beans and pulses in jar and bowl

My go-to bean recipe is one I cook all the time, it’s a delicious vegetable chilli that allows you to add in whatever beans you prefer: kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans and even chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) all work well here.

Beans often get confused for a carbohydrate food, but they are actually a great protein-rich food that’s ideal for vegetarians, as they’re a good source of both protein and fibre.

As ever, I’m advocating a balanced diet, based around eating a variety of foods to make sure we get all the nutrients our bodies need to function properly. Beans are no different, with a wide variety to choose from and each in turn offering specific nutritional benefits. Cannellini beans are high in fibre and contain vitamin C as well as magnesium, a mineral that helps our muscles to function properly. Chickpeas are a good source of fibre and contain more than 10 different micronutrients, including copper, which keeps our skin and hair healthy.

Black beans are the highest in protein of all the beans and pulses. On top of this they’re also fibre-packed and super-low in saturated fat (unlike a lot of meat), so they make a great choice of protein for vegetarians. Black beans are incredibly good for us. They’re full of fibre, which aids digestion, and are loaded with other nutrients, such as copper and iron, that help us to keep our metabolism and immune system in tip-top shape.

It’s not only fruit and vegetables that make up our 5-a-day: beans do, too. Three heaped tablespoons count as a portion. However, beans can only ever count as a maximum of one each day, as even though they are a good source of fibre, they don’t have the same nutrient content as fruit and vegetables.

This recipe for BBQ baked beans is a great one to get children eating beans: it’s super-tasty and delicious, so they won’t realise they’re getting a nutritious meal inside them.

Beans aren’t necessarily an ingredient you’d think of eating for breakfast (unless in a hearty English fry-up, perhaps!), but this South American-style brunch recipe makes great use of them alongside quinoa, another great source of protein. And for the odd weekend breakfast treat, beans can be the star of the show as this recipe for sausages with real baked beans proves.

So, whether you’re a vegetarian or not, beans really should be a regular feature in your diet. See below for recipe inspiration!

For a morning kick-start, try my ultimate brunch or breakfast recipe with crispy beans and chilli pickle


Roasted sweet potato gives this veggie chilli an indulgent feel and lovely depth of flavour.


This sweet and sour jalfrezi recipe works well with any veg, so feel free to shake things up a bit


No one will recognise leftover turkey once it’s jazzed up in this spicy chilli with attitude


This is a standout vegetable curry with a cheeky meat kicker for any non- veggies at the table – everyone’s happy


This is my twist on good old beans on toast, and it’s super-cheap to knock together, too


You won’t be able to keep your hands off this hearty, all-time classic chilli con carne recipe


Hearty, filling, tasty and cheap to knock together, no wonder ribollita was a peasant food staple


This recipe’s inspired by a wonderful Italian dish – the most amazing beans you’ll ever taste


Loaded with herbs and beautiful beans, this grilled tuna steak is an absolutely gorgeous summer dish


Comforting and delicious, this is a great meat-free dinner idea or, without the killer croutons, it makes a damn fine side with roasted meats

About the author

Laura Matthews

Laura is head of nutrition at Jamie Oliver. Her passion for food comes from having cooking lessons at a local college from the age of 10, and the nutrition side from a fascination for how the right foods can fuel the body.

Laura Matthews