It’s finally fall, and you know what that means: time to break out the beans. Sure, in some parts of the world, autumn may be more famed for its pumpkin spice everything, apple pie, and dry, roasted bird. But if you ask me, there is no greater fall-time treat than tending to a bubbling pot of beans. It’s finally cool enough to utilize your kitchen again, and the savory smell of salty, spiced beans cooking on the stove feels so much more festive than those sickly sweet apple pie candles we’re used to smelling at this time of year.
But for those who tend not to cook beans from scratch and shy away from the canned stuff, preparing them may feel like a futile effort. All that work for a tasteless pile of legumes? But it all comes down to finding the right recipe. The following are some of my all-time favorite bean recipes that I pull out when the weather starts to change. Here’s to sustainable, affordable protein and dishes that are sure to warm you up.
If you happen to be on the food side of TikTok, you may have seen the viral recipe for puffed beans@ballehurns/video/7139256565017808174 by user @ballehurns@ballehurns that’s been circulating on bean lovers’ for you pages. At the time of writing, the video has 1.3 million likes, so it’s safe to say that this is likely to be one of the most popular recipes of the season. And once I tried it for the first time and enjoyed the dreamy crisp of these well-seasoned beans, I knew that the recipe would become a staple in my cooking rotation. Cook your dried lima beans on the stove, then put them into the oven (or better yet, your air fryer) to crisp them up. Don’t forget to heavily season them with spices and a drizzle of oil before they start crisping. I love eating these beans as a snack or as part of a tapas-style dinner.
Of course, it’s always fun to try the new trends, but sometimes, you just have to stick to the classics. That’s where pasta e fagioli comes in. It’s a classic Italian dish that’s centered around beans and—you got it—pasta, which is a match made in heaven for anyone on a budget. There are countless ways to make pasta e fagioli, so don’t be afraid to just throw in whatever ingredients you already have in your fridge. Some recipes call for more of a bean purée while others leave the beans intact, so it’s up to you to decide what kind of texture you want. Martha Rose Shulman’s pasta e fagioli for the New York Times falls into the latter category, and it’s perfect if you have a can of tomatoes in the pantry.
If you want to keep things even easier, nix the pasta and just stick with a pot of beans and broth. Of course, there are a limitless number of ways to make brothy beans, so feel free to forget about the recipe entirely. That being said, I’m personally a big fan of Alison Roman’s recipe for brothy beans. The lemon and the chili are important: They add an acidity and a kick of flavor to what otherwise may be a lackluster pot of cooked beans. Simple as it is, brothy beans just feel so elegant to me. I spoon them into a bowl, toast a piece of bread to dip into the broth, and pour myself a glass of wine so I can savor every brothy bite.
Many who have grown up in the UK will attest to the magic simplicity of beans on toast. It’s not really a widespread phenomenon in the U.S., but there’s no reason it shouldn’t be. I love this recipe mostly because it’s delicious, but the fact that it’s also exceptionally inexpensive is a plus too. You can always opt for the classic Heinz beans that come in a can—if you do, this recipe will take no more than a few minutes to throw together. However, if you’re looking for something that requires a bit more care, Sydney Oland for Serious Eats pulled off a truly elegant beans on toast recipe that I’ve fallen fully in love with.
“Confit” may be popularly associated with duck, but it really just means slowly cooking an ingredient in oil (as opposed to deep-frying it). Honestly, dousing anything in oil and allowing it to cook for hours is going to yield some delicious results, so it’s no surprise that beans are no exception. This bean confit recipe from Asha Loupy for Bon Appétit is truly life-changing. The beans are blessed with lemon and saffron, which lend them a brightness and a floral quality, respectively. The addition of alliums like scallions and leeks only makes each bite more decadent. It’s both warming and fresh, which is why I love it for an indulgent workday lunch.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.