16 Simple Uses For Canned Beans

Magical and fruity. Well, at least that's how the famous song describes them. Beans are far from fruity, but can definitely put a spell on you — and there are a myriad of reasons why. Beans are loaded with fiber and protein, and a long list of other health-supporting nutrients. They are also super affordable and come in hundreds of varieties. From penny pinchers looking for a budget-friendly yet filling meal to skillful home chefs experimenting with elaborate recipes, everyone loves beans.

When it comes to this tiny superfood, canned beans have all the qualities that dried ones do, except that they're conveniently pre-cooked. Canned legumes aren't perfect though — many canned beans contain nitrates and nitrites, which are used as preservatives. High levels could contaminate the can. Sodium content is another downside. While Healthline notes that salt is essential to regulating blood pressure, a single can of beans may have up to 25% of the daily recommended salt intake. It's just something to be mindful of and varies from brand to brand.

Nevertheless, those are minor compared to the benefits you receive. Endlessly versatile, canned beans can be used in so many delicious ways. If you've "bean" there and done that, this list may not be for you. But, for those of you looking for more ways to put your pantry full of canned beans to use, here are a few.

Thicken soup with mashed cannellini beans

A steaming bowl of soup is the perfect way to fill your tummy. Soup is a savory ride through a never-ending tunnel of flavor where anything is possible. From cheesy and light white bean soup to hearty and healthy three bean soup, there are plenty of "soup-er" recipes. In fact, one "stew-pendous" option is to use mashed canned cannellini beans to thicken soup. It's an especially handy hack for those looking to reduce their dairy intake or have a dairy-free diet.

There are only two quick and easy steps to thicken your soup. Without draining the liquid, pour the cannellini beans into a bowl and mash them. As you mash, the beans will absorb the liquid, becoming a thick paste-like consistency that can be used as an alternative to milk. Not only will they add body, but cannellini beans are nutrient bombs. Along with fiber and protein, they're a great source of micronutrients like copper, folate, and iron. Mashed cannellini bean cream also works for sauces and pasta.

Make cheese-tastic canned green beans

Admit it, the idea of canned green beans doesn't make the heart flutter. Imagine how many cans of green beans are just sitting in pantries waiting for doomsday to happen so that they can finally be opened and used. Perhaps if more people knew about this fun and cheesy dinner upgrade for canned green beans, the cans would be flying off the shelf. 

The rich and nutty taste of parmesan cheese, or asiago, is the flavor booster your green beans have been missing all along. And we haven't even told you the best part yet: The recipe is so simple that anyone can make it. To try this healthy treat, start by cooking the green beans in butter. Liberally grate parmesan or asiago cheese over them as they cook. You can flavor them with the seasoning blend of your choice, along with fresh or dried herbs.

Experience fried canned green beans

Another highly recommended way to put canned green beans to good use is by frying them. A classic below the Mason-Dixon line, fried canned green beans are crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside, making them a delicious study of contrast. Experimenting with different textures and consistencies will surely keep things in the kitchen more interesting. 

Cooking these crunchy beans is easy, too. You can enjoy them solo, as a side to savory meats, and even with salads and stir-fries — there are many delicious uses to discover. To make them at home, whip together a little batter or seasoned flour and generously coat the green beans. They only take 35 minutes to prep and cook: You can deep-fry or pan-fry them. Also, feel free to mix things up with your seasoning blend. From Cajun seasoning to Chinese five-spice, the flavorful possibilities are limitless. 

Cook a cheesy bean-filled au gratin

Baked beans might've been the inspiration behind that famous song about beans. When you think of them, the first thing that probably comes to mind is barbecues in the summer, or maybe the nostalgic taste of sweet and savory sliced hot dogs and baked beans — '90s kids know what's up. There's nothing like cooking a can of Bush's Best with cut-up pieces of hot dog. That simple yet classic duo was a feast for children. 

Now that we're all grown up, it's time to learn about another twist on canned baked beans: A cheesy baked bean au gratin. It will reignite the love you have for the syrupy sweet legume. Baked bean au gratin uses many of the same ingredients as potatoes au gratin: Cheese, milk, and butter. You can even try different cheeses, and add herbs, spices, and breadcrumbs, too. Trust us, don't miss out on this "au-some" experience.

Roast canned beans for a crispy snack

Sometimes canned beans are more like canned boring. With anything, you gotta switch things up to keep your everyday legumes exciting. One surefire way to put a smile on your belly is by roasting them. Rather than the usual mushy consistency, which can wear on the palate, roasting adds a thin crispy layer. If you've ever tried roasted edamame, then you have an idea of the deliciously toasted taste that awaits. You can roast any canned bean of your liking, too.

It's a simple way to use canned beans for a snack, mix-in for salads, rice bowls, and more. To make it, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Drain the canned beans and spread them over a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drizzle them with oil and seasoning, too. Once the oven has preheated, cook the beans for 15 to 30 minutes until they are slightly crispy. Now, your canned beans are roasted and ready to enjoy.

A marinade will make canned beans more delicious

What starts with the letter "m" and has the ability to elevate deliciousness? You can let the question marinate for a bit ... pun intended. Coaxing flavor out of beans can be tricky sometimes. They're easy to under-season and over-season, even canned beans. Luckily, you can traverse the learning curve faster by soaking your canned beans in a marinade. From an herbaceous Italian-style vinaigrette to a piquant jerk-style sauce, it'd take several lifetimes to experience all of the possibilities. Spruce things up even more with fresh aromatics and ingredients like chopped bell peppers and onions.

Any canned bean variety can be soaked in marinade for a flavorful boost. Store-bought brands and homemade marinade can both be used. It's as simple as tossing the beans with the sauce and adding any additional ingredients or aromatics you want. The best part is that the flavor will intensify as the days pass. When it comes to ratio, we suggest using a ⅓ cup of olive oil for every two 15-ounce cans of beans.

Try a hearty and healthy salad

Cut down on the carb-heavy recipes and balance out the day with a refreshing salad. Canned beans and salads share many of the same qualities; they're both nutritious, super versatile, and truly come to life when paired with other foods. Bean salad is perfect for those looking to cut down on meat without losing too much protein. It's hearty and filling, yet digests easily and won't make you feel sluggish — in fact, you'll feel a burst of energy.

There are literally endless bean salad recipes. If you enjoy a spicy citrusy kick, try out this jalapeño-lime three bean salad recipe. Creamy yet mayo-free, this yogurt-based bean salad is a light and zesty recipe that you'll be telling all your friends about. For a more aromatic and savory experience, we highly recommend giving this Moroccan chickpea salad recipe a go. Simply put, it's never a bad time for bean salad.

Substitute meats for protein-rich canned beans

Another simple way to use canned beans is as a protein substitute for meat. Beans are considered one of the best sources of protein. Take soybeans, for example. Just 1 cup of cooked soybeans contains 31.3 grams of protein, while 1 cup of beef contains around 32 grams of protein. There's no arguing that meat holds the throne when it comes to protein, but beans have an abundance of other nutritious benefits, too. According to Healthline, they also help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as well as increase healthy gut bacteria. That's why vegan diets are typically bean-rich. 

That said, you don't have to give up succulent sirloin to enjoy the "bean-efits" of legumes. With a little work, canned lentils and beans can be transformed into deliciously healthy meat alternatives. Rather than ground beef, try using brown or red lentils instead. Along with your go-to seasoning, add fennel for the sausage-y taste. You can also use ground lentils for a Bolognese sauce, lasagne, and shepherd's pie.

Use aquafaba for vegan baked goods

Baking is an exercise in precision. It's a culinary art that takes years and an intense amount of passion to learn. That's why it's so fulfilling when you finally bake a loaf of bread that actually looks like one, rather than an abstract art piece. One essential element that you need in traditional baking is dairy, which includes butter, milk, buttermilk, and cheese. It's often difficult to find a suitable alternative to these ingredients in recipes. Replacing eggs can be a similar struggle. In fact, eggs are often the most challenging ingredient to substitute.

Eggs are used to help bind ingredients together. Without them, your baking adventures could easily go off the beaten path. Enter aquafaba. Aquafaba is the liquid from canned chickpeas. It's a dairy-free binding agent that can be used for everything from baked goods to cocktails to meringues. Just remember this ratio when subbing aquafaba for eggs: 3 tablespoons for 1 egg, 2 tablespoons for 1 egg white, and 1 tablespoon for 1 egg yolk.

Bake black bean brownies

Although canned black beans are typically used for savory recipes, they can also be used to make delicious brownies. That sounds weird, huh? You're probably imagining yourself chewing into a brownie with black beans in place of chocolate chips — luckily, the beans are actually pureed first and then added to the brownie mix. Beans act as a binding agent when pureed and blended with ingredients, which means that you can use them in place of flour. Once you give it a try, you'll see that making brownies is one of the absolute best ways to use a can of black beans.

Black bean brownies are moist, sweet, and healthy. You can make vegan and non-vegan versions, too. For dairy-free, all you need is a can of black beans, white vinegar, pumpkin purée, coconut oil, salt, vanilla extract, maple syrup, oats, baking soda, cocoa powder, and chocolate chips. The list of ingredients is shorter if you're non-vegan; just a can of black beans, semi-sweet chocolate chips, oil, eggs, brown sugar, baking cocoa, vanilla extract, and baking powder.

Try Michael Symon's elevated bean dip

We can all agree that celebrity chef Michael Symon knows a thing or two about cooking. He has a relatable and inviting style that makes his cooking enjoyably down-to-earth. In an interview with Tasting Table, Symon shared his secret to quickly preparing a dish. You guessed it: canned beans. He revealed that many chefs at fancy restaurants use canned beans as a time-saving cheat code. One simple way Symon uses canned beans is to make delicious dips. 

Hummus, for example, is easy to make and is always a welcomed addition to any game day spread. To whip up a quick and tasty hummus, Symon instructs that you rinse your chickpeas first, then add some garlic cloves, extra virgin olive oil, and lemon. It's simple, healthy, delicious, and goes great with all sorts of things. Symon also encourages experimenting with different bean types and seasoning blends as well.

Stew up a tasty one-pot dinner

One-pot recipes are one of the best cure-alls for hunger pangs. They're easy to make, super filling, can feed a bunch of people, and don't leave you with a sink full of dirty dishes. One-pots are also a deliciously simple way to put those canned beans in your cabinet to use. They let you save time while still enjoying belly-filling satisfaction. There are so many crave-worthy canned bean one-pot dishes. Budget-friendly and nutritious, a canned tomato and bean one-pot dinner is the perfect evening wind down.

If your appetite demands something meatier, you'll salivate over a one-pot combo of sausage, white beans, and kale. And things will never go awry with cheese, black beans, and ground meat. Always make sure to be mindful of the ingredients you use, too, as timing is important. Foods with a tougher consistency should be added to the pot first before ingredients that cook more quickly.

Blend them into a refreshing smoothie

This next easy way to use canned beans is simply odd. Did you know that canned beans can be used to make smoothies? Seriously, when you think of canned beans, refreshing is the last word that comes to mind. Fruity does, but ... that's a whole other story. Canned bean smoothies do actually make sense when you think about it. Beans are nutritious and have a malleable consistency that adds texture when blended. The secret lies in their neutral taste, which makes them adaptable to other flavors.

Canned beans can add a boost of protein to your smoothie, along with fiber, which WebMD notes helps with healthy digestion. Beans also make smoothies extra creamy and can be used as a substitute for dairy. We recommend using black beans for chocolate-flavored — or similarly dark-colored — smoothies. But for smoothies with color, navy beans are always reliable. If you're using nut butter, chickpeas have a complementary nutty taste that goes perfectly.

Use bean liquid for soups, stews, or chilis

Once you discover all of the things you can do with canned bean liquid, you'll never throw it out again. Aside from making aquafaba, it has many other great applications. Another tasty way to put it to good use is by adding it to soups, stews, or chilis. When combined, the bean liquid's starchy texture makes everything creamier and richer. 

Simply set the liquid to the side, and, then, to "cream-ify" it, blend it in after everything's nearly cooked. We recommend using low-sodium or no-fat varieties of canned beans and adding your own salt to taste. Always check the can, too, as some brands carry more liquid than others. Put this hack to use by adding canned bean liquid to make creamier refried beans. After you try it, you'll want to spread them on everything. Canned bean liquid can also be used as an alternative to water or stock.

Recreate Popeyes' classic red beans and rice

If you've ever had Popeyes' red beans and rice, you were probably traumatized when the company unfortunately decided to discontinue it. One thing about foodies, though, is if we can't have the real deal, we'll figure out how to cook it ourselves, and, sometimes, we even end up making it better. 

If you're unfamiliar with the iconic side dish, otherwise known as Cajun rice and dirty rice, it's made with red kidney beans, long-grain rice, and spices like paprika, garlic, onion, and salt. On the list of "Best Rice-based Dishes Ever," one could argue that it's easily in the top 10. Luckily for our nostalgic appetites, there's a copycat of Popeyes' red beans and rice recipe. You'll need an hour and a half to make it, but, trust us, it's totally worth the wait. It should yield six servings of delicious Popeyes' nostalgia.

Enjoy homemade veggie burgers

Although veggie burgers are healthy alternatives, it's hard to match the mouthwatering taste of a beef burger. Many brands have tried over the years, and, while some have managed to make decent-tasting ones, there's always that extra bit of oomph missing. It's often better to put traditional burger expectations to the side. That way, it's easier to imagine the delicious possibilities of veggie burgers. Canned beans are awesome meat alternatives for tasty homemade veggie burgers.

We recommend making black bean burgers. They're notoriously mushy, but, before you scoff at the idea, we know how you can avoid the pitfalls of your past experiences and give your black bean burgers a crispier consistency. If you dry the beans out first, you'll be able to achieve more crunch. To dry them, drain then spread the beans on a baking sheet. Place them in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. When a crusty layer forms but the inside is still tender, the beans are ready to be removed, mixed with ingredients, and formed into tasty burgers.

Static Media owns and operates Tasting Table and Mashed.