Beans are an affordable ingredient with great main dish potential. But what can you MAKE with beans? I’ve gotcha covered with these easy and delicious bean recipes.
Beans, beans, the musical fruit, the more you eat…
the more you save!
Surprised ya, there, didn’t I? While beans may sometimes get a bad rap for causing after dinner sound effects, the truth of the matter is that beans are a very budget-friendly ingredient!
Over the past decade or so, eating meatless — and focusing on beans — has been a great way for us to pay off debt, and save money to fund vacations, retirement, and braces.
For a family of self-proclaimed “meatatarians” this has taken a little getting used to. I’ve got one son who’s into nutrition and body building for whom a meatless meal is, well, a challenge.
However, a beefy meal for our family of 8 is easily $20 — just for the meat. Whereas a bean-based meal to feed our whole family could cost as little as FIVE BUCKS!
I did the math and realized that we could shave quite a bit off our grocery bill if we ate a few more meatless meals each week. We ate meatless almost exclusively when we were getting out of debt, and it really helped our bottom line.
So, we’ve been cutting back on meat and supplementing with one of my favorite fill-you-up, can-act-like-protein-under-the-right-circumstances ingredients: beans.
Lately, I’ve even been ditching the can to maximize my savings, making beans in the instant pot or cooking them in the slow cooker.
Beans are not only an affordable main dish option, but they also provide a good amount of fiber and micronutrients. Research suggests that eating more beans may also reduce your risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
Save money AND live better and longer? It’s kind of a double win, ya know what I mean?
The next logical step, of course, is to figure out how you can include more beans in your diet, allowing them to supplant some or all of the meat in a meal so that you can save some money! But, what to make?
What can you make with beans?
Now, if you’re new to beans or have only ever had them coated in ketchup and brown sugar at a backyard barbecue, well, I’m here to broaden your horizons. There’s a whole world of beans to explore, and they don’t even have to be the sweet, canned kind!
Spoiler alert: My family won’t eat American baked beans, and only one of them really loves the British kind. So, we’ll focus on other ways to enjoy beans!
Easy and Delicious Bean Recipes
Bean Recipes – Soups
Soups are an easy vehicle for beans. You’ve already got lots of other ingredients going in your soup, beans kinda blend in with the crowd. They can be the star ingredient, of course, but in pinch beans can help stretch your soup.
- Crockpot Chili Bean Soup
- Taco Soup
- Spicy Vegetable Soup
- Split Pea Soup – in this context, peas are like beans 😉
- Pantry Challenge Minestrone
- Minestrone Soup with Sausage and Tortellini
Use beans to top or stuff things.
Beans go great on potatoes, on chips, in tortillas, and in tacos. With a little creativity, you could bean everything in sight.
- Chili Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- One-Pan Chicken Nachos
- Red Burritos with Beef and Beans
- Green Chile Burritos
- Black Bean and Bell Pepper Wraps
- Turkey & Black Bean Tacos
- Not Soggy Nachos
Quickest Chili in the West
Bean Recipes – Chili
I know, chili purists say that beans don’t belong in chili, but c’est la vie, muchacho. It’s done. And it will continue to be done. I don’t think there’s any turning back.
- Quinoa Chili with Three Chiles
- Spicy Pork Chili with Pumpkin
- Chicken Chili with White Beans
- Easy Slow Cooker Chili
- The Quickest Chili in the West
Bean Recipes – Stew
Beans are added to stew all across the world. Try these on for size:
Bean and Meat Crockpot Enchilada
Bean Recipes – Casseroles
Beans can easily be stirred into your favorite casseroles to add fiber as well as flavor. They can substitute for the meat or just play a supporting role.
- Bean and Meat Crockpot Enchilada
- Black Bean and Cheese Pie
- Black Bean Lasagna
- Lawnmower Taco – readers have written to tell me they’ve subbed beans for the meat in our family’s favorite casserole.
- Turkey and Black Bean Enchiladas
Bean Recipes – Bowl Meals
I know, this one is a no-brainer. You’ve been to Chipotle. But seriously, if they can make 1000’s of different combinations, so can you. Here are a few ideas:
Cannellini Bowtie Pasta Salad
Bean Salad Recipes
Beans work in salads of every size and shape — except maybe jello. Beans in pasta salad, beans in green salad, beans-as-the-main-attraction salad, it all works.
- Black Bean Taco Salad
- Quinoa Salad to Make You Swoon
- Submarine Salad
- Tortellini Pasta Salad Recipe
- Italian Chicken Pasta Salad
- White Bean Salad
- Cannellini Bowtie Pasta Salad
- Antipasto Pasta Salad
Bean Dip Recipes
Beans are know for their dipping prowess. I mean what is a party without the bean dip? Be the hit of said party by bringing a homemade bean dip!
- Santa Barbara Caviar
- Homemade Garlic Lime Hummus
- Really Homemade Seven-Layer Dip
- Six-Layer Nachos
- Jalapeno Popper Nachos
So, there you have it. What can you make with beans? At least these 40 recipes. FORTY. They’re all delicious and super affordable.
Ready to make the most of beans?
Beans not only make a great base for main dishes, but they also freeze beautifully.
Grab this Freezer Cooking Mini Plan featuring Beans to help you fill the freezer quickly and easily.
- Learn to cook beans at home three different ways.
- Fill the freezer with wraps, pot pie, lasagna, chili, and soup, all featuring hearty beans.
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Originally published April 20, 2010, this post has been updated and revamped for accuracy and relevance.
You like spicy red beans and rice with Cajun or Creole seasoning and some andouille sausage is New Orleans gold. Hopping John is another rice & beans dish, traditionally served on New Years Day For good Luck in the coming year. Add lentils to your usual soups and stews. The spicier the dish the less they will notice them. Green and brown lentils help thicken the broth. Mix them into burger in hamburgers, meatloaf, casseroles, taco meat, burritos, enchiladas. Dishes that have a lot of flavor going on. Red lentils and split peas break down into the broth. Cube black beans & rice are an option. Lentils won’t be noticeable in Sloppy Joe, cook & mash & add to bread. I’ve had them in vegan cottage(ground beef) or shepherds pie(ground lamb). I don’t like lentils unless they are mixed into something well seasoned. They are included in dry 12-15 bean soup mixes, but disappear into the soup. I’m a New Englander life long and love baked beans of all kinds.Ketchup can be replaced by unsalted tomato paste, less brown sugar with more molasses. I can’t and won’t use most convenience foods, ie ketchup, brown sugar, pasta sauce, salad dressings, No Sodium, No MSG, No GMO’s as much as possible, no bad fats only unsalted butter and Olive Oil, No Spice Mixes, only whole grains, no dry mixes of any kind, no premade baked goods. I use dried beans or rinsed LS canned, canned unsalted tomatoes, no McCormick Spices ( undeclared salt, sugar, and fillers, GMO, MSG, pesticide residues, overpricing) I buy from Amazon with Prime, cheaper, well documented contents, non GMO, not irradiated, even organic! I use beans in Italian recipes, I love Mexican but Tex-Mex does not love me! Chile Pepper & Cayenne make me terribly ill. I sub fresh or canned hot peppers and spices, real garlic, onions and bell peppers, can’t use canned retried beans, the fat makes me ill. We make our own & often sub black beans for pinto. I can’t have much dairy as in heavy amounts of cheese. I sub non cow dairy cheese, unsweetened Greek yogurt in strict moderation. Beans grace many cultures besides the Southwest. Italian, Greek, North African ( some really fiery dishes, try Ethiopian, Moroccan, and Egyptian), the Middle Eastern countries, Turkey, the 14 cuisines of India and the country’s that surround it. Southeast Asia, China with so many cuisines they are uncounted and tofu. The East Indies and Malaysia, Java, some spicy cuisines, suitable to add beans.South America has some very good cuisines, Central America and the Caribbean use some hot spices. Many of these cuisines may be expensive in restaurants, but are cheap to create at home. Most of the world uses far less meat than the US and many less expensive proteins like beans and bean products such as tofu. Even if beans aren’t in a dish you can add them. If your family like Southwestern heat, there is a good chance they will take to other cultures that use heat from various hot peppers and spices. Amazon is a great resource for spices, they carry them in many brands and sizes so you can try something in a small size & buy in bulk at another time. Freezing is great to maintain their freshness and many cultures are slow cooker friendly. My cookers are well used believe me.
Red beans and rice seems to be missing from the list. 🙂
Ha! This California girl has never had red beans and rice!
My family loves beans! Some favorites are lentil tacos, ANY kind of bean soup, baked beans (on toast!), and crockpot sausage & beans. Hummus, too.
I wish I could get my people to like lentils!
I’m from the Midwest, so ham and beans is a favorite, I usually cook them with onions. But, the ham is optional, and meat can be only a little for seasoning or none.
If I’m fixing beans without the ham, I like to use more than one variety of beans, I think it has more flavor, and used to mix pinto, great northern and navy beans and cook them together. With rice or (my favorite) corn bread it’s a pretty good meal. You could obviously use kidney, black, pink or any other bean you like in the mixture. I just bought several packs and kept them mixed them together in a gallon jar.
I also like to add greens such as kale to beans, much like the Italian white bean and escarole soup. I think the original has sausage, but I don’t always include it and I use kale instead because escarole isn’t really available for me.
I also sometimes fix pinto beans with onions added and just add a little cooked ground meat such as hamburger or some chopped up roast. This goes back to a western book I read decades ago where the cowboys ate a lot of beans and beef. In those days, beans meant ham and beans, but I didn’t have ham and did have hamburger so I started experimenting. I don’t add chili to this, just season it with onion, garlic, salt and maybe some summer savory.
I also do a spicy white bean dip with garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. It is similar to hummus but without the tahini which makes it cheaper. And of course just bean dip, which can be as easy as mashed or refried beans and salsa with cheese optional served hot.
Sorry for running on a bit, but obviously I do like to cook with beans.
I’m working on including more white beans in what we eat, but at least one child is balking. It’s always something. 😉
Carol in CT
Bean burgers!!! I have a Mexican black bean burger recipe on my blog, there’s “A girl named Jack”‘s kidney bean burgers, I make a homemade version of Beyond meat’s vegan burgers and freeze any extra. Cheap and easy. See my blog for the recipes/link. CTonabudget.blogspot.com
Sounds yummy. Thanks!
My family members are committed carnivores, so I use beans more to bulk up our meals rather than to make them meatless. I have been trying to reduce the meat per servings from the traditional 3 to 4 ounces per person to 2 or 3 ounces per person. Consequently, I make a number of bean side dishes. Some of our favorites include black bean and corn salad and three bean salad, which are served cold. My favorite hot bean side dish is sautéed onions, peppers, corn and black beans seasoned with cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. And of course, every Mexican dish needs a side of refried beans.
Like you, we’re having more meatless meals as well. I’ll be sure to try out some of your recipes. 😉
In addition to what you have listed, I also throw beans into ratatouille and pasta sauces (generally white or black beans), and we’ve been enjoying black bean burgers quite a bit (with your homemade hamburger buns–yum!). I also like to add roasted red pepper hummus to quesadillas. And of course there’s my son’s favorite–bean and cheese burritos.
I need to go back to trying bean patties. I haven’t made them in years, but that sounds yummy. Thanks for the nudge.