10 Budget-Friendly Recipes Starring Canned Beans

They really are magic—see why.

Cowboy Beans With Ground Beef

The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

Gas prices aren’t the only rates on the rise these days. As we face rapid inflation across all living costs, groceries are taking a particularly hard hit. And you know what that means: It’s time to break out the beans.

Across civilizations around the world, beans, pulses, and legumes have been staple ingredients that combat financial cramps. They’re protein- and carbohydrate-dense, making them filling, nutrient-rich ways to anchor a meal. They store well over time, whether they’re dried or canned. And when they are canned, they’re quick, easy, and instant stars for Meatless Mondays as well as gateway ingredients for vegetarian and vegan cooking. And they are one of the best deals—day in and day out—at any grocery store. 

These 10 simple recipes featuring canned beans can help you get a flavor-packed, low-cost lunch or dinner on the table (and leftovers, too—bean dishes reheat easily!), as the use of beans stretch out your meat purchase or omit it entirely. Here’s how to make budget magic with canned beans.

  • 01 of 10

    Caribbean Yellow Rice and Pink Beans

    Caribbean Yellow Rice and Pink Beans

    The Spruce / Danielle Moore

    Pairing beans and rice is the most classic of classic combinations, and this thrifty recipe lets you do it with cheery, vibrant optics and Latin Caribbean flair. Rather than black beans or pigeon peas, this recipe uses pink beans with sofrito and sazon with annatto seasoning for satisfying flavor. You can make your own basic sofrito using garlic, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and herbs, or buy it ready-made to keep on hand. Either way, the bulk of the cost of this dish is in that seasoning blend, making this recipe one that makes cents.

  • 02 of 10

    Cowboy Beans with Ground Beef

    Cowboy Beans With Ground Beef

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

    Half a package of bacon and one pound of ground beef brings your meat cost to as little as $7 total to $12 on the high end, while four cans of beans at around a dollar each and $3 for a bag of shredded cheese bring the shopping list up to $19 if we estimate up. You can even substitute one of these ingredients for molasses if that’s not an ingredient you keep in your pantry. With an 8-serving yield from one batch of this barbecue-and ketchup-flavored comfort dish, we’d call that a pretty good bargain.

  • 03 of 10

    Vegetarian Chana Masala with Spinach

    Vegetarian Chana Masala With Spinach

    The Spruce / Emily Hawkes 

    Technically, chickpeas are a legume and not a bean, but they’re on the same shelf and included in the same sales, so let’s go for it. This recipe simplifies a common, popular, and delicious Indian dish and gives you a reason to pick up a nice naan. Garam masala and curry powder make up the flavor backbone of this easy recipe, but the chickpeas carry the dish. Steamed seasoned rice is another cost-effective accompaniment, and you can substitute cheaper jasmine for basmati.

  • 04 of 10

    Easy Black Bean Salad

    Easy Black Bean Salad

    The Spruce / Stephanie Goldfinger

    Save both time and money with this make-ahead dish that can just as easily be an easy, light lunch for a few days, too, eaten by itself on a bed of lettuce to make it a meal, or as a topping on something as simple as grilled chicken leg quarters. This cut of poultry, with skin and on the bone, is a sleeper cost saver—they’re often sold in bulk for cents on the dollar per pound.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Sausage and Cabbage Stew with Beans and Tomatoes

    Sausage and cabbage stew

    The Spruce

    Sausage and beans as a pair don’t always have to bring the heat, as this comforting, filling stew goes to show. This very veggie recipe pushes every dollar to its furthest, as economical cabbage, carrots, and celery make up the bulk of the dish. The use of apple-derived liquids helps to give it a sweet-tart flavor, but feel free to tweak it to be meat-free to save on spending and go heavier on the beans.

  • 06 of 10

    Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Pinto Beans

    Pot Roast and Pintos
    Recipe: Pot Roast With Pinto Beans. Photo: Diana Rattray

    Even simpler and just as economical, opt for a pot roast with barbecued pinto beans. Four cans, some barbecue sauce, an onion, a hunk of beef, and 10 minutes to prep are roughly all you need to pull this together. After 9 hours, the beans will be richly seasoned, the meat will be tender and flavored through, and 8 bellies will be happily full. Serve it with salad and steamed veggies for healthy staying power.

  • 07 of 10

    Vegetarian Southwest Macaroni and Cheese

    Vegetarian Southwest Macaroni and Cheese

    The Spruce 

    Here’s a kid-friendly way to introduce beans into a healthy diet: Add it to a box of mac and cheese! This vegetarian dish makes the most of this budget buy meal starter and makes it more nutritionally sound with protein-packed tofu and black beans. Store-bought salsa adds more interest to the flavors, and canned corn lends sweetness. But if that’s too ambitious, you can always just stop with the first two and add a little extra cheese to coat it.

  • 08 of 10

    Creole-Style Crock Pot Black Beans and Sausage

    bowl full of sausage and beans

    Diana Rattray

    A little bit of sausage can go a long way; its fatty nature means it packs a lot of flavor in every bite, seasoning beans to great depth when simmered together. The amount of sausage required is roughly a loop and a half, and you can save by swapping in more accessible, typically less costly smoked sausage or kielbasa. This slow-cooker recipe is a variation on the classic Creole red beans and rice, and you can choose to serve it with white rice or a crusty French bread or baguette, which is often available fresh at supermarket bakeries for less than $2.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Gallo Pinto

    beans and rice on a plate
    Costa Rican Beans and Rice - Gallo Pinto. Marian Blazes

    The key to being thrifty without getting bored is finding exciting ways to repurpose ingredients you already have, which is why this classic Latin American rice and beans dish often has life after dinner with the addition of a fried egg or two. But then again, what’s stopping you from having eggs at night? They’re quality protein sources with all the essential amino acids your body needs, and relatively inexpensive when you buy generic. Plus, who doesn’t like breakfast for dinner?

  • 10 of 10

    Chili Nacho Casserole with Ground Beef and Beans

    Nacho ground beef casserole.
    Diana Rattray

    Casseroles can regularly come to the rescue of both busted wallets and busy schedules, and this flavorful Tex-Mex bean-based one is no exception. Generic tortilla chips do just fine in this recipe; they’ll take on the flavor of the chili-style tomatoes anyway. And two cans of beans take a pound of ground beef far enough that one bake will serve up to eight. Just as appetizing is its estimated cost of only $2 a serving.