When it comes to cheap meal staples that work for nearly any budget and dining style, it’s hard to beat beans. Whether you crave comfort food, ethnic dishes, or one-pot meals, you’ll find a ton of recipes that feature different beans as the star.
Beans are also a good source of protein and fiber, as well as a great way to get enough iron, calcium, and other nutrients in your diet. Better yet, beans are downright cheap to buy in a can, but even cheaper if you buy them dried or in bulk. And unlike other proteins like meat or fish, they stay fresh for months, making it easier to avoid food waste.
If you’re trying to lower your grocery bill, want to add new recipes to your menu, or simply want to explore cheap foods to see what you like, it’s smart to add beans to your list. Since you can often pick up a can for $1 or less, why not?
Cheap and Easy Bean Recipes Families Love
Before you throw a can of beans in a pot, it helps to have some recipes in mind. With a few simple steps, you can even make a fancy bean-based meal that will wow your family and friends.
Here are some easy and inexpensive recipes to start with — they them as-is, or experiment with variations to fit your family’s tastes:
#1: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos
I cook this recipe at home all the time, although my recipe is constantly changing based on the ingredients I have on-hand. Here’s what you need to get started:
- 3 medium sweet potatoes
- Olive oil
- Cajun or chipotle seasoning
- 2 14-ounce cans of black beans
- 1 can of corn
- Container of cherry tomatoes
- Bunch of cilantro
- 2 avocados
- 2 limes
- Flour tortillas
Start by shredding the sweet potatoes with a Veggie Bullet, or grate them by-hand. Spread the grated sweet potatoes on a pan and drizzle them with olive oil. Sprinkle with Cajun or chipotle seasoning and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
Add corn, diced cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, and chopped cilantro in a bowl. Stir the mixture while squeezing lime juice over the top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Heat your black beans in a pain on the stove for 10 minutes while the sweet potatoes cook. Salt the beans to taste.
Once your sweet potatoes are fully cooked, assemble burritos starting with a layer of sweet potatoes. Add on a few scoops of beans then the mixture of corn, tomatoes, and avocados on top.
#2: Beans and Cornbread
This recipe is an embarrassing one to share, because there’s almost nothing to it — but it’s worth mentioning because it’s tasty and so easy to make. In fact, it’s a good one to keep in your emergency food fund to avoid dining out.
Start with a big jar of Great Northern beans. Empty them into a pot and heat on medium over the stove. Then make your own cornbread, either from scratch or with a mix. If you want to go really cheap, you can go with a box of Jiffy Corn Bread mix for around 75 cents. Just add eggs and milk and follow the directions on the box.
This is also an oldie but goodie. All you need is eggs, butter, milk, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cornmeal.
When the cornbread is ready, smother it with the beans and dig in.
#3: Cilantro, Black Bean, and Corn Salsa
There are several good recipes for cilantro, black bean, and corn salsa out there, so make sure to find one you like. Personally, I think that simple recipes with fewer ingredients tend to be better.
The salsa I make is similar to this recipe from . Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 cans of corn, drained
- 2 cans of black beans, drained
- 8 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped – or one cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
- Medium red onion, chopped
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup lime juice
- Salt and pepper
- Tortilla chips
Add all your ingredients (minus chips) in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. I also add around a tablespoon of to mine. Serve with chips.
#4: Hummus with Vegetables
While hummus isn’t a meal on its own, it’s a great dip to pair with chips or vegetables for a healthy snack. I like to make my own hummus from scratch with just a few ingredients:
- 2 cups drained chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- ½ cup tahini
- ¼ – ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Add all these ingredients into a food processor and pulse until you get the texture you want. You can add more or less olive oil for a thicker hummus if you desire. You can also consider adding spices like paprika or cumin. Either way, season with salt and pepper and serve with chips, pita bread, or sliced vegetables like carrots or zucchini.
#5: Baked Beans
Baked beans paired with ham or cornbread can make a hearty meal, but they’re also a popular side dish. Either way, you can buy baked beans in a can or make your own.
If you choose the latter option, I really like this recipe for . Here’s what you’ll need:
- 5 cups cooked navy beans (approx. 3 15-ounce cans)
- 1 large sweet onion (or 1-2 green onions), diced
- 3-4 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons regular mustard
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- Handful of dried cranberries
- Maple butter or pure maple syrup
You can make this recipe in a slow cooker just by dumping in all the ingredients and cooking on high for 4 to 5 hours. Once your beans are ready to serve, drizzle with maple butter or maple syrup.
#6: Beans and Rice
There are a ton of ways to make beans and rice, but I make mine in a slow cooker. Add all these ingredients to your crock pot, then heat on high for 5 hours:
- 2 14-ounce cans of red beans, drained
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped pepper
- 2 stalks chopped celery
- 2 teaspoons thyme
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 cup rice
I like to serve beans and rice as a main dish, but you can serve it as a side dish, too. Since this is a slow cooker recipe, it’s also a great meal to prepare in the morning for dinner that night. If you need it to cook during your workday, follow the same directions but set your crock pot on medium for 8 to 10 hours.
#7: Vegetarian Chili
Vegetarian chili can be made in plenty of different ways, and you can even alter your recipe based on what you have on hand. You can also make it in a slow cooker by adding all your ingredients and heating on high for 4 to 5 hours.
I choose to make mine in a giant pot on the stove top. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 large can tomato juice
- 1 packet chili seasoning
- 3 cans diced tomatoes
- 4 cans kidney beans, drained
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 medium white onion, chopped
- 1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chilies
- 1 medium zucchini diced
- 1 box macaroni
- Shredded cheese
- Sour cream
Heat tomato juice on medium heat on the stove. As you wash and dice onion, celery, and zucchini, add it to the pot. As the mixture comes to a boil, add beans, tomatoes, and seasoning.
Heat on medium for half an hour, adding water as needed. Add box of macaroni and cook another 15-20 minutes, then serve with cheese and sour cream.
#8: Easy Bean Burritos
These bean burritos are hard to mess up. Kids and adults usually love them, and they’re packed with vitamins, fiber, and protein. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 cans black beans
- 3 cups shredded lettuce
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
- Bunch of cilantro, chopped
- Shredded cheese
- Sour cream
- Flour tortillas
Heat your beans on the stove top for 5-10 minutes before assembling your burritos. Start with a tortilla and add a few spoons of beans, toppings you desire, cheese, and sour cream. Serve with a side salad.
#9: Black Bean Burgers
Black bean burgers offer a healthier alternative for the meat lovers in your life. They may also be cheaper, although they’re definitely more labor intensive than throwing a hunk of hamburger on the grill. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 can black beans, drained
- ¾ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon chopped oregano
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup cooked rice
Mix all of your required ingredients together in a bowl, taking special care to mash the black beans. Once your mixture is ready, separate and mold into four separate burgers. You can cook your burgers on the grill, in a heated skillet for 5 to 7 minutes on each side over medium heat, or in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
Serve on a bun with cheese, lettuce, and tomato if you want, adding your favorite condiments as you go.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of . Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at .
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What is your favorite recipe with beans? Please share below.