A Dozen Delicious Bean Recipes for Budget-Friendly Meals

We all know the grade school ditty about beans, right? Well, they may make you toot, but beans are something to toot about, too! Different types of beans and legumes can require different cooking methods. Here’s what you need to know about cooking dry beans, along with a dozen recipes to try at your place.

Dried beans are cheap, they’re easy to store for long-term use, and they’re high in protein.

Originally published November 2019; this post has been updated.

various dried beans in burlap bags, from above.

High Protein Dry Beans

Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber, making them an especially good choice for vegetarians. While the protein content varies a bit depending on the types of beans, they provide about 40 grams of protein per cup.


Get to Know Beans

Beans are part of the legume family. The dried beans you cook with grew on a plant very similar to the green beans you grow in your garden. Instead of harvesting the pod while it’s young and tender, though, the bean pods are allowed to mature, then the seeds (beans) are removed and dried.

You can even grow and dry your own beans for storage right in your backyard, though it requires a substantial amount of room to generate a good harvest.

square white bowl with 3 bean chili

Different Types of Beans

There are numerous types of common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), including white, purple, green, black, brown, and speckled varieties.

Kidney beans: Shaped like a kidney (thus their moniker), kidney beans can be light or dark red in color. Red kidney beans tend to have a somewhat tough skin and retain their shape well when cooked. Toss them into a green salad to boost the nutrient level, use them in chili or bean soups, make traditional red beans and rice, or add them to bean recipes where a firm bean is desired.

Pinto beans: Commonly used in Mexican dishes, dry pinto beans are a mottled pinkish brown in color and soften substantially when cooked.

black bean dip with whole beans, corn, and veggies in a blue bowl, with some on a tortilla chip

Black beans: Smaller than both kidney beans and pinto beans, black beans — frijoles negros — are commonly used in Hispanic dishes coupled with onions, tomatoes, and spices.

White beans: Roughly the same size as black beans, we use these small beans to make ham hocks and beans. There are a number of white bean varieties commonly available. I like the smaller ones we call Navy beans.

Garbanzo beans (Cicer arietinum): Also called chickpeas, garbanzo beans are from a different genus than the common bean. These legumes are much more round in shape than kidney beans, pinto beans, or black beans. A light brown in color, garbanzo beans are often purchased in cans, but they’re available as a dried bean, too. Couple them with red kidney beans and fresh green beans for a three bean salad.

jars of canned beans.

Lentils (Lens culinaris): These legumes are, again, different from common types of beans, but I use them similarly for cooking. Lentils are much smaller than beans and shaped like a small, round disk, about an 1/8″ in diameter. Like beans, lentils need to be cooked, but the cooking time required is substantially less than most beans.

Admittedly, the biggest drawback to cooking dry beans is the length of time it takes. Cooking dried beans is not difficult; it just requires a bit more forethought than simply opening a can of beans.

Soaking Dried Beans

Soaking beans in water for eight hours or overnight is a good idea when making most bean recipes. It can cut cooking time, plus soaking beans helps eliminate some of the phytic acid in beans. Phytic acid is considered an “anti-nutrient.” You can read more about that here

Some people consider it optional, especially when using the Instant Pot, since it’s easy to cook beans under pressure, even without soaking. I always soak dry beans.

To soak dried beans, cover them with 2″ of water and allow to sit for 8 hours or overnight. Drain, discarding the water. Add the soaked dry beans to the recipe according to the instructions.

While soaking can help to eliminate some of the phytic acids that can cause stomach upset, it’s also crucial that you cook dried beans completely. Eating undercooked beans that have phytohaemagglutinin can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, and some instances have even required hospitalization. This is especially true of kidney beans. 

Cooking Beans on the Stove Top

To cook dry beans on the stovetop, put beans in a large pot. Add enough water or broth to cover the beans by 4-5″ or so. Soak eight hours or overnight. Drain soaked beans and add fresh water to cover beans by about three inches.

Cover the pot, but tilt the lid so that air can escape to prevent boil overs. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour and a half until beans are tender. Discard the cooking liquid and add beans to recipes as instructed.

Drain beans, and then use in one of the bean recipes below.

dry legumes in white sacks

Cooking Dried Beans in an Instant Pot

The Instant Pot makes quick work of dried beans. This electric pressure cooker can fully cook dry beans in about an hour, even if you opt not to soak them.

Cooking times vary, depending on the types of beans, and whether or not you’ve pre-soaked them. See this chart for a full list of cooking times.

Do Not Cook Dry Beans in a Slow Cooker

A slow cooker will likely not get hot enough to thoroughly cook beans. The FDA recommends against using this appliance to cook dry beans.
Note that it’s perfectly fine to continue using your slow cooker to make recipes that call for canned beans; those beans are already fully cooked. 

DIY Canned Bean Recipe

Purchasing ready-to-eat beans in cans can shave off some cooking time, and is a good wholesome food option for when you’re in a pinch. Home canners can make their own canned beans, though, ready for use in your favorite chili or soup. Here’s how to can dry beans at home.
blue bowl with white chicken chili, garnished with 2 slices of jalapeno pepper.
You can store cooked beans in the refrigerator in an airtight container for several days until you’re ready to use them. You can also freeze cooked beans for several months so you have them ready to add to your favorite bean recipes. 

Bean Recipes to Try

The bean recipes below are a great place to start! Calling for various types of beans, try them as snacks, a hearty side dish, or as a main course meal.

12+ Delicious Bean Recipes to Make!

These budget friendly bean recipes will get you cooking up some delicious meals!

square white bowl with 3 bean chili

Source: Cooking Dry Beans Safely – https://enewsletters.k-state.edu/youaskedit/2017/10/13/cooking-dry-beans-safely/

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About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. Read more about Kris and how she got started with this site here. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

2 comments… add one
  • Susan Sep 1, 2023 @ 7:24

    Is there more info about why it’s bad to cook beans in a slow cooker? I’ve cooked pinto beans several times in a crockpot and they came out perfectly every time. It was much more reliable than on top of the stove. I hope you can provide more details.

    • AttainableSustainable Sep 14, 2023 @ 9:22

      The FDA recommends against it because a slow cooker will likely not get hot enough to thoroughly cook beans. Beyond that you’ll have to do your own research to be sure!

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