Before the world of fake vegan burgers and veggie bacons (some great, some not so great!), there were beans. When properly prepared, these affordable and highly nutritious plants can be a game-changer for a plant-based or vegan diet — no franken-food or mystery ingredients required.
Lesley Sykes is the founder of Primary Beans, one of our favorite resources for interesting sources of traditional vegan proteins from around the world. Here’s Lesley with more…
Wait, Are Boring Old Beans Actually The Perfect Food?
Not only are beans incredibly nourishing (Read: A Second Look at the World’s Least Sexy Plant-Based Protein), they’re also unfussy, completely adaptable to what’s in your kitchen, and taste like an indulgence.
While there’s no shortage of information about the benefits of beans for overall health and wellness (Read: Living Well with Longevity Expert Dan Buettner of the Blue Zones), I’ve been particularly fascinated by the new information coming out about gut health. It’s fundamental for regulating metabolism, immune system functioning, hormones, mental health, and so much more — and both probiotics (think: fermented foods like sauerkraut and yogurt) and prebiotics (for example, high-fiber beans) play a huge role in helping the healthy bacteria in our gut thrive.
Whether you’re a bean aficionado or just getting started, here are some tips to help flex your creative cooking muscle, plus a recipe straight from my kitchen.
6 Tips For Incorporating More Beans In Your Daily Life
Build a ritual around beans | Make preparing a pot of beans a weekly ritual — put on some tunes, dance in your kitchen, and soak in all the aromas as they waft through your kitchen. Not only will this provide you with delicious beans to enjoy all week long, but it will nourish your soul!
Turn beans into a cozy soup | Stir cooked grains, veggies, or meat into brothy beans. Or, purée them for an elegant, cream-free twist.
Eat them for breakfast | From breakfast burritos to shakshuka, eggs and beans are always a winner. If you aren’t big on eggs – stewy beans on an English muffin does the trick too.
Use them to bulk up a salad | A tasty way to turn a salad into a satisfying meal. Marinate the beans in the dressing beforehand for an extra flavor punch.
Roast them into a crunchy snack | Small, round chickpeas stay intact, but you can crisp up any bean in the oven for a protein-rich snack.
Bake them in a dessert | This is less about a “healthy dessert” and more about the density and texture they provide (think: chickpea blondies or black bean brownies).
My go-to brothy beans recipe – it’s loaded with gut-healthy nutrients and is incredibly comforting during cold winter months. You can also try topping with some crunchy fermented vegetables when serving to make it even more gut health-friendly (and delicious). This recipe works with a variety of bean varieties (pictured is Ayocote Blanco), and I encourage you to explore all the different flavor and texture profiles that beans have to offer.
Lesley’s Brothy Beans With Herbs And Yogurt
1 lb beans of your choice (makes extra)
Leek, sprigs of fresh herbs, garlic, olive oil, salt (for flavoring beans)
1 small bunch fresh herbs such as parsley, leaves and tender stems only, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
Zest from 1 (unwaxed) lemon, finely minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Full-fat Greek yogurt
Extra virgin olive oil
Crusty bread, for serving
1. Prepare the beans: Combine beans and flavorings in the cooking vessel of your choice.
2. Cover with water and cook according to the Primary Beans cooking guide. Once tender, remove aromatics and set aside.
3. Make the gremolata: Combine parsley or other herb, garlic, and lemon zest in a bowl and season to taste with salt.
4. Serve and enjoy: Serve beans in bowls with the bean broth, topped with gremolata, Greek yogurt, olive oil, and more salt to taste. Dig in with a spoon or a slice of fresh, crusty bread.