Recipe Spotlight

How to Use Up Your Stash of Pandemic Beans

Some of us may have gone a bit overboard while stocking up. Never fear; here’s a full menu to clean out your pantry.

Published Sept. 13, 2021.

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!

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Bean Salad

I tasted two different varieties of black beans for my story, and the leftovers of both types ended up in this bright and smoky Southwestern Black Bean Salad. With a punch of acidity from lime juice mellowed out by a hint of honey, this salad paired well with fajitas and grilled chicken sandwiches alike. But when it comes to bean salads, don’t just stop at black beans—add some oil, alliums, and acid to any type of beans and mix them with torn greens or crisp vegetables for a quick side dish. 

bowl of bean salad with avocado corn and tomatoes
Southwestern Black Bean Salad

Bean Dip

Bean dip is a way to add maximum flavor to beans and turn them into something your guests may not expect—a sophisticated appetizer. This Garlic and Rosemary White Bean Dip is perfect for fall gatherings, and the recipe can serve as a base for whatever additional flavors your heart desires.

bowl of white bean dip topped with olive oil
Garlic and Rosemary White Bean Dip


Perhaps the ultimate way to use up your beans, chilis and other stews promise warmth and heartiness as we enter colder months. From Quick Beef and Bean Chili on a weeknight to smoky Roasted Poblano and White Bean Chili after a day in the crisp autumn air, you can pack beans into chilis without them feeling out of place. This recipe for Light Vegetarian Bean Chili even calls for three different types of beans! Crowded pantry? Not anymore!

dutch oven filled with bean chili
Light Vegetarian Bean Chili

Refried Beans

I cooked at least 4 pounds of pinto or pinto-adjacent beans for my bean story, and our Refried Beans recipe was my saving grace. Savory and porky, refried beans serve as a great side for carnitas tacos and other Mexican and Southwestern dishes.

refried beans in skillet with rubber spatula
Refried Beans

Beans, Just Beans

When in doubt, beans can be the main event. Serve up a bowl with some crisp bread crumbs and a few glugs of good vinegar. Tear some kale into the cooking liquid for an instant soup. Or spread beans on toast made with good-quality bread, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with flake sea salt. With beans, the world is yours!

white beans being scooped by spoon in dutch oven

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