A Food Superhero: Black Beans

A Food Superhero: Black Beans

Photo by Kyle Edwards

Black beans should be considered a hero in your pantry. Though small in size, they’re mighty in nutrition. 

A one-cup serving of black beans contains only 227 calories and a whopping 15 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein. That’s 60% of your daily recommended intake of fiber and roughly a third of your protein intake, depending on your weight. This fiber and protein prowess leaves you feeling fuller for a longer period of time.

There are other health benefits, too. Soluble fiber likely aids in heart disease prevention, because it helps balance unhealthy cholesterol levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. Black beans also contain large amounts of resistant starch, which means the starch passes through the small intestine mostly undigested. This helps prevent blood sugar levels from spiking.

Not only that, but these superheroes pack a huge antioxidant punch, according to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Of 12 beans, black beans topped the list for antioxidant activity. In fact, they contain about the same amount of disease-fighting antioxidants found in equivalent servings of grapes, apples, and cranberries, and about 10 times as many as oranges.

This fall, enjoy black beans by cooking a batch of this deliciously warming black bean chili. Because black beans contain such a high amount of protein, this naturally vegan chili doesn’t require any meat, and it tastes delicious without it. 

If you’d like, garnish it with vegan or low-fat sour cream, vegan or low-fat shredded cheese, and fresh, chopped green onion.

Black Bean Chili 

Olive oil or canola oil cooking spray

1 yellow onion, diced (about 1½ cups)

2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)

1 red bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced (about 2 tablespoons)

3 (15-ounce) cans black beans, low- or no-sodium, rinsed

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, low- or no-sodium

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, low- or no-sodium

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 cup low- or no-sodium vegetable broth

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon agave syrup

1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon sea salt

Garnish: vegan or low-fat sour cream, vegan or low-fat cheese shreds, and sliced green onions


1. Heat a large skillet over high heat for 1 minute. Spray with olive oil or canola cooking spray. Heat for 30 seconds.

2. Add diced onions and minced garlic. Reduce heat to medium-high, cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until starting to brown. 

3. Add red pepper and jalapeño pepper, and sauté for 2 minutes until just softened.

4. Pour pepper and onion mixture into a slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.

5. Garnish with vegan or low-fat sour cream, vegan or low-fat cheese shreds, and sliced green onions.

Variation: If you don’t have a slow cooker, this chili can be made on a stovetop. Follow instructions in steps 1 to 3, but cook in a large pot instead of a skillet. In step 4, instead of transferring to a slow cooker, add remaining ingredients to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, on medium high, until mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.

Makes about 12 cups. A serving is 1 cup: 149 calories, 1.2 g fat, 0 g sat fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 293 mg sodium, 27.7 g carbohydrates, 7.8 g sugar, 9.8 g fiber, and 9 g protein.

Originally published in the Fall 2020/Winter 2021 print issue.