A shortcut to extremely flavorful beans

The inimitable Abigail Koffler shares her tip for sprucing up a pantry staple.

Hi there,

Welcome to the very first guest tip edition of The Fresh Letter! Today, I’m turning the kitchen hack reins over to my friend and brilliant food writer, Abigail Koffler (check out her fabulous newsletter, This Needs Hot Sauce, her Instagram, her cooking class offerings, and her writing portfolio). Abigail and I met through a mutual friend (hi, Tarn!) and found instant connection in our shared love of food, food writing, and the ability to sit and chat for hours at a time (we’re both big talkers). I deeply admire Abigail’s work— she was early aboard the newsletter train and has been a huge inspiration and guide for me in launching The Fresh Letter—so it’s been especially exciting to collaborate with her on our upcoming meal prep cooking class.

If you’re new here or have somehow missed the barrage of marketing we’ve done for the class, here’s the lowdown: this Sunday, April 18th, join Abigail and me for a two hour virtual class where we’ll cook up enough food for dinners for the week, bake a delicious banana bread, and share our meal prep and general cooking knowledge with you. And you know I love a deal, so I’d be remiss not to mention what a good one this is—my private class rate is more than 10x the price of this class and we’re offering you a 10% discount with code SUNDAY. We’d love to see you there…

Register for class!

Alright, now that we’ve covered introductions and housekeeping, here’s Abigail with her truly yummy-sounding and endlessly flexible non-recipe recipe.

As a vegetarian of many years, I rely on black beans (whole and refried) for so many quick meals. I use them in quesadillas, mini nacho trays for two, in salads, and for breakfast tacos or burritos. Canned beans are my go-to—they’re less than a dollar and so easy to transform into something special.

Canned beans are a blank canvas and I have two easy ways to jazz them up. The onion method, which takes about five extra minutes, is one I learned while living in Guatemala for a year (h/t to my friend Chepe who showed it to me) and it became the backbone of many a dinner. The other method is even quicker, for those days when you’ve got no time to spare. All you need is a fork and some spices. Taking a moment to season the beans will add so much flavor to your final dish, no matter how simple it is.

Here’s how:

The onion method (from Chepe):

  1. Dice ½ of an onion or shallot, whatever you have on hand.

  2. Open your can of beans. If they’re whole, drain and rinse them.

  3. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet (I like to use nonstick). Add the onions and a bit of salt.

  4. Fry the onions until they’re softened and have a little bit of color (it will only take a few minutes). 

  5. Add in your beans and combine them with the onions. If using whole beans, smash them with the back of a wooden spoon to break them up a little bit. If using refried beans, they’ll become more pliable as they heat up.

  6. Season! I like to add a sprinkle of cumin and some chili powder and cayenne. Taste and adjust accordingly.

  7. Go forth and use your beans however you desire. Store leftovers in the fridge.

The “I don’t have time for that” method:

  1. Open a can of whole or refried beans. If they’re whole, drain and rinse in a colander. If they’re refried, transfer to a bowl or storage container

  2. Grab a fork and the spices of your choice (I like these brands of sazón or a mix of garlic powder, cumin, and chili flakes). If you bought low sodium beans, you might want to add salt.

  3. Mash the spices into your beans with a fork until evenly distributed. Taste and adjust to your liking. If using whole beans, some of them will get smashed, which adds great texture. 

  4. Use the beans to your heart's content. I love a quesadilla, a burrito bowl, or a breakfast taco with scrambled eggs and avocado. Finish the dish with hot sauce. 

How delicious do these beans sound? If, for some reason, you still need convincing, I can personally vouch for them— this canned bean preparation has been in my client meal prep rotation since I started work as a personal chef. I’ve received many-a-”wow how did you make these taste so good?” and am always pleased to share how truly simple the preparation is. I hope you’ll give them a try. If you do, let us know! You can tag Abigail on Instagram here, and me here.

Thanks so much for popping in and sharing this non-recipe recipe with us, Abigail. Can’t wait to get in the virtual kitchen with you!

With love and a *tip* of my chef’s hat,


Want more? I’m so flattered! You can also follow me on Instagram or check out my blog where you can find my tip-laden e-book collection.