The Vegan Kitchen: Cook beans in bulk to save time & money.

Via on Aug 23, 2012

A diet of plants doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.

When working with new vegans in my coaching practice I’m often asked why a diet of plants is expensive and complicated. My first answer is that it’s not.

But I do understand why some people, new to a vegan diet, might think so—you could spend a small fortune on organic “superfoods,” high-end agave syrup, and the like! For that reason I make a point to focus my clients on the five fabulous vegan food groups:  vegetables, fruit, grains, beans/legumes, and nuts and seeds. These fab five make up a balanced and nutritious vegan diet and are easy to find at your local grocer.

In this post I want to talk about beans.

Here are two very simple tips to save time and money:

  1. Skip the canned aisle and buy dry beans.
  2. Cook the beans in bulk.

When I’m lazy, I pick up a simple bag of cheap, dry beans in the ethnic aisle of my local grocer. When I’m planning ahead, I buy a larger amount of dry beans, in the bulk aisle of a Whole Foods or local health market. I spend more money at the time, but I’m saving money due to the quantity and I simply store the beans in an airtight mason jar in my cupboard.

The cost of one 15.5 ounce can of red kidney ranges from 79¢ to $1.20 (USD, in metro New York City) and you get just over one and a half cups of cooked beans.

For one 16 ounce bag of dry red kidney beans? $1.79 and you get nearly 6 cups of cooked beans.

I’m no math whiz but even I can see the cost savings.

Okay, you bought the dry beans. Now what? Cook them in bulk! By investing the time—anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes—in making your beans, you are rewarded with five to 10 minute meals the rest of the week.

Here’s why I offer such a wide range of cooking time. I make dry beans in the pressure cooker or rice cooker and though cooking times vary based on the bean, they’re usually done in under 30 minutes (pressure cooker) or in 60 to 70 minutes (rice cooker). I know, however, that not everyone is as devoted to these two appliances as I, so I did something just for you, elephant journal reader. I made beans—from scratch and on the stove top—for the first time.

Red Kidney Beans for Bulk Cooking

Makes 6 cups cooked beans

Note: When I cook in bulk I only lightly season the beans so that I can focus on the flavor profile later in each individual meal in which I use them.

Ingredients

  • •   16 ounces dry red kidney beans
  • •   1 teaspoon olive oil
  • •   1 clove garlic, minced
  • •   ½ cup onion, diced
  • •   2 bay leaves
  • •   5 -6 cups filtered water (approximately)
  • •   ½ teaspoon sea salt

Instructions

  • •   Place beans in a large bowl, cover with water (at least three to four inches over the beans), and let soak overnight.
  • •   Rinse and drain the beans (I rinse and drain three times)
  • •   In a large soup or bean pot, heat the oil on medium-high.
  • •   Add garlic and sauté until lightly browned.
  • •   Add onion and continue stirring for a few minutes.
  • •   Add the rinsed beans, water and bay leaf to the pot. I start with five cups of water and add more, if necessary, during the cooking process.
  • •   Bring the beans to a boil.
  • •   Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until done. (I checked the beans at 60 minutes, added a bit more water, plus the salt, covered and cooked for 20 more minutes.)

I let the beans cool to room temperature on the counter in a bowl that I can cover later with an airtight lid.

Now that your beans are cooked you are ready for quick and simple meals throughout the week.

  • •   Breakfast Burrito: Reheat beans in a skillet with seasoning of your choice and leafy greens (I love spinach for this). Wrap in a whole grain tortilla and enjoy.
  • •   Bean Soup:  Bring two cups of vegetable broth, one cup of beans and one cup of fresh salsa to a boil in a saucepan. You’ll be eating a hearty and healthy soup in under seven minutes.
  • •   Hummus & Raw Vegetables:  One cup of cold beans plus the juice of half a lime and you have hummus! (Remember, we used oil, garlic and salt when cooking the beans so those ingredients aren’t necessary). Chop up some veggies to dip in the hummus and you’ll be eating a hearty snack or lunch in less than five minutes!

You can also make this quick and easy salad.

Chopped Salad with Cashew Chipotle Dressing

Serves two

Ingredients

For the Salad

  • •   3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
  • •   1 cup red kidney beans (cooked or canned), rinsed and drained
  • •   1 cup corn (I steamed two ears, ran under cold water and cut from the ear)
  • •   1 cup diced cucumber
  • •   2 pinches salt

For the Dressing

  • •   1/3 cup cashews (raw, unsalted)
  • •   1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle (powder)
  • •   2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • •   1/4 cup water

Serve with black ground pepper

Instructions

For the Salad

  • Toss all salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl

For the Dressing

  • Blend all dressing ingredients in a high-speed blender.

Bring it together

  • Pour the dressing on the salad, toss, serve with fresh ground pepper

Six cups of cooked beans provides for several meals and snacks over a few days and I almost always have leftovers to freeze (I don’t keep cooked beans in my refrigerator past four days—do it once and the smell will stay with you forever!)

Once you see how easy it is to cook beans from scratch (and how much better they taste!) you’ll be ready to cook up a new batch—and soon you’ll have some beans in rotation, fresh and in the freezer, so that you can actually choose from one, two or even three home-cooked bean dishes for your quick and easy meals throughout the week.

Are you looking for other time or money-saving vegan cooking tips? Leave a comment here and I’ll write reader request cooking posts in the future!

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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About JL Fields

JL Fields is a certified vegan lifestyle coach and educator. She shares plant-based education, recipes and cooking techniques, as well as animal rights information and resources, on the popular blog JL goes Vegan. Her original recipes have been featured on Foodbuzz, BlogHer and Meatless Monday. She is the editor of the community blog Stop Chasing Skinny. JL is the founder and lead consultant for JL Fields Consulting and serves on the board of directors of Our Hen House. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+.

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24 Responses to “The Vegan Kitchen: Cook beans in bulk to save time & money.”

  1. Hi, JL. This goes straight to my wife Jane, who loves cooking beans, and I'm the beneficiary.

    Bob W. Associate Publisher
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  2. [...] original here: The Vegan Kitchen: Cook beans in bulk to save time and money … Tags: [...]

  3. __MikeG__ says:

    I need to do everything in this article. But I am the laziest vegan on the planet.

  4. Melissa K. says:

    I would add 2 more points to your "cooking beans" article.

    1. I have found that sprouting my beans BEFORE cooking them makes them MUCH more digestable! It just takes an extra day or so, depending on the age of the beans. I have found soaking older beans for 24 hours gives them time to absorb enough moisture to "wake up" the sprouting process. I just wait until a see a tiny sprout, then it is time to cook!

    2. For absolutely NO FUSS beans, THROW THEM IN YOUR SLOW COOKER ON LOW. I don't even season them. Just let them cook until they are done to my liking. The beans make their own delicious "pot liquor" which I use as a broth for soups, or for a tastier addition to "water frying" my vegetables (a la Eat to Live).
    You can't really overcook the beans this way!

    • JL Fields JL Fields says:

      Melissa, I once tossed dry adzuki beans in the crockpot (as chili) on high for several hours and they were perfect. Thanks for mentioning it.

      I've heard about sprouting beans before cooking them but it's not of interest to me personally because soaking overnight is enough to test my patience and – lucky me – digesting beans isn't an issue! :) But this could be really helpful for people who want to invest the extra day, so thanks. Having said that, I would suggest readers look into this a bit – I understand that raw, sprouted red kidney beans are toxic (since the bean I highlighted in this post is a red kidney bean I feel obligated to mention it!) and I'm not sure what happens in the cooking process – no longer toxic? Do you know?

  5. danasfriend says:

    Can you post slow cooker recipes? I need dinner to be ready when I get home. Thank you.

  6. LynnBonelli says:

    What a great post! I have been a lazy plant based eater to a fault (eating processed 'fake meats') and have moved to real foods finally! BUT I live in a 32 foot RV with liitle room for bulk storage and/or high temperature cooking in the summer (it heats the whole RV)!! Couple of questions…anything special about using the rice cooker? I have one with a simple cook/warm switch, will this work? and I've never frozen beans before…so at the risk of sounding like an idiot…do you just put them in a freezable container or ziplock (with or without 'juice')? Thanks!

    • JL Fields JL Fields says:

      Hi Lynn, and thanks! My folks spend a lot of time traveling in their RV, so I hear you! I've recently started using a portable induction cooker – it saves energy and generates no heat – something to consider!

      My rice cooker has several cooking settings so I'm just guessing here but I would suggest testing it out with one cup dry beans to 3 cups water, turn on the cook setting and check it in one hour, then keep checking 'til done. It's an experiment!

      I freeze my beans in a zip lock bag with the juice.

      Let me know how it goes!

  7. babyjill7...Marilyn Griffin says:

    The salad sounds yummy! ~mkg

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  9. MDK says:

    So many great ideas in one post…thanks!

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  13. Kelley says:

    that salad looks delicious! can you post info on how you cook beans in a rice cooker in addition to directions in the slow cooker?

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