Beans rock! (and thicken!)

Beans are awesome!  They are so healthy, inexpensive, versatile and there are so many varieties.  I’m sure I’ve not even tried half of them.  I’m sure plenty of other people have figured this out, but I just realized how great beans are as a thickener for sauces, soups and stews.  Regardless, it’s worth repeating.

I came up with this idea while I was making a recipe of pork chops and pan sauce with vegetables.  I sometimes make a vegetable ragout using white beans and the sauce never needs any additional thickening.  The beans add this lucious thickness that makes the sauce come together perfectly.  For the pork chop recipe I didn’t want any beans in the sauce but still wanted the same silky texture as the ragout.  I always keep cans of refried beans around so figured that might work.

Refried beans do have some whole beans in them so I smashed them with a spoon until they were nearly completely smooth.  A few tablespoons of beans added into the sauce rewarded me with exactly what I was looking for- a rich, creamy sauce without adding fat or starch.  I did need to cook the sauce a few minutes for the beans to fully incorporate into the sauce.

In addition to adding a silky texture to a sauce or stew, beans add welcome fiber that is lacking in nearly everyone’s diet.  Fiber helps keep your insides moving and is shown to reduce cholesterol.  Some people complain of gas caused by beans, but that only happens with people that don’t get enough fiber already.  If you eat beans regularly, the gas problems will go away and you’ll be left with a very well-functioning gastro-intestinal tract.

As I’m typing this, it occurred to me that I might be able to grind dry beans to use as an instant thickener similar to Wondra flour.  I’ll definitely try this in the future and post about the experience.

Do use beans as a thickener?  How else do you use beans?  Post a comment!

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