Cool beans: Wichita cooks loving these legumes

By Joe Stumpe | February 1, 2022

Beans will never be the most glamorous ingredient in the pantry, but some Wichita cooks are sure making them sound like it.

And these beans happen to be grown in Kansas, known more for wheat, corn and cattle than beans.

Mary Singleton

Mary Singleton said it was a “weird coagulation of things” that led her to the products of 21st Century Bean, a farmer-owned processing cooperative headquartered in Sharon Springs, Kan., 15 miles from the Colorado border. She and friends experienced them first in a black bean pate at the Elderslie Farm restaurant in Kechi.

“You think, ‘Bean pate? I don’t want to try it.’ It was so delicious, people were literally like, ‘Can I lick the bowl?’”

One of the diners ordered a bag of beans from the 21st Century Bean website, and soon everybody in the group of foodie friends was doing the same.

Singleton likes the beans’ back story nearly as well as their flavor. A retired registered nurse and Master Gardener, she grew up in western Kansas where her family still owns land. Members of the 21st Century Bean cooperative have found that beans grow well in that environment.

Thanks to the processing plant in Sharon Springs, Singleton said, “They’re now a pretty substantial employer in that area.”
Singleton gave bags of beans to family and friends at Christmas.  

One of her favorite beans is a large, multicolored variety known as the Fremont, which is actually grown across the state line in Burlington. Fremont beans were discovered in a clay pot during an archaeological excavation in Utah and named for a people that lived there until 800 years ago. 

“They’re huge. They’re the size of your thumb. Inside, they’re luscious and creamy. You don’t even think it’s a bean. You think it’s some kind of meat.”

Singleton could point out that beans are considered one of the most nutritious foods around, delivering protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals with little fat and cholesterol. But it’s really about the flavor.

“They’re just incredible.”

Chicken and White Bean Soup

1-2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (may substitute chicken thigh meat, if preferred), cooked and shredded

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 teaspoon each cumin and dried oregano leaves

15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, with juice

2 cups cooked Great Northern beans

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Chopped cilantro, to taste


Add the olive oil to large saucepan over medium high heat; when the oil is nicely hot, add the onion, cumin, and oregano. Sauté until the onion is softened and translucent.

Stir in the cooked beans, diced tomatoes, and chicken broth; bring to a low simmer, cooking until hot throughout.

Garnish each bowl of soup with cilantro and serve alongside a nice crusty bread.

Source: 21st Century Bean

Black Bean Soup

Mary Singleton credits her friend, Nancy McMaster, for this recipe. Singleton likes to serve it with cornbread, salad and a cold beer.

2 cups bean

Water for soaking and cooking

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 lb. turkey kielbasa, sliced

1 to 2 yellow onions, chopped

1 cup diced carrots

1 to 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon, preferably Better than Bouillon

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

3 bay leaves

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 seeded and chopped jalapeno, optional


Soak beans overnight in water. When ready to cook, pour off soaking water. Place beans in heavy pot with enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring beans to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 2 hours, adding fresh water to replace that absorbed by the beans.

Meanwhile, in a pan, saute kielbasa, onions and carrot until onions are soft. Add contents of pan to bean along with bouillon, cumin and bay leaves. Continue cooking for one hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with jalapeno, if desired.

Black Bean Burgers

Note that the beans in this recipe are soaked but not fully cooked in water, the same technique used in making falafel.

1 lb. dried black beans

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated white onion

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Salt and pepper

Hot sauce (such as Cholula)

8 slices swiss cheese

Olive oil, for frying

Butter, for frying and grilling

4 whole Kaiser rolls or good hamburger buns


Lettuce or other greens

Sliced tomato


Place the beans in a bowl or pot, cover with cold water and allow to soak overnight OR add beans to a medium pot and cover with hot water. Bring to a boil, then boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and allow the beans to sit for 1 hour. Drain, but do not rinse, the black beans.

Place them in a bowl and use a fork to mash them. Keep mashing until they’re mostly broken up, but still have some whole beans visible. Add the breadcrumbs, onion, egg, chili powder, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Stir until everything is combined, then let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil with an equal amount of butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Form the bean mixture into patties slightly larger than the buns you’re using (the patties will not shrink when they cook.) Place the patties in the skillet and cook them about 5 minutes on the first side. Flip them to the other side, place 2 slices of cheese onto each patty, and continue cooking them for another 5 minutes, or until the burgers are heated through. (Place a lid on the skillet to help the cheese melt if needed.)

Grill the buns on a griddle with a little butter until golden. Spread the buns with mayonnaise and hot sauce, then place the patties on the buns. Top with lettuce and tomato, then pop on the lids.

Source: 21st Century Bean