Bean dishes don’t always have to be stodgy sides. Here are five bean-based dishes that will make your tongue tingle and warm your belly this autumn
I confess. I love eating beans. Fresh, green, shelled, dried, big and small, I like them all.
My husband does not love the effect beans have on me, but the occasional toot is a small price for being married to someone as awesome as me. I’m not stopping the beans.
While I can come up with bean dishes for any time of the year, Autumn is special. It’s cooler, the days are shorter, and there’s something in the air that practically demands a big sweater and a bowl of piping hot comfort food.
If I’m just cooking for myself, my go-to is a hot bowl of black beans and ham sprinkled with shredded cheese. Two warm flour tortillas on the side, and I’m set morning, noon, or night. But when it’s a family or social occasion, I’ll do something more elaborate.
You can make a lot of different bean dishes – soups, sides, mains, even dessert – and they’re still relatively cheap (everything is getting expensive) to make. Better yet, they all keep well enough in the fridge or freezer, so you can make extra and use it as you need it.
Here are five of my favorite bean dishes – all of them tested and approved by moi. I’ve added a couple of notes to each – tweaks to the original recipes, cooking tips, things to pair with them, etc. If you’re looking for flavor inspiration and/or inexpensive food options, I think you like at least a couple of these.
15 Bean Soup
I’ve tried a lot of different bean soup recipes, and I think this one finds the best balance between a vegetable soup on one end and a stew with beans on the other.
I will admit I have never tried the 15 bean mix recommended in the recipe. I always go with whatever assortment of dried beans I have in the cupboard. Sometimes it’s 3, sometimes it’s as many as 7. The real point is the different beans have different flavors and textures and add a little extra oomph.
Terri’s Tip – For a little extra zing, I like to throw in a dash of a hot sauce while cooking. I use Sage’s homemade hot sauce (recipe), but a commercial sauce like Sirracha, Tabasco, or Frank’s Red Hot work well too.
Southern Style Butter Beans
I admit that I didn’t like lima beans until I got much older. I blame my mother who used to boil a big pot of plain lima beans at the beginning of the week and serve them as the side dish with every dinner. I get it now that it was an inexpensive, yet nutritious way to help feed a family of five, but as a kid, those slimy, white lima beans were yucky.
Fortunately, my husband introduced me to the concept that bacon makes everything better, so when I stumbled across this recipe, I was open to giving it a whirl.
Personally, I always use dried baby lima beans, so I can’t speak to whether the fresh or frozen beans are mushier than soaked beans.
Terri’s tip – While this is a tasty side dish all by itself, if you like a little more flavor, try adding a diced bell pepper at the end of cooking. I find the fresh crunch and bell pepper tang adds a little extra zoozh.
Cowboy Chuck Wagon Beans
It doesn’t get more authentic than a real cowboy cook giving you the secrets to cooking real cowboy beans. With chili peppers, cumin, and cilantro, the recipe below leans more to the “Texican” side than some other recipes I’ve seen, but it’s also more flavorful than beans, dry mustard and a salty ham hock.
Terri’s tip – if we’re barbecuing, I’ll cook these in a Dutch oven until they’re about 30 minutes from done, then I’ll put the dutch oven on the smoker with no lid. It adds a great smoky tang, just like when you’re camping and cooking over a fire.
Oh, and definitely try this one with fresh, old fashioned cornbread!
Red Beans and Rice with Sausage
My dad grew up on a farm in Iowa and swears by smoked sausage. He’ll eat it with anything – even ice cream (don’t ask). Anyway, I was happy to find this recipe from a fellow Iowan that combined the Louisiana classic, red beans and rice, with the Iowan love of smoked sausage.
The first couple of times I made it, I used some smoked deer sausage our neighbor gave us. But since then I’ve used the smoked pork sausage from the local meat shop. Either way, the flavor is terrific.
Also, I don’t bother with the different color kidney beans the recipe calls for. I just go with 100% red or pink beans – basically whatever I have on hand or what’s cheapest at the store.
Terri’s tip – If you don’t have Cajun seasoning, you can whip some together with onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper, and a dash of cayenne pepper (or more than a dash if you like it hot).
Black Bean Brownies
The words “bean” and “brownie” seem like they don’t belong in the same sentence, but, in this case, they do. As I admitted earlier, black beans are a fav of mine, so when I ran across a recipe for black bean cookies, I was intrigued.
I’m not a big cookie person though, but I quickly found out that you can make black bean brownies as well. I am a big fan of chocolatey good brownies, so I decided to give this one a go and was very pleased with the results.
Basically you’re substituting flour for black beans, which seems weird at first, but turns out is surprisingly delicious. No “beany” flavor at all, just rich chocolate flavor in a cakey, almost fudge-like brownie.
Terri’s tip: If you substitute half the chocolate chips for butterscotch chips, it makes the brownies even richer – almost decadent. People won’t believe it’s made with beans.
So there you go, five great bean recipes to try this fall. I’m pretty sure you’ll love them all (or else I wouldn’t have told you about them)!
Oh, and if you’ve got any bean recipes of your own, put them in the comments below! I’m always looking for new things to try and share with my friends and family.
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