Our favorite bean recipes

As vegetarians (though not vegans), we get some of our protein from beans.

Cooking beans

Kidney beans ©Janet Allen
Kidney beans, all cooked and ready to freeze

Rather than buying beans in a can, we always cook beans ourselves. It's so easy to cook them, why not? They taste much better, and they're more economical, too. You also don't have to worry about extra salt or about BPA in the lining of cans.

  • Soak 1 pound beans (about 2 cups) overnight or for six or seven hours during the day.
  • Drain them and cover with fresh water.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a high simmer, then cook until tender.

I sometimes use some right away in a recipe, but generally I freeze at least some of them in recipe-size packages so they're always available and just as convenient as cans. Obviously you can save a little the cooking time by buying canned beans, but the benefits seem to be a good tradeoff to us.

Bean-garlic scape spread

Garlic scape ©Janet Allen
Garlic scape

Besides the usual garlic cloves, we love the garlic scapes (the curly top that forms), which are available only during a short time.

We used to just cut the scapes off the plant, which is important to do to produce good garlic, but we never used them until I found this recipe for dip on the New York Times website, which I modified to make as a spread. We make and freeze as much as we can so our supply lasts for at least part of the winter.

Bean scape spread ©Janet Allen
A favorite: bean scape spread
  • Combine in food processor:
    • 2/3 cup sliced garlic scapes
    • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
    • 1 tsp. salt
  • Add:
    • 4 cups white beans, cooked
  • While processor is still running, drizzle in:
    • 2/3 cup olive oil

That's it! We generally spread it on crackers, but it could be thinned with some water or more oil and used as a dip I suppose. I generally sprinkle it with some salt, so I guess the salt in the recipe could be increased, but this allows for individual taste.

Bean soup

Red Mill soup mix  ©Janet Allen
Red Mill soup mix beans

We frequently prepare Bob's Red Mill soup mixes. These are convenience foods, but they're not a processed food. It's just a convenient packaging of a bunch of raw ingredients.

Basically, making soup isn't much different from cooking beans—there's just a variety of beans, and I season them with bouillon.

First, I sort and rinse the beans, though I've never found any stones or anything in this brand of beans. Then I soak the beans in water overnight or for about six or seven hours during the day. I drain them, then add to the beans about 14 to 16 cups of water, depending on how "soupy" I want it to be. I then add about 6 bouillon cubes (Rapunzel brand).

Sometimes I throw in some chopped onions, cut up mushrooms, celery, chopped tomatoes or other soup-type ingredients, but usually I just cook the beans with bouillon.

I suppose that compared to a can of soup, these $4.50 packages could seem expensive, but when we consider that these four-cup packages turn into about five quarts of soup (depending on how much water and other ingredients you add), they're a bargain.

Even though there are no seasoning packets, each combination of raw ingredients in the different Red Mill soup varieties create very different flavors of soup. They're all delicious and nutritious.

As with most things, we make a large batch—the whole five quarts at once. We keep one quart in the refrigerator, then freeze the rest so we always have a quick meal available.

Split pea soup

Split pea soup ©Janet Allen
Split pea soup

I used to make a much more complicated pea soup with lots of extra ingredients. There's nothing wrong with that, but this is so much simpler and just as tasty. I used to like Campbell's condensed pea soup when I was a child, and this reminds me of that, but much fresher and tastier. This is based on a recipe in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, a great cookbook!

  • Sort over and rinse:
    • 2 cups green split peas
  • Add:
    • 6 cups water
    • some bouillon cubes
  • Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to simmer, partly covered.
  • Cook until soft and mushy (about 45-60 minutes.)
  • We use an immersion blender to make it really smooth.

Depending on the amount of water we use, it can seem like real condensed soup. We often freeze some this way (which saves freezer space), then we just dilute it when we serve it. Just like the old-fashioned canned soup!

Black bean brownies

Black bean brownie ©Janet Allen
Black bean brownie
  • Combine in a food processor (this just fits in my 7-cup processor):
    • 4 cups black beans, cooked
    • 6 eggs
    • 6 Tbs. oil (we use canola)
    • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 cup sugar (though we use less)
    • pinch salt
    • (The original recipe said to mix 1 cup chopped walnuts into the batter here, but we add them on the top.)
  • Pour into a 13x9 pan.
    • We sprinkle any additions here, such as dried sour cherries, cocoa nibs, and coconut flakes and push them down into the batter with a spoon. And instead of mixing walnuts in, we sprinkle them on the top and press them lightly with a spoon.
  • Bake at 350° until firm (about 35-40 min. for a 13x9 pan depending on the oven).

We've been told that they aren't like "real" brownies, but we really like them. Once our taste buds got used to less than super-sweet foods, we changed our opinions about what tastes good, I guess.

We love using our dried sour cherries. It's a treat to find these little tart gems from our summer garden in our favorite chocolate dessert!


Hummus ©Janet Allen
(No photo yet)

We love hummus. It makes a really easy and delicious spread for crackers. We don't generally use it as a dip, so we make it quite thick.

  • Stir together:
    • 1/2 cup tahini
    • 4 cloves (or more) garlic, crushed
  • Beat into the tahini mixture:
    • 1/2 cup lemon juice
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 cup cold water
  • Add and puree:
    • 3 cups garbanzo beans, cooked
  • We usually add some sesame seeds.

We love this spread on crackers, but I suppose we could add some lemon juice and turn it into a dip.

We make extra and freeze it.

Black Bean Hummus

Hummus ©Janet Allen
Black bean spread

Here's another version of hummus—although you could just call it a spread, I guess, because "hummus" is the Arabic word for chickpea, and this version uses black beans, not chickpeas. No matter what you call it, though, it's delicious, and has a spiciness that my traditional hummus doesn't have.

  • Combine in food processor until smooth:
    • 4+ cloves garlic, chopped (I like to use more, though)
    • 4 cups black beans, cooked
    • 1/4 cup lemon juice
    • 1/4 - 1/2 cup tahini (or even more if you'd like)
    • 1-1/2 tsp. cumin
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
    • 1/2 tsp. paprika
    • 20 Greek olives, sliced

Chocolate Truffle Torte

Chocolate truffle ©Janet Allen
John's birthday torte

This also makes a nice Valentine's Day dessert. We usually add a bit more tofu and/or a little less chocolate or sugar to make this less rich and less sweet. You can find your own balance by adjusting the amounts of each ingredient. Anything will work since the recipe doesn't depend on things rising or other chemical reactions. It's just combining a bunch of ingredients — my favorite kind of recipe!

  • Puree in a food processor:
    • 8 oz. firm tofu
    • 8 oz. soft tofu
  • Melt:
    • 8 oz baking chocolate
  • Add to the melted chocolate and mix:
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup water
  • Combine the chocolate mix with the pureed tofu.
  • Pour into a graham cracker crust or just put into a serving bowl for a more pudding-type dessert. If made as a pudding, you might want to use just the soft tofu.
  • We like to spread a can of cherry pie filling on the top. We choose the low sugar variety (not artificial sweetener, just lower in sugar) and organic if we can find it.


Assembling a burrito ©Janet Allen
Assembling a burrito

We like Wegmans 10-inch whole wheat burritos, which we keep on hand in the freezer. We like them because they're one of the only whole wheat burritos that are large enough to hold all the things we like to put in them!

We add whatever beans we've cooked (kidney, black beans, etc.) that are stored in small packets in the freezer, some organic salsa, onions, cheese, olives, and a dollop of our yogurt.

The burrito ©Janet Allen
A burrito, rolled up and ready to eat

Just heat it up in the microwave, roll up and serve. A really delicious and nutritious meal in just a few minutes.