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Pantry Staples: Kidney Beans

How to use up those random ingredients in your press.

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How many tins of kidney beans have you got lying around in your pantry? Here, we examine kidney beans, giving you all the info you need to know about this popular bean, plus a couple of ways to use up any tins you have.

As part of our  pantry staples series, we will be looking at the ingredients that most people usually have in their press – chickpeas, beans, noodles and the like. Today we’re looking at kidney beans, which are extremely popular around the world.

Kidney beans are thought to have originated in Peru around 8,000 years ago as part of a large group called ‘common beans’. They were then spread around the Americas by migrating tribes, before being introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 15th century. Kidney beans were then brought to Africa and Asia by Spanish and Portuguese traders, becoming a key part of many cuisines.

Since their migration, kidney beans have become an integral, inexpensive form of protein in many countries around the world. The largest commercial producers of dried kidney beans are India, China, Brazil and the United States.

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Kidney beans are commonly used in Mexican dishes and chilli con carne, image: Getty Images
Kidney beans are commonly used in Mexican dishes and chilli con carne, image: Getty Images

As we said in our previous post about chickpeas, kidney beans can be bought in bulk, soaked and cooked instead of buying tins. While this method is sure to save you money, it requires more work and time. To soak kidney beans, first check through them, making sure to remove any stones or debris, then soak the beans in water overnight. After, drain and rinse the beans, before boiling and simmering them until they are tender. Kidney beans have a toxin on their skin, so it’s important to ensure that they’re boiled for 20 minutes before simmering them: This destroys the toxin, making them safe to eat. If using tinned kidney beans, drain and rinse them before you use them, but you don’t need to cook them before use as the manufacturer has already done this for you.

Kidney beans are super versatile and tiny, nutritional powerhouses: They’re full of protein, making them a great addition to vegan and vegetarian diets. They’re also far lower in fat than meat, which is good for anyone trying to reduce saturated fat in their diet. A fantastic source of fibre, kidney beans are a great way to bulk up any meal.

Read more: Back to basics with scallops

Kidney beans are a great addition to vegetarian diet. Image from Getty Images.
Kidney beans are a great addition to vegetarian diet. Image from Getty Images.
Looking for some inspiration? These five ideas are our top ways to use up tinned kidney beans:

  • Veggie burgers: If you’re ever in a pinch for a vegetarian option, soften some onions and garlic in a pan and add some spices and seasoning. Blitz half a tin of chickpeas until smooth in a food processor, then add to a bowl with the onions, garlic, seasoning and the rest of the kidney beans. Shape into patties and cook like burgers.
  • Soup-er soups: Adding kidney beans is a great way to bulk up a soup. They can be blitzed with the vegetables to thicken it or keep them whole for extra texture.
  • Spaghetti saviour: Cut down on carbs by cooking off less pasta than you normally would, then bulk up your pasta sauce with a tin of kidney beans. It’s a great way to add extra fibre and protein, plus kidney beans work really well in bolognese.
  • Delightful dips: When making homemade dips for a party, it can be easy to stick to the old favourites of guacamole and hummus. To spice things up a bit, try making salsa with kidney beans, tomatoes, corn, spring onions and coriander. Alternatively, use kidney beans instead of chickpeas in your favourite hummus recipe, adding in extra lemon juice and coriander for flavour.
  • Tasty tortillas: Pan fry some kidney beans with seasoning, onions and paprika, roughly crushing them as you cook. Spoon the kidney bean mix into a tortilla and serve with halloumi, crispy lettuce and hot sauce for a quick and easy lunch.

Kidney beans are well-known for their use in chilli con carne, a classic Tex-mex dish. This recipe below from Meere’s Foods is one of our favourites – they use mixed beans but we love using just kidney beans instead. Click here for the recipe.

Meeres Chilli Con Carne
Meeres Chilli Con Carne