This Is My Favorite Secret to Transforming a Can of Beans

So they taste like French fries.

White beans in tin can close up


White beans in tin can close up

Photo by: Dusan Zidar

Dusan Zidar

Anyone else leaning heavily on canned beans these days? A few weeks ago, I stocked up on all sorts of canned beans — from chickpeas to black beans to humble kidney beans — and cooked up a storm of chilis and white bean soups for the freezer. I’ve tossed them into salads. Mashed them into bean burgers. Wrapped them up in tortillas. But my hands-down favorite way to prepare them?

Crispy pan-fried beans.

Nope, not refried beans, silly. I’m talking about beans that crackle like a good French fry when you bite through the skin into their soft, pillowy interiors.

You can pan fry any sort of bean, though we prefer white beans because you can watch them turn golden brown as they cook — a good indicator of doneness.

The beauty of crispy beans is that you can use them as the base of a meal, as a side or as a crispy topping. Serve a fried egg over them and dinner's done. Sprinkle them over a bowl of pasta or soup. Adorn a sheet tray of roasted vegetables. Toss them into a salad. Serve them with wilted dark leafy greens. Once you've made a batch, you'll invent endless ways to use them.

Now that you're all ears, here's what you'll need to get started: a can of beans, olive oil and salt. Only three ingredients!

Photo by: Heath Goldman

Heath Goldman

  1. Drain your beans and give them a good rinse. Questionable canned bean goo clinging to the beans at the bottom of the can, begone!
  2. Spread out the beans on a few sheets of paper towels and roll them around with another paper towel to dry them off as well as you can. Moisture inhibits crispness, so you’re mopping it away.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add enough olive oil so it comes up the side 1/4-inch. Could you use neutral oil? I don't prefer it for this technique because the flavor of the olive oil infuses into the beans as they cook. Carefully add the beans to the skillet and spread them out in an even layer.
  4. Simmer the beans until they’re crisp, 20 to 30 minutes. If you’re cooking white beans, they’ll turn an even golden brown color. Feel free to use a slotted spoon to remove a bean or two along the way, drain it on a paper towel and bite into it to test crispness. When the beans are done cooking, remove them with a slotted spoon, drain them on paper towels and sprinkle them with salt. Don’t toss any small bits or skins – they will be delightfully crackly and crisp. Strain the olive oil through a fine mesh strainer into a measuring cup and you can use it later to cook something else.

Photo by: Heath Goldman

Heath Goldman

At this point, the forces of nature dictate that you'll be strongly tempted to eat an entire handful. If you like munching on them plain, you should probably turn around and make an entire batch that's dedicated to snacking — lest you eat half the beans before turning them into dinner.

Photo by: Heath Goldman

Heath Goldman

Related Links:

Photo by: Heath Goldman

Heath Goldman

Next Up

This Common Ingredient Makes the Best Dairy-Free Ice Cream

And it’s probably sitting in your pantry right now...

Food Network Magazine: November 2013 Recipe Index

131 great recipes, including chefs’ 50 best Thanksgiving tips, a festive cake roll and 50 vegetable sides

Food Network Magazine: November 2012 Recipe Index

143 recipes (plus 35 side dishes!), including make-ahead breads, 50 easy appetizers, and an Iron Chef-worthy Thanksgiving spread

How to Make “The Bread”

Ree’s family and friends love her two-ingredient wonder dubbed “The Bread.” Here’s how to make it.

50 Vegetable Side Dish Recipes

You won't run short on side dishes this year...or next.

Thanksgiving Sides

Cooking and serving tips for Thanksgiving side dishes

Secret Ingredient Sides

Jazz up your Turkey Day sides with unexpected ingredients. Forget same old, same old sides, The Kitchen's got three new ideas to perk up your Thanksgiving feast.

My Love-Hate Relationship with Green Bean Casserole

How a can of soup architectured Thanksgiving’s most-popular side dish.