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Beans for Beginners

Flavorful, fiber-rich beans (members of the plant family called legumes) are economical, packed with protein and rich in nutrients. Beans are low in fat and may help lower your cholesterol as well. Served as a main dish, on the side, in salads or in soups, beans are sure to add flavor and texture to any meal. Lima beans, navy, pinto, great Northern and black-eyed peas are all available dried in our grocery department. Keep in mind that dried beans should be soaked in water for several hours or overnight to shorten cooking time. To quick-soak beans, place rinsed and sorted beans into a pot. Cover with at least one inch cold water; cover pot and heat to boiling. Remove from heat and let stand one to two hours. Cook beans according to package directions. (Note that robust boiling causes beans to break apart.) Avoid cooking beans with acidic foods such as tomatoes or wine, as these ingredients will lengthen cooking time.

We also offer many varieties of canned beans as well as frozen baby lima beans and black-eyed peas. Regardless of which variety of bean you start with, you’re sure to end up with a tasty, nutritious dish.

lima/butter – Plump, pale green and kidney-shaped. Named for the city in Peru (though pronounced differently), lima beans are known as butter beans in the South, where they often are the primary ingredient in succotash.

great northern – Kidney-shaped white bean. Great Northerns add substance and a mild nutty flavor to casseroles, soups, stews and baked bean dishes. If the recipe calls for white beans, great Northerns are the all-purpose, go-to bean.

cannellini/white kidney – Larger than the great Northern, but similar in taste and texture. These beans shine in Italian ragus made with sausage and chard, hold their shape well in soups and add creamy flavor to salads.

red kidney – Kidney-shaped, ranging from light rusty brown to glossy brick. Chili aficionados rely on red kidney beans, as do fans of red beans and rice. Red kidneys also play an important role in traditional three-bean salad.

pinto – Speckled light brown bean often used interchangeably with red kidney beans. Pinto beans star in many Mexican dishes including refried beans, burritos and bean dips. In Texas, the pinto is known as the cowboy bean.

navy – Small oval white bean also known as Yankee bean. Named for their popularity in the Navy in the early 20th century, navy beans enhance baked bean dishes and soups, including the famous Senate Bean Soup. These beans readily absorb flavors from other ingredients.

black/frijol negro – Small ebony bean. Also known as the black turtle bean, black beans are a staple in the cuisines of Central and South America and the Caribbean. They augment rice dishes and add color to traditional red-bean chili.

black-eyed peas – Small beige bean with a distinctive black “eye.” Hoppin’ John (black-eyed peas, sausage, ham or pork fatback, rice and tomato sauce) is served on New Year’s Eve in the South, a tradition said to bring wealth in the coming year.

garbanzo/chick peas – Golden pearl-shaped bean. Of all canned beans, chick peas hold their shape the best. Garbanzo beans are used in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes such as minestrone and hummus.