In my quest to eat breakfast more regularly, I’ve discovered two things about myself: fruit-heavy breakfasts don’t really satisfy me and carb-heavy breakfasts just make me hungry for lunch earlier. Protein is a different story. Tofu omelets and scrambles fill me up and satisfy my hunger for a much longer time than oatmeal or smoothies, but I don’t want to eat tofu every day. So I’ve been experimenting with a concept that many Americans will find unusual–beans for breakfast.
Of course, in many places outside of the United States, beans are standard breakfast fare. From Baked Beans on Toast in England to Ful Medames (fava beans) in Egypt to Gallo Pinto (red beans and rice) in Nicaragua and Casamiento (black beans and rice) in El Salvador, people all over the world enjoy beans for breakfast because they are inexpensive and loaded with nutrition.
Since I’m a Southerner, I wanted a bean dish that I could serve on top of grits. If you’ve ever had grits, you know that they’re very bland. Most people flavor them up by adding a ton of butter or margarine to them and serving them alongside bacon or sausage–veggie sausage in this vegan household. But as you know, those vegan sausages are very processed and not the way I want to start off my day. So I created my breakfast beans to taste like sausage by using the seasonings that go into Italian sausage–fennel seed, sage, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes–plus a little hickory smoked salt and smoked paprika to add that smokehouse flavor. With so much flavor in the beans, the grits no longer need any added fat.
Of course, you can serve these beans over rice, potatoes, or any grain you like, or you can serve them au natural for a lower-carb breakfast. And you can eat them for dinner or lunch instead of breakfast. Just eat ’em!
Sausage-Flavored Breakfast Beans and Grits
The longer these beans cook, the more flavoful they are, so if you’re looking for a quick breakfast, consider cooking them in a small slow cooker overnight. Right before bedtime, get them started on the stove and then transfer them to a crockpot set to its lowest temperature. Add a little extra broth to keep them from boiling dry. In the morning, add the spinach, make your grits, and enjoy your breakfast!
- 1 large onion, chopped
- pinch of baking soda (see notes)
- water or vegetable broth
- 1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups cooked cannellini beans (or other white beans), drained (or 2 cans, rinsed and drained)
- 1 cup vegetable broth (I used Imagine’s No-Chicken), plus additional, as needed
- 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed (see note)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, depending on how spicy want it to be
- 4 cups chopped fresh spinach
- smoked salt, to taste
- 1 cup yellow corn grits, prepared according to package instructions
- Heat a large non-stick pot or skillet. Add the onion, sprinkle it with the baking soda, and immediately stir in one tablespoon of water or vegetable broth. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion changes color and begins to soften, adding more water if it starts to stick to the pan. Add the chopped pepper and garlic along with another tablespoon of water or broth. Cook for 2-3 minutes, adding another splash of water if necessary and making sure that the garlic does not burn.
- Add the drained beans, vegetable broth, and all seasonings. Cover tightly, reduce heat to very low, and cook for at least 30 minutes, adding broth if it starts to dry out. The longer and slower you cook them, the more flavorful the beans will be.
- While the beans are cooking, prepare the grits according to package instructions. (I used 1 cup of Bob’s Red Mill organic grits cooked in 3 cups of water.) Keep warm until beans are ready.
- Check the beans, and if they seem dry, add a good splash of broth. (The beans should have a little liquid around them, but not as much as a soup or stew.) Increase the heat to medium, add the spinach, sprinkle with smoked salt if you want, stir well, cover tightly, and cook until the spinach wilts. Serve over the grits.
Baking soda speeds the cooking of the onion so that no oil and little liquid is needed.
Fennel helps give the beans the flavor of Italian sausage, but if you’re not a big fennel fan, start with 1/4 teaspoon and add more to taste.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s) | Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4 generous servings or 6 small ones
Nutrition (per serving, 1/4 of recipe including grits): 338 calories, 12 calories from fat, 1.5g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 438mg sodium, 872.4mg potassium, 66.6g carbohydrates, 12.2g fiber, 2.6g sugar, 16.5g protein. (For beans without grits: 193 calories, .9g total fat, 35.6g carbohydrates, 13g protein.)
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