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6 Versatile Bean Recipes

Small but mighty, beans are one of the most versatile foods around. Around the world, millions of smallholder farmers grow beans to feed their families and make a living. Prized for their high protein, nutrients and fiber content, beans are helping families reduce child malnutrition and stunting in many developing countries, especially when other foods are scarce. Beans are also good for soil, helping farmers reduce their costs since they can keep their fields fertile and healthy without using a lot of expensive fertilizers.

From investing in research to working directly with farmers and mothers in rural areas, Feed the Future is helping rural families improve the production of beans and learn about beans’ benefits. By teaming up with U.S. universities, we’re helping farming families combat challenges such as those imposed by climate change, pests, and plant diseases to keep beans on the table.

This fall, we invited you to help us spread the word about agriculture’s potential to reduce hunger, poverty, and malnutrition by sending us your favorite bean recipes, and you responded in force. We received dozens of entries from across the United States and abroad!

Your level of creativity was impressive. The recipes featured many types of beans — all versatile in their own ways. The votes are in, and the winners are listed below. If you’re looking for a bean recipe for your dinner table, we encourage you to try one (or all!) of these winning recipes.

Thanks to everyone who participated, from sharing the contest with friends and followers to sending in recipes. You can still help share the word this fall that we can make an impact against hunger, poverty and malnutrition.

Here’s how:

  • Prepare one of the winning recipes and post a picture of your creation on Twitter or Facebook. Add the hashtag #feedthefuture to make sure we see it!

  • Work in a restaurant? Feature one of these delicious recipes on your December or 2017 menu with a short note about the food producers who make the ingredients possible.

  • Share these social media infographics with facts about beans and the efforts that are helping poor families grow a better future.

And the winners are… 

Best Overall Recipes:

Best Sweet Recipe:

Best Savory Recipe:

Most Creative Recipe:


First Place – Best Overall:Red Bean Kotlet (Burger) with Red Bean and Beet Salad

Submitted by:  Sayora Khalimova (Tajikistan)

Khalimova works with people who receive Feed the Future support in Tajikistan. The recipes below are “from our Feed the Future beneficiaries who, through the support of Feed the Future and USAID, published a cookbook to provide parents with healthy and nutritious recipes for their children,” she wrote.

Ingredients for Red Bean Burger (Kotlet)

2 lb. red beans (or two 15 oz. cans)

2 boiled eggs

1 medium onion, chopped

½ cup all-purpose flour

2 cloves garlic, minced

Iodized salt, to taste

2 cups of vegetable oil, divided


  • If not using canned beans, soak the red beans overnight. Boil until soft.
  • Chop boiled eggs into small chunks. Cook onion and garlic in ½ cup of vegetable oil until fragrant.
  • Place red beans, onion, garlic, eggs, flour and salt in a food processor or blender. After the mixture is blended, form palm-sized patties.
  • Fry patties in remaining oil. Serve warm.

Ingredients for Red Bean and Beet Salad

1 pound red beans (or one 15 oz. can)

½ pound red beets

¼ pound carrots

1 pound potatoes

1 small onion, chopped

¼ pound dill pickles

1 pound sauerkraut

⅛ cup vegetable oil

Iodized salt to taste

Freshly chopped green onions and cilantro to taste


  • If not using canned beans, soak the red beans overnight. Boil until soft, and then add salt.
  • Peel and chop the potatoes, carrots, and beets into small cubes. Boil until slightly soft. Let vegetable cubes cool completely.
  • After cooling, mix with red beans, onion, pickles and sauerkraut in a large bowl.
  • Toss with vegetable oil, salt and greens.

Second Place – Best Overall: Malawi Style Refried Beans

Submitted by: Trevor Bidstrup (Carnation, Washington)

Bidstrup, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, wrote, “This dish was inspired by a local ‘n yimba ndiwo’ (bean relish) made in Malawi, which is the most common way of preparing beans in my area. To make the local version, people just boil the beans and then add tomatoes. I wanted to encourage the use of beans in my community as a valuable source of protein and other nutrients, so I began experimenting with new recipes to get people excited about eating beans, since beans are typically seen as a poor substitute for animal meat. What I came up with was a Mexican/Malawian fusion that was inspired from my time in Malawi and my restaurant experience back in America.”


1 cup dry beans (kidney or cannellini work well, but almost any variety can be used)

1 cup diced orange-fleshed sweet potato

1 medium onion

5 cloves of garlic (depending on size)

2 medium tomatoes


  • Dry beans typically need 4.5 hours of cooking if they haven’t been soaked or 3 hours if soaked overnight—plan accordingly! I would recommend using a basket cooker to reduce fuel costs.
  • Boil beans until soft, then drain water completely.
  • Refill pot with water and add orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Boil until potatoes are soft.
  • Drain water and smash bean/potato mixture into a smooth consistency.
  • In a separate pan, sauté onions and garlic in oil until browned.
  • Dice then add the tomatoes to onions and garlic. Cook until tomatoes begin falling apart.
  • Combine tomatoes, onions and garlic with the mashed beans and potatoes.

Serve with rice, tortillas or fresh salsa—and enjoy.

Third Place – Best Overall: Honduran Chili with Soybean Gazpacho

Submitted by: Carol Elwin (Fintrac, Honduras)

“I like this recipe because it’s a bit different from many traditional Honduran recipes in that it uses soybeans in addition to black beans, adding more protein and nutritional value. The chili and extra veggies rounds out the flavor profile and is a crowd-pleaser!”


½ cup soybean gazpacho

2 cups cooked black beans

3 tablespoons tomato paste

½ onion, chopped

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon chili

Salt and spices to taste


Soybean Gazpacho

  • Soak soybeans for at least 24 hours.
  • Remove soybean shells with plenty of water.
  • Grind soybeans.
  • Strain with water.


  • Sauté the soybean gazpacho with oil.
  • Add the onion, chili, tomato paste, salt and spices.
  • Once it is well fried, add beans to the mix and stir well.
  • Serve!

Best Sweet Recipe: Rice Pudding and Pumpkin Pie with Beans

Submitted by: Magdalena Escudero (Barcelona, Spain)

“2016 is the International Year of Pulses, and I am excited that Feed the Future has chosen to spotlight beans in its recipe contest this year. This pumpkin pie recipe incorporates white beans and typifies many of the innovative recipes with which we promote the use of pulses as a functional, nutrition-boosting ingredient in breads, soups, smoothies and even desserts.

The combination of pulses and cereals, beans and rice in this recipe is a perfect way to assure the consumption of high-quality protein from purely vegetable sources. Pulses are rich in the amino acid lysine and low in methionine while cereals have high methionine and low lysine content.”

Ingredients for rice pudding

1 ½ cups whole milk

⅓ cup short- or medium-grain white rice

¼ cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 pinch of salt

Ingredients for pumpkin pie

1 cup navy or great northern beans, cooked

1 ½ cups pumpkin, cooked and drained

¾ cup brown sugar

¾ cup heavy cream

3 eggs

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon salt


  • Heat the milk and cinnamon stick in a pan, simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the rice and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Add the sugar and the pinch of salt, stir until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer a few more minutes until the milk has been absorbed by the rice.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick.
  • Pre-heat oven at 350º F.
  • Cover the bottom of a 10 x 2 ½-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
  • Purée all the ingredients except for the rice pudding.
  • Cover evenly the prepared pan with the rice pudding. Pour the purée on top.
  • Bake for about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Run a spatula or a sharp knife around the edge to loosen the pie from the pan. This is to prevent it from cracking. Let it cool completely before removing from the pan. 

Can be served with heavy whipped cream.

* According to the author, this dish is appropriate for those with celiac disease.

Best Savory Recipe: Samlor Kako: Khmer Small Fish and Vegetable Stew

Submitted by: Kira Barwich (WorldFish Center, Cambodia)

“Samlor kako, literally translated as stirring soup, is a classic Cambodian dish. It is considered a nutritious and healthy one-pot dish made with small fish and vegetables and it is promoted in the food-insecure Tonle Sap region in central Cambodia to encourage more women and children, in the first 1,000 days of life, to eat more fish and beans. Made thick, this dish can be mashed and fed as a complementary food to young children, starting at 6 months of age.”


2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 lb. small fish, scaled, washed and cooked whole*

1 tablespoon prahok (Khmer fish paste)

2 tablespoons tik trei (iron-fortified fish sauce)

2 teaspoons palm sugar or light brown sugar

1 teaspoon iodized salt (or to taste)

4 tablespoons ground toasted rice

5 cups water (or fishstock for flavor)

3 tablespoons green kroeung, a spice paste (see below for recipe)

1 pumpkin wedge (about 7 oz.), peeled, seeds removed, cut into bite-sized chunks

1 green papaya wedge (about 7 oz.), peeled, washed, seeds removed and shredded

2 handfuls long beans or French beans (about 7 oz.), cut lengthwise into 1 inch pieces

2 green bananas (or 1 green plantain), washed then peeled and shredded

½ cup trob put-nhorng (pea eggplant), stalks removed, washed and slightly crushed just before using

1 small eggplant, washed, trimmed, quartered and cut diagonally into slices ½ inch thick

2 big handfuls sleuk ma-raeh (bitter melon leaves) or spinach leaves

*Mekong flying barb, yellow tail rasbora, slender rasbora or any small, firm-fleshed fish may be used.

Green Kroeung can be made by mixing and grinding the following ingredients into a paste.

3 tablespoons lemon grass leaves, very thinly sliced

4 kaffir lime leaves or zest of ¼ kaffir lime

1 tablespoon peeled and chopped turmeric roots

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

4 shallots, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon iodized salt


  • Before preparing this dish, wash hands with soap and clean water. Vegetables must be washed in clean water prior to preparation.
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add the green kroeung then stir-fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Take care that it does not burn. Stir in the fish and prahok, and continue to fry for a further 2-3 minutes until the fish is well coated.
  • To prevent the fish from breaking, lower the heat, remove from the saucepan, cover to keep warm, and set aside.
  • Turn the heat back up to medium; stir in the pumpkin, green papaya and long beans; and mix well. Pour the water/stock and the roasted ground rice into the mixture. Bring to a boil, and cook for 4-5 minutes.
  • Return the fish to the saucepan, add green bananas, crushed pea eggplant and sliced eggplant, and bring back to a boil. Lower the heat slightly and continue cooking with lid on for a further 10-12 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the fish is cooked through. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  • Stir in the bitter melon leaves and remove the saucepan from heat immediately.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Most Creative Recipe: Peruvian Strained Beans (Frijol Colado)

Submitted by: Bruno Benavides (Baltimore, Maryland)

“This is a dessert originally prepared by the large Afro-Peruvian community. This recipe is very special to me – it sends me back to my childhood when I used to go with my parents to Pisco, my mom’s hometown 200 miles south of Lima. I can clearly remember the street vendors at the bus station offering ‘frijol colado’ in small containers made with dried pumpkins. My dad used to buy them so he can bring it home and share it with the family. It was always difficult to resist the delicate taste of cloves. By the time we were back to Lima, the containers made with dried pumpkins would be empty.

The original recipe was made with molasses and much more sugar than the one I shared. I modified it to avoid the use of excessive amounts of sugar.”


1 lb. raw black beans or 15.5 oz. can of cooked black beans

2 ⅓ cups brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

2 cups evaporated milk

2 cups water


  • Boil the raw black beans in 8 cups of water. (Disregard this step if using a can of cooked black beans.)
  • Blend the cooked black beans with the cloves and evaporated milk.
  • Dissolve the sugar in the 2 cups of water over medium heat and stir constantly. Do not boil the water to avoid sugar crystallization.
  • Once the sugar has dissolved completely, add the blended beans to the syrup and continue stirring over medium heat until you can see the bottom of the saucepan.
  • Let the preparation cool down and serve in individual small pudding plates.
  • Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top of the dessert.

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