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Need a Tasty and Nutritious Bang for Your Buck? Beans to the Rescue!

Beans are scrumptious, healthy, economical, and easy to prepare. If you’ve skipped beans before because they’re unfamiliar or you heard beans give you gas, a second look might be a pleasant surprise.

Bean Basics

Beans are packed full of nutrition! They are a great source of fiber, protein, and B vitamins. Canned beans are inexpensive and easy to prepare. Dried beans are even less expensive, although they require you to plan ahead for the time it takes to soak, boil, and simmer them. Both dried and canned beans store well in the pantry, so stock up during sales and stretch your food dollars.

Cut the Gas

The way our bodies digest beans can cause bloating and flatulence in some people, but you can limit this possible side effect by soaking and draining dried beans or rinsing canned beans. If beans haven’t been a regular part of your diet, start with small portions occasionally and gradually build up to more frequent, main-dish serving sizes. To start, consider swapping out half of the meat in a recipe with beans, such as burritos, spaghetti sauce, stew, or chili. If you do experience initial discomfort, grocery stores carry products such as Beano, which are enzymes that can help with bean digestion.

Flexible Recipes

Beans are delicious and budget-friendly and provide child-approved ways to add extra vegetables to your meals. These bean recipes require no precise measurement and are an easy base for added ingredients you have on hand, including those odds and ends in the refrigerator, or ingredients you picked up on sale.

Minestrone Soup

A hearty, healthy, supper-in-a-hurry soup for cold days


2 slices bacon (optional)

Olive oil

3-4 cups hard vegetables: carrots, onion, celery, butternut squash, zucchini, and/or garlic

Seasonings: basil, oregano, thyme, and/or pepper to taste

1 can (15 oz.) of garbanzo, cannellini, or Great Northern beans (look for low/no-sodium)

Leafy greens: several handfuls fresh or frozen spinach, chopped kale, leafy tops of celery, or arugula (optional)

1 large can (28 oz.) or 2 (15 oz.) diced tomatoes with liquid

6 cups stock or water (feel free to use bouillon)

½ package (1 cup) dried cut pasta (such as shells, macaroni, or rotini)

Worcestershire sauce (optional)

Grated or shredded cheese for topping (optional)

In the bottom of a large stockpot, fry two slices of bacon (or to keep it vegetarian, heat several tablespoons of olive oil). While the bacon (or oil) is heating, cut up hard vegetables into small pieces (dice onion and winter squash, slice carrots/celery/zucchini, mince the garlic). Remove bacon and place on a paper towel to cool, leaving fat in the pan. Add several tablespoons of olive oil if you haven’t already. Add chopped hard vegetables and some herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, and/or pepper) to the pot, sautéing on high until the vegetables begin to soften. Drain and rinse beans. Add beans and sauté 3 more minutes. Add greens if using. Dump in the can of tomatoes and the stock or water, as well as a few glugs of Worcestershire sauce (optional). Crumble bacon and add to the pot. Bring to boil. Add the dried pasta and cook until pasta is done, stirring occasionally. If desired, top with cheese and serve with toasted bread.

Easy Enchilada-Style Bake

Tastes like enchiladas, but the assembly is layered like lasagna to speed up the preparation. Corn tortillas add some whole grain goodness to the meal.


1 can black or pinto beans (15 oz.) (look for low/no sodium)

1 can tomato sauce (15.oz.)

1 can diced tomatoes (15.oz.)

1 onion

18 corn tortillas

4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

3 cups fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables: diced zucchini, diced carrots, corn

Spices: oregano, a little cayenne or chipotle or red pepper flakes — any packets leftover from a pizza order?

Cooking oil (canola, vegetable, or olive)

Optional toppings: sour cream, cilantro, salsa, avocado slices

Dice and sauté onion and any other fresh vegetables in a few tablespoons of oil. Lightly oil the bottom of a 9”x13” (or slightly larger) pan. Arrange 6 tortillas on the bottom of the pan, ripping tortillas as needed to cover the surface. Drain and rinse the beans. Over the tortillas, spread half of each of the filling ingredients: beans, diced tomatoes, onion, and any other vegetables. Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese and some spices. (Go easy on the cayenne or chipotle if you prefer milder flavors). Repeat a second layer of 6 tortillas, filling, cheese, and spices. Add a third layer of tortillas. Cover with tomato sauce. Sprinkle on top the last 2 cups of cheese and additional oregano. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with rice and any of the optional toppings (sour cream, cilantro, salsa, avocado).





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