Larry Crowe, Associated Press
This Triple-Bean Casserole is a quick and colorful dish that uses canned beans, a protein-rich staple that keeps its nutrients during canning.

Though sometimes called the "poor man's meat," beans are rich in protein and have plenty to offer a healthy diet.

Packed with fiber and other plant-based nutrients, beans are low-fat, can prolong the feeling of fullness after a meal and help control blood-sugar levels.

Many people won't bother cooking dry beans, which can require soaking overnight and, depending on the variety, long cooking on the stove. But convenient canned beans are an essential for any healthy pantry.

The good news is that canned beans keep their nutrients during the canning process.

Canned beans are available in numerous varieties and usually are found alongside the canned vegetables at the grocer. But be sure to check the ethnic aisle, too. You are likely to find less common, but delicious, varieties there.

Beans can replace some or all of the meat called for in many dishes. They also can be pureed (with seasonings) to make quick dips and spreads.

Be sure to always rinse and drain canned beans before using them to remove excess salt and indigestible sugars that are in the cloudy liquid.

This recipe for Triple-Bean Casserole uses three varieties of beans to make a colorful and quick stovetop dish that is reminiscent of baked beans. To make a vegetarian version, simply leave out bacon or use diced smoked tofu instead.


Start to finish: 50 minutes (15 minutes active)

Servings: 6

4 slices bacon

1 teaspoon canola oil

1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

2/3 cup tomato ketchup

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons molasses

1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 cup water

15 1/2-ounce can great northern beans, rinsed and drained

15 1/2-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

15 1/2-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Following the package directions, cook the bacon until crisp, then crumble and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over low. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the ketchup, vinegar, molasses and mustard and stir together thoroughly. Add water, all the beans and bacon. Bring the beans to a simmer, cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Nutrition information per serving: 278 calories; 4 g fat (1 g saturated); 6 mg cholesterol; 48 g carbohydrate; 15 g protein; 11 g fiber; 730 mg sodium.