Here's How To Season Canned Black Beans If You're Unfamiliar

A can of black beans can come in handy when you're searching for a protein to add to your meal in a pinch. Since they're already cooked, all you have to do is drain the can of black beans of their liquid (if necessary), give them a rinse, and they're ready to eat. They're ready to eat if you prefer a bland black bean, that is.

Depending on what dish you're making, you can season a can of black beans in a multitude of ways. For almost any recipe with black beans, starting with salt will go a long way. But typically smoky and warm flavors from spices like cumin, chili powder, and dried oregano bring out the best in the hearty, savory black bean. Beyond spices, you can bring flavor to your black beans with other ingredients such as cheese or fresh herbs like cilantro to create a meal with rich, Tex-Mex-inspired flavors. And if you really want to keep the beans extra creamy and smoky, there's no need to drain the canned black beans of their liquid at all.

Different preparation methods for canned black beans

How you want to prepare and season your black beans depends on how bean-forward the dish you're making is. If you're making a simple black bean soup where the beans are the star of the show, you're going to need some aromatics as the supporting characters: sauteeing diced white onion, minced garlic, and even chopped jalapeños. Sprinkle a mixture of savory, warm spices like cumin, chili powder, and even ground chipotle pepper on the black beans while you wait for the aromatics to cook down, then add the seasoned beans to the pot.

If you're planning to use canned black beans as the main source of protein in some tacos, a quesadilla, salad, or grain bowl, you want them to stand out with deep flavor. Treat them as you would a meat protein and make a marinade. When creating a black bean marinade, reach for tangy, zesty, or sweet ingredients that'll liven up the chewy, savory black beans. Lime juice or lime zest, apple cider vinegar, or even a touch of honey or maple syrup can bring a whole new depth to the beans. Ideally, the black beans get to soak for at least an hour, but you could prep ahead and have them sit in the refrigerator in a covered container overnight for easy, flavor-packed protein when you need it the next day.

Canned black bean liquid is the key to flavor

If you're using black beans in meals like a salad, you'll want to make sure you drain and rinse the canned beans. The liquid will just make your greens soggy and your salad suddenly becomes soupy. But for recipes with more of a stew-like texture, think twice before draining the beans. That canned black bean liquid is the motherlode of flavor. It's slightly salty while concentrated with the flavor essence of the beans themselves, as it's the leftover liquid the beans were originally cooked in.

Not only is that black bean liquid packed with an earthy, nutty flavor, but it's also thick with the extra starches from the beans. These starches can help thicken up your stew, soup, or sauce, especially if you're making the classic aforementioned black bean soup. If you choose to cook with the black bean liquid, you also likely won't need to add much more salt, as the salt content is already high to help preserve the black beans while they're canned. No matter what you're making, seek out a balance of rich, savory spices and bright, zesty ingredients that subsequently complement and contrast the flavor of your canned black beans.