Give Canned Beans Slow-Cooked Flavor

The trick is to create a concentrated flavor base that allows the beans to absorb more flavor in less time.

Slow Flavor Fast Beans

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

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  • Kenji Lopez-Alt

    Help Me, Kenji

    Kenji Lopez-Alt is the chief creative officer of Serious Eats, where he writes The Food Lab, unraveling the science of home cooking.

Question: Slow flavors in fast beans: Possible?

Answer: Yes, it's possible. Canned beans just need a fast-track flavor boost.

I'm doing the unthinkable here and disagreeing with my in-laws, who are certified dried-bean purists and insist that beans need a long, slow simmer to develop rich flavors. The trick to cooking canned beans is to create a concentrated flavor base so that the beans absorb more flavor in less time, without losing their texture.

Rinse and drain the beans; then get busy with that flavor base. I like to start with low-sodium chicken stock or broth, into which I pack as many savory aromatics as I can. Sautéed or raw vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, and garlic are great additions, along with fresh herbs like parsley, oregano, rosemary, and thyme (use all four, or pick your favorites). Add a couple of bay leaves and a few black peppercorns tied in cheesecloth (or just use a tea ball). The rind off a block of Parmesan cheese will add an incredible umami boost.

It takes all of 30 minutes of stovetop simmering to get beans that are every bit as flavorful as (and much, much easier than) what you'd get out of what amounts to a day's worth of soaking, rinsing, and cooking dried beans. And that means more time to hang with the in-laws.

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