As it sinks in that August is ending soon, we see people rushing outdoors to soak up the last days of summer. Barbeques are a national pastime for summer’s passage, usually including vats of slow-cooked beans bathed in a brown sugar–tomato sauce. Beans are fabulous for wholesome fiber and protein, but with traditional baked beans you may as well have a sliver of cake next to your corn on the cob; a half-cup of traditional baked beans contains upward of 15 grams of refined sugar! This delicious, healthy version magnifies the sweetness from natural sugars, making the sugary traditional recipes not even worth eating.
Hearty kidney beans are an incredible plant-based source of protein and iron. A one-cup serving of kidney beans contains 15 grams of protein, plus the added bonus of blood sugar–stabilizing fiber that balances cholesterol and blood pressure. A pot of them bubbling away in this deliciously unconventional sauce, made from rich and “meaty” miso paste with apple butter and iron-rich molasses, makes for an immensely satisfying side dish. Double a batch for your next cookout or family meal for a great reason to forgo the barbequed ribs!
Sugar-Free Baked Beans with Miso and Apple Butter
2 cups dried kidney beans, soaked for 12 to 24 hours in 6 cups water (see Variations for using canned beans)
6 cups water
1/2 cup unsweetened apple butter
3 tablespoons dark miso paste (like barley or brown rice)
1 red onion, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- Drain the soaked beans and put them in a large pot. Add 6 cups of water, bring to a boil, and skim off the foam that rises to the top. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender, about 40 to 45 minutes. Reserve 2 cups of cooking liquid and then drain the beans.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly oil a heavy casserole dish or dutch oven.
- In a separate bowl, combine the reserved 2 cups of bean-cooking liquid with the apple butter, miso paste, chopped onion, salt, mustard, molasses, and apple cider vinegar.
- Add the beans to the casserole dish. Add the liquid ingredients and stir to mix well. Cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
- Baked Beans with Fresh Herbs. Add a tablespoon of chopped thyme or sage to the sauce before baking.
- Smoky Chipotle Baked Beans. Toss one dried chipotle chili into the sauce before baking. Remove before eating.
- Quick Cooking Baked Beans. To use canned beans instead of cooking your own, skip the first step and use 5 cups of cooked beans from 3 (15-ounce) cans of kidney beans (3 cans of beans is a little more than 5 cups; be sure to measure).
- To prepare this ahead and save time on the day of cooking, cook the beans, prepare the sauce, and put everything in its baking dish the day before. Store it in the fridge and put it straight into the oven on the day of cooking, adding an extra 30 minutes to the cooking time to account for the chill.
- When cooking beans, never add salt or acid until the end of the cooking time. Adding either to undercooked beans prevents them from softening. As a general rule, cook beans until they are soft and then add 1 teaspoon of salt per cup of beans and let simmer another 15 minutes.
Look to beans to add fiber to your diet—everyone can benefit from some extra fiber in their diet! One cup of kidney beans contains 45 percent of your recommended daily fiber intake. Fiber comes with a bundle of health benefits, like escorting waste out of your body, as well as easing digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and eliminating constipation. Diabetics or pre-diabetics will appreciate fiber’s ability to slow-release blood sugar, making beans a perfect choice for healthy carbohydrates.
Beans can be hard to digest, especially if they’re not in your usual mix of everyday foods. This doesn’t always have to be so! The starches in beans are challenging to a compromised digestive system, often caused by an imbalanced diet and out-of-whack intestinal flora. Follow these tips to comfortably get the health benefits of beans:
- Start by eating small amounts more frequently to allow your body to adjust.
- Soak beans for 12 to 24 hours. This hydrates them and ensures even cooking . After soaking, make sure you thoroughly rinse the beans and discard the soaking water, which contains starches that commonly cause flatulence. If using canned beans, also drain and rinse them well.
- Cook the beans with a strip of kombu. This seaweed is a type of kelp that tenderizes and adds trace minerals. Other herbs like bay leaf, cumin, and fennel enhance digestibility too.
- Skim the foam from the top of the beans when you start cooking them. The foam contains a concentrated amount of hard-to-digest oligosaccharides.
- Take advantage of digestive enzymes that reduce intestinal gas while your body is adjusting to beans.