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If you can’t or don’t want to go grocery shopping very often, you’d be smart to stock up on canned or dried beans and lentils.
But once you have all of those chickpeas and black beans and red or green or brown lentils, what are you supposed to do with them?
I’ve got you covered. Here is a collection of ten recipes that make use of those versatile legumes.
These recipes are all vegetarian, and some of them are gluten free and vegan as well.
They rely on beans or lentils as the base of the dish, and they primarily use other pantry ingredients and storage vegetables like squash and root vegetables that keep well for at least a few weeks.
They include things like simple black beans and rice as well as light and fresh dishes like a chili-lime squash and chickpea salad and hearty soups and stews, like the sweet potato and red lentil curry.
Most of these make great dinners all on their own, but many of them also work as side dishes if you’re looking for variety or have another protein you’d like to build a meal around.
Some of them would be nice with rice or bread alongside. But I leave that to you.
These are workhorse recipes that you’ll be glad to have in your repertoire.
Recipes with Beans & Lentils
Looking for recipes that come mostly from the pantry? Dry or canned beans and lentils are great to have on hand, and they're so versatile.
This list includes some vegetables, most of which keep for a while. Squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, and onions all keep well for a few weeks. Kale and fennel and green beans all keep for at least a week in the refrigerator.
(Most of these are meals by themselves, but it's nice to remember that if you have a can of chickpeas around, hummus is only a few minutes away!)
Fideos is like paella in pasta-form. Thin noodles get toasted in olive oil then simmered in a smoky tomato sauce that gets perked up with a splash of white wine. While it traditionally uses chorizo and seafood, this version is vegetarian with chickpeas, fennel, and kale. You'll need a broiler safe 12-inch skillet (or, even better in this case, a saute pan with straight sides) for this dish. The pan will be really full, so be careful when transferring it from the stovetop to the oven. The garlic aioli is optional, but nice. A squeeze of lemon is also a nice touch.
These chickpeas are a regular in my summer kitchen. The brown mustard seeds give it a subtly spicy kick, the yogurt gives it a creamy richness, the lemon and mint brighten the flavors. I like this with coconut oil, but any neutral oil will work. It will taste best with full fat yogurt (of course) but it’s also still really good with low or no fat yogurt. I usually make it with Greek yogurt, but it’s also good with thinner yogurt varieties, which simply make it saucier. I usually serve this with basmati rice, but it’s also great with naan or as part of a larger spread of dishes.
This hummus comes together in about 5 minutes. The key is to warm your chickpeas in the microwave before blending them to get smoother results. This works in a blender or food processor (or with a stick blender). Do pay attention to whether or not your canned chickpeas have added salt. (If it says no salt added or low sodium on the label, add 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, otherwise, add 1). If you're using table salt, cut the amount in half.
This is a great light fall meal. It's colorful and crunchy and creamy and kicky. I usually shave carrots with a vegetable peeler, but you could also use a knife or a mandoline. The shaved carrots look pretty, but you could also just shred them or slice them with the appropriate food processor blade or with a grater if you're feeling lazy (I won't tell). If you prefer, you could also use roasted carrots or squash or beets in place of the shaved carrots here. You'll want to use a whole milk Greek yogurt here to keep the consistency right. This keeps well in the refrigerator for at least 4 days.
This recipe comes together in about a half hour. The hardest part is chopping the squash. Use a sturdy, sharp chef's knife and thoroughly dry your hands to avoid slippage. I like to use squash like kabocha and red kuri, which have a slightly richer and nuttier flavor than more widely available winter squash—if you see some at the market snatch them up—but acorn or butternut squash works as well. I like to grate the garlic for this with a microplane , which turns it into a nearly smooth pulp, but you can also use a garlic press or mash it with salt and a knife. I get better yield when I juice limes with a squeezer like this. This is good warm or at room temperature. It holds up well as leftovers for a day or two, but should be gently reheated or brought to room temperature before serving.
This salad gets visual interest from the different colored beans, but it can be made with all green or all yellow beans if that’s what you have. I should note that purple beans (like purple asparagus) turn a dark green when they’re cooked, so they don’t add any purple to the finished dish. This packs some real heat. The spice averse may want to dial back the cayenne to a 1/2 teaspoon. I used a small red spring onion here, but I’ve made it before with a regular old red onion, which is just fine. I like to turn the garlic to a pulp by grating it on a microplane but you could use a garlic press or mince it finely with a chef's knife if you prefer. I find it easiest to get the onion sliced paper thin on a mandoline, but I’ve also done it many times with a chefs knife. I like this salad at room temperature or cold from the refrigerator. It holds up well for several hours, so you can make it ahead of time and keep it chilled and covered until you’re ready to serve it.
This meal is a simple weeknight staple. The trick is to bloom the cumin and smoked paprika in oil along with the onion and garlic to bring out the flavor, use the liquid in the canned beans to create a full-bodied sauce, add a bit of savory umami flavor with soy sauce (or tamari to keep it gluten free), and add of bit sherry vinegar at the end to brighten the flavors. You can make this with white or brown rice. When using brown rice, I prefer to use the short grain variety for its pleasing nubbly texture. The sky's the limit on the toppings. Use whatever you like. I usually top it with some plain Greek yogurt, salsa, avocado, and a dash of hot sauce, but shredded cheese, sour cream, scallions, diced tomatoes, pickled onions, a runny egg, are a few of the topping that I'd recommend. Use whatever you like. This recipe is for two servings using a single can of beans, but it would be easy to double or triple to feed more people. The more you scale it up and the narrower and deeper the the saucepan you use, the longer it may take for the liquid to reduce, so keep an eye on it and allow a few more minutes for it to thicken if necessary.
This is an unpretentious weeknight kind of soup. The amount of black peppercorns is right, but don’t be alarmed. They give the soup a nice background heat. But because of them, this isn’t the kind of soup that you want to leave simmering on the stove for hours (I did that once, and the black pepper flavor took over). This is vegan if you make it with water or vegetable stock and gluten free if the stock you use is certified gluten free (or you could always use water).
This is a reliable, warming, easy-to-make, mostly-from-the-pantry meal. You can adjust the spices to your preference. I start with whole spices and grind them in an inexpensive coffee grinder that I dedicate to spice grinding (you probably don’t want cumin and brown mustard seed powder in your coffee). You can use pre-ground spices if you prefer, but cut the amounts in half because whole spices take up more volume in a measuring spoon. You can make it with any Indian curry powder you like. I usually make this with coconut oil because I love the subtle added coconut fragrance when I’m cooking with Indian flavors, but you can use a neutral oil or ghee if you prefer. I use frozen peas because I usually make this dish in colder months when fresh peas are scarce. I usually serve this over basmati rice (either white or brown), but it’s also good with naan or pita or on its own. You can top with a dollop of plain yogurt if you want to add some creaminess. This is a great make-ahead meal–it keeps well and the flavor deepens as it sits.