Meat-Free Fridays: Black Beans--the Best Beans!

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Each Friday during Lent, the dailySpark is featuring a different meat-free main dish. Whether you observe Lent or not, we can all benefit from learning about alternate, affordable proteins.

My boyfriend could live on black beans and rice. He actually said that Wednesday night. He got home late, and I had gone out to dinner with a friend. He opened a can of beans, doctored it with olive oil, garlic, curry and a strange assortment of spices and heated up some leftover brown rice. He added some smoked gouda and a handful of fresh spinach at the end (If I'm not eating it, I don't comment on the conglomerations he creates.) and his dinner was ready.

"I could eat this every meal of every day and still be happy," Fred said.
While I don't love black beans quite as much as my boyfriend does, I am very fond of these beans. They're cheap (I get a conventional 15-ounce can for 89 cents, an organic 15-ounce can for $1.29, and a pound of organic dried beans for about $1/pound.) I cook a big batch of dried black beans each week and we eat them throughout the week. We add a half-cup per serving to vegetable stir-fries, soups, stews and pretty much any other dish.

What are they?
Black beans, also called turtle beans, have thin, shiny black skin and creamy white insides. When mashed they look gray or dark purple. They have a smooth texture and retain their shape while cooking.
Beans--including black beans--are virtually fat free, and they're a great source of protein. They taste smooth and slightly sweet, with a faint mushroom taste. According to and the George Mateljan Foundation, "black beans are as rich in antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins as grapes and cranberries, fruits long considered antioxidant superstars."

How do I cook them?
Cook black beans as you would any other bean. Canned beans are ready to throw in burritos, soups and salads after a quick rinse; dried beans need a bit more time, depending on whether you presoak them. (Tip: I cook dried beans in my rice cooker, and I know other people who make them in pressure cookers or slow cookers. )
(Find out how to cook dried beans--and how to make your beans less musical!)

How do I eat them?
Black beans are a staple in Caribbean, Central and South American cuisines, and they pair well with flavors common to those regions: chilies, cilantro, coriander, cumin, onion, peppers, and tomatoes. Black beans pair perfectly with cumin, which adds a slow-cooked, homemade flavor to any food. I never cook a pot of black beans without a couple of tablespoons of cumin.

We frequently make some sort of Mexican DIY dish for dinner--think of it like a burrito without the tortilla. We start with 1/2 c brown rice (108 calories), add 1/2 c black beans (114), 1 cup fresh spinach (7), 1/2 c salsa (36 calories), and either 1/4 avocado (72 calories; 6.7 g fat), 2 T lowfat sour cream (40 calories; 4 g fat), or an ounce of grated low-fat cheddar cheese (50 calories, 2 g fat). We add chopped onions, cilantro and peppers, too. It's a filling and delicious meal (Fred usually has seconds) that is under 400 calories. Sometimes I put a poached egg on top--the creamy beans and the rich, runny yolk are a great combo! (I usually drizzle my dish with sriracha or another hot sauce. I LOVE spicy food!)

Black beans are a great bean for people who think they don't like beans. Their flavor is mild and their texture smooth. Try throwing beans into your burritos, tacos or enchiladas, or make a batch of black bean soup.

Black Bean Hummus This is a great all-purpose dip. Serve it with carrots and celery, spread it on a tortilla, or dip some baked chips into it.

Black Bean Brownies Yes, even brownies can be made with black beans. The beans, when pureed, are virtually undetectable. They add fiber and replace fat.

More Black Beans Recipes From Caribbean to Brazilian, refried or with rice, black beans are a great, cheap protein source!

How do you cook black beans?

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Yum, black beans! A staple in our diet. We eat refried black bean tacos (that's our quick-it's-dinner-time meal), black bean soup, black bean dip, black beans and rice, black bean burritos, etc., etc. But I've never tried black bean brownies. Definitely going to give that a go! Report
Black Beans cooked in a pressure cooker are easy! New pressure cookers don't explode, make cooking fast and beans are a snap. I make a batch of black beans every other week - my meat eating guys protest. I put it in chili, beans and rice, side dish to other foods. If you like spice, add pepper flakes or hot sauce to the rice for rice and beans - I add chopped red peppers nad onions as they do in Costa Rica. Fabu. Report
Black beans and brown rice and chopped onions... yum! Complete protein. Report
Have had Black beans but didn't know how to season them w/o meat. This is great & will have them for dinner. Do appreciate all the nice recipes. Thanks. Report
I love beans but I have to admit I ususally use kidney or chickpeas. I do love black bean soup so I'll have to but black beans & try them in your recipes! It sounds yummy!! Report
We make black bean quesadilla with jalapenos and 2% Mexican shredded cheese! Report
Last night we had black bean, chicken, and barley soup - it's delicious! The broth is spiced up a bit with powdered mustard and cayenne. Report
Oh - how fantastic !!! I've always loved Black Beans. Your boyfriend's recipe is WONDERFUL - - gonna cook me up a batch this weekend!
Thanks for the great article. Report
Oh - how fantastic !!! I've always loved Black Beans. Your boyfriend's recipe is WONDERFUL - - gonna cook me up a batch this weekend!
Thanks for the great article. Report
Oh - how fantastic !!! I've always loved Black Beans. Your boyfriend's recipe is WONDERFUL - - gonna cook me up a batch this weekend!
Thanks for the great article. Report
I love black beans and I am glad to see more ways to use them. Report
As per a can of Goya Black Bean Soup (formerly known as Cuban Black Bean soup)
add cooking sherry and sauteed onion galic and cilantro. The splash of sherry or rum is a great flavor element. Report
you can make a quick black bean soup by pureeing a can with some salsa and adding a little taco seasoning. Top with a dollop of low fat sour cream and some green onion. delish and low fat! Report
Beans and lentils - I eat them almost every day. Any type of bean, any type of lentil/dahl. Yummy. And *very* filling! Report
Did you ever hear of red rice? Yesterday I sauteed red rice in a little olive oil, then added water and cooked for 20 minutes with spices added. Then added brown rice and cooked 20 more minutes. I cook a batch of black beans and freeze in freezer bags, so added them. This combo was so good, I couldn't stop eating them as a snack. For dinner, I cubed chicken breast, sauteeing them in very little olive oil with chopped onions, garlic and green peppers. DH and I topped it with salsa and thoroughly enjoyed. I can eat beans almost every day!!! Report
By Ngozika2---- I use to soak my fresh black beans overnight, cook and sprinkle lemon juice to add vit C. very delicious and gas free. Pauline -Zitolina --Ghana Report
We always had black beans growing up. The trick was to add vinegar before serving. Deelish! Report
Good one.
I love beans, usualy "white" ones but I will look for these. Report
I love baking with black beans. It adds nutrition to cakes and brownies and it unrecognizable under the chocolate. I make cupcakes with black beans and sauerkraut and my kids are completely fooled. My recipe is in the sparkrecipes as Healthy Chocolate Cupcakes. Report
Black beans are my favorite. I haven't tried the rice cooker trick, though. Worth experimenting with.

I read a hint somewhere to ask for black beans instead of refried at Mexican restaurants, because the refried are loaded with fat. Report
Every time I see a recipe using black beans, I grab it and add it to the collection. I especially like black beans and brown rice. I generally cook my beans with onion, garlic, a little olive oil, and some veggie bacon. (In fact, I have some leftovers in my freezer right now.) I like to experiment with different spices, too. I never met a bean I didn't like! Report
I love black beans and rice. Report
Mmmmm....I love black beans! Thanks for the new recipes to try!
I sometimes open a can and heat them in a skillet. I add cumin, chili powder, onion powder and a little bit of BBQ sauce. Yummy!! Hubby loves them too. Report
I love black beans! An easy dish that I bring for lunch, if I don't have time to cook, is black beans, brown rice and salsa. All I have to do is cook the rice. (And we have a rice cooker for that.) I normally go with a fruit (raspberry, peach, mango) salsa to sweeten it up. Report
These are my fave, too. After reading this entry, I'm going to start using them instead of meat for my stuffed poblanos. The way I make them is never the same and this will be a nice change from meat. Report
I tried Black Beans for the first time and they were very good. I added onions, corn and a dash of chili powder and ginger. Packed with protein and fiber looks good on the nutrition tracker! Report
I love black beans! My fav way to fix them is to put 1 can black beans, 1 can stewed tomatos in a sause pan and heat them together then add cooked rice and stir and you have a thick cassarole type meal that can be eaten in a bowl with a spoon and is yummy.....I dont add any other seasonings as the stewed toms are already seasoned. Report
I discovered black beans about a year ago and really like them. I have recipes for soups, salads and have added them to other recipes. They are not only economical but very healthy and good. Report
Black beans are great! Thanks for the great recipe ideas.

Please note, though, that in some of the Sparkrecipes the calorie count is off because the person posting the recipe was using DRIED beans instead of canned, but neither Sparkrecipes nor the SP Nutrition Tracker offers that option, so it read (for example) 1 1/4 c. black beans as COOKED beans. I posted about this problem in a forum about Sparkrecipes issues but haven't heard anything back. It would be great if the dried option were provided for all the legumes. Report
I cook black beans fairly often at home. I make my own 'refried black beans'. Make a green salsa and put a little in them. I will have to try these other recipes to though. Sounds yummy!! Report
I tried the black bean DIY bowl idea for lunch today...and I have to say, it was delicious! Plus I feel satisfied in a way I haven't in weeks! Awesome ideas for black beans!

I eat beans of any kind. Even chick peas! Which at one time thought they were gross. My how my taste buds have changed!!! My fav is Frejoles ala charra. Report
I had never thought to eat black beans until I got a really yummy recipe for black bean salad burritos. They are SOOO good. I love using black beans all the time now! Report
Had never heard of black beans until I came to this site. Now I eat them all the time. In salads, with rice, with stir fry, in soups, even by themselves. I would say out of all the beans I've tried, black beans are my fave. Report
I add Black beans to all of my Salads and when making hummus for the added Fiber.
Becki Report
I enjoy black beans. Some of my favorite ways to eat them are: black bean soup, refried/organic black bean burritos, mixed with tabouli, and over rice mixed with diced tomatoes and veggies. Report
Love black beans. Sounds wonderful to me. Of course I will want to put lots of hot sauce across mine. Report
My cooking skills have mainly been around vegetables and chicken...but I'm very tempted to introduce beans into my life. My Mom used them a lot while I was growing up and I enjoyed them. Its a item that just has not been a part of my shopping list. Guess I will be updating that. :o)
I must honestly confess...I have a sweet tooth for brownies and I'm very curious about making Black Bean Brownies.
(Thanks for the confirmation PAMZIA...can't wait to try making these)
I love beans. Unfortunately my GI doesn't get along with them. No matter how long I soak them, they just give me gas. I find an alternative for beans, sprouted peas. I can enjoy them without being the musician behind the scene! Report
I like black beans the best. I like to make them from scratch. When I get in a hurry I will use canned. I like to put onions, garlic, black pepper, and salsa in my beans. Report
Since I don't eat meat, this is the perfect way to get my protein! Report
To make any dried bean less musical: 1) pour off the soaking water, cook in fresh water; 2) add a pinch of dried ginger to the cooking water. These two methods combined will pretty much completely eliminate the gas problem. Also, don't add salt or tomato (or any nightshade family), until dried beans are soft, as they tend to toughen the beans and make them take longer to cook. Report
Black Beans are awesome and I eat them in many different ways! Always want to get more ideas! Thanks! Report
I love them, too! Months ago I made black bean brownies and was shocked DH loved them. Now that is how I always make them. Report
I just started eating black beans this year and I have never cooked any. I just heat and serve. Very good with cheese, tomatoes with chiles and avocado. Report
I have a hard time cooking black beans so, I buy the cans and rinse them very well.
I didn't like them at first. I love them now. Here is what I do: Open the can you can use the juice or you can drain them. If I don't drain I just add chopped onion, and picante sauce, heat and eat. If I drain I add chopped tomatoes with 1 cup of juice ,chopped onion, picante and eat. Like it hot add Jalapeno or you favorite peppers.
I like all beans included Report
I Don't! Report
I made "black bean brownies" last weekend- they were delicious!
Puree one can of black beans (with juice) in food processor and add to one brownie mix- bake. Report
I love black beans! I'm with Oldtowngym, delicious with eggs. Black Bean brownies, interesting! Report
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