One Little Trick, Way Better Canned Beans

A simple, Genius trick for extra-delicious beans—plus a springy salad to toss them in.

May 13, 2020

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

When we’re casting about the kitchen for a quick lunch or dinner (that isn’t cereal) (again), canned beans are there for us. But we’re not letting them show off as much as we should.

We send them into soups, smashes, and other cozy mushes, but—in the time it takes to gather the rest of your meal (and yourself)—you could be eating those same canned beans with shimmery, crackling surfaces like hot French fries.

In fact, you will eat a couple handfuls before they make it to the plate—maybe budget that in.

French fry salad. Photo by Kristen Miglore

As you start throwing your meal together, just rinse, drain, and lovingly towel off your beans, toss them in olive oil and salt, and stick in the oven for 20 minutes to crisp and sizzle (1). That’s it.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I placed the roasted asparagus, warm beans, and some oil cured tuna on top, and then garnished with shaved parmesan and a light sprinkling of salt. I plan to use these beans instead of croutons on my next Caesar salad. Thanks for the great recipe!”
— Lynne G.

“The roasted beans here make an appearance in many of the recipes,” Allison Arevalo (2) writes in her newest cookbook, Pasta Friday. “And that’s because I eat them. All. The. Time. I eat them with pasta, with bread, with a spoon, and my picky children eat them, too, so they’re on a steady rotation at my house.”

To put in rotation.

Though this recipe calls for cannellini, any canned bean will be improved by this simple technique. I’ve been doing it to a lot of chickpeas lately, which we already know love to crisp.

And if you’re working your way through a pot of beans you simmered from dried: For one thing, I envy your meal-planning and for another, yes, they will also respond well to this olive-oil-and-dry-heat treatment. For all of the above, the key is drying them well.

BYO Acid.

There are few meals crispy beans wouldn’t improve, but I especially loved them starring in a springy salad from Allison that changed what I think a salad needs. Because, apparently, the lemon (or other acid) that I mindlessly pour over my lettuces has been keeping me from tasting much else: the green wildness of asparagus, the peppery nip of arugula, the chill of fresh mint—not to mention the creaminess and comfort of a good crunchy bean.

Allison doesn’t make a dressing at all, just olive oil and flaky salt, and lets the ingredients hold their own. Next time you’re making a salad—whether it’s this one or using up whatever you’ve got in the crisper—consider giving your vegetables the same opportunity. And get some beans in the oven, too.

(1) You can also crisp beans on the stovetop if you’d rather not turn on the oven (just dry them well first). See Heidi Swanson’s Pan-Fried Giant White Beans With Kale for one way to doll them up.

(2) Yes, the same Allison Arevalo from Monday's New York Times story about selling 120 pounds of homemade pasta a week from her stoop in Park Slope, Brooklyn, while she waits to be able to open her new restaurant Pasta Louise.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
Listen & Subscribe

From our new podcast network, The Genius Recipe Tapes is lifelong Genius hunter Kristen Miglore’s 10-year-strong column in audio form, featuring all the uncut gems from the weekly column and video series. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss out.

Listen & Subscribe

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Diane
  • Lynne Gillette Nagle
    Lynne Gillette Nagle
  • ALC
  • Lynette Sutton
    Lynette Sutton
  • Sandy
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Diane May 22, 2020
love the idea of roasting the beans -- I'm definitely going to do this.
Lynne G. May 18, 2020
Love this idea and loved the salad! I made things extra easy on myself and roasted the asparagus on a separate small baking sheet along with the beans for the first 10 minutes. I then made a composed salad by tossing the arugula with the mint, some olive oil, and S&P, then placed it in large shallow bowls. I placed the roasted asparagus, warm beans, and some oil cured tuna on top, and then garnished with shaved parmesan and a light sprinkling of salt. I plan to use these beans instead of croutons on my next Caesar salad. Thanks for the great recipe!
Kristen M. May 18, 2020
Thanks, Lynne—your variation sounds so good.
ALC May 16, 2020
Hey there Lovely Lady! I made the asparagus roasted/toasted bean salad tonight for dinner and it was a BIG hit. I loved the beans and the asparagus and herb made it all so fresh. I did however forget the anchovy rosettes bit there’s always next time. I intend to use the leftover salad for an omelet filling tomorrow morning to get us off to a hearty start to a day of yard clean up. Love your videos and your recipes 😘🇨🇦A
Kristen M. May 18, 2020
Thank you—love that idea! I never know what to do with leftover salad, so I always just try to eat it all.
Lynette S. May 16, 2020
I made the roasted Great Northern beans last night to go on the entrée salad I made for dinner. I love the flavor and textural dimension that they added to the salad. We've made a lot of salads during the stay-at-home orders and this was a nice addition. I will be using this roasted bean frequently in the future. Oh, not touching the anchovy thing, sorry!
Kristen M. May 18, 2020
:) Thanks for being honest! I was pleasantly surprised by the anchovy—kind of got my heart racing like hot sauce.
Sandy May 15, 2020
What temp do you use to roast the beans?
Kristen M. May 15, 2020
375F—the full recipe is linked above near the bottom of the article, with a brown button that says "View Recipe".
Janet E. May 14, 2020
You mentioned (in passing) a way to save the mint - something about an inch of water and something being sealed. Would you please elaborate on this method of keeping herbs?
Kristen M. May 15, 2020
Yes! This is the article I was referring to:
Liz S. May 14, 2020
Another great video and seeing your and Mike the cameraman's beautiful daughter was a bonus!

I am going to miss the from home videos when things go back to the studio - such fun to see family and pets. I did learn the crispy bean trick from Heidi and also about Rancho Gordo beans which introduced me to a wide variety of beans and haven't found any that I do not enjoy. I love this combo of asparagus, arugula and mint- Thank you!
Liz S. May 14, 2020
I know this article is canned beans … but I have a 4 year old Instant Pot which is my bean cooker (along with lots of other things) … I used to be an always soaker, but about 3 months ago wanted pinto beans NOW and so skipped the soak and lengthened the time. I thought they tasted better than my soaked versions. No adverse internal affects, but I do eat beans and many raw/lightly cooked veg so I guess I'd say my system is used to all :) And beans freeze very well.
Kristen M. May 15, 2020
Thanks, Liz! I was so thrilled when I learned that dried beans didn't need to be soaked, as I'm not much for planning a day ahead.
kskorman May 14, 2020
Still awaiting an answer? Can you make in advance and then store? How? How long?
cranberry May 14, 2020
the beans kind of lose their crunch - I think they are best right away. (We've been eating "crunchy garbanzos" since our kids' preschool days, many moons ago.) I have not found a great way to store them. Maybe someone will pipe up with an idea that works.
cranberry May 14, 2020
One more detail is that we prepare smaller quantities in the toaster oven - don't have to worry about leftovers then.
Claudia T. May 14, 2020
Definitely going to try this- I've been wanting to eat more beans, but I don't have the time or ability or even desire to soak from dry right now, and the pan fry spattered and popped all over. Straight out of a can doesn't feel like I did "enough" and I think i'd like this texture.
Kristen M. May 15, 2020
I hope you love it! I've found it really turns canned beans into something entirely new.
Lisa S. May 13, 2020
Thanks for this. Sucha good bean tip.
Your foodie baby is delicious!!!
Kristen M. May 15, 2020
:) thank you!
JenCooks May 13, 2020
Such a cute kid! I’m going to try this technique with pinto beans; we’re having burritos tonight—might be a fun addition to the topping options.
Kristen M. May 15, 2020
Thank you! Hope you loved it with the pinto beans.
JenCooks May 15, 2020
We did, they made a great addition to the roast chicken burritos with pickled vegetables and lime crema. Thanks so much for the tip!
fen1027 May 13, 2020
What temperature for oven?
Chey May 13, 2020
375 temp. Click on the View Recipe widget-thing to get the full recipe instructions. I have navy and black beans. Think I'll do both.
kskorman May 13, 2020
Can the beans be saved and stored?
Kristen M. May 15, 2020
I've kept leftover crispy beans and chickpeas in the fridge and then just quickly re-warmed them in a little olive oil in a pan. I bet a quick toast in the oven or toaster oven would work well, too.
Rosalind P. May 13, 2020
Don't throw away the liquid from the canned beans. Use it in soups or sauces. Just be careful with salt, if the liquid is salted. And I have successfully made meringe from chick pea liquid -- fancy Latin name, aqua faba. There's practically a cult out there for baking with it and using it in place of egg whites. I haven't gone beyond the meringue thing, but it really worked!
Rosalind P. May 13, 2020
I sometimes wish aqua faba was available as a shelf-stable item (like the non-dairy milks.) SOOO much hummas on the market and so much of that liquid just thrown away. Maybe someone will do it.
Yirgach May 13, 2020
Make sure you read the ingredients label on the can before using any of the liquid. A lot of labels include sugar and other ingredients which you might not personally want. There can be a huge amount of additives, even in the "organic" brands. Just remember, a 5 pound sack of dried beans has a shelf life about 10 times longer than a canned version. Just sayin...
mdelgatty May 14, 2020
Uh, I haven't been able to bring myself to use what seems the chemical-laden, likely metal infused liquid from canned beans for anything. Does anyone know if liquid from home-cooked beans works as aqua faba?
Rosalind P. May 14, 2020
There are brands that use the safe material for cans and have nothing but the beans and sometimes salt. But yes, the aqua faba from home-cooked beans works. If you do Facebook (I stopped years ago) there is a very active, very knowledgeable and creative Aqua Faba group. Everything you ever wanted to know and a lot that you didn't even know you wanted to know...
cranberry May 14, 2020
As far as I have read, they don't know how safe the new can linings are or aren't. They just do not contain BPA. I wish more things came in glass - we opt for glass packaging any time it is available even if it costs a bit more.
mdelgatty May 14, 2020
And glass is essentially a renewable resource...