All About Beans

bowl of bean salad with kidney beans

Beans are tasty and nutritious and can be used in so many different ways! Enjoy them baked, refried, wrapped in tasty burritos or mixed into salads with colourful fresh vegetables. If you want to start eating more beans but are not sure how, here’s everything you need to get you started.

Beans are a nutritious choice

  • Beans are rich in fibre and protein and low in fat. They have vitamins and minerals such as folate, potassium and iron.
  • Health Canada recommends choosing plant-based foods, like beans, more often. Eating plant-based foods regularly can help prevent diseases like heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers.   
  • Dried beans have no sodium (salt) but canned beans often do. To reduce the sodium of canned beans, drain the liquid and rinse well or choose canned beans with no added salt. 

Try a new type of bean

There are so many varieties of beans available both dried or canned. Have you tried all of these?

Experiment! Try different beans in your favourite recipes to see which varieties you like best.

Buying local beans

Canada is one of the world’s top exporters of beans. Ontario, for example, produces 15 different varieties of dry beans including coloured beans and white navy beans. Look for Product of Canada on packaging to find out if beans are locally produced.

Buy it best

A variety of canned and dried beans can be found in your local supermarket. Here are some more tips for buying beans:

  • Canned beans are already cooked. They cost a little more than dried beans, but are still a great buy because they are fast and convenient. Just remember to rinse them first to wash away some of the sodium (salt) or buy canned beans with no added salt. 
  • No-name canned beans are just as tasty and nutritious as name brand canned beans. Use the unit price to see which is the better buy.
  • Check the Nutrition Facts table on the package. Look for brands with 360 mg of sodium or less per serving or less than 15% DV (Daily Value) for sodium.
  • Dried beans are inexpensive but they do need to be cooked before using. Choose beans that are smooth and shiny. Beans that are broken, cracked or shriveled are old and may not cook properly. Dried beans can be bought at your local grocery store and bulk food stores.
  • Bean flours, like chickpea flour, are good for adding more nutrients to baking or if you are baking gluten-free.

Tips for storing beans

Dried beans

  • Store dried beans in an airtight container for up to one year.
  • Cover and refrigerate within two hours of cooking.
  • Dried beans that have been cooked can be kept covered in the fridge for 5-7 days or frozen for up to 6 months. Label with a date and store beans in an air tight container made for freezing food or wrapped tightly in heavy foil.

Canned beans

  • Unopened canned beans last for up to a year in the cupboard. Look at the best before date on the can. 
  • After rinsing canned beans, store in a glass or plastic airtight container in the fridge, not in the opened can. They will keep for 3-4 days.
  • You can also freeze opened canned beans for 1-2 months. Label with a date and store beans in an airtight container made for freezing food or wrapped tightly in heavy foil.

Tips for cooking beans

Canned beans

Canned beans are cooked and ready to eat or add to your favourite dish. Always drain and rinse well to lower the sodium and make you less gassy.

Dried beans

Here’s how to cook dried beans. Save time by making a large batch and freezing smaller portions for when you need them.

  1. Spread beans on a cookie sheet. Remove any small stones and beans that are cracked or discoloured. Place the rest of the beans in a bowl and rinse well.
  2. Soak beans in a large pot. Add four times more water than beans. You can leave the pot on the counter for 6-10 hours (overnight), or boil for two minutes, remove from heat and let stand for one hour.
  3. Drain and rinse well.
  4. Return beans to the pot with fresh water. Bring beans to a boil and remove any foam.
  5. Reduce the heat and add seasonings (cumin, coriander, chili, onion, garlic, ginger) and simmer, partly covered, until they taste tender (1-2 hours). (Tomato products, lemon, sugar and vinegar all slow down cooking, so add these ingredients during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking.)

Good to know

2 cups (500 mL) of dried beans make 4-6 cups (1 L-1.5 L) of cooked beans (depending on the type).

5 things to do with beans

1. Easy mashed pinto beans

Most kids love these sweet beans. Use them as a spread for burritos or sandwiches, serve them with baked tortilla wedges, roti, or offer them as a side dish.

  1. Dice a small onion. Sauté in a frying pan or skillet with 1 teaspoon (5 mL) oil for 6-7 minutes.
  2. Add 1-2 finely chopped garlic cloves and sauté for 1 minute.
  3. Add 1 cup (250 mL) of beans at a time along with 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of water. Mash beans with the back of a fork. Makes 1 cup (250 mL).
  4. Add chopped cilantro before serving.

2. Bean burgers

Try these instead of meat burgers. You can experiment with different recipes, but here’s the basic idea:

  1. Rinse and drain one 19-ounce (540 mL) can of black beans. Mash them in a bowel. Mix in 3/4 cup (175 mL) cooked brown rice, 3 tablespoons (45 mL) breadcrumbs and one egg (beaten).
  2. Season with any of these flavourings: diced onion, garlic, salsa, cumin, lemon, parsley, chili powder, hot sauce or cilantro.
  3. Form into 6 one-inch burgers. Bake in the oven at 350°F (180°C) for about 5 minutes on each side, or until firm.

3. Soups, sandwiches and salads

  • Add beans to homemade soups or low-sodium canned soups.
  • Try a falafel (chickpea) patty in a pita, or beans in quesadillas.
  • Beans go nicely in salads with raw vegetables, couscous, quinoa, pasta or rice. Try canned mixed beans (well rinsed) with chopped veggies and salad dressing.

4. Spreads, sauces and side dishes

  • Make bean dip and use it as a spread in wraps or sandwiches. Try black beans mixed with chopped tomato, avocado, onion, frozen or canned corn, coriander, chili powder and olive oil. Make it smooth in a blender or keep it chunky.
  • Add beans (whole, mashed or puréed) into sauces. Try cannellini or kidney beans in tomato sauce over pasta.
  • Mix kidney beans into brown rice for an easy side dish.

5. Tacos and quesadillas

  • Mix ground beef and pinto beans for taco filling.
  • Try this quick and easy bean quesadilla: Mash black beans and mix with taco seasoning. Spread mixture on whole wheat tortillas and top with shredded cheese and diced tomatoes. Fold over and pan fry each side until golden brown and cheese is melted. 

Check out these bean recipes:

Veggie and Bean Pita
Swiss Chard and Navy Bean Soup
Souper Lunch with Rice and Beans
Romano Bean Hummus
Red Cabbage and Pasta Soup with Beans
Minestrone Soup
Black Bean Couscous Salad
Beet Hummus

How can a dietitian help?

dietitian can suggest ways to incorporate more beans and plant-based proteins into your diet. They can work with you to make sure you are getting enough protein to meet your unique needs and goals. Dietitians consider your lifestyle, culture, health conditions, food skills, budget and preferences to give you a personalized plan. Most employee benefit plans cover dietitian services. Connect with a dietitian today! 

Bottom line

Beans are a great source of many important nutrients like protein, fibre, iron and potassium. Eating more plant-based foods, like beans, is good for your health and your heart and for preventing diseases like heart disease. Beans come in many varieties and can be easily added to many dishes. Plan your next meal using beans! 

You may also be interested in:

All About Legumes
What are the Benefits of Eating More Plant-Based Foods
What You Need to Know About Following a Vegetarian Eating Plan

This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada. 

Last Update – May 6, 2022

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