Beans are a humble staple on grocery store shelves, often used for chilis or perhaps homemade bean burgers. No one can really insist, though, that they’re an exciting ingredient—grocers typically don’t have a hard time keeping them on the store shelves. Until now.
A sign of our pandemic times, both canned and dry beans have been flying off the store shelves, the industry reports, as consumers stock up for uncertain days ahead. The CEO of the American Pulse Association told The New York Times that canners and packagers had seen a 40% increase in sales. Bean company Goya reported that, at one point, its sales had spiked as much as 400%!
In some ways, it makes sense: Beans are a nutritious source of calories, packed with fiber and protein. They keep for a long time—especially dry beans—and they can be used in a variety of ways. If you’re not someone who regularly cooks with beans, though, you might get home with a couple of cans or bags and wonder what you were thinking. Here’s what to do:
If you have dry beans. Start, of course, by cooking them, which you can do on the stovetop, in the slow cooker or in a pressure cooker. Soak them overnight first in a pot with a few inches of water. Adding a splash of vinegar will help make them easier to digest.
If you’re cooking on the stovetop, simmer the beans with some aromatics (herbs, onions, garlics, chiles) and salt for a couple of hours. (Note: If you’re cooking kidney beans, boil them for 10 minutes before eating to deactivate a toxin that can cause digestive distress.) In the slow cooker, the beans take about six to eight hours on low to become tender. In the “miraculous” pressure cooker, dry beans only need between 5 and 15 minutes to cook, depending on the variety.
Make a meal. Dry beans can be used in the same manner as canned beans—as the basis for many a nutritious meal. Here are some ideas:
- Black beans. Toss with pineapple, jalapeño, red onion, cilantro and lime juice for a fruit-based salsa.
- Cannellini. Mix with canned tuna, red onions, capers and red wine vinegar for a Mediterranean tuna salad.
- Garbanzo beans. Roast with olive oil and coarse salt in a 400°F oven for a crispy snack.
- Kidney beans. Mash and mix with tomato sauce and ground beef. Spread in a baking dish and top with cheddar cheese for a bean dip.
- Pinto beans. Toss with fresh pico de gallo and queso fresco, and stuff into the center of an avocado.