Freestyle Vegan Dinner – Bean “Thingy”

Bean Thingy Ingredients

When we first became vegan/vegetarian, we struggled with meal planning.

When we were meat-eaters, it was pretty simple – meat, starch (potato/rice) and veggie. If we were having chicken, it was “What goes with chicken.” The same goes for the other meats. We would pick whatever we thought went well with whatever meat we were having. It made meal planning pretty simple.

We also had a repertoire of “set” dishes like meatloaf, beef stew, chicken in mushroom soup, etc.

We still struggle to have “set” vegan/vegetarian dishes but we’re finding new favorites all the time.

A lot of the time we just “wing it.” And, that’s pretty much what this post is about.

Bean “Thingy” has become a staple in our house but it’s usually different each time we make it.

The conversation usually goes:

Geoff: “So, what’s for dinner tonight?”

Vicky: “I’m going to make Bean Thingy”

Geoff: Great! I love Bean Thingy!”

Because it’s different each time – but always similar – it’s been tough to put an actual name on it, so Bean Thingy it remains.

The goal here is to impart inspiration rather than a hard-and-fast recipe.

The photo above is what we started with. You’ll note that the can of beans has been crossed out. That’s because, as I got into it, I realized I didn’t need those extra beans. However, I did realize that I need some other things and you’ll see that later in the post.

I did write up a recipe, to the best of my ability, and that’s at the end of this post. I was also able to include the number of servings (6) and the calories and nutrients, too. But that’s just for this one freestyle meal. The next time I make it it will be different again, as it also depends on what I have available in the house at the time.

So, let’s get started:

I sautéed the onions, celery, peppers and garlic in a little olive oil. Note: you can omit the olive oil and just use water or vegetable broth if you want the dish to be oil-free

Sauté over medium-high heat.

Then I added the chili powder and cumin. Adding the spices at this point helps bring out the aroma and flavor, rather than adding them at the end.

Add the chili powder and cumin and sauté a little longer.

Once the spices have been incorporated (be careful not to let them burn), it’s time to add the diced tomatoes.

Next, add the diced tomatoes.

Stir well and bring to a simmer.

Stir well and bring to a simmer.

At this point, I remembered I had some frozen beet greens (harvested from our garden last Fall), so I decided to add about a cup’s worth. You could easily substitute spinach or kale.

Add 1 cup chopped beet greens.

Mixed well and then add the chickpeas.

Mix well and add the chickpeas.

At this point, things were looking a little dry, so I decided to add some crushed tomatoes. This not only added liquid it also helped to bump up the tomato flavor.

Add about 1 cup of crushed tomatoes.

Stir well, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

At this point, and several times during the process, taste the dish and adjust the spices according to your taste.

During the simmering time, I added about 1-1/2 tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar because I like the taste and about 2 teaspoons of brown sugar (that helps smooth out the vinegar taste). Both the vinegar and the brown sugar are totally optional.

I also added about a tablespoon of pink Himalayan salt and about 2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper.

We served it with some rice and broccoli to complete the meal.

Bean Thingy with rice and broccoli.

When this dish was complete, it made 6 servings and, based on what I did for this version, here’s the calories and nutrients, per serving:

Note: you can reduce the calories and fat by eliminating the olive oil.

  • Food energy: 231kcal
  • Saturated fatty acids: 0.72g
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids: 2.41g
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids: 1.54g
  • Total fat: 4.67g
  • Calories from fat: 42
  • Cholesterol: —
  • Carbohydrate, by difference: 41.76g
  • Total dietary fiber: 10.97g
  • Protein: 9.28g
  • Total lipid (fat): 5.37g
  • Water: 350.82g
  • Ash: 7.58g
  • Total sugars: 16.42g
  • Calcium: 164mg
  • Iron: 5.53mg
  • Magnesium: 87mg
  • Phosphorus: 182mg
  • Potassium: 1021mg
  • Sodium: 1862mg
  • Zinc: 1.54mg
  • Copper: 0.55mg
  • Manganese: 1.40mg
  • Selenium: 4.52μg
  • Vitamin C: 33.08mg
  • Thiamin: 0.22mg
  • Riboflavin: 0.19mg
  • Niacin: 3.01mg
  • Pantothenic acid: 0.96mg
  • Vitamin B6: 0.91mg
  • Folate, total: 73μg
  • Folic acid: —
  • Food folate: 73μg
  • Folate: 73μg dietary folate equivalents
  • Choline: 56mg
  • Vitamin B12: —
  • Vitamin A: 2244IU
  • Vitamin A RAE: 112μg retinol activity equivalents
  • Retinol: —
  • Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol): 1222.44mg
  • Vitamin D µg: 163μg
  • Vitamin D IU: 8814IU
  • Vitamin K (phylloquinone): 457.33μg
  • Alpha-carotene: 3μg
  • Beta-carotene: —
  • Beta-cryptoxanthin: —
  • Lycopene: 46μg
  • Lutein+zeazanthin: 84μg
  • Percent refuse: —

And here’s the complete, printable recipe for this iteration of “Bean Thingy.” Enjoy!

Freestyle Vegan Dinner – Bean “Thingy”

This recipe is more for inspiration than a hard-and-fast method. This is a bean dish that we make often but it's different each time depending on what we have available in the kitchen. Almost everything can have a substitute and we encourage you to experiment.
Course: Main Course
Keyword: beet greens, celery, chickpeas, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, easy, garlic, hearty, onions, red bell pepper, Vegan
Servings: 6
Calories: 231kcal
Author: Vicky Wells


  • skillet


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, optional you can substitute water or vegetable broth
  • medium onions, halved and sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • ¼ medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 teaspoons cumin, or to taste
  • 3-4 tablespoons chili powder, or to taste
  • 28 ounces diced tomatoes, canned or homemade
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups chickpeas, cooked
  • 1 cup beet greens, chopped you can substitute spinach or kale
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste we used Himalayan pink salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
  • tablespoons Balsamic vinegar, optional
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar, optional


  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.
  • Sauté the onions, celery, red bell pepper and garlic for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the chili powder and cumin. Stir well, and sauté for another couple of minutes.
  • Add the diced tomatoes and stir well.
  • Bring to a simmer and add the chopped beet greens. Stir well.
  • Add the chickpeas and stir well.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes and stir well.
  • Add the salt and pepper and stir well. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
  • Add the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, if using, and stir well.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Serve hot with your favorite sides.
  • Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.

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