There are really only two ways to cook yourself a meal. The first: Find a recipe you’re interested in trying, buy the necessary ingredients, and whip the thing up. The second: Take a look at what’s already lurking in your kitchen, and find a way to turn it into something incredibly yummy. Both have their merits. One favors the organized, and the other favors the innovative. One invites you to master the braised duck breast, and the other requests that you dream up as many canned bean recipes as humanly possible.
Both of these strategies are useful at different moments, but the time always comes for the latter. There will always be a can of beans that’s sat on your shelf for far too long—a can of baked beans leftover from barbecue night, a can of black beans you never got around to using, a can of kidney beans you forgot to throw in your slow cooker the last time you made chili. We humans have a tendency to accumulate nonperishables, always telling ourselves we’ll save them for when we really need them.
But the time has now come to stop waiting—to make something of those beans. Offer them a life that’s more gratifying than simply sitting in a can of soupy, salty water. Transform them into something worth eating. Combine them with ingredients that elevate them—rendering them appetizing, enticing, delicious.
Sure, you could leave the canned beans on your shelf for another week, another month—another year. Or you could simply acknowledge that at some point, they’ll have to be cooked. And really, why shouldn’t that moment be now? There are so many tasty canned bean recipes in this world that it’s hard to justify depriving those canned beans of their ultimate, delicious destiny any longer.
Ready to get cooking? Check out a few of our favorite recipes below.
The Recipe: This white bean feta shakshuka takes only 35 minutes to come together, and yields enough servings to feed a family of four. Packed with veggies and loaded with flavor, this easy, spice-filled recipe is sure to become a staple in your canned bean recipe arsenal.
The Pro Tip: Be sure to spend 2 minutes toasting the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and fennel seeds this recipe calls for before grinding them up and tossing them into your dish. This will bring out their flavor. Plus, “the smell of toasting the spices in a cast iron pan will blow your mind,” A Couple Cooks say.
The Recipe: Though quesadillas are an obvious dish to make with canned beans, these chipotle black bean quesadillas feel just a little bit surprising. With ingredients like fresh mango, chipotle peppers, and plain greek yogurt, these quesadillas offer a burst of intense flavor with every bite.
The Pro Tip: Instead of pan-frying these quesadillas, Half Baked Harvest recommends baking them. “It’s easy, and there’s very little mess,” she says. “[Plus,] it creates the perfect, extra crispy quesadilla.”
The Recipe: This Crockpot white chicken chili asks for only 5 minutes of your time—seriously. Spend 5 minutes prepping your chicken, toss your ingredients into your slow cooker, and let the machine work its magic for the next 7 hours. Once it’s done, you’ll have a heaping bowl of warm chili just waiting to be devoured.
The Pro Tip: If you’re short a slow cooker, don’t worry—Food Faith Fitness has a stovetop modification at the ready. Start by combining your ingredients in a large pot, add chicken, and bring the pot to a boil on high heat. “Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the chicken is cooked—this will probably take 30-40 minutes,” she says. “Then, the rest would be the same!”
The Recipe: Cooking isn’t the only way to prepare your beans. This Tuscan tuna and white bean salad offers a fresh take on the canned bean dish—and one that feels healthy and filling in equal measure. Packed with spinach, tomatoes, olives, and onions, this salad is all kinds of nutritious, and it’s perfect for nearly any season.
The Pro Tip: Feel free to sub ingredients in and out as you see fit. “You can certainly mix and match more Mediterranean or Tuscan ingredients into your salad as well,” FoodieCrush says. “That’s the thing about cooking, it’s always there for you to make it your own.”
The Recipe: Yes, bean pasta is absolutely a thing, and this creamy Tuscan pesto and artichoke pasta is just as tasty as it looks. Ingredients like chopped kale, marinated artichokes, and fresh lemon zest round out this dynamic dish, while rendering your go-to canned white beans tastier than ever.
The Pro Tip: Not a fan of heavy cream? No worries—this recipe calls for a coconut milk substitution, offering you a fresh way to achieve that smooth pasta sauce texture. “Stir in canned coconut milk for an extra rich and creamy sauce—minus the cream,” Half Baked Harvest Says.
The Recipe: This Tuscan white bean soup puts your favorite canned beans front and center, rounding them out with spicy red pepper flakes, dark leafy greens, and smoked paprika. When you’re looking for something hearty but not too heavy, this Tuscan white bean soup should do the trick—it’s lighter than the average bisque, but far more filling than simple stock.
The Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different dark leafy greens in this recipe. “Because the cooked greens easily take on the flavor of the soup, you feel like you’re eating pizza when you’re really eating kale or chard,” A Couple Cooks say.
The Recipe: Fans of a seriously hearty bisque will surely appreciate this black bean soup, which is incredibly thick, creamy, and flavorful. Jalapeno peppers and ground cumin add spice, apple cider vinegar and lime juice add acidity, and celery stalks add a dash of fresh texture. Toss in some garlic cloves, carrots, and a little fresh cilantro, and you’ve got a well-rounded dish on your hands.
The Pro Tip: For a smoother soup, you’ll want to blend your beans in batches—little by little—until each batch is pureed to the desired texture. For a chunkier soup, use an immersion blender and toss everything in all at once. Want something in between? “Some may be pureed and some not to have a combined texture,” Boulder Locavore says.
The Recipe: Everything tastes better with toast—beans included. This white beans on toast recipe is incredibly easy to master. Just combine some canned beans with veggies, spices, and oils, and plop your mixture atop some delicious toasted bread.
The Pro Tip: This recipe calls for dried white beans, so if you’re using canned white beans, you can effectively skip the first step. There’s no need to soak your beans in water for four hours if they’ve already been soaking since they were first canned!
The Recipe: If you’re looking for a canned bean dish that looks gourmet but is decidedly low-maintenance, you’ve found it in this Crockpot Parmesan white bean soup recipe. Take a few minutes to prep your ingredients and toss them in your slow cooker, and take a few minutes more to prepare the delicata squash you’ll serve atop your soup. Then, kick back while your slow cooker and oven do all the work.
The Pro Tip: Though chicken stock acts as the base for this soup, Half Baked Harvest recommends tossing in a little extra something for added flavor. “Me being me, I also like to add in a splash of wine for even more flavor,” she says.
The Recipe: The easiest way to serve your canned beans is, undoubtedly, to throw them into a classic three-bean salad. This incredibly easy recipe actually calls for four kinds of beans—green beans, kidney beans, wax beans, and garbanzo beans—but you can really toss in whatever you want to.
The Pro Tip: Since the core of this recipe is so simple, the dressing you drizzle on top of it makes a big difference. FoodieCrush recommends using a couple types of vinegar to achieve a flavor that’s impactful but not too intense. “I use a combination of two vinegars for the dressing: white wine vinegar for a more mellow tang with a touch of apple cider vinegar to give the dressing a punch,” she says.
The Recipe: This protein-packed quinoa chickpea avocado salad is designed as a side dish, but it’s filling enough to act as an entree. With hearty ingredients like chickpeas, black beans, quinoa, and avocado, this salad is sure to keep you energized all day long. And tasty additions like jalapenos and cilantro make a flavorful impact.
The Pro Tip: Feel free to make tons of substitutions, but keep texture in mind as you do so. One of Food Faith Fitness’ favorite things about this dish is its “crispy-crunchy goodness.” “You’re a texture freak. I’m a texture freak,” she says. “Roasted chickpeas—among a sea of soft, chewy quinoa and black beans—with creamy avocado, is making us very, very happy.”