This is Highly Recommend, a column dedicated to what we’re eating, drinking, and buying right now. Here, Sarah Jampel writes about A Dozen Cousins’ ready-to-eat beans.
Confession, reader: Canned beans aren’t quite as convenient as I’ve made them out to be. They’ll get to the dinner table faster than dried, but open up the can, rinse off those bad bean boys (or not), and you’ve still got a product that needs some help: A few minutes to marinate in oil and vinegar. A dance through hot oil fragrant with garlic and spices, a handful of greens and a glug of wine. Mayonnaise.
And that’s where A Dozen Cousins comes in. Their line of seasoned beans, which come in bags rather than cans, are actually ready to eat. Warm them up in the microwave or on the stove and…that’s it. Because they’re already seasoned and spiced, bolstered by avocado oil and real vegetables like garlic, onions, and peppers, you don’t have to dig through the pantry or break out the cutting board. They’re delicious on their own. They’ve been there for me when I’ve been near-stupefied with exhaustion. I’ve had the Mexican Cowboy Beans tucked in tortillas, the Cuban Black Beans with leftover rice, and my personal fave, the Trini Chickpea Curry, with roti from the freezer and sautéed greens.
These beans are the brainchild of Ibraheem Basir, who worked at a number of national food brands before launching his own. While the Bean Biz is worth nearly three billion dollars, Basir told me, existing products didn’t reflect the ingredients’ culinary significance or range. In most stores, the selection of ready-to-eat beans is limited—either refried or baked. A Dozen Cousins expands the scope, pulling inspiration from the food Basir grew up eating in the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods of Brooklyn with flavors from the American South, Caribbean, and Latin American.
Not only does A Dozen Cousins pride itself on creating high-quality food made with wholesome, easy-to-recognize ingredients, it also gives back. Since 2019, they’ve provided an annual grant to non-profit organizations working to counter the socio-economic health disparities that disproportionately affect Black and brown communities. Last year, the grant recipient was the LA-based intersectional women’s hike club, Hike Clerb. And the year before that, it was Los Angeles Community Fridges, an organization maintaining a free network of public refrigerators throughout Los Angeles. Basir started the fund as a way to provide support to individuals, families, and communities who wouldn’t necessarily have the means to buy his products. “In an ideal world,” says Basir, “your health wouldn’t be tied to your socio-economic status at all.”
There’s a lot of work that needs to happen before we can get to that point—and A Dozen Cousins will fuel it.
This article was originally published in 2020 and was updated in 2023.