What Are Beans, Exactly?
Beans are classified as a legume, along with peas, peanuts, and lentils. They are the seeds of flowering plants in the Fabacea family. Beans typically grow in pods with more than one bean inside. They are rich in fiber and B vitamins, helping to reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. They also serve as a source of protein, making a great substitute for meat. Not to mention- they’re cheap!
All this is to say-adding beans to your diet is a good choice. Beans come in both canned and dry forms. Canned beans are great time-savers since the beans come fully cooked and just require some reheating. However, beans can lose flavor in the canning process, so some prefer to buy them dry and give them a good soak overnight. But with so many different types of beans, where do you begin? We’ve got you covered. Read on for a list of different types of beans and how to cook with them.
Great Northern beans
Great Northern beans are white and medium-sized with a mild flavor. They hold their shape well so they can be stewed or used in soups. They are good at absorbing the flavors they’re cooked with, so they can complement a variety of ingredients.
Sometimes called white kidney beans, cannellini beans are the largest type of white bean, which makes them meatier than other white beans like Great Northern beans or navy beans. However, they have a similar mild and nutty flavor. They also hold up well in soups and stews and can be tossed in salads. You may have eaten them in minestrone (but red kidney beans are also common, more on those later).
Fava beans are usually found fresh at the farmer’s markets or the produce section; they’re equally bitter and sweet. You can stew them and add to soups, braise, roast, saute, or toss them into pasta. You can also eat them cold in salads. To cook, always blanch them first (after removing from pods) and then continue cooking with your preferred cooking method.
Fayot (Flageolet) beans
Fayot also known and flageolet beans are small, tender, creamy, and mild in flavor. They have a pale green to ivory white color. They are commonly used in French cuisine for salads, soups, and other flavorful side dishes.
Red beans are small in size, oval in shape and have the characteristic ruby-colored skin. They have a mild flavor, earthy, slightly sweet and nutty, and soft texture. Often used in Caribbean, Latin, Cajun, and Creole cuisine. It’s great for soups, chilis, and dishes like red beans and rice.
Sometimes also called butter beans, depending on your geography, lima beans are small green beans that look like seeds. They taste grainy but are also known to have a mealy and creamy texture.
Mung beans are small, green beans that are soft and mealy when cooked. You can use them in soups and salads, and they go well in stir-fries and casseroles. Typically, you’ll soak mung beans before cooking. They have an impressive list of health benefits. For example, they’re high in protein as well as being nutrient-rich (i.e., potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamin B).
Kidney beans are commonly eaten in chili and come conveniently canned. They’re a medium to large bean. Red and white kidney beans (which are also called cannellini beans) are the more common, but with some searching, you can also find purple kidney beans, black kidney beans, and even spotted kidney beans.
Navy beans are another type of white bean (similar to Great Northern beans but smaller). They won’t hold their shape as well as Great Northern beans but are still hearty and mealy. They have a creamy texture and taste mild. They are commonly eaten in white beans and rice (a southern dish), navy bean chowder, and Boston-style baked beans. They also taste great in salads and tossed into various pasta dishes.
If you’ve heard of just one type of bean, this is probably it. Pinto beans are light brown bean, often used to make refried beans or in chili. They are creamy and taste earthy and nutty. They’re a very versatile bean.
Black beans are the new pinto beans, similar in taste and texture. They can almost always be swapped in to replace pinto beans when you want to reduce carbohydrate intake. If you have dry black beans, learn how to cook them over the stove.
Chickpeas are more round and firm than pinto or black beans. They’re often drained and tossed into salads and used to make hummus. Want to eat them alone? Roasted chickpeas also make a tasty snack.
Lentils become soft and creamy when cooked, which is why they can work wonders in soups by adding the right texture. I used them in this red lentil soup. You can find also find green, black, and brown lentils, and they all pack a nutritional punch.
Yep, peas are a type of bean. Those little, ground, podded green veggies have been fooling you. As a cheap and versatile veggie, it never hurt to have a bag of frozen peas on hand. I used them in everything from risotto to soup.
Once boiled, soybeans are considered edamame, the popular appetizer you may have ordered at your favorite sushi restaurant. Don’t eat the hull, but the beans inside are chewy with a mild flavor that makes them ideal for eating solo or mixing into salads and pasta.
Black-eyed peas are denser than some other beans, and they have an earthy taste. Texture-wise, they’re comparable to chickpeas and white beans, firm yet soft.
How to store beans
Go ahead, by beans in bulk. Their shelf life is one of the reasons beans are so beloved. You can store them in your pantry for up to a year(find a cool, dry place — you know the drill). Make sure they’re in an airtight container. If they go stale, according to The Bean Institute, adding baking soda may help soften them.
Ways to cook beans
First of all, soaking beans is always wise (either overnight in room-temp water or for an hour in hot water); it will help reduce the starches that can upset your stomach.
Avoid cooking dried beans in a slow cooker, as the low heat isn’t enough to kill the toxins. Canned beans, however, are already cooked, so no worries there. They just need to be heated. To cook dried beans, simmer them on the stove or use your Instant Pot.