What bean-based meals aren't bland?
May 17, 2023 7:37 AM   Subscribe

With a few exceptions*, most bean-based recipes I've tried turn out almost inedible because they're so bland and boring. Especially beans and rice, but other recipes too. The reviews will always say it has tons of flavour but it's a lie. I want to eat more beans but I need flavour. Do you have a recipe with a lot of beans that actually tastes like something?

I'm only looking for full meals, not sides like hummus or refried beans.

Restrictions: no peas, lentils, peanuts or pork

Bonus, but optional:
-Instant pot recipes
-dried/canned/frozen beans (but not fresh or canned green beans)
-very low prep time
-meals that freeze well
-spice profile different from burritos or chili

*Successful recipes include chili, buffalo chickpeas, and spicy black bean soup. Burritos are ok too, although I don't love the seasoning mix I use.
posted by randomnity to Food & Drink (65 answers total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
I'm quite fond of cajun red beans, served over rice. I make them in an Instant Pot with dried kidney beans (Camellia brand are the best). My recipe isn't easily accessible at the moment, but you can find lots of recipes online. Cajun red beans are very flavorful (I make mine with oregano, sage, thyme, liquid smoke, and cayenne pepper).
posted by alex1965 at 7:42 AM on May 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

Try this southern Louisiana Red beans and rice. It is my go to for flavorful beans. * vegetarian option bottom of page
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:43 AM on May 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

Yes to Cajun beans and rice, which are delicious, and which can also be expanded to jambalaya.

I dated a girl once who made this thing she called Brazilian rice and beans (probably a feijoada, I guess) with black beans, tomato sauce, and coconut milk, plus some other ingredients that I don’t remember. I’ve actually been meaning to post an Ask about this, so if anyone knows what I’m talking about, I’d appreciate more detail.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:48 AM on May 17, 2023

Assuming black-eyed peas are ok, I really like this coconut jerk black-eyed peas recipe. Get a good jerk seasoning you like (or make your own, but I don't have a tested recipe to offer for the seasoning blend) and use it liberally.

It freezes well, and I will just use canned pineapple and hot sauce in lieu of making the salsa if I'm pulling a portion out of the freezer. Or just skip the salsa, although I do think a little sweetness goes well with the jerk seasoning.
posted by the primroses were over at 7:53 AM on May 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

Try Caribbean Rice and Beans which has less beans and uses coconut milk for the rice. So good!
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:55 AM on May 17, 2023

My friend just made these confit white beans for a party and they were terrific. It sounds like by "flavorful" you may mean "very spicy" in which case these won't do—they're more salty and savory—but they do taste different from burritos! We had them over rice but I think it'd be better on nice bread.
posted by babelfish at 7:55 AM on May 17, 2023 [3 favorites]

I think you want some South Asian bean curries! Madhur Jaffrey's chana masala recipe, aka "Very Spicy Delicious Chickpeas" is one of my faves and it freezes very well. I don't have any other go-to recipes but this Rajma Dal (kidney beans) recipe looks good.

Also though a lot of recipe-writers just underseason and underspice their recipes. It's OK to double/triple/quadruple the spice!
posted by mskyle at 7:56 AM on May 17, 2023 [14 favorites]

In general, the best cooking tip I ever read was double the herbs or spices for any recipe written by a white Westerner. Works like a charm!
posted by rhymedirective at 8:00 AM on May 17, 2023 [27 favorites]

I'm fond of the cookbook Vegan for Everybody, by America's Test Kitchen.

Amazon link
Ebay link

Looks like you can get used copies for less than $10. That's a great price. The book's recipes are excellent.

A few recipes it has that use beans: several types of chili, chickpea salad, brown rice and burrito bowl, several types of bean burgers, felafel (made from chickpeas), and tortilla soup.
posted by mr_bovis at 8:02 AM on May 17, 2023

African cuisine is great for this! I really like Ethiopian Berbere Spice - sautee onions, ginger (grated), add tomato puree, 1tsp spice, beans, stock. Pow! Also a Tanzanian Stew recipe I make is great with white beans - sautee onions, garlic, add 2tbsp curry powder (Indian or Caribbean), tbsp peanut butter, tin tomatoes, beans & veg with stock to top up, plus sliced red chilli and 2 slices peeled ginger.
posted by london explorer girl at 8:02 AM on May 17, 2023 [7 favorites]

I make a red lentil curry similar to this Instant Pot masoor daal recipe. This is one of the fastest/easiest bean dishes I know of, and very flavorful.

It’s a very adaptable dish; you can alter the spice blend or the vegetables/aromatics to your taste. For example, sometimes I make it without tomatoes, or sometimes with double tomatoes so I can use up the whole can. Or you can add a bit of cayenne if you like it spicier! Powdered cumin or other spices will work if you don’t have whole cumin seeds.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:03 AM on May 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

Are you using enough salt (or acid -- vinegar, lime juice, etc)? That's often what makes flavors come to life.
posted by lapis at 8:03 AM on May 17, 2023 [13 favorites]

do you consider chickpeas to be beans? Any chickpea curry has plenty of flavor.

One easy version: Saute an onion in a little oil. Add a couple tbsp of tomato paste and some minced garlic (and ginger if you have it); cook that in the onion-oil for a bit; add a fair amount of garam masala and/or whatever curry blend you like. Add a can or two of drained chickpeas and a can of coconut milk, and whatever other vegetables you like (if they are hard vegetables then cut them small, and ideally add them in before.) Simmer for several minutes to blend flavors, adjust seasonings, add some fresh lime juice. Depending on your proportions this can be thick enough to not require serving "over" anything else.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:04 AM on May 17, 2023

I barely eat vegetables but there's a Georgian dish called lobio that was delicious, super savoury, not spicy, just rich and moreish.
posted by Iteki at 8:07 AM on May 17, 2023

Response by poster: The pea restriction is due to an allergy - we know that green (and probably yellow) peas, lentils and peanuts are problematic but all other legumes we've tried seem to be fine, including chickpeas. Any other "peas" that are actually beans should be fine too.

Vegetarian or meat are both fine, just no pork (unless the recipe works well with substituting a different meat or leaving it out).

Doesn't need to be very spicy - actually, I often reduce the spice in those recipes since I have a toddler who doesn't tolerate it well. I just haven't had much luck finding other recipes that have flavour without being spicy.

I'm not going to make up my own recipe from scratch so I prefer recipe links over general cooking advice, though modifications are fine (I do often double the spices and garlic, though I haven't gone higher than that).

These are all great ideas, thank you all!
posted by randomnity at 8:21 AM on May 17, 2023

Most bean dishes I make that fit the bill involve canned tomatoes, often either crushed, or chopped fire-roasted (which I get cheaply at Aldi.) That’s a common thread—the umami & acidity do a lot. Although be careful using not-fully-cooked dry beans (even pre-soaked) with tomatoes—the acidity often makes it hard to get them to cook fully.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:24 AM on May 17, 2023

Nth-ing the recommendation for New Orleans red beans and rice.

One of my simple go-tos is toss washed handfuls of kale in a pot with olive oil and sliced chorizo, cook a bit to steam/saute, then add cooked white beans, stir the whole thing up, and cook another 10-15 mins, add salt and pepper to taste. Should work fine with any non-pork spicy sausage to substitute for chorizo, maybe adding some additional spices depending on what is or isn't in the sausages.

I have also made this Lebanese lamb and bean stew and it was yummy.
posted by Rhedyn at 8:29 AM on May 17, 2023

I started with this baked beans recipe and made the following mods:

* Add Worcestershire sauce
* Add smoked paprika
* Increase hot sauce
* Omit bacon, dot butter on top instead for fat. Be generous.

Adding fat really helps beans, ensure you have enough fat in your recipes for flavour.
posted by shock muppet at 8:38 AM on May 17, 2023

Here's a vegetarian cassoulet recipe that you might like. There are a _lot_ of cassoulet recipes out there with probably any protein and/or spice level you'd want, but the extra delicious part is a cheese+breadcrumb baked topping.

This is a kind of saucy baked stew with lots of seasonings, that's baked for a while and then topped with the cheese crust. The linked recipe includes some red pepper flakes, but if I were you I'd look for a "traditional French" recipe and substitute in some really good vegetarian (or other) sausage -- those tend to be very flavorful.

general guidelines

Look for recipes that have a substantial amount of acid and oil.

Acids like vinegar, lemon juice, limes, or other strong fruits, are a huge component of something being "flavorful" and is one of the five basic flavors that chefs talk about. Acid can also be a replacement for saltiness if you want to avoid overdoing salt for health reasons.

Oil makes things taste "like real food" -- it gives a feeling of heartiness, and also does a lot to add impact to other seasonings .
posted by amtho at 8:58 AM on May 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

This recipe is weirdly flavourful if you are absolutely sure to follow the step where you saute (caramelize) the tomato paste. If you want it spicy you can add in spice of your choice:

Dice one large onion and saute in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil until translucent (5 min - doesn't have to caramelize)
Add minced garlic (3-4 cloves) for the last minute of sauteing the onion
Add one small can of tomato paste (156 mL) and 2-3 tablespoons of dried rosemary or thyme and saute for 30-45 second, stirring constantly.
Add two cans of navy or white kidney beans, drained, and stir a bit in the pan, then swiftly add about a cup of boiling water (you can add a bit more but that will raise the simmering time)
Simmer for 10-15 minutes

Top with fistfuls of grated cheese, if you do cheese. A sharp cheddar is nice if you like that. Let it melt and then serve.

If you add pepperoni (vegetarian or otherwise) this is also called pizza beans in my house which makes them 100% more appealing to younger kids.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:02 AM on May 17, 2023

This recipe is a fan favorite in my house: Cheesy White Bean Tomato Bake (NYT Cooking gift link)

Five ingredients, 15 minute cook time, and IME very kid-friendly. So easy and so delicious! Serve with a simple green salad and some crusty bread if you have it.
posted by lakemarie at 9:11 AM on May 17, 2023 [4 favorites]

Blooming spices will make a big difference in almost any recipe for relatively little extra work.

If duck is on the table, duck fat makes a great replacement (or even improvement) for pork fat, which will help many dishes come alive.

For New Orleans style beans dishes, starting with a well developed holy trinity is important.

Per the recent vegetarian chili thread, I find adding unami in general and acids and fresh green herbs right before serving really brings legume dishes alive.
posted by Candleman at 9:11 AM on May 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

Oops, sorry I missed the “no lentils” restriction above. To make up for it, here’s a different recipe I like that works with any type of dried beans. This one has a sort of Mediterranean profile, and uses anchovies rather than pork for meatiness/umami.

Be careful with the salt. When I used the full 3 tablespoons suggested in the recipe, my beans came out too salty. I’d suggest starting with less (especially if using table salt or a denser kosher salt) and then salting to taste after the beans are cooked.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:12 AM on May 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

I really like this recipe for sausage, beans, and spinach. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It's super forgiving. It's poorly written though. You'll need to build flavor a bit:

Use pre-cooked chicken sausage, slice it up and brown that first. Remove it, then add in onions and peppers. Then sautee the garlic for a bit. Deglaze with broth, then add the rest per the recipe. You can use part of a can of diced tomatoes if you don't have a fresh tomato. I don't think the recipe used to have the bell pepper, so leave it out if you like. It can be a bit salty, so ease back on the broth and rinse your beans if desired.
posted by hydra77 at 9:20 AM on May 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

Salt. Beans taste much better with a fair bit of salt. Acid, too - baked beans with a splash of vinegar are really good.

My easiest bean recipe is a salsa salad with 1 can of black beans, drained, 1 can corn, drained, 1 can's worth of medium salsa. Add the juice of 1/2 - 1 lime and some fresh cilantro.

Try some pinto beans from scratch; delicious with salt, pepper, and butter. Cooking dry beans takes time, but you just have to be present, there's no effort other than the occasional stir and checking doneness.
posted by theora55 at 9:21 AM on May 17, 2023 [3 favorites]

My current favorite chickpea method is that from this recipe: Budget Bytes Chickpea Cauliflower salad. The chickpeas are just divine. I make those as shown in the recipe. For cauliflower, I roast from frozen, and it's delicious. For the dressing, I use a storebought tahini dressing, and I serve it all over some arugula. Perfect summer salad. But those chickpease - i could eat a can of them in one sitting by themselves!

I find that Budget Bytes has a lot of great bean and chickpea recipes. I add a bit to her seasonings, but not too much usually. I keep meaning to try her Cheesy Pinto Beans, but haven't gotten around to it.
posted by hydra77 at 9:26 AM on May 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

Lol lakemarie - I think your recipe is the original of mine. Still highly recommend.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:27 AM on May 17, 2023

I like chickpea + pasta recipes, which tend to have flavor due to the sauce: NYT Creamy & Smitten Kitchen Tomato . I have also just mixed a can of white beans into a jar of prepared tomato sauce and it works just fine!
posted by icy_latte at 9:42 AM on May 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

Chinese cooking demystified's pickled greens and beans has recently become a staple in my house. They write out the recipe in the video description, if you're not a video recipe person.
posted by theweasel at 9:46 AM on May 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

Black beans and rice are a Cuban staple and there are variations of it all over the Caribbean. Amp up the spices to your liking. I could eat them 3-4x a week, no problem. Pair with fried sweet plantains and/or fried yuca.

Carajo now I'm hungry.
posted by jquinby at 9:49 AM on May 17, 2023 [3 favorites]

This is a very easy and really good chickpea curry (chana masala) recipe that’s even been a hit with the kids. Good balance of spices, and you can independently raise or lower the heat level by using more or fewer jalapeños as you prefer (or even substituting green bell pepper instead if you want it mild).
posted by sesquipedalia at 9:53 AM on May 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

Here are a few recipes to try: Cannellini Aglio e Olio, Brothy Beans Recipe (WaPo gift link), Fire-roasted Black Bean Tortilla Soup, Soup of Lentils and Mushrooms.

One thing I've discovered is that I like certain "families" of beans more than others. Black beans, pinto beans and related beans from the Americas taste boring to me. I need lots of extra spices and flavors and meat to like these dishes. But kidney, cannellini, corona and other Italian beans taste amazing (I've literally had dreams about corona beans). I prefer them prepared very simply, without a lot of other flavors, because those beans are so good. So you might try to try different bean families.
posted by OrangeDisk at 10:01 AM on May 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

Much depends on what you call flavour and why you consider the beans bland. It could be a matter of texture, it could be a lack of acid, or umami, or grease, or salt.

Things to consider is going with different textures so as to keep it from being a paste. Chili con carne has the meat to break up the beany texture and you might be missing that as much as anything else when you eat meatless chili.

Try adding things with strong flavour and contrasting texture. Raw onions or olives are the kinds of things that change the flavour and texture. Tomato salsa is a classic. So is making your bland bean dish part of a salad. You can stuff celery or lettuce with bland bean paste and crunch through it happily.

Look at some of the boring and bland things you do eat happily - such as mashed potatoes or squash and figure out what you add to them so that you can eat them.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:02 AM on May 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

I made this recipe yesterday with , it was delicious.

Also, who knows the age of the commodity beans available in on grocery shelves? How many years did they wait in that elevator before they found their way to your pot? So, use the fresh dried beans available from purveyors of heirloom varieties. You'll see and taste a true difference.
posted by partner at 10:14 AM on May 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

I will say this is technically a dip, BUT this plus stuff to dip in it is 100000% a meal and has a TON of flavour and really different flavors and textures than I'd normally associate with beans (it's not *just* a dip, you know?) I'm also very interested in having this as sort of a pizza on top of naans (put dip and mushrooms both in a thin layer on naan and airfry/cook on high til all warm and toasty).
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 10:28 AM on May 17, 2023

Yotam Ottolenghi's confit tandoori chickpeas. The sauce is even better!
posted by atomicstone at 10:41 AM on May 17, 2023

No discussion of beans in complete without mentioning Rancho Gordo. Their blog is packed (stuffed!) with tons of great recipes.

Dried beans are the most flavorful, and the pot liquor they produce is a great base for any soup or stew. I find beans are generally tasty on their own. Perhaps you're not using enough salt? As mentioned above, the addition of acid/fat/sugar will enhance any recipe.

Here's one of my all-time favorite chickpea recipes...

Slow Baked Garbanzos Beans
adapted from a recipe by Diane Kochilas’ Ikara (Rodale Press 2014)

1 pound Rancho Gordo Garbanzo beans
6 medium sprigs of fresh thyme
2 medium sprigs of fresh rosemary
3 Rancho Gordo bay leaves
salt and pepper
3 large red onions, half and sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
1 each of red, green and orange bell peppers, cleaned and sliced into 1/4-inch rings
1 stalk celery, sliced into matchstick-sized pieces
2-3 large tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Cook the garbanzos in plenty of water with one of the bay leaves. Bring the pot to a rapid boil and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low. Gently simmer the beans until they’re almost soft, about an hour to an hour and half. (Timing will vary wildly if you are using older beans or a brand other than Rancho Gordo.) Strain the beans and reserve the cooking liquid.

Preheat the oven to 325F.

In a oven proof clay pan, like a cazuela, add the drained garbanzos followed by enough of the reserved cooking broth to reach 2/3 of the way up the beans. Add the herbs and lightly salt.

Over the chickpeas, layer the onions, followed by the garlic, then the peppers, the celery and finally the tomatoes. Pour the olive oil to cover the top. Cover the pan with a lid if you have one, otherwise cover with a piece of parchment paper and aluminium foil. Bake for 2 and half hours. Remove the top and continue baking for another 30 minutes. The liquid should be absorbed and top just starting to char. Remove and allow to cool to warm or room temperature. Crack plenty of black pepper over the top and serve.

So many great recipes in this thread (as usual) and I just got my latest Rancho Gordo shipment!
posted by slogger at 10:43 AM on May 17, 2023 [6 favorites]

A very interesting history, but also amazing recipe for cholent. Vegetarian (what I do) and meat, with and without a kishke (i never do). LOTS of BEANS, flavor and so "hearty". I make it all the time, who cares if it's shabbat!?
posted by atomicstone at 10:48 AM on May 17, 2023 [3 favorites]

Sauté onions and garlic, add black beans from can (with water), salt, cumin, cayenne, then apple cider vinegar near the end. Cook it long enough for the water to boil down, but not all the way.

The tricks are 1. enough spices to make it flavorful 2. ACV for sweetness/balance 3. cook it long enough for the flavor to get into the beans
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:56 AM on May 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

I concocted a recipe to satisfy my love of stuffing. Saute onions, celery and seasoning found in most any stuffing recipe. Substitute canned white beans for the bread and broth, simmer together and enjoy a healthier alternative to stuffing. I love sage and add more if needed. It's a super side dish and great as a main. The dish freezes well and is even better the next day.
posted by jennstra at 11:08 AM on May 17, 2023 [4 favorites]

This white bean salad has been a good base for me. It's fine as is, but I vary the dressing, herbs, and accompanying veggies a bit depending on my mood. And you can definitely use whatever vinaigrette you have on hand rather than making theirs. I also frequently make dried beans in the instapot as the base instead of canned. If you want to make enough for use as leftovers, I'd consider leaving the cucumber and tomato out until you serve if you or the little one have texture sensitivities.

General things that help:

I tend to be a bit heavy handed with the salt and herbs when beans are involved (but that varies based on the beans you're using, obviously). I will also add MSG sometimes.

When making instapot beans: 1) throwing in sprigs of whatever herb(s) match the end product (like rosemary and thyme) and 2) buying a nicer quality bean when possible--i.e. not the cheapest, ideally I can check the package date to make sure it's not been sitting around for a decade. Number 2 is primarily more helpful for texture so it's not a huge deal if you're just grabbing something quickly off the shelf or getting delivered groceries, but I'm always pleasantly surprised when I use nice beans.
posted by ghost phoneme at 11:47 AM on May 17, 2023

Maybe you would like Moroccan recipes?
This one, for couscous royale, is over the top, but if you can try it for a celebration one day, do. You'll learn a lot about flavor building. At least I did when I tried. Since, I've created a modified version for myself that is very similar to this.

This vegan version of seven vegetables couscous is more manageable and more traditionally Moroccan.

A classic minestrone soup is also very rich in flavor. Soupe au Pistou is very similar, and David Lebovitz is a very reliable recipe writer. (There are peas and beans in it, just omit them).

What I like about these recipes is that there are many different vegetables in them, and that they cook enough for the flavors to meld for more complexity of flavor. So for a weeknight dinner, I cook a minestrone, where I chop the vegetables into small dice (maybe 6x6x6 mm), whereas on a weekend, I might cook the Moroccan stews with chunky bits of vegetable that need more cooking time. A chicken stock is good for both types of food for an extra layer of umami.

With Moroccan stews, it's customary to make a side sauce with some of the liquid from the stew mixed up with harissa paste, so everyone can add as much spice as they like, making it very suitable for families with small children. With the soupe au pistou there is obviously the pistou, and you can use that or pesto for a minestrone, too.

Many online recipes have just one flavor note, and I understand your frustration. I actually like the concept someone posted above, just mixing a tin of beans with a jar of pasta sauce, but when I do it, I use a complex pasta sauce, one with several vegetables and different herbs in it, not just tomato + onion + garlic + basil.

A local restaurant here serves something like this bean paste, and it is amazing, served with crusty bread. I know you said no hummus, but this would be a full summer meal if you made a salad like a Caesar salad or panzanella. I haven't tried the linked recipes. Maybe the restaurant cooks their beans with some aromatics like oregano, thyme, parsley and bay leaf, as well as onions and garlic, for an extra layer of flavor. They definitely don't use tins.
posted by mumimor at 11:53 AM on May 17, 2023

Rather than suggest a recipe, I'd say that if you find recipes flavorless, dramatically increase and improve the seasoning. A lot of recipes just...fail if you follow them unquestioningly, especially if they're from random internet sources. I suspect many published cookbooks contain diffidently tested recipes, and the internet is absolutely worse.

One onion? Double it, at least, and make sure you really cook it down until it's golden-brown, probably 2-4 times longer than the recipe recommends. Maybe go for shallots or leeks too if you think it fits the recipe's flavor profile. Onions also dramatically vary in size, and if there's any doubt I assume the recipe author had larger onions than I do.

One or two cloves of garlic? Put in a whole head, at least.

Do the instructions call for something like a sofrito (onion, tomato, peppers, garlic, herbs) at the beginning? Make three times as much, and get a Cuisinart, a powerful blender or some sort of mini-prep to make it easier to make large quantities. If you wind up with extra, freeze it in an ice cube tray. Similarly, if the recipe contains mirepoix, the holy trinity, or simply calls for carrots and celery, just double the amount.

Does the recipe call for ground spices? Toast fresh/recently purchased whole spices and grind them in a mortar and pestle or bladed coffee grinder...and still think about doubling the amount, and if your pantry is well stocked enough, add some complimentary flavors (e.g. if it calls for chili powder, add ancho chiles, chipotles in adobo, and extra cumin; I noticed that your spicy black bean soup explicitly did this in the ingredient list).

If you're not watching your sodium intake, add some MSG and take the "taste and adjust seasoning" step as a serious cue to add more salt and acid (vinegar or citrus juice) than is listed in the ingredients.

If the recipe calls for dried parsley, cilantro, oregano, etc., use fresh, and put in the whole bunch (though this may not make sense for things like rosemary or sage, which are plenty potent when dried and are fundamentally different when fresh).

If it makes sense in the recipe, try adding some liquid smoke, anchovies, fish sauce, or Better than Bullion. Fish sauce especially is good in unexpected places.

A lot of bean and more generally vegetarian recipes seem to take a lowest common denominator approach with seasoning, which I can only guess is to 1) avoid offending people who like unseasoned food (they're out there!), 2) are adapted from recipes which leaned heavily on meat for salt and flavor but didn't adequately replace it, 3) don't think people are going to have a full head of garlic or a bunch of spices on hand and don't want to ask them to go shopping for something they'll only use in one recipe and then forget about in the cupboard, 4) think people will skip the recipe if it tells them to do something moderately strenuous like sauteeing onions for 20-30 minutes or grinding spices and/or 5) assume people are eating beans and vegetables solely for their health and don't want to include a bunch of stuff in the ingredients that could be considered extraneous and will cause trouble for folks with dietary restrictions, like acid reflux or high blood pressure.
posted by pullayup at 12:12 PM on May 17, 2023 [4 favorites]

Oh, and add dried mushrooms.
posted by pullayup at 12:18 PM on May 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

Also parmesan cheese.
posted by pullayup at 12:21 PM on May 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

OMG, lakemarie, I immediately sent your nytimes recipe to my closest (cooking, but also closest) friends, who informed me they've been cooking this recipe for a while.
So I'm mad (at them!) bc I didn't know it, and they didn't share it! I share all of mine! Nonetheless, I am IN. And for all/most/more variations. I do love crispy bits of tomato paste/cheese/other crispy bits.
I am very excited to share with my nuclear and extended family.
Still mildly mad at my closest non-fam fam, but i plan to get back at them by turning this recipe into something even MORE delicious. lol, FUCK YOU, EAT THIS!
posted by atomicstone at 12:30 PM on May 17, 2023

Reading the recipe linked by lakemarie, I was reminded of a dish I mostly eat at room temperature, often because I brought it to work as my lunch with a chunk of bread to scope up the dressing:

Drain and rinse a tin of beans. I prefer cannellini beans, but any beans will do.
Heat a tablespoonful of olive oil slowly in a non-stick or cast iron pan. Add 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped, and a little pinch of chili flakes. when the smells from the garlic and chili turn aromatic and warm, add a good handfull of finely chopped cherry tomatoes. Let this stew at very low heat, nothing must brown. After about five minutes, add finely chopped fresh parsley and oregano. About one tablespoon of each. Season with salt and lemon juice to taste. While the pan is still hot, add in the beans, and more herbs, I prefer parsley and basil at this stage. Stir well. Add a generous grind of black pepper. Taste again and maybe add in a few drops of balsamico (you don't want it to overpower the dish), and more salt, pepper and lemon juice to your taste.

Again, cooking the beans from scratch in an aromatic broth will improve this both in taste and texture, but it isn't strictly necessary.

To pullayup's valid critique of online recipes, I'd suggest one sticks to websites where they really test their recipes. My favorites are Serious Eats and Woks of Life. NYTimes is very good too, but paywalled. Maybe others have other favorites.
I also like A Kitchen in Istanbul and David Lebovitz, though I don't follow them as closely.

I'm not sure more of everything is always a good idea. Right now I am experimenting with less of some things. For instance, I would replace half of the tin of crushed tomatoes in the Jamie Oliver recipe for minestrone I linked to above with either wine or chicken stock (deglaze the pot with wine after sautéing vegetables but before adding tomatoes and stock, if using). This way, the tomatoes won't overpower the other tastes in the dish and you get a richer flavor. It's very much the same with garlic and onions, IMO. But we all have different tastes.
posted by mumimor at 1:21 PM on May 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

Recipes from our recipe app that we rated highly (4 or 5 stars):

Quick-ish (1 hour or less)

Black Bean Salad With Corn, Cilantro, and Chili-Lime Vinaigrette
We eat this as a meal, with chips. You could also add leftover cooked chicken, turkey, beef or tofu to bulk it out more.

Tuscan White Bean Pasta
We've added leftover turkey to this before. Reheats better with a bit of olive oil drizzled on it.

One Pan Mexican Quinoa
Original recipe is vegan, but I actually prefer this with a mix of ground beef and tofu or ground beef alone to improve the texture. Flavor's great either way.

Longer prep/cook times

Black Bean Soup With Chorizo and Braised Chicken Recipe
I grant you, we used smoked sausage because neither of us is that fond of chorizo and canned beans so we could cut the cooking time way down.

Butter Bean and Cider Cassoulet
We've also added chopped sausage and use half a can of tomatoes instead of the whole chopped tomato (The full can turns it into all-tomato-all-the-time).

Three Bean and Sausage Bake
It's basically baked beans with sausage turned into a one-dish meal. We add full-fat cheese, and more of it, and top with breadcrumbs for more texture.
posted by telophase at 1:22 PM on May 17, 2023

This Smitten Kitchen version of rajma/red kidney bean curry is so good, as someone who likes spicy beans!
posted by MadamM at 1:35 PM on May 17, 2023

You might like harira, a Moroccan bean soup with a bunch of aromatics in it (ginger, cinnamon, mint). It's delicious.

If you want to splash out on some fancy beans, too, the base materials can make a lot of difference. I like to splurge on Rancho Gordo beans and especially like the enormous "ayocote morado" types.
posted by hungrytiger at 1:40 PM on May 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

Yotam Ottolenghi's Confit Tandoori Chickpeas are amazing.

This fennel-dill-onion black eyed peas recipe is delicious, but needs more salt than the recipe indicates. I can't vouch for the claimed longevity benefits, but I'm still alive so...?
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 3:04 PM on May 17, 2023

I don't have a bean recipe to recommend, but I *can* recommend pikliz, the national condiment of Haiti, which I imagine gets eaten with a fair bit of beans and rice. Try a little for mild spice, try a lot and set your head on fire!
posted by epj at 3:42 PM on May 17, 2023

I know this in that Tex Mex flavor profile. But this week I've been eating a hot or cold bean dish.

1 bag frozen riced cauliflower
1 bag frozen corn
1 poblano roasted
1 onion sauteed
couple cloves of minced garlic sauteed after the onion.
1 can black beans
1 can rotel tomatoes
Salt/pepper to taste

Basically dump everything in a bowl and stir. Best after sitting over night.

I've had it cold and hot with some Mexican blend cheese melted in and some plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream).

I've been eating with some chicken sausage.
posted by kathrynm at 4:04 PM on May 17, 2023

This three-bean salad recipe (no green beans) is one of my summer favorites and has been a hit every time I bring it somewhere. I think the last time I made it I upped the vinegar a bit? It's a lot of chopping, but worth it. Benefits from being made at least a few hours in advance to overnight and keeps pretty well for a few days. It's technically a side, but I'll put it over greens and have some nice bread for a light meal.
posted by EvaDestruction at 5:46 PM on May 17, 2023

I love love love Molly Wizenberg's take on Molly Steven's Beans and Greens. I use kale, chicken stock from a box and canned chickpeas. Some toast and a boiled egg on the side and this has been my regular Sunday night dinner for many, many weeks.
posted by janepanic at 6:15 PM on May 17, 2023

I am here to amplify slogger's endorsement of Rancho Gordo.

Specifically, their heirloom beans are next level, all the best recipes in the world won't help you if your core ingredients are average. Spend a little bit more coin on the source ingredients and everything you make with them will be better!
posted by jeremias at 6:19 PM on May 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

We like this veggie chili recipe. Huge recipe, at least 8 servings. We make a half batch.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:30 PM on May 17, 2023

Here are a couple of my favorites:

Spanish beans and eggs

Pasta e fagioli (although I usually leave out the pasta because the soup is so good anyway).
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 10:48 PM on May 17, 2023

This NYT recipe for roasted tomato and white bean stew is delicious
posted by emd3737 at 2:25 AM on May 18, 2023

Hi! I live in Spain where we really value our legumes! In fact, the bean section of the supermarket is one of the only places where I feel like American grocery stores are lacking in variety.

Just a month ago, some friends were visiting and mentioned they could never get into bean dishes. I shared the traditional Spanish way of cooking legumes and upon trying it at home, they were convinced, so here goes!

For flavor, start with dried beans (chickpeas, white, red beans, whatever). Soak the night before. Drain the beans. Throw the beans in your instant pot or pressure cooker with your choice of veggies or meat and a bay leaf. For instance, I would do chickpeas with a couple cloves of garlic, carrot, leek, and if doing vegetarian version I would throw in a bit of pumpkin. Pressure cook this stuff.

Now, very important, after pressure cooking, take out the cooked vegetables and blend them with a couple of beans and put it back in the stock! While that is all blending together on low heat, dice an onion and sautee it in a bit of olive oil. Add a tablespoon of smokey Spanish paprika and mix a little. Then add that into the beans mix. Finally, salt generously.

Something about both pressuring cooking but sauteeing the spices and onion really add to the depth and flavor.
posted by maca at 8:30 AM on May 18, 2023 [4 favorites]

I just made these veggie tacos the other day and they were great—the pickled onions and cilantro give it a slightly different spice profile from the tacos I usually make. I cheated a little and just used premade salsa instead of salsa verde and sour cream and guac in place of the avocado sauce. Still takes a bit of prep time but it would be easy to make the fillings in bulk.

I also really like this tuna and white bean salad.
posted by aaadddaaa at 10:45 AM on May 18, 2023

My beans and rice recipe is inspired by this classic Puerto Rican recipe from reddit. The recipe as it's written is great, but I've adjusted it over the years to my taste, including adding diced bell peppers (and/or a diced jalapeno) and smoked paprika. I also often use two cans of beans instead of one. The KEY for this recipe is the Goya Sazon. It gives the beans the umami they need. This gives you beans that are pretty dry - add some chicken broth if you want soupier beans.
posted by lunasol at 11:12 AM on May 18, 2023

Yes, please do try getting your dried beans from a specialty vendor rather than the grocery store -- both because they're fresher and will cook faster, and because you can get way more interesting varieties. Rancho Gordo, mentioned above, is The Bean Guy and a great resource.
posted by librarina at 1:53 PM on May 18, 2023

Best answer: I make bean dishes rather a lot, and I have a lot of different methods for adding more flavor that I mix and match for different complements and outcomes. I'm just going to list some of the many different ingredients or methods I use (in no order): olive oil; caramelized onions; sofrito; garlic; mustard or mustard powder; hot pepper(s); hot pepper flakes; tabasco; sriracha; chili oil or paste; molasses; soy sauce; teriyaki sauce; worcestershire sauce; anchovies or anchovy paste; sesame oil; beer or ale; brown sugar; wine; coffee / espresso; vinegar; lemon; orange juice; ginger root; broth (chicken, veg, or beef); butter; peanut butter; smoked meat element (bacon, and/or smoked sausage or hamhock, usually); coconut milk or cream; magic mushroom powder; canned chopped tomatoes, pureed tomatoes or paste (if paste, I almost always sauté); garam masala; mint; thyme; oregano; basil; sage; rosemary; bay leaf; parsley; tarragon; chives; chili powder; smoked paprika; rice; small pasta; barley; parmesan cheese (sometimes grated on top, but also, do you have a dried up heel of a wedge? Don't throw it away, throw it in your soup/stew!); are you roasting anything savory on a sheet pan in the oven? Toss on a few large unpeeled cloves of garlic and use the yummy roasted garlic in your bean dish.

(I didn't include cumin or cilantro, just because those are two flavors I'm not fond of ... though I do -- very sparingly -- use cumin in some things!)

vegetables: onions, peppers, celery; zucchini, carrots, peas, mushrooms, potatoes; leeks, corn; kale, spinach or other greens; arugula (added after cooking)

95% of the time I have olive oil, garlic, and sautéed onions in my dish. 98% of the time I use a pressure cooker. I almost always use salt and ground pepper, black or white or both. For simplicity's sake, you can always remember the Creole/Cajun holy trinity: onion, bell pepper, garlic. Don't feel like messing about preparing / cooking with all the bells and whistles? Just sleepwalk it with the trinity (sautéed), and it's going to be tasty.

Here's my favorite Minestrone recipe (or blueprint!): The Best Minestrone Soup Recipe, by J. Kenji López-Alt. So, so, so good. But not fast! because of the many ingredients.

Here's my own chicken and chickpea stew recipe:
  • 2 fresh or frozen chicken quarters (or use legs or thighs instead)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or enough to cover bottom of large frying pan)
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4-6 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed / roughly chopped into large mince
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger root, from a 3-4 inch piece
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Knorr Homestyle Vegetable Stock (gel)
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 teaspoons of harissa, or other hot red pepper sauce or paste, or red pepper flakes to taste
  • 450 grams / 1 lb dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in salted water and drained
  • 100 grams (or more) of arugula, chopped
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 4-6 cups water
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • ground pepper to taste

In electric pressure cooker, add 4-6 cups water (to taste for thicker or soupier) and Knorr vegetable gel stock and cook chicken parts on high for 30-40 minutes (more for quarters, less for thighs; it doesn't matter if they are fresh or frozen, since actual cooking time doesn't begin until the proper temperature is reached). After natural release, remove meat to cool, then shred / chop chicken from the bones and set aside.

In large frying pan sauté chopped onion and chopped red pepper for around 6 minutes on medium high or until onions are translucent; add grated ginger, stir and cook for 3-4 more minutes; add garlic and continue to stir and sauté for another minute or two (don't allow garlic to burn / blacken), add can of chopped tomatoes, lemon zest, and harissa (or other hot pepper mix), and cook and stir a few more minutes, until most of the canned tomato liquid is cooked down. Remove from heat.

Into the liquid remaining in the electric pressure cooker, add salt and pepper (you can also add some powdered ginger, or ground garlic to intensify those flavors) and stir, and then add drained chickpeas, shredded / chopped chicken, and tomato mixture from the frying pan. Stir well, and be sure chickpeas are immersed (if not, add more water until they are). Cook on high for 15 minutes (or more if your chickpeas weren't soaked -- 30-40 minutes), and allow to depressurize naturally.

Open pot and check that chickpeas are tender, then add coconut milk (or cream), chopped arugula and lemon juice to pot, stir well and taste for spices, and then cover the pot for a few minutes to allow arugula to wilt. Or you can just top your dish with fresh chopped arugula. Serve with lovely crusty bread!

Here's one of my own recipes for mixed bean soup (this one not converted for pressure cooker, but if you have one, you know what to do)
  • 250 grams small mixed beans, peas / pulses, including barley -- or add some barley
  • 250 grams mixed beans
  • 3 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • large smoked ham bone (or use chicken, or nothing, but maybe add some smoked paprika)
  • 2 tbsp magic mushroom powder
  • ground pepper to taste
  • powdered garlic to taste
  • 1 large tbsp anchovy paste
  • 1-2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 6-7 cups water (or part chicken or vegetable stock)

sauté onions and bell pepper in olive oil until translucent, then add chopped garlic and continue to sauté for another 30-60 seconds; deglaze with wine

add water / stock, ham bone and rest of ingredients, and simmer on stove for several hours (add liquid as needed) (time depends on if you've presoaked the beans or not, how old the beans are, etc.)

Here's my rilly fast pressure cooker red beans and rice

(I used to live in New Orleans, so I know how to make red beans and rice, but this is more-or-less-except-for-the-chopping Instant Gratification red beans and rice, which has its own charm)
  • 1-2 large onions, chopped or sliced
  • 1 large or 2 small green pepper, chopped
  • handful of chopped celery
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • sliced sausage to taste
  • 3 cans red beans
  • 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoons+ smoked paprika
  • powdered garlic
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • hot sauce or sriracha

Sauté onions pepper celery and garlic in pressure cooker, on sauté setting until wilted; add spices, soy sauce, and hot sauce and continue to sauté; cut sausages in half lengthwise and then in half-disks and add to sauté mix. Continue to sauté until onions are translucent and sausages somewhat browned

add canned beans with their juice, and an extra can of water to the pot

pressure cook on high for 30 minutes while making rice on stove

Wait for a natural release, and then use sauté setting to cook out any extra liquid

Here's a lovely Greek giant bean dish, especially comforting in chilly weather: Gigantes Plaki Recipe (Gigandes Greek Baked ‘Giant’ Beans) The recipe says to crumble feta on top, but we always have it with a slice of feta on the side, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with dried oregano.


I could say a lot more about beans! I haven't even touched on bean salads! Tuna and bean salad! White beans with avocado and garlic oil! Salmon and herbed beans! Oh my! Beans are infinitely forgiving, infinitely adaptable, infinitely inspiring! Imagine any foodway and you can employ the significant ingredients / flavors / methods to create a lovely bean dish, from simple, comforting and homey to exotic and surprising, and you can get inspiration from nearly any dish. I hope you feel empowered, and not overwhelmed with this info! The key is to try different things, keep notes on combos you like, and let your senses flow. When you realize it's actually kind of hard to really mess up beans (aside from burning), it becomes easy to wing it and make your own creations suited for exactly what you like.
posted by taz at 4:54 AM on May 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

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