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A bean casserole recipe uses a specific bean type mixed with other ingredients, such as rice, within one dish. The dish is baked in an oven to produce a hearty and nutritious meal. Some bean casserole recipes also include a mixture of different bean types, creating a complex casserole flavor.
Casseroles were traditionally used as a dish easily brought to parties or gatherings. The entire casserole normally includes all the protein, grains, and vegetables needed for a nutritionally complete meal. Bean casseroles typically use the same format as the traditional casseroles. Cooks can add their favorite vegetables and grains to the beans, spicing up the dish with herbs as varied as cumin or ginger.
A basic casserole dish mixes one bean with one grain, along with various vegetables. Rice and black beans are typically matched in casseroles, providing both flavor and an aesthetically pleasing appearance for presenting to a gathering of friends and family. The white rice contrasts visually with the black beans. Adding colorful vegetables, such as green or red peppers, to the bean casserole adds another layer of flavor and visual depth.
Mixing bean types together is another bean casserole recipe type. Combining pinto, black, and kidney beans into a dish creates more flavor, compared to a one bean recipe. Some cooks may add more than three bean types into a casserole, but excessive bean mixtures may reduce the overall flavor rather than enhance it.
Some families are familiar with a different kind of bean dish, called the green bean casserole. This casserole does not use dried beans, but rather the green or string bean — the unripe fruit of the bean plant — as the main ingredient. Green bean casserole is prepared in the same fashion as dried bean casserole, but offers less protein due to the underdeveloped beans.
A drawback to dried beans is the preparation involved. Cooks cannot simply place these beans into a casserole dish and bake it immediately. Dried beans must be soaked, usually overnight, and boiled afterward. Canned beans are a faster alternative, requiring no preparation by the cook. These prepared beans still offer the protein and nutritional value of common dried beans.
Using beans in a casserole removes the need to add any meat, making bean casserole dishes a practical choice for vegetarians. Beans provide protein, which helps to build strong muscles, and their high fiber satisfies the appetite. Many experts agree that beans also support good heart health and provide antioxidants for fighting disease.