appearance--fewer whole beans--from the agitation.

What can you do with beans? ›

Try some of our favorite bean-based recipes:
  • Easy Bean Salad.
  • Mango Bean Salad.
  • Minestrone.
  • Greek Lentil and White Bean Soup With Olive and Tomato Gremolata.
  • Roasted Bell Pepper and Bean Hummus.
  • Spiced Sweet Potato Hummus.
  • Hummus and Sun-Dried Tomato Wrap.
  • Creamy White Bean and Artichoke Dip.
Mar 26, 2020

How do you cut gas out of canned beans? ›

But most people can enjoy more beans with less gas with the help of these tips: Soak beans overnight in water, then drain, rinse and cook in fresh water. This decreases the oligosaccharide content. Cooking the beans in a pressure cooker may reduce the oligosaccharides even further.

Should you drain canned beans? ›

"Draining and rinsing canned beans can reduce their sodium content by more than 40 percent. But taking just a few extra minutes is key to getting the most benefit," The Bean Institute website states.

How long do leftover canned beans last in the fridge? ›

Low-acid canned goods, such as meat, poultry, fish, gravy, stew, soups, beans, carrots, corn, pasta, peas, potatoes and spinach) can be stored three to four days.

How long will canned beans last in the fridge? ›

According to the USDA, the good news is that canned beans last in the fridge for about three to four days. This means that if you are dining solo or just using a portion of the can for a particular dish, your leftover beans will remain tasty and safe to eat for a few days more — great news for future you!

Can I freeze canned beans after opening? ›

Freezing your extra canned beans should be fine. In fact, I often make a big batch of chili (using canned beans), and then freeze some of it with no change in quality. Simply store your extra beans in a heavy plastic container or plastic freezer bag and use within 6 months.

Can you save opened canned beans? ›

Refrigerator: After opening, you can store canned beans in the fridge in an airtight container. Open canned beans will last for three to four days in the refrigerator. 2. Freezer: You can store opened canned beans in the freezer in an airtight container or freezer bag for one to two months.

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