Take Advantage of These Quick and Easy Bean Substitutes

We've all been there. You're elbow-deep in preparing dinner when you realize the ingredient you thought was in the pantry isn't. You're now scrambling for a replacement with no time to run to the store.

Don't panic. Your kitchen is stocked with suitable substitutes — ones you might not have considered before. We often feel the need to precisely follow a recipe, when sometimes a substitution elevates the dish from good to great.

Perhaps the pasta you normally add to your chicken soup is gone. Now what? You can substitute beans for starches or meats in many recipes. Depending on the flavor combination you're going for, there are a variety of beans that could take the place of your missing ingredient quite well.

  • Going for a Italian or Mediterranean? Try cannellini beans or garbanzo beans.
  • Maybe it's a Latin flair you're after? Add in some black beans or milder red kidney beans.
  • Looking for a smooth flavor to complement your dish? Try navy beans or butter beans.

You don't have to run out of something to start thinking outside the box. Add a little flair to your favorite recipes by making small changes. Next time you're putting together a pasta salad, replace half of the pasta with colorful beans. Use black beans to add an earthly flavor and red beans for a zestier flavor. White beans are a great complement to fresh tomato and chopped cucumber salad.

Consider using beans as a side dish as well. Combine potatoes with cannellini beans and serve alongside your main protein. Mix together pinto and great northern beans for the perfect side dish to serve with an Italian-inspired meal.

Sometimes a substitution elevates the dish from good to great.

Swapping Commonly Used Beans

Chances are, you have a can or two of beans in your pantry. This week it might be red kidney beans and next week cannellini. It's not a bad idea to stock one or two of your favorite varieties just in case. But if you don't, here's a quick guide to substituting one bean for another when the need arises.

White Beans

  • Flavor/Texture Profile:
    • White beans, butter beans, cannellini beans, great northern beans, navy beans: mild flavor; creamy, delicate and soft texture
    • Garbanzo beans and blackeye peas: nutty and buttery flavor, firm texture
  • Substitutions:  
    • Most white beans can be substituted for each other
  • Recipe Ideas:
    • Pasta dishes
    • Spreads, dips and hummus
    • Salads
    • Stews and soups
    • Can also serve roasted as a topping or snack

Red Beans

  • Flavor/Texture Profile:
    • Red and Kidney Beans: Rich, full-bodied flavor; soft texture but holds shape and firmness when cooked
    • Pinto Beans: Earthy flavor; powdery texture
  • Substitutions:
    • Most red beans can be substituted for each other
  • Recipe Ideas:
    • Chilis
    • Casseroles
    • Rice dishes
    • Skillets
    • Meatballs and burgers

Black Beans

  • Flavor/Texture Profile:
    • Mild, sweet and earthy flavor; soft texture
  • Substitutions:
    • Garbanzo beans
  • Recipe Ideas:
    • Stews, soups and chilis
    • Tacos
    • Burgers
    • Cold salads
    • Hummus
    • Brownies

Next time you're in the thick of making dinner or getting a pasta salad ready for a party, consider grabbing a can of beans to change things up a bit. You'll be happy you did.

MeetAmanda Formaro

View all articles by this author