1 Can Of Black Beans, 3 Tasty Recipes

As a college student and self-declared foodie, I cook things that are quick, easy, and available for as few pennies as possible. It’s easy to fall into a routine of pasta or quinoa, but why settle for routine when you can mix things up with recipes that are equally easy?

One of my strategies for keeping things fresh is to use one base—in this case, one can of black beans, onion, and garlic—for three completely different dishes. You’ll also notice that I use my (admittedly small) palm to measure—if you’re uncomfortable with eyeballing it, take a few minutes to measure 1 tablespoon of spices into your hand and memorize what that looks like. Do the same for 1 teaspoon, ½ cup, etc. Your cooking will speed up as soon as you stop fooling around with little spoons and cups, plus you’ll have fewer dishes to wash in the end.

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Huevos Rancheros

This is my all-time favorite breakfast go-to. It’s full of protein and robust flavors, and it’s hearty enough to serve as a satisfying brinner. If you’re cooking for one, you can save the extra beans and heat them up in the morning for another serving of huevos rancheros or add them to a quesadilla or salad. 

Base:

  • 1 can black beans
  • ½ onion (white or red—whatever ya got)
  • 2 cloves of garlic

Add:

  • 1/2 palmful (about 1 tbsp) chili powder
  • 1/4 palmful (about 1/2 tbsp) cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A few diced cherry tomatoes if you have them
  • 2 eggs sunny side up – leave the yolks runny so they can make a sauce for the beans
  • Spicy salsa
  • Tortilla (optional)
  • Crumbled or shredded cheddar to taste (optional)

Begin with a drizzle of olive oil in a nonstick pan. Once the oil has heated for a few seconds over medium heat, throw the diced onions in the pan. Let the onions become translucent, and keep them moving so that they’re covered evenly in oil and aren’t sticking. Once the onions have had some time to cook, add the minced garlic (if you add it too early, it’ll burn). Once you smell the garlic, add the tomatoes (the liquid from the tomatoes will steam the garlic if you add them too early, preventing the garlic from browning). Add the spices at this point and let them gently fry for a second or two—not too long, or else they’ll burn. As soon as the vegetables are looking soft and heated through, drain the can of black beans and add them to the pan. Fill the can halfway with water and add it to the pan, then stir it up and cover the pan to trap the steam. The beans will release starch as they cook, creating a nice, thick sauce. Stir occasionally and add more water as needed (you’ll almost certainly need to) until the beans start to pop out of their skin. In another small nonstick pan, heat a little pat of butter and fry up your eggs. Be sure to leave them runny! When plating, place the gently heated tortilla (optional) down first, then the bean mixture. If you’re using cheese, add it on top of the beans so that it can melt. Slide your eggs on top and dust with salt and black pepper—you’ll want them on top so that the yolks can run down over the rest of the ingredients. Add a spoonful of salsa and enjoy!

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Spinach and Black Bean Quesadilla

This is a favorite post-work dinner of mine. I’m not a huge fan of raw spinach, but as soon as it’s wilted it can be paired with just about anything. Plus, it’s a dark leafy green packed with nutrients. This dish is full of satisfying textures—crunchy tortilla, creamy cheese, soft beans, and ribbons of spinach combine to form the perfect bite after a long day.

Base:

  • 1 can of black beans
  • ½ onion
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic (to taste)

Add:

  • 1/2 palmful (about 1 tbsp) chili powder
  • 1/4 palmful (about 1/2 tbsp) cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 large handfuls (or about 3 cups) of spinach (It’ll wilt into nothing, trust me.)
  • Spicy salsa (my current favorite is Trader Joe’s Smoky Chipotle.)
  • Whole wheat tortillas (The wheat adds a robust flavor that pairs well with the other ingredients, but you can use white if you prefer. You’ll be missing out on some good, filling fiber though.)
  • Sharp white cheddar (shredded or block—I cut slices off the block because it’s generally cheaper and higher quality, and I hate washing graters.)

If you’ve mastered the huevos rancheros, this recipe will be a breeze. Prepare the beans the same way, and once they have cooked completely, add the spinach. There’s a trick to cutting the spinach—gather it all into a pile and gently roll the leaves into a burrito shape, then run your knife through to cut the leaves into ribbons. This will prevent you from biting into awkwardly large pieces of spinach. Let the spinach wilt with the beans. Meanwhile, pop a wheat tortilla in a warm pan and add the cheese, letting it melt while the tortilla crisps. Once the cheese has melted, slide the tortilla onto a plate and spoon the bean and spinach mixture on top. Add salsa to taste, fold, and enjoy!

See Also

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End of the Week Black Bean Soup

This is a recipe for all the random scraps of vegetables that didn’t quite make it into your dinners during the week. The secret is always stirring in fresh cilantro right before serving—be sure to chop it to release all the flavor!

Base:

  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 onion (white or red – whatever ya got)
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic (to taste)

Add:

  • 1 palmful (about 2 tbsp) chili powder
  • ½ palmful (about 1 tbsp) cumin
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 bell pepper (I like yellow)
  • Dice up any tomatoes you have lying around, or add a can of tomatoes
  • Use a few can-fuls of water – it’ll wash the stuck beans out of the bottom and you won’t have to fuss with a measuring cup. All vegetables should be covered with water by about an inch, add more water if it starts to look dry or too thick from evaporation.

Optional extras:

  • Corn
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Spicy peppers
  • Salsa
  • Scallions (add as a garnish)
  • Avocado (add as a garnish)
  • Leftover rice
  • Leftover quinoa

Begin with a drizzle of olive oil and throw the diced vegetables in the pan. You’ll want to start with the hardest vegetables (carrots, onions, celery), adding vegetables that require less cooking (garlic, tomato, corn) as the other vegetables cook. This is the time to add the rice, quinoa, or other extras you might want to throw in. Hit them with some salt, pepper, and spices, then drain the beans and add them to the pan. Add the water and simmer for 30 minutes, adding water and stirring as needed. The key with soup is to let it sit and meld as long as possible, which makes this a good dish to freeze in individual servings—the flavor will improve as it sits (just don’t keep it more than a few days without freezing). When your soup is ready, chop up some cilantro, garnish, and enjoy! I also love adding a spoonful of plain yogurt or sour cream to add a tangy, creamy layer of flavor and texture.

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