Keeping canned beans in your pantry is the answer to quick, affordable midweek meals. But when you have the time, dried beans are worth the effort. Discover how to cook beans properly, which bean to use when and six fabulous recipes starring our favourite beans.
How to cook beans
Step 1: Cold soak
Cover the beans with water and chill for 8–12 hours. Drain and rinse.
(For a faster “hot” soak, bring dried beans to a boil and cook them for two minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and allow to stand for 1–2 hours. Drain and rinse the beans, then continue with your recipe.)
Bring to a simmer and scoop off any foam that rises to the surface.
3. Add aromatics
Add onions, chilli and herbs (not acidic ingredients) and cook, partly covered, until tender.
Add salt to taste (test by tasting the broth – the beans will take a while to absorb the flavour) and add acidic ingredients like tomato, citrus, wine or vinegar. Simmer, then cool if you aren’t using them immediately.
5. Chill Store them in the fridge for up to a week as a substantial, flavour-packed base for meals. Or freeze in portions to add to soups and stews
Shaken, not stirred
Never stir beans while they’re cooking as they’ll split and break up. Rather agitate the pot gently every now and then while they’re simmering. Also, don’t let beans boil as you’ll end up with a pot of mush (unless you want a week’s supply of bean mash).
Which bean to use when
Not all beans are created equal! Now that you know how to cook beans to perfection, select the type of bean according to the dish that you’re making.
DRIED WHITE KIDNEY BEANS are also called cannellini beans. Their firm texture and neutral taste makes them perfect for absorbing big flavours.
DRIED RED SPECKLED BEANS are great in soups, casseroles and salads.
DRIED BLACK-EYED BEANS are also called cow peas and have a buttery flavour. Turn into a paste to thicken sauces.
DRIED RED ADZUKI BEANS are often cooked and used to fill Asian desserts. Try this brownie cake recipe.
DRIED GREEN MUNG BEANS are delicious in Asian-inspired curries and dhal.
CANNED RED SPECKLED SUGAR BEANS See dried red speckled beans, above.
CHICKPEAS are also called garbanzo beans and are delicious roasted for salads and, of course, in hummus.
PAINTED LADY BEANS are smooth-textured heirloom runner beans. Try this falafel wrap recipe.
HARICOT BEANS are mild and creamy. They’re used to make baked beans and are commonly used in Spanish and French cooking.
BORLOTTI BEANS are sweetish in flavour and widely used in Italian cooking. They also work well in salads and casseroles.
CANNELLINI BEANS are nutty and mild with a fluffy texture. They make an ideal all-rounder.
SAMP AND BEANS is a mix of stamped dried corn kernels and sugar beans often served in SA with curries and stews.
BLACK BEANS have a dense, meaty flavour and are widely used in South American and Mexican cooking.
What exactly is aquafaba?
You can use the liquid in a can of chickpeas (called aquafaba – a name coined by vegan baker Goose Wohlt) in a number of ways…
Reduce waste in your kitchen by reserving the aquafaba (aqua is Latin for water and faba means “bean”) and using it instead of egg whites to make the likes of meringues, mayonnaise and cakes. This works because the proteins and starches in the liquid act similarly to the proteins in egg whites. Aquafaba can also be used as a butter substitute by blending it with oil, and is also good for thickening soups and stews.
SIX OF OUR FAVOURITE RECIPES STARRING BEANS
Think creamy mash to serve with sausages, crunchy falafel or with roast tomatoes and real Parmesan. *Disclaimer: while we’ve exhausted how easy it is cook your beans from scratch, all of these recipes can be sped along by using canned beans.
White bean confit
This sounds fancy, but essentially you’re submerging the beans in an aromatic olive oil, thereby increasing the flavour all-round.
Pork sausages with fennel and butter bean apple mash
Creamy feta falafel wraps
You didn’t think the falafel was reserved solely for chickpeas, did you?
Sopa azteca (Mexican tortilla soup)
Hearty and meaty, this dish deserves to be on your winter rotation. Added bonus: it improves in flavour as it sits.
Roast three-bean salad
Bean brownie cakes with raspberry syrup
Betcha didn’t think you could bake with beans, did you? Well you can, and they make for a satisfyingly dense brownie.