Magic Beans! The Perfect [Easy + Healthy] Food For Plant-Based Children (And The Parents Who Love Them)

April 28th, 2015 - filed under: The Food » Recipes

magic beans recipe

This is a post I’ve resisted writing for ages, because it’s just SO simple and SO easy, that as a blogger I can’t help but feel like I’m “cheating” making a post out of it. This has happened to me before of course, and every time I post one of these simple + easy recipes, I’m always flooded with comment of THANK YOU and MORE PLEASE. Because duh, who doesn’t want simple + easy? Of course you guys appreciate that!

Which is why I’m finally posting this very, very special recipe. A recipe so special that it is, hands down, the most loved and the most commonly eaten food ’round these parts. Waits loves it because it’s quick, always at the ready, and totally delicious. And I love it because it’s a super nutritional powerhouse, packed full of protein and healthy fats and lots of essential vitamins and minerals.

Honestly? I think it’s sort of the perfect food for growing vegan children.

vegan kids beans

Magic Beans can be made with any kind of bean! Waits loves kidneys best, and I love lentils.

And I can’t even recall the number of times I’ve posted this recipe across the internet – in vegan parenting groups (every single one I belong to, multiple times) and in emails, on Facebook, Google + and Instagram, over and over and over I post this recipe. Because it’s perfect!

Protein is so important for growing bodies, and healthy fats provide calories, energy and form the foundation of nervous tissue. Fats are also essential for proper brain development and hormone function. So … kiddos need those fats!

Each kind of bean provides it’s own unique micronutrient profile, but most all beans are high in iron, magnesium, folic acid, and B-vitamins (not B12).

recipes for vegan children

We ♡ nooch! (aka nutritonal yeast)

And of course, there’s the nutritional yeast. Nutty and cheesy and oh-so-yummy, nooch also packs a nutritional punch, offering tons of protein, zinc, B-vitamins, and the ever-elusive vitamin B12.

And perhaps the best part of all about Magic Beans, is that they require no cooking, no forethought, and only about 2 minutes to prepare from start to serving. You can’t beat that!

Here’s what you do:

recipes for vegan kids

Magic Beans have just 4 ingredients: beans (drained and rinsed), nutritional yeast, olive oil (or hemp oil or avocado oil or macadamia oil or another healthy oil of your choice), and tamari/Braggs/soy sauce (or just salt if you prefer).

To prepare, place 1 can of rinsed beans (or equivalent lentils) in a bowl. Drizzle with oil, I use probably 1-2 tablespoons but really it’s up to you. Add the nutritional yeast, somewhere between 1-3 tablespoons. Then drizzle or spray with tamari/Braggs/soy sauce, to taste.

Like so:

magic bean recipe

And then toss well to combine:

magic beans

Finally, feed the resulting goodness to your favorite weegan — or wee non-vegan, they love Magic Beans too! In fact, we’ve pretty much gotten our entire preschool hooked on the stuff, because it’s just so dang tasty, and so dang healthy!

And around the house, we eat Magic Beans as a snack food, as an “appetizer” (you know –> “MoooOOooom I’m hungry now!” <-- while you're making dinner? This is great to hold them over, because even if they fill up on it, they've eaten something totally well-rounded and meal-worthy), and often as a main component of our meals (both lunch and dinner) (and okay, sometimes breakfast too - the cold leftovers are great in the morning!).

For example, a common dinner is Magic Beans, homemade mac and cheeze, and a raw veggie plate. Or an example lunch might be Magic Beans, coconut yogurt, fresh red peppers, snap pea crisps, and a few strawberries for dessert (Other sample lunches with magic beans, here and here). Yes, we eat a lot of them.

What can we say? We LOVE our Magic Beans!

happy vegan kiddo

And now, I want YOU to tell ME! What’s your simple + easy superstar recipe for vegan kids? Let’s help each other out, and share in the comments below!

Cheers guys!

♥ ♥ ♥

  • kim

    Just wondering: why not use dried and homecooked beans instead of canned? It can be just as convenient if you make a large batch and freeze.

  • Anne

    Thanks! I love quick meal ideas. There are times I need something quick and I make a processed (vegan) food, great to have a whole foods alternative, or something to make a salad more of a meal.

  • Lizzil

    I don’t have kiddos, but my inner child LOVES the classic PB&J sandwich. I use Trader Joe’s *new* vegan sprouted wheat bread (bigger slices and tastier than Ezekiel bread, imo), organic peanut butter made only with peanuts (TJ Brand), and strawberry jelly sweetened only with fruit juice (I like Polaner Brand). I eat one for lunch at least 3 times a week. It’s easy, filling, tasty and comforting!

  • Lizzil

    I’m excited to try Magic Beans! My fiancee and I have been eating hippie bowls with the raw tahini sauce at least once a week since you posted! YUM!

    I could go on and on about food….

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Hi Kim, this recipe works just as well with home-cooked beans, so feel free to sub!

    The reason *I* don’t use them though, is all about convenience and variety. Convenience, because this meal is a 2-minute meal which I make very often, and frozen beans would mean thawing, and that would negate the quickness/spontaneity of it.

    And variety, because we eat a LOT of beans around here, and we like to keep things diverse. Waits likes kidneys in his magic beans, I like white beans in my salads, we do black beans in our tacos, etc. Keeping a pot of cooked beans in the fridge – which I’ve done in the past – means you only get to eat one kind of bean at a time.

    At this point in my life I just want more ease and convenience. But please – feel free to use whatever works for you! A can of beans is about 1 1/3 cups, if you’re looking to sub in home cooked.


  • Sayward Rebhal

    These are great IN salads as well! SOmetimes I dump his leftovers on my salad, and the olive oil/nooch/tamari sort of acts like a dressing. Mmmm yes, very good. ;-)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yes! We love us some pb&j. That’s great to hear that TJs has a new sprouted bread with bigger slices! We usually buy Ezekiel from them, but I’ll look out for that because bigger slices would definitely be better. =)

    Have you tried the TJs fruit juice-sweetened jams? They’re organic and reasonable priced – we love them!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Ha, please do go on and on about food! And I love hearing that you’re loving the tahini sauce. I started making that sauce like, 5 years ago, and it’s *still* in the weekly rotation! =D

  • Blake M

    As a fellow grad student, I also totally understand the convenience of canned beans! Every once and a while I can make a batch of dried beans, but canned is just so easy. I’ll definitely be taking some magic beans into the office for lunch soon.

  • Lizzil

    I have tried them. So good! Polaner tastes better to me, though. They are non-gmo. It’s a weird toss up between non-gmo Polaner and organic from TJ’s. Thoughts on which is better for people, animals and the planet?

  • Anne


  • Larissa

    I saw you mention Magic Beans on your Facebook page and tried them. My 2.5 yo refused to taste them (he’s in *that* phase right now), but my 6 yo immediately loved them and asked for more, more and more please. And just like that, it instantly became a staple for her school lunches. So yeah, I’m one going to say thanks!
    And, again, please post about those easy recipes, because in the end, they are the ones that people like me (aka full-time job working mother of 2) are more likely to try and use…!
    PS: love your blog, always.

  • LIndsey at TheGreenPenn

    I’ve been making this for my girl for months, not realizing it was your Magic Bean recipe. Great minds think alike, right? Charlotte has these in her lunch at least a couple of times per week, usually with quinoa or rice, steamed broccoli or green beans, and some chopped raw veggies. She absolutely LOVES beans in any form. Who would’ve thought a 2-year-old would be so easy to please? I also have a favorite recipe that I make her regularly… split peas cooked with garlic and onion in a veggie broth until it’s a creamy soup consistency, served over a grain with black pepper sprikled on top. She says “peas please!”. Who could resist? She also loves brown rice noodles with steamed veggies and Trader Joe’s original marinara sauce. I must admit, this feeding “wee-gans” thing is much easier than I expected. ;-)

  • April

    I made a version of magic beans for lunch today! Black beans plus wagon wheel pasta, my friend’s INCREDIBLE Persian Lime evoo, shoyu, nooch, and hemp hearts. So yum! And kiddo loved it too!

  • Amy

    I totally get where you are coming from on convenience- I don’t make beans from scratch nearly as often as I should. Have you read all the research on BPA and development in children though? I thought it was a lot of media hype until I actually read all the scientific literature on it recently as a project for school. I think you might be interested in it as a biologist. Just throwing it out there since I know you are in grad school!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Absolutely! That’s such a good point. I’m very cautious about BPA and do everything I can to avoid it.

    Just a heads up, ALL the Trader Joe’s canned beans are BPA-free! It’s awesome that there are [relatively] cheap and organic BPA-free options that are pretty readily available. I know not everyone has access to TJs, but it’s a good start!

  • Rebecca Carnes

    Love love love this post! Thanks to you we enjoy magic beans multiple times a week too:) It’s my absolute fav thing to make on busy week nights and busy mornings when Im running late (which is always) for quick school lunches. P does enjoy a good ole PB&J -made with sunbutter – as well;)

  • Olgui

    Love it! Love it! Thanks for the recipe! I’m gonna try that! :-D

  • janet @ the taste space

    Totally love the recipe, Sayward. It reminds me of a similar cheezy dish I’ve made with chickpeas and kale but yours is still so much easier! No cook!

  • Sonja

    eating magic beans right now (as part of my buddha bowl) :-) mazing! Thank you so much for this quick, healthy & delicious recipe :-)

  • Maria Keernik

    I read about “magic beans” from your blog about 2 years ago, when my youngest (then 2 years old) was a very picky eater. She instantly loved them and even now, when she is much more open to try new foods – “magic beans” are still her favourite. Thanks a million for that idea – you saved my sanity with a mega-picky-eater-two-year-old :)

  • Gingerrose

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I am retired, I have turned totally plant-based, and after a LIFETIME of cooking for myself and others, I am done! I want easy, simple, nourishing recipes. I do best on high protein – thank goodness vegan protein does the trick as well as animal-based. When I see the “plant based experts” recommending a lunch of brown rice, veggies and a scant 1/2 cup of beans, no oil, I know I would feel exhausted with such little protein. Healthy fats and plant based proteins keep me going for hours. Thank you so much for this simple, delicious recipe.

  • Amy

    Whoa, really?! They don’t say it on the can!

    Unfortunately, in my research I found that BPS (that’s what they replace BPA with in BPA-free products typically) is likely just as bad as BPA. It seems like you either avoid it completely (make beans from scratch) or make peace with the endocrine-disrupting risks.

    I need to maintain a sense of normalcy and not drive myself nuts over every single thing, but I was shocked at the overwhelming body of evidence on BPA. I assumed to find it was a lot of media hype with a few nuggets of truth, but I was wrong about that. It’s not something like artificial colors, where there are a handful of studies that show it may have harmful effects, and you may want to avoid it. We are talking hundreds of animal studies and over 100 epidemiological studies (RCTs would be unethical of course). I’m definitely thinking about a major life overhaul/BPA purge.

  • Katrina

    Just tried this. THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING, WOMAN! Holy smokes!

  • Chelsea

    You are the one who introduced me to nutritional yeast and I couldn’t be more thankful. I call it nootch too, because of you, and no one knows what I’m talking about until I explain. Spreading the nootch love with all of my coworkers has been a real treat. One of my coworkers (who isn’t vegan, but cannot have dairy) keeps a jar in her work locker now! My husband cannot stand the smell of nootch, unfortunately. Doesn’t keep me from piling it on my salads every time…

  • Katie

    I love Magic Beans! :)
    Sometimes I’ll mix beans with Trader Joe’s Goddess dressing too (which is actually Annie’s brand, I believe.) Actually one of my favorite salads consists of greens with black beans, Goddess dressing, and nutritional yeast. So good!
    When I was a nanny for a wee little guy, one of his favorite meals was black bean and guacamole tacos on corn tortillas. He never had a huge appetite, but he could eat just as much as me when this meal was involved! :)
    When I first started watching him, he wouldn’t eat a single vegetable. By the end of our time together he would even eat kale salads if I called it “sour apple salad”- kale chopped pretty small, massaged with olive oil and lemon juice, and mixed with chopped apple and dried cranberries. It’s all about the name and presentation!

  • Meredith

    Oh.My.Goodness. Just ate an entire can of beans using this recipe (plus a few drops of liquid smoke). Yum.

  • Angie

    Magic beans have been a life saver for me! Thank you for posting this. I often make a big batch at the beginning of the week and have them ready for my son’s lunch or busy weeknights.
    He also loves tofu egg salad. I make a huge batch of this to be used for salads and sandwiches.

  • Ann

    These have greatly helped me increase my bean intake; thank you! But I have a lot of trouble digesting beans: I get very bloated just a few minutes after eating even a little, and I stay that way for hours, often the rest of the day. Do you have any suggestions for alleviating this problem? Thanks.

  • Felicia Neese

    I absolutely love beans, but have the same issue with bloating, and swear by Bean-zyme Anti-Gas Digestive Aid. I am not vegan, so I use the non-vegan formula, but the same company also makes a vegan version, and I *think* the only difference is cellulose in the capsule instead of gelatin, so it should work similarly. I guess you’d just have to do a little digging to determine if it’s a good option for you.
    I also find I do better if I cook the beans from dry, with an overnight cold soak in lots of water and a splash of vinegar, and then fresh water for cooking, rather than using canned. But I frequently use canned beans for convenience/times sake and the Bean-zyme works great for me personally. I hope something in all this rambling is helpful to you. :-)

  • Elle

    Gonna try this out for some lunches this week and I know this is gonna a little… silly but do you eat these warm or cold? Or both? I just wanna know if I can heat these up okay. I’m a meat eater at the minute but I would love to really cut down on my consumption. Weirdly enough the only non-vegan thing I eat is actually meat, I don’t use any other animal products. Your website is gonna be invaluable to me in the coming weeks.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Hi Elle, so sorry to answer this a little late, but to answer your question – we eat it cold! It’s not cooked, just tossed all together and served. Of course, you could heat it or cook it if you wanted to. But we do it cold.

    Hope that helps!

  • Elle

    Thank you!

  • Sheena McKinnon

    I just made these. Actually, I managed to mis-read the directions and left out the oil.
    Yeah, they were delicious anyway!
    Next time I will use just a little of the cooking water instead of oil.
    Thanks for this!

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  • McKenna

    Adding hummus to the bowl adds great taste too! I put some of trader joes roasted red pepper hummus on mine and its delicious

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  • Melissa Bertone

    <3 thank you for sharing! My 14 month old weegan is teething and has been so fussy, but he LOVED these. We make our own raw flax crackers, which he enjoys with some smashed avocado, turmeric, hemp seeds and a pinch of sea salt. Also zucchini noodles. Your Facebook and site are one of my favourite sources of inspiration. Sending big love from Australia.

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  • Mama C

    The worked! Very picky four year old ate them. I think she would have been happier if I had “magicked” pasta, but simply having her eat them was mind-blowing. You have helped me save time and improve my daughter’s protein intake. Thank you!

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  • Alissa Smith

    I just started throwing this concoction together myself, with some black beans I had cooked and frozen. I recently tried nooch for the first time and have been shaking it over everything. I put it on the beans, with smoked olive oil, and some sumac for that tangy flavor. I love the combo!

  • Toni

    I have mine with ginger tea, it reduces the bloating, and also eat more yogurt!~ It has the good bacteria that helps you digest food properly, and populates your belly with it.

  • Toni

    I use this recipe but I put a little tomato paste in because I just hate beans, but I need the protein lol. The tomato really helps mask the beany flavor and starchyness.