A week’s worth of perfectly portioned meals, organized neatly in tupperware. Steamed veggies and grilled chicken breast times seven. Sure, one one hand, #mealprep is inspirational to budgeters and dieters alike (we’ve definitely double-tapped those photos on Instagram). But on the other, eating identical meals day after day seems a little boring.
There is a way to get the best of both worlds—a week’s worth of healthy meals you can easily pre-prep on the Sundays, but have enough variety to satisfy your tastebuds. And it all starts with cooking a big pot of plain black beans.
Why black beans? For one thing, they’re incredibly economical: a package of dried beans cost just $0.23 per ½ cup serving. Plus, they’re a great source of vegetarian protein, as well as fiber, iron, and calcium.
Most importantly, they’re versatile. You can whip up a big batch at the beginning of the week and work them into dish after dish (even dessert!) without ever getting bored—if you play your cards right. (Check out a refresher on cooking dried beans here.) Here are five creative ideas ways to cook with black beans, which are bound to become a staple in your house, if they’re not already!
Fajita bowls or tacos
Dress up plain black beans with caramelized onions and peppers for a quick and easy vegetarian Mexican dish. The combo makes an ideal fajita bowl base or soft taco filling, especially topped off with sliced avocado, salsa, and cojita cheese.
Black beans don’t always have to be paired with traditional Mexican flavors. In fact, they go with almost any type of salad. Go nuts with whatever veggies you have on hand—or try some of the foolproof combinations below!
- Corn, roma tomatoes, and bell peppers
- Quinoa, jicama, and green onions
- Quinoa, avocado, and mango
- Roasted sweet potatoes, pumpkin seeds, and cilantro
- Barley, cherry tomatoes, monterey jack cheese, and spinach
Thanks to their creamy texture and protein content, black beans make a hearty, filling soup. Try something simple, like this recipe with crispy bacon, sauteed onions, and crushed tomatoes you can make in less than 30 minutes. Or for thicker, richer soup, purée it: heat black beans, tomatoes, celery, garlic, and onion, then toss it all in the blender and serve.
Stay with us—beans have a place in protein shakes and smoothies. Especially black beans, which have a light flavor that’s easily masked with a dash of cacao powder. Adding just 1/2 cup provides 7 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein, and 10 percent of the daily recommended value of iron—and it’s so much cheaper than buying protein powder.
Bet you didn’t see this one coming. Even though it sounds crazy, black beans can take the place of flour in brownie recipes—simultaneously making them gluten-free and adding tons of protein and fiber. The extra fudgy texture is just a bonus—and don’t worry, no one will ever know the difference with these recipes.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho