A Guide to Different Types of Beans
Are you tired of eating the same types of beans? It’s no secret that beans are packed full of the stuff that your body needs, like fiber, protein, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and potassium. And best of all is the fact that beans are very low in fat which makes them a great supplement to meals in lieu of fatty meats like beef and pork. In fact, beans are so high in protein (and cheap to purchase or grow) that they were long ago nicknamed ‘the meat of poor men.’ There are many benefits to be reaped from adding beans to your diet, especially if you substitute beans for red meat once or twice a week. Beans can help reduce cholesterol, lower your risk of heart disease, and even cut back on your chances of developing diabetes (or will help you manage diabetes if you have already been diagnosed with the condition). Let’s take a look at some of the different types of beans that you could add to your diet.
Pinto beans are one of the most commonly used beans in the southern and western areas of the United States as well as being a vital component of several Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. Pinto beans are quite mild which makes them an excellent choice for any type of dish you might want to make. They are great for absorbing flavor while still adding a nice, earthy flavor and a bit of texture to your meal. Pinto beans can be purchased dried or canned, and while both are cheap you will notice that the dried beans in a bag are cheaper but require much more preparation. When dried, pinto beans are tan with brown speckles. When cooked and canned the beans are light brown all over.
There is little that you have to do to prepare canned pinto beans to eat. You can warm them up, use them cold/room temperature, mash them up for burritos or dip, toss them in a salad, or mix them with rice. The possibilities are endless! If you want to prepare dried beans then you will have to allow the beans to presoak in water overnight in order to rehydrate them. After the beans are rehydrated you can simmer them for about four hours. Alternatively you can pressure cook them for about 12 to 15 minutes.
Black beans are a very good source of iron, folate, and fiber and offer a nice blast of dark color to any dish. The black bean has a black shell or “skin” but the inside is cream colored. They have a sweet, earthy taste and are soft (but not creamy) in texture. Many recipes call for black beans as an addition to soups, rice dishes, salad, and even pasta dishes! They are popular among the southern parts of the United States as well as Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean, but you can certainly buy them in almost any supermarket regardless of where you live.
Just like pinto beans, black beans can be purchase cooked and canned or dried. The dried variety does need to be presoaked because this type of bean is considered a hard bean. You should allow at least four hours for the beans to soak in water—but presoaking overnight will ensure that you don’t bite into a hard bean! The cooking time for dried, presoaked black beans is only about eight to ten minutes if you use a pressure cooker. Alternatively, you could bring them to a boil and then leave them to simmer for about two hours.
Great Northern Beans
Great northern beans are famous for their use in Boston baked beans but they should not be overlooked for use in other dishes or even served as a standalone side dish with a bit of salt and pepper. Great northern beans are white, medium sized beans with light colored flesh. They have excellent texture and are neither too hard nor too mushy. This type of bean has a light, soft taste and is very good at absorbing flavors from other items, such as peppers, onion, spices, and herbs. This is an excellent all-around bean that can be used both in hearty or light dishes ranging from a thick vegetable and bean stew to a light and filling salad.
As with the other beans we’ve talked about, great northern beans can be purchased canned or dried. The canned variety needs only to be warmed up on the stove or in the microwave. If you want to use the dried variety then you will need to let the beans presoak for at least four hours. Cook in a pressure pot for at least 12 minutes or bring the beans to a boil on the stove and reduce to a simmer. Cook them for an additional hour and a half.
You may also know garbanzo beans as “chickpeas.” Garbanzo beans are yellow in color and have a bumpy texture. Unlike most oval-shaped beans, garbanzos are round in shape and will keep their bumpy texture even after they are cooked. Chickpeas are very old and have been dated back as far as 5,000 years. Although they originated from the Caribbean area, they are widely consumed all over the world. Garbanzo beans taste a bit nutty, almost like a really mild walnut. They are perfect when used in a leafy salad or a pasta salad and can be included in many Asian and Indian inspired meals. This bean is high in fiber, manganese, folate, and protein.
Chickpeas can be bought dried or canned but be aware that hard types of beans like this must presoak for at least eight hours if they are dry. If you choose to pressure cook the dried, presoaked beans then allow a cooking time between 20 to 25 minutes. If you want to cook them the traditional way then bring them to a boil and reduce to a simmer where they will need to cook for about two and a half hours.