Time-Tested Recipes to Transform the Beans in Your Pantry

Time-Tested Recipes to Transform the Beans in Your Pantry

Written by: Margaret Willes


Published on: March 2, 2023

As a kid, Brooklyn native Ibraheem Basir lived for dinnertime, but he couldn’t stand not knowing what was on the menu. Thankfully, whenever his mom was cooking dried beans—black-eyed peas, to be specific—she always observed the traditional soak-beans-overnight rule, eliminating any suspense as soon as he set foot in the kitchen that morning.

“I could wake up and see this big metal bowl on the counter, and then I kind of knew, Okay, we’re gonna have black peas,” he says. It also meant his mother, who’s from South Carolina, would be preparing other beloved Southern classics like corn bread to go with it. “It kind of gave me this advance notice, and so I feel like that added to my love of the dish,” he says.

Those black-eyed peas were the first bean dish he knew and loved (see the recipe below), and they laid the foundation for the company he would found decades later: A Dozen Cousins, which focuses on bringing authentic recipes and whole ingredients to the dinner table (quickly) with ready-made bean, rice, and sauce packets. The products celebrate the Creole, Caribbean, and Latin American flavors Basir enjoyed as a child. They can instantly transform a forgotten potato or last night’s leftover chicken. And they’re proof that with a few tricks and time-tested recipes, you, too, can make a beautiful meal featuring the beans in your pantry.

Tips for Making Your Best Pot of Beans

Don’t overthink the flavors. When cooking beans, you may run into a plethora of questions: To soak or not to soak? Canned or dry? But when it comes to flavor, Basir consistently returns to a familiar formula: onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt. From there it’s about adding depth with layers of spices—cumin, coriander, mustard seed, ginger, and curry powder are some of his standbys. “You really don’t need much more than that, in my opinion, to make a great bean dish,” he says.

Cook with your senses. Whether he’s cooking a bean dish at home or developing his next product, Basir always pauses to analyze what’s in front of him. “The first thing I’m looking at is: Is this a texture that’s appealing to me? Does it look good? Does it taste good?” he says. As with any dish, be sure to taste as you go and adjust the cooking time or seasoning as needed. (Note: While there’s some contention about when to add salt when cooking dry beans specifically, the prevailing wisdom is that adding salt to the soaking water and again during the cooking process yields the most flavorful beans.)

Opt for minimally processed ingredients. Check the label of any A Dozen Cousins product and you’ll know every ingredient: green bell peppers, crushed tomatoes, chili pepper. And Basir cooks his beans in avocado oil. “Think about things like onion, garlic, spices…. We know what they look like, we know where to find them, we know how they’re grown,” he says. Using unprocessed or minimally processed ingredients often means more nutrients, lower cost, and lower environmental impact, but it also means fresher, more vibrant flavor.

Take advantage of the versatility of beans. “They’re such a great carrier for flavor—like the fact that you can make a curry with beans, but you can also make a refried bean and they taste entirely different,” he says. Add them to a smoky stew or a savory breakfast scramble. They also make a flavorful swap for croutons and can easily be used in place of meat.

Southern Black-Eyed Peas

Serves 6 to 8

1 (1-pound) bag dried black-eyed peas
1 whole white onion, diced
4 or 5 large cloves garlic, minced
8 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
chicken bouillon cube (optional)

  1. Cover the black-eyed peas with water by 2 inches. Add 1 tablespoon of fine salt per pound of beans and let them soak for at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours. Drain and rinse before using.

  2. In a large pot, sauté your onion and garlic over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes. Then add the beans, water, salt, pepper, and chicken bouillon cube (if using) to the pot. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.

  3. Reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes or until the beans are tender.

  4. Serve with rice (Basir likes to pair the beans with A Dozen Cousins Rice Cooked in Bone Broth).

More Ways to Enjoy Beans

  • Simple Corn Tortillas

    Simple Corn Tortillas

    Basir loves making huevos rancheros with these homemade tortillas by topping them with scrambled eggs and seasoned pinto beans for a savory start to the day.


  • Black Bean Taquitos

    Black Bean Taquitos

    Having grown up with nine siblings, Basir knows it can be tricky to keep a hungry crew satisfied while preparing dinner. That’s where this simple, kid-friendly appetizer starring refried black beans comes in.



Related Reading

Everything You Need to Know about Beans

Are Lectins in Foods Hurting My Gut?

How to Dress Up Beans and Greens for Dinner

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