16 Best Uses For Canned Black Beans

Bowl of canned black beans
Bowl of canned black beans - Drong/Getty Images

Canned beans are among the most useful items any home cook can have in the pantry. The fact that they are shelf-stable means that there's always a protein source on hand, and, unlike dried beans, they're ready to eat immediately. Black beans are a particularly popular pantry legume, known for their rich, earthy flavor and meaty texture, imparting flavor and heartiness to all kinds of dishes, from cold salads to warming soups. Black beans are also a quick and easy way to add some Southwestern flair to simple dishes.

You may have more cans in your cupboards than you know what to do with, but now is as good a time as any to make use of what you bought. Why not save money by cooking from your pantry rather than running to the store? One thing is for sure: Canned black beans aren't going to do you any good just languishing in your pantry. Here are some ideas for using those cans of black beans you bought on sale or stockpiled before a snowstorm.

Read more: 21 Delicious Ways To Use Up Leftover Rice

Black Bean Soup

Bowl of black bean soup
Bowl of black bean soup - Lyudmila Mikhailovskaya/Shutterstock

Soup can be a time-consuming dish to make, but having canned black beans on hand means that a hearty black bean soup is never very far away. In fact, you can throw one together for a quick dinner almost any time. A few veggies, some broth and spices, and a quick simmer are all it takes, and preparing the black beans is as simple as opening the can and draining it. What could be better on a chilly evening?

The deep dark color of black bean soup can be enhanced with bright, colorful garnishes, like sliced avocado, fresh cilantro, or a zesty pico de gallo. A dollop of sour cream not only adds visual interest but makes the soup creamier when it's stirred in. Black bean soup is a whole meal in itself, but no one will complain if you serve it with some big hunks of hot cornbread and butter.

Black Bean Chili

Pot of black bean chili
Pot of black bean chili - Kiian Oksana/Shutterstock

Those who like things a little spicier might prefer a hearty black bean chili to a simple soup (though there's no reason you can't have both in your cooking repertoire for when the mood strikes, after all). You can even re-purpose leftover black bean soup into chili with the easy addition of chili spices, tomato paste, and ground meat, making two great meals out of the same canned type of beans.

If you'd rather build your black bean chili from the ground up, you can adjust any recipe to your own preferences. You can keep things strictly vegetarian, or add traditional ground beef. Adjust the spices to your own preferred heat level, and you're good to go. You can have a bowl of black bean chili by itself, or use it as a topping for some nice hot baked potatoes (add plenty of cheese and other preferred toppings).

Refried Black Beans

Bowl of refried black beans
Bowl of refried black beans - Happy_food_photo/Shutterstock

Refried beans are a staple of Mexican and Southwestern cuisine, but it's nice to have a switch up from the same old refried pintos. Refried black beans are easy to make using canned beans, and you can avoid the beef lard that's used in so many canned versions of refried beans. Simply cook the canned beans in a bit of the liquid from the can, and mash slightly when hot. Of course, they'll taste even better with the addition of garlic, onions, and a bit of something spicy while cooking.

Once you've made your refried black beans, you can serve them as a side dish to any Southwestern meal, or use them as an ingredient in the main dish. Refried black beans make a great filling for tacos, enchiladas, and empanadas, or use them as one of the layers in a seven-layer dip. Vegetarians will appreciate that you made them free of lard or other animal fats.

Black Bean Burritos

Black bean burritos
Black bean burritos - Sharaf Maksumov/Shutterstock

If making a batch of refried beans seems like too much trouble for you, how about a lunch that's even quicker? Canned black beans, once drained, can be used in burritos or wraps with no mashing even required. You can easily duplicate the Southwestern wraps you see on so many casual restaurant menus, by adding black beans, corn, and veggies to a soft tortilla and rolling it up.

You can heat them up if you like, adding plenty of cheese to hold things together or enjoy your burrito as a chilled wrap, with some sour cream for dipping. Cooked chicken is a nice addition if you want to make it even more of a meal. Wrap your black bean burritos up tightly in cling wrap for use in lunchboxes, with some nacho chips and cut veggies on the side. Both kids and adults should enjoy these at lunchtime.

Black Bean Hummus

Bowl of black bean hummus
Bowl of black bean hummus - Nataliya Arzamasova/Shutterstock

There's no need to shell out the bucks for all those interesting new varieties of hummus you see at the grocery and on restaurant menus. Hummus is easy to make from canned beans, and you don't even have to stick with chickpeas (language purists can call their concoctions "dip" rather than "hummus," if they like). Black beans make a deliciously earthy version of the Mediterranean dip you know and love, so stock up on pita bread the next time you stock up on canned beans.

Chef Kwame Onwuchi's hummus secret is blending both chickpeas and black beans for a perfectly textured dip, but you can use black beans on their own, and, unlike the famous chef, you can use canned beans as a shortcut. You can keep the other ingredients classic (tahini, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil), or play with fun substitutions. Try chili oil instead of olive oil, and lime juice instead of lemon. It's your hummus. Make your own rules.

Black Bean Salsa

Corn and bean salsa
Corn and bean salsa - Ezumeimages/Getty Images

Black bean salsa is a close cousin to corn relish, but it has a decidedly Southwestern flair. Just like salsa, you can easily make it your own with what you have on starters. For starters, you'll need that trusty can of drained black beans and some corn for color, but after that, feel free to experiment. Red onion, tomatoes, and peppers are all typical additions, dressed with lime juice, salt, and cilantro (unless you're a hater).

The best use for black bean salsa is to scoop it up with tortilla chips, but it's also a useful topping when you want to add flavor and color to a dish. Try some on top of your tacos, on grilled fish, or as an inventive cheeseburger condiment. Stir some into your rice or couscous for a colorful side dish. However you use it, you'll want to make gobs of it because it disappears fast.

Taco Salad Or Burrito Bowls

Burrito-style bowl
Burrito-style bowl - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Part of the beauty of canned black beans is that they're useful in so many cold dishes. There's no need to even heat them up — just open the can, drain, and add them to the dish. That's the case with taco salads, which get a protein boost and a gorgeous color contrast when you top them with black beans. If you're low on salad greens, you can make a power bowl or Buddha bowl instead, incorporating fresh, bright Southwestern ingredients.

The fun of a taco salad or power bowls is mixing and matching. When making one with canned black beans, consider mixing and matching from the following: cooked yellow rice or Spanish rice, cheese, avocado slices, pulled pork or chicken, salsa, sweet corn, charred tofu, sour cream, tomatoes, jalapeño slices, red onion, cooked shrimp. No need to worry about sides, because it's all in the bowl.

Cuban Beans

Cuban beans and rice
Cuban beans and rice - IriGri/Shutterstock

Cuban black beans are known for their spicy, smoky flavor, rich with the aromas of cumin and smoked paprika, but you don't have to simmer beans on the stove all day to achieve those delicious flavors. Try an easy Cuban black beans recipe that starts off with canned black beans, simmering them with an array of spices that make them rival the traditional dishes of an old grandma who guards her recipe secrets like they're national treasures.

Cuban black beans are best served with a bed of fluffy rice, but you can also eat them burrito-style, wrapped in a corn or flour tortilla. If you want to keep things strictly Cuban, serve your black beans as a side dish for juicy marinated beef or pork, with fried plantains as an additional side. Invite some friends over, mix up some daiquiris or Cuba libres, and make a party of it.

Black Bean Burgers

Black bean burger
Black bean burger - Linda Hughes Photography/Shutterstock

Younger readers may not realize that there was a time when veggie burgers didn't come out of a fridge or freezer. Before products like Beyond Meat, and even before Gardenburger, Boca Burger, and MorningStar Farms, vegetarians who wanted a satisfying burger-like meal had to make their own patties by hand, with real ingredients. One of the ways they used to make burgers was with black beans, and those hand-formed vegetarian burgers are still worth making today.

Try a hearty black bean burger recipe that's made easy by starting with canned black beans and uses wholesome ingredients without all the extra processing of frozen veggie burgers. This version has tons of flavor, using soy sauce, smoked paprika, and chili powder mix to make it extra savory. The best part is topping your burger your own way, whether you choose spicy mustard, barbecue sauce, Greek tzatziki, or something only you would think of.

Couscous Salad

Couscous salad in bowl
Couscous salad in bowl - Chudo2307/Shutterstock

Beans and rice are one of the first things people think of when they think of bean dishes, but if you'd like to up your cooking game a little bit, think outside the box — the couscous box, that is. Couscous cooks much more quickly than rice, so pairing it with canned black beans makes for a weeknight supper you can have on the table in literal minutes. How to season them is up to you, and you can add colorful vegetables to your liking, as well.

Dress your couscous, beans, and veggies with olive oil and lemon juice, and chill in advance for a delicious cold salad. You can make it more Greek-style with kalamata olives, cucumbers, and feta cheese, or bring it into Southwestern territory with sweet corn, cilantro, and red onion. If you want an even easier cold salad, forego the couscous. Cold black bean salad is a super picnic dish.

Black Bean Nachos

Black bean nachos
Black bean nachos - Jon Osumi/Shutterstock

There's not much that's more pleasing than a platter of nachos. At the most basic, all you need are tortilla chips and cheese, but everybody knows that the fun is in piling on the toppings. Canned black beans are a fast and easy way to add protein to a pile of nachos without spending a lot of time, and the hearty taste pleases vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. If you want to get fancy, you can season the beans before piling them on.

Black bean nachos are a fun choice for parties because they're liked by people with lots of different palates. What to do if some people hate cilantro, and others won't eat sour cream? Assemble a nacho bar. Provide plenty of chips and heaps of black beans, and let folks choose from a variety of cheeses, salsas, veggies, and other fresh toppings. Fans of spicy things can control the heat level with sliced peppers and a choice of hot sauces.

Southwestern Egg Rolls

Southwestern egg rolls
Southwestern egg rolls - Fanfo/Shutterstock

Isn't fusion cuisine the best? The melding of different cooking styles has led to some seriously great dishes, like barbecue chicken pizza, Korean bulgogi tacos, and California sushi rolls. Another example of fusion brilliance is the southwestern egg roll, with Tex-Mex ingredients stuffed into an egg roll wrapper and fried to crispy perfection. Canned black beans are an essential ingredient in this inventive dish, adding color, flavor, and texture.

You can buy egg roll wrappers in the refrigerated section of the grocery store for ease of preparation, or make your own, then stuff them with ingredients like corn, peppers, Monterey Jack cheese, and of course, black beans. You can fry your southwestern egg rolls or bake in the oven for less fat. Make up a batch to serve with cool agua frescas, lime spritzers, or some skinny margaritas. Don't forget the dipping sauces: a zesty ranch, an avocado crema, or both.

Mexican Lasagna

Slice of Mexican lasagna
Slice of Mexican lasagna - from my point of view/Shutterstock

Another wonder of fusion cuisine is Mexican lasagna, a dish that was probably never dreamt of by the Italians who created the dish in Naples in the Middle Ages, but has become a beloved casserole dish in its own right. There are two schools of thought when it comes to Mexican lasagna. Some people use the name for a dish that's closer to the Italian version, using wide noodles layered sauce, cheese, and vegetables, but angling the flavors to have a southwestern vibe. Red enchilada sauce, black beans, corn, and jack or cotija cheese are common ingredients.

Other folks use the name "Mexican lasagna" for a similar dish made with stacked flour tortillas instead of lasagna noodles. Either version is tasty, and either version is a super use for your canned black beans. Mexican lasagna is usually a hit with families, and it can feed a lot of hungry people. Serve with a green salad and some skillet cornbread for a full meal.

Black Bean Quesadillas

Bean and cheese quesadillas
Bean and cheese quesadillas - AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock

Quesadillas are a brilliant last-minute meal when you're craving something gooey and comforting, but can't spend a lot of time in the kitchen. They're as easy to make as a grilled cheese sandwich, and if you use a large tortilla, you can serve one to two people. What a lot of people forget is that you can stuff more things into your quesadilla than just cheese, making an even more filling meal.

Canned black beans are a simple way to add protein to a quick quesadilla. Simply scatter them on your tortilla while it's in the pan to keep them in place), then add the top tortilla before flipping. You can also mash the beans slightly, if you like, to keep them in place. Black bean quesadillas are a good dish to keep in your arsenal of quick, veggie-friendly dishes you can make in a pinch from pantry staples.

Huevos Rancheros

Plate of huevos rancheros
Plate of huevos rancheros - Ezume Images/Shutterstock

You might be surprised to learn that you can even put your canned black beans to good use when you need a breakfast or brunch dish. Huevos rancheros recipes vary from region to region, and even from person to person, but most people agree that the basic components are fried eggs, some type of red sauce or salsa, beans, and a fried tortilla. You can put your own twist on huevos rancheros by using canned black beans as a hearty layer for your perfectly cooked eggs to rest upon.

Topping huevos rancheros is also a matter of personal taste. Fresh cilantro, avocado or guacamole, Cotija cheese, and hot sauce are all popular additions. Still others like to add some meat to the dish, like a spicy chorizo or carne asada. Feeding vegans for breakfast or brunch? Omit the huevos and serve with extra beans and avocado. You can call the dish frijoles rancheros.


Black bean brownies
Black bean brownies - Nataliya Arzamasova/Shutterstock

Yes, brownies. You're probably thinking this entry is a typo, but black bean brownies are not only a real thing, they're a deeply fudgy and dense version of brownies that doesn't require any flour, making them a perfect dessert alternative for your gluten-free friends. The canned black beans act as a binder, making sure your brownies hold together, while also adding protein and fiber.

The cocoa powder masks any taste of beans, and the color blends right in, too, so no one will be the wiser if you want to keep your secret. To be honest, while they're good, they do taste like you might expect a lighter brownie to taste, so you can signify that to your guests in what you choose to title them. Black bean brownies (or whatever you choose to call them) are a great potluck dessert to bring when you're not sure what everyone's dietary preferences are.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.