Cooking with dry beans - recipes and tips

Alice Henneman, MS, RDN, UNL Extension Educator in Lancaster County

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What amount of beans should we eat to gain their health benefits?

The kidney or oval shape of dry beans distinguishes them from other legume such as peas, which are round, and lentils, which are flat and disk-like. Dry beans are available both in the dry form in sealed bags and precooked in cans.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate Food Guide includes dry beans both with high-protein foods such as lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs and nuts, and with the vegetable group. The same serving of legumes can't be counted toward BOTH groups at the same time. 

The Dietary Guidelines define the following as "serving sizes" for cooked dry beans for a 2,000-calorie diet:

  • Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts group: 5.5 ounce-equivalents (based on the amount of protein found in one ounce of lean meat, poultry and fish) are recommended daily from this group for a 2,000-calorie food pattern. One-fourth cup cooked dry beans counts as a one 1 ounce-equivalent.
  • Vegetable group: 2.5 1/2-cup vegetables (based on a 2,000-calorie food pattern) are recommended daily.

Aren't dry beans considered an "incomplete" source of protein?

Beans are sometimes referred to as an "incomplete" protein since they don't provide one of the essential amino acids needed from food for building protein in the body. In actual practice, this isn't a concern. Grains (which lack a different essential amino acid) provide the amino acid missing from dry beans and vice versa. Together, they complement each other. Examples of complementary protein include beans and rice, a bean burrito (beans in a tortilla), and beans and corn. For non-vegetarians, the protein in dry beans also can be complemented by serving beans with a small amount of animal protein such as meat, poultry, seafood, dairy or eggs.

It is no longer considered necessary to eat complementary sources of protein together at the same time. Just consume them over the course of a day.

How do canned beans compare to dry-packaged beans?

Canned beans are convenient since they don't have to be presoaked and cooked. They can be eaten straight from the can or heated in recipes. According to the American Dry Bean Board, one 15-ounce can of beans equals one and one-half cups of cooked dry beans, drained. For most recipes, one form of beans can be substituted for the other.

Unless canned without salt, precooked canned beans generally are higher in sodium than dry-packaged beans. Always thoroughly drain and rinse canned beans in a colander or strainer under cold running water before using them in a recipe. This may help lower the amount of any added salt and may help remove some of their potential gas-producing properties.

Transfer any unused beans from the can and store in a covered container in the refrigerator; use within three to four  days or freeze and use within a few months for best quality. If beans have been combined with other ingredients in a recipe, use them within three to four days or freeze for later use and use within a few months for best quality. NOTE: Foods stored constantly frozen at 0 degrees F will be safe indefinitely; the freezer time recommendation is only for best quality.

How can you reduce the amount of sodium in canned dry beans?

 Draining and rinsing canned dry beans reduces their sodium by 41%. Also, some companies sell dry beans to which no sodium or a reduced amount of sodium has been added. 

How do you cook dry-packaged beans?

Check our directions for cooking with dry beans — it's easier than you think!

What can you do if dry beans give you "gas"?

Some ways to minimize the gaseous or "musical fruit" effect include:

  • Discard the soaking water when preparing dry beans from scratch and rinse beans thoroughly before cooking them.
  • Gradually increase the amount and frequency of beans in your diet. This will give your body a chance to adjust to them. For example, start with one-fourth cup of beans sprinkled on top of a salad or added to a serving of soup.
  • Try Beano™, a non-prescription product available in the pharmacy section of many stores. It contains an enzyme that breaks down the gas-producing substances in beans. Beano™ is available in liquid and tablet form and is used immediately before consuming beans.

As with adding all types of fiber to your diet, drink plenty of fluids and maintain regular physical activity. This helps your gastrointestinal system handle the increased fiber.

Can one dry bean be substituted for another bean in recipes?

For the most part, any canned or dry-packaged bean variety can be substituted for another, according to the American Dry Bean Board. All types of beans blend well with a variety of foods and spices as they absorb flavors from other ingredients. Cooking times may differ if substituting one type of dry-packaged bean for another.

The following pictures and descriptions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help you "use your bean" in selecting beans to try and to substitute.

adzuki beansAdzuki Beans are small, with a vivid red color, solid flavor and texture. Originally from Asia, its name means "little bean" in Japanese. Its red coloring - red being the most important color in Eastern celebrations - means that it is greatly used in festive or special meals.



large lima beansLarge Lima Beans are large and flat with a greenish-white color. The bean has a buttery flavor and creamy texture. This bean is named after Lima, Peru, and is extremely popular in the Americas, both in its natural state and dried.



pink beansPink Beans have beautiful pink color and are very popular in the countries of the Caribbean. Pink beans are of medium size (similar to the Great Northern and the Pinto) and have a refined texture and delicate flavor.



green baby lima beansGreen Baby Lima Beans come from Peru and are very popular in the Americas. The baby variety is much loved in Japan for making desserts from bean paste known as "an." These are medium-sized flat beans with a greenish white color, buttery flavor, and creamy texture.



small red beansSmall Red Beans are particularly popular in the Caribbean region, where they normally are eaten with rice. Dark red in color, small red beans also are smoother in taste and texture than the dark red kidney bean.



dark red kidney beansDark Red Kidney Beans are large and kidney-shaped with a deep, glossy red color. They have a solid flavor and texture. These beans are produced mainly in the northern U.S.A. and owes popularity in America and Europe to the bean's large size, bright color and solid texture.



black beansBlack Beans are sweet tasting with an almost mushroom-like flavor and soft, floury texture. These beans are medium sized, oval, with a matt black color. They are the most popular beans in the Costa Rica and Cuba.



light red kidney beansLight Red Kidney Beans have a solid texture and flavor. They are characterized by their large, kidney shape and a pink color. This bean is popular in the Caribbean region, Portugal and Spain because of similarity to the canela bean.



navy beansNavy Beans are small, white and oval with a refined texture and delicate flavor. These are the beans used for the famous Boston- and English-baked beans because their skin and fine texture do not break up on cooking. These beans were named for their part of the U.S. Navy diet during the second half of the 19th Century.



cranberry beansCranberry Beans are known for their creamy texture with a flavor similar to chestnuts. Cranberry beans are rounded with red specks, which disappear on cooking. These beans are a favorite in northern Italy and Spain. You can find them fresh in their pods in autumn. They freeze well.



black-eyed beansBlack-eyed Beans have a scented aroma, creamy texture and distinctive flavor. These beans are characterized by their kidney shape, white skin with a small black eye, and very fine wrinkles. Originally from Africa, it is one of the most widely dispersed beans in the world. Black-eyed beans are really a type of pea, which gives it its distinctive flavor and rapid cooking potential, with no pre-soaking needed.



pinto beansPinto Beans are the most widely produced bean in the United States and one of the most popular in the Americas. Pinto beans contain the most fiber of all beans. Characteristically known for their medium-size, oval shape, they are speckled reddish brown over a pale pink base with solid texture and flavor.



great northern beansGreat Northern Beans are a North American bean, popular in France for making cassoulet (a white bean casserole) and in the whole Mediterranean where many beans of a similar appearance are cultivated. These beans have a delicate flavor and thin skin. They are flat, kidney-shaped, medium-sized white beans.



garbanzo beansGarbanzo Beans or chickpeas are the most widely consumed legume in the world. Originating in the Middle East, they have a firm texture with a flavor somewhere between chestnuts and walnuts. Garbanzo beans are usually pale yellow in color. In India there are red, black, and brown chickpeas.

Quick Chili Recipe

Quick Chili recipe

This simple chili uses basic ingredients to make a protein-packed main dish. Serve with bread or pour over rice or potatoes for a quick, easy meal!

Makes: 4 servings

  • 1/2 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)
  • 1 can low-sodium kidney beans with liquid (about 15 oz.)
  • 1 cup low-sodium tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion (or 1/4 cup chopped onion)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons chili powder


  1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef until browned.
  2. Drain off any fat.
  3. Stir in kidney beans with liquid, tomato sauce, onion, and chili powder.
  4. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Source: Adapted from a recipe by SNAP-ED Connection Recipe Finder and found at

Alice’s Notes

  1. For a thinner chili, add water until soup is the desired consistency. I added some water toward the end of simmering the chili in the picture above.
  2. Eat leftover chili within four days or freeze it.
  3. Avoid leaving chili at room temperature for more than two hours, total time.
  4. As this chili is so easy to make, you might prepare a double batch the next time you make it and freeze the extra for later meals.