Characterized by a strong flavor and a color that is reddish brown in nature, kidney beans are a versatile kidney-shaped bean that can be used in a variety of hot and cold recipes. They are grown in many different locations, and are usually sold in dry or canned varieties. While a true kidney bean is dark red/brown in color, a light red bean, phaseolus vulgaris, is often referred to as a light red kidney bean, owing to the similar shape and texture.
Kidney beans are often an excellent dietary selection, as they contain no cholesterol. As a source of potassium, they provide a source of nutrition that is similar to that of a potato, but with only a moderate amount of carbohydrates. They also contain trace amounts of iron and calcium.
One of the most popular uses for kidney beans is in the preparation of chili. The deep red color works well with the other ingredients of the dish, and adds excellent texture and taste. Along with chili, these red beans are a welcome addition to many casseroles, both for the flavor and the dash of color that the beans add to the presentation of the dish. A quick side dish involves nothing more than canned kidney beans with a little seasoning, such as garlic and pepper. These beans are also a favorite in preparing refried beans, an excellent accompaniment to any Mexican-style dinner.
Serving kidney beans cold is also a popular option: they're often included in marinated bean salads. A popular and nutritious cold salad involves the use of dark red kidney beans, chickpeas, chopped onion, and slivers of green and yellow bell pepper. The vegetables are tossed in a dressing made with olive oil, vinegar, and various spices. This mixture can be served over cold pasta or on a bed of salad greens.
Dried kidney beans are sometimes preferred over the canned variety. Generally, the dried beans should be allowed to soak overnight, which will cut the cooking time considerably. Nutritious, versatile, and relatively inexpensive, the kidney bean is a welcome addition to just about any kitchen pantry.