Here’s how to transform the humble pantry staple into vibrant meals.

By Heath Goldman and Betty Gold
Updated March 23, 2020
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Whether you keep them stashed away in your pantry for emergencies or you eat protein-packed pintos, cannellini, or black beans on the reg, you likely have at least a can or two on hand at home right now. Though they usually get dumped straight onto a salad or scrambled into some eggs, with a bit more planning, canned beans can be just as exciting as they are convenient, satisfying, and affordable. Here are some ideas to get you cooking.

Grace Elkus

1
Smashed Beans on Toast

Start with 1 15.5-oz. can butter beans, drained. Heat some olive oil in a skillet, add a couple cloves of finely chopped garlic, and cook until golden and fragrant. Add beans, season with salt and pepper, and mash a little. Rub slices of bread with a garlic clove, drizzle both sides of each slice with olive oil, and toast in the oven until golden brown. Top with beans and drizzle generously with more olive oil. Top with fresh tender herbs, more pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

2
White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Start with 1 15.5-oz. can cannellini beans, drained. Puree with ½ cup roasted red peppers (patted dry with paper towels), 1 small garlic clove, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, and ¼ cup fresh lemon juice in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pita chips.

3
Smoky Refried Beans Tortillas

Start with one 15.5-oz can pinto beans, drained (liquid reserved). Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium, add 1 diced shallot, and cook until soft and fragrant. Add beans and ½ to 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce (depending on your heat preference). Add ¼ cup bean liquid and cook, mashing with a potato masher, until beans turn into a thick paste. Smear on tortillas and top with shredded pepper Jack or Cheddar cheese; broil until melted.

4
Cheesy Omelet With Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans

Start with one 15.5-oz. can black beans, drained. Heat some olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium, add 1 small peeled and grated sweet potato, 1 clove finely chopped garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until sweet potato is tender and just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in beans and a handful of crumbled queso fresco. In a separate bowl, beat two large eggs to blend and season with salt. Cook eggs in the skillet over medium-low until they begin to set, about 2 minutes. Top with half of the bean mixture and fold the eggs over the filling. Repeat with 2 more eggs and the remaining bean mixture.

5
Food Processor Black Bean Burgers

Start with two 15.5-oz. cans black beans, drained. Add to the bowl of a food processor with ¼ cup bread crumbs, 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon each smoked paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper, and ¼ teaspoon cayenne. Pulse a couple times to combine. Firmly pack into five 1-inch thick patties, transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Heat oil in a skillet over medium. Cook patties, pressing gently with a spatula, until brown on both sides, about 6 minutes per side. Serve on buns with your choice of toppings.