Dry beans are always a good companion to beef, pork, chicken, or fish, but they are also a great protein source on their own. And now more than ever dry beans are the perfect staple for any pantry.
Dry beans, the mature form of legumes, include great northern beans, pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, split peas, and lentils. Here are some reasons to serve beans every week.
Beans are nutrient-dense. In addition to high-quality protein, beans provide zinc, iron, potassium and folate. They are high in fiber and low in fat. Beans can be counted for a protein or a vegetable food to meet dietary-guideline recommendations. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating 1 ½ cups of beans each week. A ½-cup serving of cooked beans provides 7-10 grams of protein.
Beans have a long shelf life. Dried beans can be stored at room temperature for one to two years. Cooked beans should be used within four days, or they may be frozen for up to six months for best quality. They are also available canned or frozen.
Dry beans are inexpensive, so they fit in any budget. A half-cup serving of cooked beans costs about 17 cents. They require some time to prepare, but very little hands-on time.
Beans are delicious and easy to prepare. One cup of dry beans will yield about 2 cups of cooked beans or four servings. Prepare a large batch and freeze the extra beans for later use. Here are a few ideas for adding beans to your meal plan:
- Beans can be used to make vegetable dip such as hummus or "beanut" butter.
- Beans are great in salads, such as cowboy caviar and 3 bean salad or add a handful to any vegetable salad for a protein boost.
- There are a variety of delicious bean soups. Consider black bean soup, minestrone and calico bean soup, or starting with a 15-bean soup mix and adding seasoning, vegetables, and meat if desired.
- With their high nutritional value, beans are great as a main course in dishes such as red beans and rice, bean burritos, chili, ham and beans, or as an addition to a favorite casserole. Try adding a cup of cooked white beans to macaroni and cheese.
- Beans make a great side dish, such as baked beans or refried beans.
This newsletter was originally written by Tammie Ostdiek. It was reviewed and updated in 2024.