50 Protein-Packed Dinners | Fitbie
 

Healthy Dinner Recipes: Protein Foods

50 Protein-Packed Dinners

These 20-minute meals will fill your belly, build your body, and satisfy your every last craving

Grilled chicken kebabs with peanut sauce
Tim Turner

A lot of men look at dinner as a chore, like doing laundry. But take it for what it really is: an opportunity to stoke your fat burners, awaken your senses, even feed your soul. Why settle for lack-luster takeout when you can cook one of 50 amazing meals in less time than it takes to have a pizza delivered? These dishes are protein powerhouses, fueled by everything from bacon to beans, so they're primed to beef up your metabolism. But don't read them as formal recipes. Think of them as road maps that can steer you in delicious directions. So take charge of the dinner hour—the best time of the day, if you work it right.

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Note: Use 12 to 16 ounces of meat or fish in recipes that don't specify amounts.

1. Chicken Braised in Soy Sauce and Lemon
Sauté, Cheap eat, Intermediate
Brown bone-in chicken pieces in a few tablespoons olive oil. Remove them and stir in some chopped garlic. Add the minced zest of a lemon, a pinch of cayenne, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1/3 cup water; stir. Add the chicken, cover, and simmer. Turn the pieces once; the dish will be done in about 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and more soy sauce to taste.

2. Grilled Chicken with Pesto Sauce
Grill, Beginner
To make the pesto, puree 2 cups fresh basil, 1 garlic clove, a pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, and 1/2 cup olive oil in a blender or food processor. Season 1 pound chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Grill them, turning once, about 8 minutes total. Paint with pesto and serve.

3. Grilled Chicken Kebabs with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Spicy, Cheap eat, Intermediate
Cut boneless chicken thighs into 1 1/2"  chunks. Shake on salt and pepper. Thread onto skewers and grill about 12 minutes. To make the sauce, combine the minced zest and juice of a lime, 1 tablespoon peanut oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, a pinch of cayenne, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, and 1 chopped onion.

4. Chicken with Citrus Sauce
Broil, Cheap eat, Intermediate
To make the sauce, warm the zest and juice of a lemon, plus the sections of another lemon, an orange, and a grapefruit, in a pan. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, a small minced onion, salt, and pepper. Rub boneless chicken with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Broil or grill. Serve with the citrus sauce.

5. Chicken Tikka with Yogurt Sauce
Grill, Intermediate
Cut boneless chicken into 1" chunks. Combine with 1/4 cup yogurt, 1/4 cup ground cashews, and a teaspoon each ground cardamom, ground coriander, minced ginger, and minced garlic. Remove from the marinade, and grill until it's brown and cooked through. To make the sauce, mix 1 cup yogurt with 1 teaspoon minced garlic and some lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Serve with the chicken.

6. Broiled Chicken Breasts with Cilantro and Lime
Broil, Spicy, Cheap eat, Intermediate
Combine 3 tablespoons peanut oil, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, 1 tablespoon chopped shallot, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, and some salt and pepper. Spread half in a pan and add the chicken; sprinkle with salt, pepper, and the remaining mixture. Broil until cooked through. Garnish with chopped cilantro and lime wedges.

7. Lamb Burger with Smoked Mozzarella
Grill, Cheap eat, Beginner
Cut 1/4 pound smoked mozzarella into 4 pieces. Divide a pound of ground lamb and form into patties around each one. Add salt and pepper. Grill or broil until the outsides feel very firm, about 3 or 4 minutes a side. Serve on toasted buns with whatever fixings you like.

8. Grilled Chicken with Wasabi Sauce
Grill, Spicy, Intermediate
Combine minced garlic, 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons mirin (in the international aisle), 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon wasabi powder, and salt and pepper. Brush chicken with oil and grill. Warm the wasabi mixture and pour it on the chicken; garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro.

9. Herb-Roasted Chicken Cutlets
Bake, Beginner
Heat the oven to 325°F. Mix 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon, 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, and some salt and pepper. Place chicken in a baking dish with olive oil, herb mixture, and 1 cup chicken stock. Roast about 15 minutes. Serve with the sauce.

10. Sautéed Chicken with Warm Spices
Sauté, Spicy, Beginner
Heat 4 tablespoons peanut oil in a large skillet. Shake salt and pepper on chicken cutlets, then dredge them in flour with 1/2 teaspoon cayenne. Sauté the chicken, turning once, for about 6 minutes total. Remove from pan. Cook 1/2 cup minced onion until soft. Add 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1 cup chicken stock; cook until reduced. Add chopped cilantro leaves and lime juice. Spoon the sauce over the chicken.

11. Chicken Caesar Salad
Grill, Cheap eat, Intermediate
Grill chicken cutlets. Rub a salad bowl with garlic. Beat 2 pasteurized eggs (available in the dairy case) with a fork; add 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 6 tablespoons olive oil. Stir in 2 tablespoons minced anchovies, a dash of Worcestershire, and some salt and pepper. Toss with romaine lettuce, and top with chicken and freshly grated Parmesan.

12. Mediterranean-Style Seafood Salad
Intermediate
Cut 1/2 pound any firm white fish into 1/2" chunks and drop them into boiling, salted water. After 30 seconds, add 8 ounces each scallops and peeled raw shrimp. Cover, remove from heat, let sit 10 minutes, and drain. Toss the seafood with 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon capers, 1 minced shallot, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup olive oil. Add lemon juice to taste and adjust the seasoning.

13. Grilled Cod with Basil Dipping Sauce
Grill, Intermediate
To make the sauce, combine 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 table-spoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 Thai chili (seeded and thinly sliced), and 1/2 cup sliced fresh basil. Season 1 pound cod with salt and pepper. Cook, turning once. The fish will be done in 8 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness. Serve with the sauce.

14. Cobb Salad
Sauté, Intermediate
Cook 6 slices of bacon and 2 boneless chicken breasts; dice. Chop 1/2 red onion, a tomato, an avocado, and a hard-boiled egg. Top a bowl of lettuce with the meat, vegetables, egg, and 1/2 cup of crumbled blue cheese. Whisk together 2/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup sherry vinegar, a diced shallot, salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard. Dress, toss, and serve.

15. Shrimp with Olive Oil and Lots of Garlic
Sauté, Beginner
Warm 1/3 cup olive oil over low heat. Add 3 or 4 cloves sliced garlic and cook until golden. Raise the heat and add 1 1/2 pounds peeled raw shrimp. Season with salt and pepper, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika. Stir, turning shrimp once or twice, until pink, 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley.

16. Kung Pao Shrimp
Sauté, Spicy, Beginner
Combine 1 tablespoon dry sherry or Shaoxing wine, 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, and 1 1/2 pounds peeled raw shrimp. Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil and cook a few dried chili peppers until slightly blackened. Mince 2 cloves garlic and add to the shrimp mixture along with 1 teaspoon minced ginger. Cook about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat. Add 1 teaspoon sugar and 3 tablespoons soy sauce. Cook 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in 1 teaspoon sesame oil and a chopped scallion, and garnish with roasted, chopped peanuts.

17. Grilled Shrimp Salad with Chili and Basil
Grill, Spicy, Beginner
Grill raw shrimp until firm. Toss 4 cups salad greens with 1 cup torn Thai basil leaves, 1/4 cup minced red onion, and 1 diced cucumber. Whisk together the juice of 2 limes, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and 1 tablespoon water. Toss with greens and vegetables. Lay shrimp on top and serve.

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18. Oven-Fried Fish Fillets
Bake, Beginner
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Soak fish fillets in 1 1/2 cups milk, then drain and dredge in bread crumbs seasoned with salt and pepper. Put 2 tablespoons oil in the bottom of a baking pan. Add the fillets and drizzle with a little oil. Bake 8 to 15 minutes until done. Serve with lemon wedges.

19. Pan-Cooked Salmon with Miso Carrot Sauce
Sauté, Intermediate
For the sauce, combine 1/4 cup peanut oil, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons mild/sweet miso, 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil, 2 carrots, and 1 inch fresh peeled ginger in a food processor. Process until chunky-smooth. Add salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan. Sprinkle 1 pound salmon with salt and pepper. Cook 4 minutes, turn, and cook until done. Serve with the sauce.

20. Red Snapper Meunière
Sauté, Beginner
Heat olive oil. Sprinkle fish fillets with salt and pepper; dredge in flour. Cook until they brown, about 3 minutes; turn. Cook second side 2 to 4 minutes, until firm to the touch. Drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil, and minced parsley.

21. Grilled Swordfish with Fruit Salsa
Grill, Spicy, Beginner
For the salsa, mix 1/2" chunks papaya, mango, pineapple, and/or watermelon with 1/2 cup each diced pepper (any color) and red onion, 2 tablespoons minced chilies, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3 tablespoons lime juice, and some salt. Sprinkle swordfish with salt and pepper. Grill 5 minutes, turn, and cook until done. Serve with salsa and lime wedges. 

22. Squid with Chilies and Greens
Sauté, Spicy, Cheap eat, Expert
Separate tentacles from bodies of 1 1/2 pounds squid. Slice bodies into rings and cut tentacles in half. Strip leaves from mustard or dandelion greens and chop enough to fill 2 or 3 cups. Heat 3 tablespoons oil. Cook 1 chopped jalapeño and 1 tablespoon chopped garlic for 15 seconds. Add greens and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add squid and a pinch of salt; cook until opaque. Serve with rice.

23. Stir-Fried Shrimp with Cashews
Sauté, Intermediate
Combine 1 1/2 pounds peeled raw shrimp, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 sliced garlic clove, and 1 teaspoon each salt and sesame oil. Chop 1 pound bok choy, separating stems from leaves. Heat some peanut oil and cook the shrimp mixture for about 2 minutes; remove. Add 1 tablespoon minced ginger, 1/2 cup cashews, and the bok choy stems. Cook until brown. Add the greens and 1 cup water or sake. Cook until most of the liquid evaporates. Return the shrimp to the pan and add 1/4 cup minced scallions, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Cook 1 minute and serve.

24. Poached Monkfish
Intermediate
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a saucepan. Add 2 diced carrots, 2 diced onions, 2 diced celery stalks, 1 minced garlic clove, salt, and pepper. Cook until vegetables wilt, about 8 minutes. Place two 6-ounce monkfish fillets atop vegetables, and add 2 cups any stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let sit about 10 minutes before serving.

25. Vietnamese-Style Steak
Grill, Beginner
In a food processor, combine 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 small, seeded Thai chili, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 cloves garlic, 2 chopped shallots, 1/2 cup chopped mint or Thai basil, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, and salt. Pulse until finely chopped. Grill steak, and serve it sliced on greens with the sauce.

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26. Garlicky Shrimp Fajitas with Guacamole
Sauté, Intermediate
Cook 2 cloves minced garlic in oil until fragrant. Add 1 pound peeled shrimp; sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Mash an avocado with 2 tablespoons minced shallot or onion, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon diced chili, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Serve the shrimp and guacamole with heated flour tortillas.

27. Grilled Tuna Steak with Corn and Tomato Relish
Grill, Intermediate
To make the relish, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a skillet. Cook kernels from 4 ears of corn until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add 2 chopped tomatoes, some salt and pepper, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Cook 30 seconds and remove from heat. Sprinkle tuna with salt and pepper. Grill, turning once, to desired doneness. Serve with the relish.

28. Grilled Beef Salad with Mint
Grill, Spicy, Intermediate
Cook 1 pound beef tenderloin to medium rare, about 10 minutes. Toss 4 cups lettuce with 1 cup torn mint leaves, 1/4 cup minced red onion, and 1 diced cucumber. Whisk together the juice of 2 limes, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, and 1 tablespoon water. Slice beef thinly; add juices to the dressing. Serve sliced beef over salad; drizzle with dressing.

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29. Stir-Fried Spicy Beef
Sauté, Cheap eat, Beginner
Slice 1 pound flank steak thinly across the grain into bite-sized pieces. Chop 1/2 cup basil; mix with beef. Cook 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic in 1 tablespoon peanut oil until slightly brown. Add beef-basil mixture and 1/4 tablespoon red-pepper flakes, and cook for 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce and the juice of 1/2 lime. Serve.

30. Sautéed Calf's Liver
Sauté, Cheap eat, Beginner
Calf's liver is the poor man's foie gras, except it's actually good for you, so eat up. Cut 1 pound calf's liver into 3/4"-thick slices. Heat 2 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle liver with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Cook 2 minutes or so, turn, and cook until done. Serve with parsley and lemon.

31. Teriyaki Wings
Grill, Cheap eat, Beginner
Mix 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup sake or sweet white wine, 1/3 cup mirin, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a pan. Boil until thickened. Grill chicken wings until cooked through, basting with mix and turning every 2 or 3 minutes. Serve.

32. Edamame with Ground Pork
Sauté, Intermediate
In 2 tablespoons olive oil, cook 8 ounces ground pork until brown and crisp. Remove pork from the pan and pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat. Cook a chopped onion and 1 tablespoon minced garlic until soft, about 3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes, and cook 10 minutes. Stir in 2 cups shelled edamame and cook until tender (about 8 minutes). Return pork to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with cilantro.

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33. Sautéed Pork Medallions with Lemon and Parsley
Sauté, Cheap Eat, Beginner
Cut 1 pound pork tenderloin into 1/2"-thick slices and pound to 1/4" thickness. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a pan. Dredge medallions in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Cook, turning once, a total of 5 minutes or less. Remove. Pour off fat, add 1/2 cup dry white wine, and cook until wine is almost evaporated. Add lemon juice and some capers. Spoon sauce over the meat. Serve with parsley and lemon wedges.

34. Thai-Style Stir-Fried Pork
Sauté, Cheap eat, Beginner
Cut 1 pound pork shoulder into bite-sized pieces. Cook in 1 tablespoon peanut oil until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Remove. Cook 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic for 10 seconds. Add 1 pound chopped spinach, and cook until just wilted. Add the pork, 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce, and the juice of 1/2 lime. Stir and serve.

35. Grilled Chicken, Sausage, and Vegetable Skewers
Grill, Cheap eat, Beginner
Cut boneless chicken and your favorite sausage into 1" chunks. Cut an eggplant into 1" cubes and two bell peppers into 2" pieces. Slice a lemon into eighths. Thread everything onto skewers, alternating ingredients, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill 10 to 15 minutes. Squeeze the hot lemon over all.

36. Broiled Lamb Chops with Swiss Chard
Broil, Intermediate
Sprinkle two lamb chops with salt and pepper. Broil, turning once, less than 10 minutes total. Chop 1 pound Swiss chard, separating stems from leaves. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small pot, stir in stems, and cook until softened. Add leaves, cover, and steam for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper. Serve lamb with a mound of greens and some lemon wedges.

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37. Lamb Medallions with Shallots, Tarragon, and Red Wine
Sauté, Beginner
Cut 1 pound lamb loin into 3/4"-thick rounds and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a pan and cook lamb until both sides are browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove lamb. Add 1 tablespoon minced shallots; cook 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon minced tarragon and 1/2 cup red wine; reduce liquid by half. Stir in 1 tablespoon butter and any lamb juices from under the resting meat. Serve lamb with the sauce.

38. Lamb Kebabs with Peppers and Yogurt
Grill, Intermediate
Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Cut 1 pound boneless lamb into 2" chunks, 2 bell peppers into 1 1/2" chunks, and 6 medium onions into quarters. Thread on skewers, alternating ingredients. Brush with marinade, and grill until done, turning two or three times. Mix 1 cup yogurt with 1 teaspoon minced garlic, juice of 1 lemon, salt, and pepper. Serve with the kebabs.

39. White Beans with Cabbage and Ham
Sauté, Cheap eat, Intermediate
In boiling, salted water, cook 3 cups chopped cabbage until tender; drain. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cook 2 cups chopped leeks and 1 chopped celery stalk until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 2 sprigs thyme, 1/2 cup chopped ham, 1 cup chicken stock, 3 cups drained cannellini beans, and the cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until heated through. Serve with grated Parmesan.

40. Miso-Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Grill, Beginner
Rub a pork tenderloin with 1/4 cup white, yellow, or red miso paste. Grill, browning all sides, until almost cooked through but slightly pink in the center, about 10 to 15 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes. Cut into 1/2"-thick slices and serve.

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41. Chorizo and Beans
Sauté, Cheap eat, Beginner
Cut about 1/2 pound chorizo into chunks and bury it in a pot filled with 4 cups cannellini beans, along with a dried chili pepper or red-pepper flakes to taste. Warm through on a stove over medium heat, about 10 minutes, adjust seasoning, and serve.

42. Roasted Sausage with Rosemary and Lemon
Bake, Cheap eat, Beginner
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lay sweet Italian sausage links on 4 rosemary sprigs in a pan. Prick sausages with a thin knife. Roast for about 15 minutes, turning once or twice. Top the sausage with 1/4" slices from 3 lemons, peeled. Bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve with lemon.

43. Veal Cutlets with Rosemary and Parmesan
Sauté, Intermediate
Combine 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary, and salt and pepper. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil. Dredge 1/4" veal cutlets in crumb mixture. Cook, turning once, until browned, less than 5 minutes total. Serve with lemon quarters.

44. Veal Scallopine
Sauté, Intermediate
Sprinkle salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup lemon juice over four 1/4" veal cutlets. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil. Dredge veal in flour; cook 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Remove veal. Add a sliced lemon, 1 cup dry white wine, and 1/2 cup chicken stock. Bring to a boil; cook until thickened. Return the veal to pan, coat with the sauce, and heat through. Add some capers; serve.

45. Bean-and-Cheese Burger
Sauté, Cheap eat, Beginner
In a food processor, combine 2 cups drained beans (white, black, or red, or chickpeas), a quartered onion, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese, 1 tablespoon chili powder, an egg, salt and pepper. Pulse until chunky, adding liquid to get the mix to hold together. Shape into patties. Heat oil. Cook until browned on one side, about 5 minutes; turn. Cook other side until firm and browned.

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46. Pasta Carbonara
Sauté, Cheap eat, Beginner
Fry 4 ounces of bacon (about 8 strips), then drain and chop. Beat together 2 eggs and 1 cup grated Parmesan. Cook 1 pound spaghetti in salted boiling water until tender but firm. Drain pasta and toss with the egg mixture. (Don't worry, residual heat from the pasta will cook the eggs.) Add bacon and lots of fresh cracked pepper.

47. Pan-Roasted Swordfish with Pea Puree
Bake, Expert
Preheat the oven to 500°F. On the stovetop, boil 2 cups peas until tender. Puree peas with 1 tablespoon minced ginger. Add water or cream until the mixture is the consistency of yogurt. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in an ovenproof skillet. Add swordfish steaks, salt, and pepper. Cook until browned, 3 to 5 minutes; turn. Cook in the oven 5 to 10 minutes. Reheat pea mixture with 2 tablespoons butter and serve with the fish.

48. Baked Eggs with Spinach
Bake, Cheap eat, Beginner
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In boiling, salted water, cook 2 pounds spinach for 1 minute. Drain, cool, squeeze, and chop. Heat 3 tablespoons butter in a baking dish, add spinach, and toss to coat. Spread spinach out, making 8 nests. Crack 1 egg into each. Top with salt, pepper, Parmesan, and bread crumbs. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until yolks are just set and whites solidified.

49. Smoked Salmon Scramble
Sauté, Beginner
Whisk together 4 eggs, 2 tablespoons milk or cream, and salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons butter until foamy. Add eggs and reduce heat. Push eggs from the pan edges to the center, stirring frequently but gently. Add 1/2 cup flaked smoked salmon. Remove eggs from the heat when just set. Garnish with sour cream.


50. Black-Bean and Beer Soup
Sauté, Cheap eat, Beginner
In 2 tablespoons hot oil, cook a chopped onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic and 2 teaspoons ground cumin cook another minute. Add 3 cups canned black beans (drained), 1 can beer, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Puree half the soup and add it back to the pot. Add fresh lime juice and serve.

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