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Guide to cooking Beans and other Legumes

We can’t champion the idea enough that quality healthy meals don’t need to be boring. You can still create comfort food recipes that are rich, hearty and filling in winter without having to splurge every time and cooking beans and other legumes is a great way to achieve this.

Beans and other legumes such as pulses, peas and lentils, give our meals flavour and texture while being full of fibre, low GI and are packed with essential vitamins and minerals.

The best part is they are super easy to cook, once you know how to prepare them.

Here’s our guide to the common types of beans (a member of the Legume family) for cooking and ideas for using them at home:


Cooking with beans is a great winter recipe option. Use this borlotti bean in slow cooking recipes for a delicious dinner idea

Borlotti Beans

Borlotti Beans
  •  Also known as the cranberry bean or the romano bean – this type of legume is approximately 1cm long.
  • Light brown with a magenta coloured speckle
  • Sweet flavour with a creamy white flesh
  • Once cooked, the bean looses it’s magenta colouring and turns brown
  • Great source of protein, fibre and complex carbohydrates




How to cook Borlotti Beans

  • Borlotti Beans are fantastic cooked in the slow cooker as they are “meatier” than some legume varieties – which ensures they don’t fall apart
  • Borlotti Beans are great in soups, stews and casseroles
  • Pair with flavours like tomato, thyme and parsley
  • Borlotti beans are a good substitute for cannellini beans in many recipes

Get cooking with beans using the cannellini bean in italian recipes like minestrone.

Cannellini Beans

Cannellini Beans
  • About 1cm in length and light in colour
  • Often referred to as a white bean
  • Fluffy textured flesh
  • Grown in Italy and commonly used in Italian cooking
  • Hold their shape well in soups and casseroles






How to cook Cannelloni Beans

  • Commonly used in Italian cuisine – cannelloni beans are fabulous in soups like minestrone
  • Home made tomato sauce based baked beans
  • Pair with flavours like tarragon, sage and thyme


Kidney Beans are a great legume when you want to get cooking with beans. Make delicious recipes like chilli con carne.

Kidney Beans

Red Kidney Beans
  • Approximately 1cm long with a faded red colouring
  • Famous for their use in Chilli Con Carne
  • Kidney beans are toxic when raw – therefore, care must be taken when preparing this type of legume
  • High in protein, fibre and minerals such as calcium and magnesium





How to cook Red Kidney Beans

  • Chilli Con Carne is a family favourite and thanks to the humble kidney bean – it is full of fibre.
  • Kidney beans are often used in Mexican cuisine, mixed with rice
  • Great in many salads – try tossing mixed lettuce leaves, kidney beans, olives and feta with a small amount of olive oil and salt and pepper for a tasty side dish
  • Pair with flavours like cumin, fennel, and bay leaf
A great way to start cooking with beans is by using the butter bean in recipes like creamy pasta

Butter Beans

Butter Beans
  • Also known as the lima bean
  • Larger than most beans – the butter bean is approximately 2cm long
  • Rich, buttery flavour
  • Extremely high in potassium






How to cook Butter Beans

  • Due to the soft and rich texture of the butter bean, it works well in creamy dishes like pastas and soups
  • Pair with flavours like sage, mint or parsley
How to Store Beans and other Legumes

Storing dried Beans and Legumes: Uncooked, dried beans must be stored in a cool, dark place in sealed container. They may sometimes seem like they have an infinite shelf life but beans will start to loose their nutritional value and freshness after 1 year.

How to store cooked Beans and Legumes: Thankfully if you choose to cook your own beans, you can freeze them for later use. Once prepared, drain your beans and transfer into a freezer safe zip lock bag. They will keep for up to six months.

When making recipes like Chilli Con Carne, you can add the beans (while frozen) and they will thaw in the cooking process.

How to prearep Beans and other Legumes
  • Myth: you have to soak beans overnight. This is not technically true. Yes, it will cut your cooking time but it isn’t essential.
  • If you don’t have the time for overnight soaking, soak for between 1-4 hours then transfer to a dutch oven on the stove top with 1 part beans to 3 parts water with seasoning and simmer. Check after 1 hour and extend this time if need be.
  • An easy way to get cooking with beans is in your pressure cooker. Once in the cooker – beans average a cooking time of only 20 minutes!


Get great ideas for cooking with beans like chilli con carne and minestrone soup, in this recipe collection

Take a look at the delicious legume recipes below that will inspire you to get cooking with beans. You’ll find more recipes using beans and legumes at myfoodbook too. Here’s a preview of what our beans recipe collection has to offer.




[1] The Choice Guide to Food

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