Canned beans are convenient but they tend to contain higher amounts of sodium than those cooked from scratch. Consider cooking a large batch of beans and then freezing individual portions. You can then defrost the frozen portions as needed.
When purchasing beans, buy from a source with a good turnover. Try not to mix newly purchased dried beans with older ones. the older the beans, the longer they take to cook. Dried beans are a great investment, buy in bulk and stock up during sales. If kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place, beans will stay fresh for about a year.
To prepare beans, soak overnight in the refrigerator before cooking. To cook, bring beans and soaking liquid to a boil in a large pot; reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender. Depending on the type of bean, this could take between 30 minutes and 3 hours.
Type of bean and common usage:
Black bean: stew, soup, Brazilian feijoada, Cuban rice and beans
Cannellini or white kidney bean: soups, stews, salads, casseroles, Italian side dishes, pasta e fagioli
Chickpea or garbanzo bean: casseroles, cooked with couscous, soups, stews, hummus, clad gallego
Fava or broad bean: stews, side dishes
Flageolet or green haricot bean: mixed bean salads, vegetable side dish
Great northern: soups, casseroles, mixed bean dishes
Lima bean: casseroles, soups, salads, Southern succotash
Mung bean: soups, casseroles, purees, Asian and Indian dishes, “sprouted” for salads
Navy bean: Boston baked beans
Pinto bean: Mexican rice and beans, refried beans, stew
Red kidney bean: stew, mixed bean salad, Cajun bean dishes, chili con carne
Soybean: side dish, soups, used to make tofu, “sprouted” for salads
Choose your color of beans and grains: