As a child and young adult, I refused to eat beans. I didn’t like the taste or texture of them. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned to love beans. Now, I can’t get enough of them. Beans are one of the most amazing foods we can eat. They are healthy, filling and a hearty addition to many dishes. Beans are economical and a great value for your money, especially if you buy dried beans. They are convenient, easy to cook and easy to store. Beans are highly versatile and can be used for spreads, stews, soups, entrees, sides and desserts. They can be transformed into burgers and sausages or tossed into salads. There are many types of beans, each with their own taste and texture – adzuki, black, black-eyed peas, cannellini, fava, garbanzo, kidney, navy, pinto, and soy to name just a few. Every cuisine around the world enjoys beans in recipes that range from easy to complex, comforting to elegant. Sit back and take a culinary trip around the world with me as we experience 10 different beans prepared in recipes from 10 different countries.
1. Black Soybeans and China
Despite its name, black bean sauce is not made from black beans. This favorite Asian sauce is made from fermented black soybeans, also known as Chinese black beans. It’s easy to make your own Black Bean Sauce that you can add to your favorite vegetables or tofu: heat 2 tsp. peanut oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger, 2 minced garlic cloves and ¼ of an onion, minced, and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Add 1/3 cup fermented black soybeans and 1 seeded and minced red or green chile to the pan and stir well. Add 1 cup water, ½ cup tamari, ¼ cup brown rice vinegar and 1 Tbs. sugar and stir well. In a small bowl, mix 2 tsp. arrowroot and 1 Tbs. water. Add this mixture to the saucepan and allow the sauce to cook on low heat until it thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 Tbs. fresh chopped cilantro. Serve on the side of steamed vegetables and pan-fried tofu. Read How to Make Your Own Vegan Chinese Dishes at Home for more tips and recipes.
2. Fava Beans and Egypt
Ful Medames, or Stewed Fava Beans, is a dish eaten all over the Middle East and is considered the national dish of Egypt. It is a breakfast dish of fava beans, garlic and lemon juice. It is sometimes mixed with hard-boiled eggs and so it makes sense that a few spoons of an already prepared tofu scramble could be incorporated into the dish, if desired. To make Ful Medames: Add 3 cups of cooked fava beans to a medium-sized saucepan and add enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil, let them cook for 10 minutes until tender and drain the water. Transfer the beans to a bowl and mash them a bit, if desired. Season the beans with 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. ground cumin, ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, and kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Toss with ¼ cup olive oil, the juice of 2 fresh lemons and 3 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley. Mix with scrambled tofu for a heartier dish that is perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
3. Chickpeas and Ethiopia
When you add beans to a meal, it transforms from a side dish to a meal. For an Ethiopian dish that is easy to make and filled with amazing flavors, try my Ethiopian Beans and Greens Stew: saute 4 minced garlic cloves and 1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger in peanut oil until softened and browned. Add one small diced onion and saute until golden. Mix in a tablespoon or two of Berbere, an Ethiopian spice blend, and toss to coat the onions. Add 1 ½ cups of cooked chickpeas and 4 diced plum tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes soften and break down, about 5 minutes. Wilt in one large bunch of chopped kale, collards, spinach, or greens of your choice, by the handful, stirring often. Serve the dish as is or over quinoa and top with a dollop of vegan sour cream.
4. Cannellini Beans and France
The cassoulet is a classic French dish that is made with beans and meat and is cooked for a long time. It’s named after the bowl it is traditionally cooked in, the cassole. Skipping the meat and upping the number of veggies results in a healthy, hearty Veggie Cassoulet. To make it: Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Saute 1 diced onion and 3 minced garlic cloves for 6 minutes until the onion is softened. Add 3 chopped celery stalks, 3 chopped carrots, and 2 chopped parsnips and let them cook for 8 minutes or until they start to soften. Mix in 1 Tbs. tomato paste and then add 1 ½ cups diced tomatoes and 3 cups cooked cannellini beans. Season with 2 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley, 1 tsp. dried sage, 1 tsp. dried thyme, ½ tsp. black pepper, 1 fresh bay leaf and kosher salt to taste. Pour 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth into the pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add in 1 large bunch of chopped kale or greens of your choice, and let it simmer for 20 – 30 minutes or until all of the vegetables are tender and the liquid has been reduced by half. It should be saucy like a stew but not so much liquid that it’s a soup. Transfer the stew to a deep baking dish with just enough liquid to keep it moist. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup bread crumbs, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley and 1 Tbs. olive oil. Spread the bread crumb mixture over the top of the cassoulet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until the bread crumbs are golden brown and crisp. Serve while hot. Check out Paint Us like One of These Vegan French Recipes for more ooh-la-la dishes.
5. Black-Eyed Peas and India
Beans feature prominently in Indian cuisine. Chana Masala is a beloved dish made with chickpeas. My version of it uses black-eyed peas and so it is called Lobia Masala. To make it: saute a large chopped onion in oil for 4 minutes until browned. Add 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. ground coriander, ½ tsp. ground cardamom, ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon and 1/8 tsp. ground cloves and mix so the onions are coated in the spices. Add 4 minced garlic cloves, a 1-inch piece of grated ginger, 1 seeded and chopped chile pepper, 1 tsp. garam masala, 1 tsp. kosher salt and ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper. Mix and cook for about 1 minute or until fragrant. Add 1 ½ cups diced tomato to the pan and stir. Scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add 3 cups of cooked black-eyed peas and 1 tsp. agave nectar, stir and cover the pan. Continue to cook 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you have a saucy mixture. When it bubbles, remove the lid and lower the heat. Simmer 10-12 minutes until the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and add the zest and juice of one lime. Cover the pan and let it sit for 5 minutes while the flavors get absorbed. Garnish with cilantro and serve over rice. Read How to Make Your Own Indian Food at Home for more tips and recipes.
6. Pinto Beans and Italy
Nothing is more comforting to me than soups filled with beans, greens and pasta. A favorite Italian soup is called Pasta e Fagioli or more informally, pasta fazool. This classic dish contains all 3 of these healthy, delicious ingredients. To make my Pasta e Fagioli: in a large stockpot, heat 1 Tbs. oil over medium heat. Saute 1 diced onion for about 4 minutes until softened. Add 3 thinly sliced scallions, 1 large diced carrot, 2 ribs of diced celery, and 2 cloves minced garlic to the pot. Let cook for 4 minutes until the vegetables soften. Mix in 1 tsp. dried rosemary and ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes. Stir in 6-8 cups vegetable broth and/or water and 2 cups chopped tomatoes. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 1 ½ cups cooked pinto beans and 3 cups cooked fusilli or other small pasta. Season the soup with salt and black pepper to taste. Add 1 large bunch of chopped chard, kale or other greens to the pot. Do not stir. Cover the pot and let the greens steam until they are a verdant, bright green. Uncover the pot and stir in the greens. Serve while hot. Sprinkle with vegan grated parmesan, if desired.
7. Pigeon Peas and Jamaica
Pigeon peas are legumes that are commonly used in Latin, Asian and Caribbean cooking. A traditional Jamaican dish combines pigeon peas (also called gungo peas) with rice, coconut milk and lots of spices. If you can’t find pigeon peas, red kidney beans or black-eyed peas can be used instead. To make my Jamaican Rice and Peas: heat 1 Tbs. coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 small chopped onion and cook for 4 minutes until softened and beginning to brown. Add 4 minced garlic cloves and 1 ½ cups brown rice and toss to coat the rice with oil. Mix in 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger. Add 1 cup water or vegetable broth and 2 cups coconut milk. Stir well. Add 1 ½ cups cooked pigeon peas to the saucepan. Add 2 tsp. dried thyme and stir everything together. Add 2 fresh bay leaves. Let the rice cook until the liquids begin to simmer. Then lower the heat and cover the saucepan. Cook for 40 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit for 10 more minutes. Uncover, remove the bay leaves, and fluff with a fork. Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary. Squeeze lime juice over top.
8. Adzuki Beans and Japan
In Japan, osekihan, or red beans and rice, is a dish traditionally served to bless a young girl who has reached puberty. Today it is served for special occasions as well as an everyday dish. Also known as sekihan, this rice and adzuki bean dish is believed to help menstrual pain and increase milk production during lactation. Those may not be your reasons for wanting to eat it, but its delicious taste should be.
Traditionally, osekihan is made with glutinous rice, but you can also make it with regular red, white or brown rice as well. To make my Easy Brown Rice Osekihan: combine 2 cups brown rice with 3 ½ cups water and a pinch of salt in a medium-sized saucepan. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Uncover the pot, stir the rice and reduce the heat to low. Recover the pot and let the rice cook for 30 minutes until the water is absorbed. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit for 10 more minutes. Uncover the rice and fluff with a fork. While the rice is cooking, rinse and drain 1 can of adzuki beans. Heat a little oil in a skillet and add the beans to the pan. Add 1 minced garlic clove and 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger. Cook the beans for several minutes until they are warmed through. Season the beans with kosher salt to taste. Combine the rice and beans in a bowl. Prepare your own gomashio by combining 1 tsp. roasted black sesame seeds with ¼ tsp. Hawaiian salt. Sprinkle the gomashio onto the rice and adzuki beans.
9. Black Beans and Mexico
Beans or frijoles are a staple of Mexican dishes, especially pinto beans, kidney beans and black beans. Refried beans are boiled and then fried and are commonly served as a side dish. Before I liked beans, I used to eat at Mexican restaurants and instruct them to leave the beans off my plate. Today I want a double order of refried beans, because I love them so much. I make my own refried beans and while you can use any type of beans, I prefer to make them with black beans. To make my Refried Black Beans: saute ½ of an onion, minced, 4 minced garlic cloves and 1 seeded and minced jalapeno pepper. Add 3 cups cooked black beans to the skillet and toss with the aromatics. Season the beans with 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. ground coriander and ½ tsp. black pepper and cook for a few more minutes. Garnish with 1 Tbs. fresh chopped cilantro and enjoy the fiesta. Read How to Cook Veggies Mexican-Style for more tips and recipes.
10. Red Kidney Beans and Puerto Rico
Another type of beans I would request be left off my plate were the stewed kidney beans they would serve at my favorite Puerto Rican restaurant. Actually, I would avoid the beans but spoon the amazing red sauce over my rice. Sometimes a bean or two would sneak its way into my rice and eventually, I not only learned to like these beans, I loved them. After I became vegan, I had to learn how to create this recipe myself so I could have them anytime I wanted them. It’s just as delicious as I remembered. To make my Habichuelas Guisadas or Puerto Rican Stewed Beans: heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 Tbs. sofrito and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 Tbs. alcaparrado or pimento-stuffed green olives to the pot. Stir in 2 cups cooked red kidney beans and 1 cup tomato sauce. Let the beans cook in the sauce for 2 minutes. Add 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. ground coriander, ¼ tsp. black pepper, and kosher salt to taste. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 cup water. Cook uncovered for 20-25 minutes until beans are tender and the sauce has thickened. If the sauce gets too thick, add more water. Serve while hot.
That was fun, and there are still so many more ethnic cuisines to explore. You can try these recipes as written or substitute whichever beans you like best. Whether you are eating ful, lobia, chana, frijoles, fagioli or habichuelas, beans are a delicious and smart choice. What’s your favorite bean dish? Let us know in the comments.
Lead Image Source: Lobia Masala by Rhea Parsons