How Do I Choose the Best Red Beans?

Jennifer Leigh

Choosing the best red beans is not difficult if you understand the different types that are available. Heirloom beans come from plants whose seeds have been passed down through generations over time. These beans are prized as tasting fresher and as being less tough than many mass-produced beans that can be found at the store and may be a good choice for you. There is also the question of dried vs. canned beans, as both have good qualities depending on what they will be used for. Different types of red beans are used most predominantly in certain types of cuisine, so you'll need to consider the meal in mind before purchasing the best red beans.

Azuki beans, a type of red beans.
Azuki beans, a type of red beans.

Heirloom beans can be purchased fresh from certain grocery stores and farmer's markets, and provide a flavorful addition to a meal. If you are using beans as a main dish or side dish, and heirlooms are available in your area, you should choose to showcase this type of red beans in your meal. Dried red heirloom beans can be found at specialty stores or online through farmers that grow them, and can easily be cooked within a few hours time to be eaten as a side dish or a part of soups, stews, or other main dishes. Dried heirloom beans retain much of the flavor of fresh beans and are valued by many as tasting better than their dried counterparts from the grocery store.

Canned red beans are an easy addition to chili, although the flavor may not be as fresh as with dried beans cooked from scratch.
Canned red beans are an easy addition to chili, although the flavor may not be as fresh as with dried beans cooked from scratch.

Canned red beans are an easy option if you do not have time to prepare dried beans from scratch. They can be used in the same ways as dried beans, but do not always have the same fresh flavor. They work particularly well in dishes where the red beans are not the center point of the meal, such as in pastas, soups, and stews. Dried beans require soaking for a few hours before they are cooked, but allow you to flavor them during the cooking process so that they end up tasting the way that you want them to taste. There are organic varieties of both canned and dried red beans available in many places.

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If you are cooking cuisines from certain cultures, you should choose red beans that are used most often in that region of the world. Azuki beans are found most often in Chinese and Japanese cooking and in red bean paste desserts. Kidney beans are often used the United States to create a wide variety of Cajun dishes, and in India red kidney beans are a staple of the diet.

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