Kitchn Love Letters

The Easy, Versatile WFH Lunch I Meal Prep Every Week

updated Mar 29, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

When I started working from home five years ago I was surprised by how many people assumed I hit the pause button in the middle of my work day to prepare myself an impressive lunch. It’s a nice idea, though one that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. In fact, working from home made lunch far trickier and a serious pain point when it came to meal time. Best case scenario, I did some recipe testing work in the morning that could be turned into lunch; worst case scenario, it meant a lunchtime scavenging mission through my pantry.

I quickly learned that meal prep was absolutely essential if I wanted a midday meal that didn’t involve grazing on snacks all day or spending too much money on takeout. More specifically, the answer to my WFH lunch dilemma turned out to be marinated beans.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

A Love Letter to 20-Minute Marinated Beans

I was excited to make these marinated beans as soon as my co-worker Sheela shared them on the site a couple years ago. They seemed like the low-effort, big benefit answer to my search for my perfect make-ahead lunch — and they were. No more than 20 minutes of upfront work means I have lunch for an entire week. Not only do these beans hold up extremely well over the course of a week, but they get even better and more flavorful with each day that passes. You certainly can’t say that about a green salad or even a grain salad, or pot of soup.

This humble lunch is also extremely versatile. I make it with whatever ingredients I have handy in the pantry. I’ll grab whatever beans I have in the pantry: Kidney beans, butter beans, corona beans, black beans, even black eye peas and lentils are fair game in my book, just as white, yellow, of red onion can be used in place of the shallot. And while I love the combo of fresh parsley and oregano, I take the same approach with the herbs and toss in a couple handfuls of whatever is lingering in the fridge. I’ve lost count of just how many variations I’ve mixed together at this point.

All The Ways to Eat Marinated Beans

If you’re wondering if beans for lunch gets boring, there’s plenty of super-simple ways to serve them up that it doesn’t come close to feeling like I’m eating the same thing everyday.

  • Over a bed of greens. Beans and greens (leafy salad greens or warm sautéed greens, like kale, chard, or spinach) make a hearty, healthful lunch.
  • On toast. Spoon bean over a piece of toast for an open-faced sandwich.
  • With tuna or chicken. For a fancy-ish take on tuna or chicken salad, mix with a can of tuna or leftover shredded rotisserie chicken.
  • Put an egg on it. Beans are delicious topped with a fried egg or two.
  • With leftover grains. Or turn beans into a grain bowls with leftover grains, orzo, or pasta.

Get the recipe: Marinated White Beans