By Melanie Fincher
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No matter where you are in the world, beans are a staple for any home cook. Not only does their mild flavor complement an assortment of seasoning and spices, but beans are full of health benefits as well.

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Beans: Things to Know

Beans are classified as a legume, along with peas, peanuts, and lentils. They are the seeds of flowering plants in the Fabacea family. Beans typically grow in pods with more than one bean inside. They are rich in fiber and B vitamins, helping to reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. They also serve as a source of protein, making a great substitute for meat. Not to mention- they're cheap!

All this is to say-adding beans to your diet is a good choice. Beans come in both canned and dry forms. Canned beans are great time-savers since the beans come fully cooked and just require some reheating. However, beans can lose flavor in the canning process, so some prefer to buy them dry and give them a good soak overnight. But with so many different types of beans, where do you begin? We've got you covered. Read on for a list of different types of beans and how to cook with them.

Black Beans

Black beans are a staple in many Mexican and Brazilian dishes. They have a velvety-smooth texture and mild flavor. They also have a lower glycemic index than many other high-carb foods, helping to reduce the spike in blood sugar that occurs after eating a meal. Add them to salads, soups, casseroles, or tacos for added protein. They also make a healthy substitute for meat or even flour!

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Popular Black Bean Recipes:


Black-Eyed Peas

This Southern staple has a beige hue with an eye-catching black spot, hence the name "black-eyed peas." They have an earthy flavor that complements salty foods like ham and bacon. Southerners swear by eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck in the coming year. They are an excellent source of folate, which is an important nutrient for pregnant women. Simmer them in chicken broth (and toss a ham bone in there if you have one) for tender and plump beans. Add your favorite seasoning and even some greens for the perfect side dish!

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Popular Black-Eyed Peas Recipes:


Cannellini Beans

Also known as white Italian kidney beans, these cream-colored beans are one of the most common types of beans. They are a popular addition to soups, salads, and many Italian dishes. They hold their shape well and can be cooked lightly or mashed to make delicious fritters.

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Popular Cannellini Bean Recipes:


Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, come in two varieties: the larger Kabuli is common throughout the Mediterranean, and the smaller desi is mostly grown in India. You're probably familiar with them because they're used to make hummus. They have a round shape and a firm texture, making them a great salad topping. Their nutty flavor makes them perfect for snacking too. Just toss dry chickpeas with a little olive oil, salt, and spices before sticking them in the oven. Not only are they one of the most versatile beans, but they're packed with fiber and protein.

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Great Northern Beans

This is another type of white bean that is often mistaken for cannellini or navy beans. Greater Northern beans are less dense and have more of a nutty flavor than their bean brethren. They're ideal for use in soups, stews, or purees because of their light texture and ability to absorb seasonings easily. Not to mention they're packed full of calcium!

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Popular Great Northern Bean Recipes:


Kidney Beans

These beans are known for their vibrant red skin and white interior. They have a mild flavor, and make the perfect addition to any chili recipe. Fun fact: kidney beans have about the same amount of cancer-fighting antioxidants as blueberries. They're also packed with protein, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and iron. There really are endless options when it comes to cooking kidney beans: add them to rice, tacos, curry, or mash them to make a creamy dip-just to name a few.

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Popular Kidney Bean Recipes:


Lima Beans

These beans get a bad rap, but there's actually so much to love when it comes to lima beans. They can be white, creamy, or green in color. There are two types: the larger, butter (also called Fordhook) beans, and the sweeter baby lima beans. They have mild, buttery flavor and a soft texture that can turn to mush if cooked too long. They are a great addition to any soup or they can stand alone as a side dish. They're packed with nutrients, and have more potassium than kidney beans.

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Popular Lima Bean Recipes:


Pinto Beans

Pinto beans have an orange-pink color with rust-colored specks. Pinto actually means "painted in Spanish. They're loaded with fiber and protein too. Their earthy flavor and smooth texture makes them great for dips and stews, or of course, refried beans.

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Popular Pinto Bean Recipes:


Fava Beans

Fava beans, or broad beans, can be difficult to work with. They require that you remove them from their pods and then blanch them in order to get the skins off. But don't let that keep you from enjoying them. They have a sweet, nutty flavor and a buttery texture. They're perfect for topping salads, mashing for dips and spreads, or charred alongside asparagus.

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Navy Beans

This bean goes by many names: haricot, pearl haricot beans, white pea bean, and Boston bean. They have a mild flavor and creamy texture, and similar to Great Northern Beans, they do a great job of absorbing the flavors around them. They're commonly used to make baked beans, or in traditional English breakfasts. They are also high in fiber, and may help reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome due to their high fiber content. Try seasoning them with bay leaves, garlic, and fresh herbs.

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Popular Navy Bean Recipes:


Adzuki Beans

These small, round red beans are commonly mashed into a red bean paste and used in Asian sweets like cakes, pastries, and even ice cream (see below)! These beans have a sweet flavor and a starchy interior. They can also be used for more savory applications such as alongside rice or leafy greens. Like other legumes, they're protein-packed and high in fiber.

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Popular Adzuki Bean Recipe:


Edamame

Edamame are young soybeans which are usually eaten while still inside the pod. These beans are soft and edible, unlike mature soybeans. These make a tasty appetizer, snack, or salad topping that is loaded with protein. Whether you buy fresh or frozen edamame, they can be boiled, steamed, microwaved, baked, or pan-seared to perfection. Just finish them off with a sprinkle of sea salt, red pepper flakes, and sesame seeds. Yum!

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"Green soybeans (edamame) are baked under a Parmesan cheese crust, turning a frozen food into a delicious snack," -- Sophia Candrasa. Watch the video to learn how to make this simple snack!

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Mung Beans

These beans are one of the most consumed types in the world. They are small, round, and green with a white stripe going through them. They have a mild flavor and a starchy texture. They are another plant-based source of protein that is high in antioxidants and fiber. They come in many forms: dried powder, whole uncooked beans, split beans, bean noodles, and sprouted seeds. They're good for use in soups, and their high fiber content makes them very filling. They can also be mashed and made into fritters for a healthy snack.

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Popular Mung Bean Recipes:


Soybeans

While edamame is the green, raw form of this bean, soybeans are dried and beige in color. Edamame is harvested while the beans are still young and soft, while soybeans are more mature. Soybeans have many uses, including soybean paste, tofu, and soy flour. But these versatile beans can be enjoyed on their own as well! Simply boil the soybeans and add spices and herbs to taste for a yummy, nutrient-packed soybean salad. Or try adding them to quinoa for added texture.

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Popular Soybean Recipes:


Cranberry Beans

Rounding out the list are these striking cream-colored beans with red speckles. Also known as borlotti beans, cranberry beans have a creamy texture and a nutty flavor. They are often used in Italian dishes such as minestrone soup. Use them in warm foods such as stews or cold foods such as bean salads. They can also be used in place of other bean types for chili, baked beans, and pasta fagioli.

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The original Utica greens do not have beans but they are such a classic combination," says Chef John of this twist on a classic dish. Cranberry beans are the secret ingredient here!

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