There are so many different types of beans, and they are very popular as a vegan and gluten free addition to recipes. But what if you need some bean substitutes if you are out or they don't work for you?
Let's talk about 10 easy bean substitutes that work so well to make recipes such as soups, stews, chili, salads and more!
This post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or dietetic advice in any way.
Popular types of beans
We want to talk about bean alternatives in this post, but let's first overview the most popular types of beans that are used in cooking.
There are so many varieties of beans, including butter beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, navy beans, mung beans, black eyed peas, haricot beans and so many more.
Beans can be used in a variety of ways, including in stews, soups, salads and curries. Each variety has a different taste and texture, making them work better in some dishes rather than others.
Cannelini beans, for example, are creamy in taste and texture and work well in both soups and salads. Kidney beans keep their shape and are a key ingredient in chili con carne.
Why may we wish to use bean substitutes?
Beans are commonly understood to be a healthy vegan and gluten free food and are relatively inexpensive. They are a good pantry staple, with a long shelf life.
But we may wish to use bean alternatives if we are simply out of them when we head to the pantry! Beans are also problematic for some as they are high fodmap. They are also higher histamine, which means that they may not be suitable for those on a low histamine diet due to histamine intolerance or mast cell activation syndrome. As some people cannot tolerate beans, we need some substitutions!
If the higher histamine of tomatoes also causes you issues, then you may like to see my round-up of tomato alternatives too.
10 best bean substitutes
Whether you are making a summer salad or a hearty winter stew, these alternatives to beans will make for a tasty meal!
Ground chicken or turkey
If you eat meat, using ground chicken or turkey is a good swap for beans in stews, curries and casseroles. The smaller size of ground meat and the chewy texture is somewhat similar to beans. It's also a substantial and protein-rich food and easy to cook.
Ground chicken or turkey can make a particularly good substitute for kidney beans in chili con carne or for chickpeas in casseroles. If you don't have ground meat, then shredded chicken or turkey works well too!
My turkey and sweet potato hash makes the most of ground turkey!
While cheese doesn't have the same taste or texture as beans, it's a protein-rich food that works as a good swap for beans in salads. Simply cut a harder cheese into small cubes and enjoy with lettuces and salad vegetables.
There are so many meat alternatives now, ranging from tempeh to Quorn and many more. You can purchase as 'ground' mince, and everything from vegan steaks to sausages and more.
Using a meat alternative that resembles ground meat is a good bean alternative for dishes such as chili con carne, stews, curries and more.
Tofu (also known as bean curd) is made by processing soya milk. It's a very common food in Chinese cuisine but is getting ever more popular around the world as a vegan meat alternative.
We can use tofu as a substitute for beans in many different ways. Firm tofu is better for stir-frying, and using in soups and stews as it has a more dense texture and keeps its shape during the cooking process. Soft tofu, of which silken tofu is the softest, is used in a variety of ways, including in smoothies, for making vegan mousses and for making substitute cream cheese. Hard tofu works well as a chickpea substitute in salads and or stews.
Wild rice isn't technically a rice at all, but a species of grass. You can either use wild rice as it is, or buy mixes of wild and white rice.
As a bean substitute, wild rice works really well in soups and stews as it has a chewy dense texture. It's also a source of plant-based protein in similarity to beans.
Have a peek at my kale wild rice salad for a tasty lunch idea!
With all nine essential amino acids, quinoa is a complete protein as well as being a source of fiber. It has a slight nutty taste and can be served both hot and cold. Quinoa can be used in place of beans in soups, casseroles or as a side.
My quinoa coconut vegetable soup makes the most of this healthy seed!
With a slightly chewy texture, cauliflower rice is easy to make and a low carb side dish. It's a tasty bean alternative that you can add herbs and spices to for extra flavor and gives you an extra veggie on your plate!
Nuts and seeds
Looking for bean substitutes for salads? Nuts and seeds work perfectly as an alternative for chickpeas, butter beans and others. You can dry toast your nuts and seeds for even more flavor!
Whether it is almonds, pumpkin seeds or unsalted pistachios, nuts and seeds are similar to beans in the sense of being chewy and dense, and provide protein and fiber.
Why not try out my nutty wild rice salad!
Sweet potatoes are an excellent idea for bean substitutes and can be served in so many different ways. Cube and fry, mash them or serve as a baked potato to add another vegetable to your lunch or dinner.
With so many tasty vegetables to choose from, there should be a bean alternative for you to choose from! If you like a firmer texture in similarity to beans, then you may like to use roasted cauliflower or broccoli, garden peas or fennel.
Frequently asked questions
If you are making a chili con carne, then ground chicken or turkey works well as an alternative to kidney beans.
There are many chickpea substitutes depending on the type of dish you are making. Nuts and seeds work well as an alternative in salads, and you can make cauliflower hummus using this cruciferous vegetable and tahini rather than chickpeas.
Cannellini beans are quite creamy in texture and taste, making soft cheeses work well as a substitute. Soaked and softened nuts and seeds such as macadamia nuts and almonds also work well.
More substitute posts
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A note for my low histamine readers - please note that this is a broad informational post on bean substitutes and refers to some foods that are considered higher histamine and would likely be best avoided on a low histamine diet.