The fashion world has the little black dress, a go-to for any occasion that can be adorned as much or as little as you want. In the food world, we have the little black bean.

Yes, this small but mighty pantry staple is one of the most versatile items to have around. Whether you start with canned or dried — there’s room for both here — you’ll be able to make a wide array of dishes for pretty much any meal. In other words, black beans are definitely not just for burgers (although we have a great recipe for those).

Want to expand your black bean repertoire? Have a look at these possibilities from our archives:

Spicy Black Beans With Chorizo and Greens, above. Slightly bitter greens meld beautifully with earthy black beans and spicy, smoky chorizo. This would make a very hearty side, but we enjoyed it as a main over a soft spider bread. Polenta would also work well, or you can round the dish out with a fried egg on top. Combined with scrambled eggs, the dish would make a great taco filling.


Cuban Beans and Rice (Moros y Cristianos). Voraciously readers were big fans of our take on this traditional dish. While we give instructions on how to make it with canned beans, starting with dried lets you use the darkened soaking liquid to turn the rice its trademark inky color.


Chili Corn Pancakes. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, no matter the time of day, these savory pancakes are sure to satisfy. Deputy Food editor Bonnie S. Benwick’s pantry-friendly, 25-minute meal is ready for the toppings of your choice. Salsa? Cheese? Avocado? Melted butter? Go for it.


Shrimp and Black Bean Quesadillas. Here’s another fast dinner (3o minutes!) from Bonnie. The unexpected addition here is Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, which is mixed with sour cream and black beans as part of the filling that also includes paprika-coated shrimp.


Black Bean Burgers. These are vegan and gluten-free, featuring both chickpea flour and applesauce to help hold them together. The recipe makes eight, so extras can be frozen after cooking. When you’re ready to eat them, allow them to thaw in the refrigerator (or defrost in the microwave) and then recrisp them in the skillet.


Warm Chipotle Black Bean Dip. Forget those heavy, greasy dips that are mostly cheese. This one features a restrained amount of Monterey Jack on top, but the heft comes from a can of mashed black beans enlivened by chipotle en adobo. Serve with vegetables, chips or even tortillas.

More from Voraciously: