Beans are cheap, healthy, and delicious: and there are so many ways to use them! Here are the best bean recipes for incorporating them in your everyday.
Got a can of beans but not sure how to use them? We’re here to help! There are so many ways to use beans to make a meal. They’re cheap, healthy, and delicious (when prepared correctly). Just like lentils and chickpeas, beans are legumes and a great way to infuse plant based protein and fiber into your diet.
How can I use a can of beans? So many ways! The recipes below feature black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, and white beans in just about every way you could imagine:
Soups & Stews
Main Dish Salads & Side Salads
Tacos & Wraps
Dips & Salsas
Stuffed Sweet Potatoes & Squash
Nachos & Loaded Fries
Is 45 recipes too many? Because when we went digging, we unearthed a treasure trove of bean recipes for you.
Note: Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are considered beans, but we have a separate list of recipes for those! Go to 25 Favorite Chickpea Recipes.
First up in our bean recipes: this healthy chili! Because why not use three types of beans at once? This one features black, pinto and kidney beans. Serve with homemade cornbread. (Another great chili? Our Best Vegetarian Chili.)
These enchiladas are a total crowd pleaser; they're one of our fan favorite best vegetarian dinner recipes! The filling features black beans, sweet potatoes, salsa verde and gooey cheese. (Or try this one: Vegetarian Skillet Enchiladas.)
Where are the beans hiding here? Our best Wild Rice Soup recipe uses white beans to add filling protein: they're also blended to help make the creamy base. This one's a fan favorite! (Another soup with added white beans: Potato Corn Chowder.)
Black beans add protein to salsa, making it more filling! This black bean salsa recipe is similar to a pico de gallo, featuring fresh tomatoes, lime and cilantro. Perfect for dipping! (Add corn with this Black Bean and Corn Salsa.)
This healthy tortilla soup recipe that tastes so flavorful you’d think it’s been simmering all day! It's filled with black beans, corn, and adobo sauce, and topped with crunchy tortilla strips. (A similar soup recipe: Black Bean & Roasted Tomatillo Soup.)
This pot pie has hearty white beans inside! The filling features a savory gravy with potatoes and carrots, with fried shallots and white beans mied in. It's topped in an impossibly flaky pastry crust. (Try it with butter: Cozy Vegetarian Pot Pie.)
This Latin-style side dish features black beans, jumbled with rice and green bell pepper, and seasoned with cumin, lime and cilantro. Cook your rice on the stovetop, or use the Instant Pot for a hands off method.
One of the most classic bean recipes, bean salad is everyone's favorite for potlucks and picnics! This one features pinto and kidney beans, a tangy dressing, and feta cheese. (Or try our Dill Bean Salad.)
Black beans are perfect as a stuffing! These stuffed poblano peppers are so easy to make: the zesty filling features rice, corn, black beans, and of course: gooey cheese. (Or, try our Easy Stuffed Peppers.)
Another favorite bean recipe: nachos! Beans are the perfect filling topping: pinto beans are made into a quick refried bean topping for these grilled nachos. Or try a black bean topping in our Tater Tot Nachos or Mexican Fried Rice Nachos.
Need a cozy soup recipe? This one features whole grain farro, white beans, and Brussels sprouts! It's bursting with flavor and colorful veggies to boost immunity. (Another soup with beans: try Hearty Sweet Potato Kale Soup.)
This refried bean dip is a healthy spin on the traditional cheese dip! It’s plant based (vegan), made with refried beans, spices, and a salsa fresca topping. Use canned refried beans or our easy Instant Pot Refried Beans.
This vegetarian red beans and rice recipe is a tasty, budget-friendly meal with ingredients that are accessible in most supermarkets! Zesty and nutrient-dense, it’s full of red beans, legumes, and Cajun spices. (Also try Vegetarian Gumbo with Red Beans.)
Shakshuka is a dish of eggs poached in a tomato sauce that originates from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions. This one features white beans and feta, and works as a vegetarian brunch or dinner recipe!
Here's a unique alternative to the classic bean salad recipe! This zesty Cajun salad is a grain salad with an unexpected spin: bulgur wheat, corn, and kidney beans are flavored with fresh oregano and Cajun seasoning.
Delicata squash is becoming more popular for its quick cook time and sweet flavor (like a sweet potato!). Here it's stuffed with black beans and rice to make it a tasty main dish, and painted with a chipotle glaze.
Why not make beans into a meatless sloppy Joe recipe? These fast and easy vegan Sloppy Joes are tangy, sweet, and savory all at once! The filling features pinto beans and kidney beans. Serve with a tangy slaw.
Here black beans form the filling of these colorful pinwheels! These Mexican pinwheels are a quick and easy lunch recipe, they’re vibrant and full of healthy veggies spiced with cumin and chili powder. Dip in salsa for the win!
Beans in a pasta recipe? White beans help to add protein in this vegetarian rigatoni! This simple pasta is also filled with nutritious greens, lemon, and a bit of Parmesan cheese. (Another pasta with white beans: Gemelli Pasta Recipe with Tomatoes.)
And last but certainly not least: a fusion take on everyone's favorite pasta! This Mexican lasagna is the ultimate healthy dinner recipe: layered with lasagna noodles, corn, and black beans, it’s full of zesty flavor.
How to cook dried beans
Is it better to use canned beans or dried beans? It doesn’t matter: you can use either in all of these recipes! The advantage to cooking dried beans at home is that they have a little firmer texture and enhanced flavor. But we often use canned beans in our recipes since they’re so quick and easy. You can find lots of brands that offer BPA free cans or cardboard cartons these days.
The best way we’ve found to cook dried beans is in an Instant Pot! It cooks SO fast: it only takes 1 hour. But if you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can use our Dutch oven method.
Remove the ribs and seeds from the jalapeño pepper and mince it.
Use a strainer to drain the black beans over a glass measuring cup, reserving the can liquid. (No need to rinse.)
In a large skillet, heat the butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Once melted, add the onion, bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent and lightly browned. Add the beans, cumin, oregano, and kosher salt and stir to combine. Add 1/2 cup of the liquid from the black beans. Simmer 15 minutes until beans are tender.
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.