beans with greens, two ways

by Stacy

The most common question I get when people find out that I’m vegetarian is, “How do you get your protein?” According to the FDA, “Current scientific evidence indicates that protein intake is not a public health concern for adults and children over 4 years of age,” but “Most Americans don’t get enough dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron in their diets. ” I think a better question is to ask them is, “How do you get your vitamins and minerals?”

Let’s compare a Big Mac, some kale, and some beans. Not everyone eats Big Macs (I’ve never actually had one that I remember), but not everyone eats kale and beans, either. Humans are conditioned to want calorie-dense food. That’s what fast food provides — cheap, dense calories. For this example I looked up the nutrition information for a Big Mac (serving size is stated at 219 grams) then calculated the values for cooked kale and cooked pinto beans for the same amount with recommended percentages based on a 2000 calorie per day diet. The chart makes an easier basis for visual comparison.

Big Mac

boiled and drained

Beans (pinto) boiled and drained

Serving size

219 grams (7.7 oz)

219 grams (7.7 oz)

219 g (7.7 oz)


563 (28%) 61 (3%) 313 (16%)

Total fat

33g (50%) 1.5g (1%) 1g (1%)


79mg (26%) ~ ~


1007mg (42%) 50mg (2%) 2.5mg (<1%)

Dietary fiber

4 g (14%) 5g (18%) 19g (76%)


9g 3g 1g


26g 3g 19g

Vitamin A

8% 595% ~

Vitamin C

1% 150% 3%


25% 15% 10%


24% 10% 25%

Vitamin K

~ 2231% 9%

Gram-for-gram, the only desirable categories the Big Mac wins are protein (something most Americans eat too much of) and calcium. I’m not suggesting that these are three equal options in most ways, but it’s still an interesting comparison. The moral of the story is that if you choose nutrient-dense foods over calorie-dense ones you can eat more.

greens are good for you!

It’s doubtful that the people reading this are tossing back Big Macs on a regular basis, but I hear a lot more suggestions of impending doom based on me not eating hamburgers than I do concern about the lack of leafy greens and legumes being consumed by the vast majority of the population. Don’t worry about me, I eat tons of them!

However, I worry about the rest of you. Here are two different preparations which use mostly the same ingredients which are both nutrient-dense and loaded with filling fiber. Just make sure you chew really well; that’s a lot of fiber to gulp down without breaking it into more easily digestible bits.

First up, a salad-like option. Unlike a crisp lettuce salad these greens are dressed in advance and meant to wilt — it’s like a vegetarian ceviche. I had a huge bag of braising mix (a variety of leaves bigger than spring greens, smaller than full-sized), but any dark leafy green like kale, chard, mustard greens, or even spinach would work. The amounts are flexible so think of them as starting points, not specifics. The beans I had on hand were shelling beans from our CSA. Chickpeas, pinto, cannellini, navy, cranberry beans… whatever you like!

zingy green and bean salad

Zingy Green and Bean Salad

Yields 2 servings


  • 3-4 cups leafy greens such as kale, chard, collard or beet greens, or a mix
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked beans
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)


  1. Rinse and dry greens. Remove any tough stems, roll the leaves together, and slice into ribbons. Place greens into a bowl. Rinse and drain beans and add to greens.
  2. Combine onion and vinegar in a small bowl; let stand five minutes. Whisk in mustard. Drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly, until the dressing emulsifies. Add a pinch of salt. Pour dressing over greens and toss to coat. Add Parmesan cheese if using and toss again.
  3. Cover and let stand at room temperature for about an hour until greens have wilted. Taste a piece and add salt if needed. Garnish with a little more cheese if desired and a crack of black pepper.

zingy green and bean salad

This was my lunch with a slice of hearty bread and some fruit. I’ve served a variation of this salad to dinner party guests and taken it to a book club potluck. People politely tried a small bite, then scooped up seconds and asked what it was. Give it a try!

If you’re in the mood for something warm, try this version. While the type of bean still isn’t set in stone, this works better with larger beans. Cannellini work fine, and the beans I had were great. The dish cooks the beans almost like skillet potatoes to yield a crisp golden crust with a creamy center. The photos show a batch I made with more greens than usual, so I adjusted the recipe to be a bit less assertive with them.

crisp and creamy beans with greens

Crisp and Creamy Beans with Greens

Yields 2 servings

You could try canned beans but they’re more likely to fall apart and be mushy. I strongly recommend soaked and cooked beans which take some planning but are much tastier.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups dark leafy greens, tough stems removed, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons white wine (optional)


  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beans, stir once, then shake the pan to get them settled in a single layer. Let cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes until crisp on one side. Flip over and cook 2-3 minutes until crispy.
  2. Clear a space in the middle of the pan and add the onion. Let cook 1-2 minutes until softened. Reduce heat to medium; stir in garlic and greens. Season with half the salt. Cook a few minutes until greens are wilted. Add wine if using and stir until liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat.
  3. Serve warm with a sprinkle of salt on top.

crisp and creamy beans with greens

How do you get your vitamins and minerals?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

TreeHugginMomma June 28, 2010 at 9:15 am

I am giving the first recipe a try this week (although I will be subbing beans). I have dry lentils so I might use them or I also have chick peas (but I seem to be the only person who likes them not smashed into hummus). Maybe I will just make the salad with some zuchini and radishes and skip the beans entirely? I know beans are good and I need to pick up some white beans and some black beans next week. 😉


Stacy June 28, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Not-hummus chickpeas are delicious! Two other chickpea recipes: Chickpea Salad Sandwich and Pasta with Chickpeas and Greens 😉


Mimi June 28, 2010 at 2:06 pm

The crisp and creamy beans with greens looks so delicious!

Isn’ t it funny how people are always so worried about protien. It’s as if they think their bodies will collapse if they don’t eat meat. I eat meat because animals taste good. Since I was healthier on a meat free diet that included eggs and dairy, I know that I won’t fall apart if I go back to that diet.

Thanks for the info and the yummy recipes. My boyfriend would be happy with me if I renounced my evil meat eating ways. I’ve been trying to cut back a little bit. Your posts have been helping because you keep reminding me about foods I haven’t eaten in awhile that I need to concentrate on.


Angela February 19, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Tried the crisp and creamy beans tonight with a splash of blood orange balsamic instead of white wine. Delish!


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