Legumes are nutritional powerhouses that deliver tons of fiber and protein for pennies. Dried or canned, they make filling additions to salads and soups.
Rich in magnesium, these legumes have a velvety texture and a subtly sweet taste that goes well with smoky flavors, such as bacon or chipotle. Pair brightly colored vegetables and fruits with the shiny purple-black beans for festive salads. Black beans are available dried or canned.
Small, plump, and spotted, these beans are an excellent source of folate (important for pregnant women). Their earthiness complements salty meats, like bacon and ham.
These large, rosy beige kitchen mainstays (also known as white Italian kidney beans) are creamy and delicately flavored.
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are consumed more than any other beans in the world. Round and firm, with a nutty flavor, they’re the basis of hummus.
These small, white, kidney-shaped beans are an especially good source of calcium. Because they’re mild and easily absorb seasonings, they work well in stews and soups.
This popular chili ingredient, known for its reddish skin and white interior, packs protein, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and about the same amount of cancer-fighting antioxidants as blueberries.
Green, flat, oval-shaped lima beans—both the larger, potassium-packed butter (or Fordhook) beans and the sweeter baby limas—have a buttery flavor and a starchy interior that can turn mushy, so they’re best in quick sautés. They are often sold cooked and frozen.
These light brown beans have substantial amounts of fiber and protein. Their earthy flavor and smooth texture works well in dips and stews or in Mexican refried beans.
How to Choose Beans
If dinner has to be on the table in 20 minutes, canned beans win hands down. Dried beans require prep; they need to be soaked and cooked before you can use them in a recipe. But what they lack in convenience, dried beans make up for in taste and texture; they tend to have a brighter flavor and a firmer consistency. They’re also lower in sodium; however, rinsing and draining canned beans can reduce their salt content significantly. As for price? A cup of canned beans costs about 70 cents; a cup of cooked dried beans, about 25 cents. Bottom line: Whichever type you choose, you’re getting a healthy bargain.
How to Store Beans
Store dried beans at room temperature for up to a year in an airtight container (oxygen can turn the oils rancid) away from light (which fades color). Do not refrigerate dried beans, as they may absorb moisture and spoil. Canned beans keep for up to 5 years (for best taste, use within a year). Cooked beans will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to five days. Refrigerate fresh lima beans in a tightly covered container for up to five days; frozen lima beans keep up to 3 months.
How to Prepare Beans
To cook dried beans:
1. First discard any that are discolored or shriveled, then rinse them with cold water in a colander. Place the beans in a large saucepan in enough water to cover.
2. Let soak at room temperature overnight, for 8 to 10 hours. If you want to use the beans sooner instead, bring them to a boil, reduce heat, simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, remove from heat, and let stand, covered, for 1 hour.
3. Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until tender, 1½ to 3 hours. (Refer to package directions for specific times. In general, the larger the bean, the longer the cooking time.)
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