If you’re like me, you spent mid-March 2020 stocking up on pantry staples—pasta, grains, canned tomatoes, lentils, and more. But one ingredient truly played the starring role in my early pandemic stock-ups: beans! Beans (both canned and dried) are marvelously versatile and shelf-stable; they’re great on their own and in stews, soups, salads, dips—really anything you can think of. I ate beans consistently throughout 2020 without getting tired of them.
But by the time I had exhausted my 2020 bean stash, I was in the middle of writing a story on heirloom beans. The ATK Reviews team and I staged at-home bean tastings all around New England, and I ended up cooking a total of 15 pounds of beans at home over two weeks for the story. Suddenly flush with cooked beans, I had to find creative and tasty ways to get rid of them without wasting them. So if you still have a few bags or cans of beans hanging out in the back of your pantry from last year, I have some ideas for you.
First off, if a recipe calls for canned beans that have been drained and rinsed, you can generally sub in cooked dried beans of the same type. If you’re cooking from dried, we recommend brining the beans for 8 to 24 hours before cooking them. You can find the full brining method here. Once they’re brined, drain and rinse the beans before adding more water and any aromatics you want, bringing them to a brief boil, and slowly simmering them until they’re tender. Cooked beans also freeze well in their cooking liquid, so stash some away until you need them!