Canned Beans vs. Dry

Canned beans vs. dried beans

So, we all know that canned beans are convenient, right? Sure, they’re high in sodium, mushy, and taste like the can that they’ve sat in for who knows how long, but they’re so much easier to deal with than dry beans that they’re worth it, right?

‘Fraid not.

As I tell our MY KITCHEN students…if you have the culinary skill to pour yourself a glass of water, you can rehydrate dry beans into an ingredient that is cheaper, tastier, and much much healthier for you.

In fact, just to prove my point, I picked up a can of black beans, and a package of dry black beans, and did a little comparison experiment…

Let’s start at the end. Comparatively, the nutritional data for canned beans vs. dried beans is pretty similar…until you get to the sodium:

Sodium in dried beans

Dried beans – 20mg of sodium per serving. Not too bad! Canned beans, however…

Sodium in canned beans

430mg of sodium per serving! PER SERVING! Ho-lee crap!

What’s worse is that they don’t even taste salty…so you’re probably going to add MORE salt to whatever recipe you use them in.

FYI…a large order of McDonald’s French fries is a measly 290mg of sodium…that’s right, a half-cup of canned beans, plain, is more than 1/3  MORE sodium that a large order of Mickey D’s salt sticks.


Oh, and speaking of healthy…

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Okay, so how about taste? Well, I can’t take a picture of how much better the cooked (formerly dried) beans tasted, but without the metallic aftertaste and chalky starch that the canned beans had – and, yes, I rinsed them – I could, surprise, surprise…taste the beans!

And the beans were delicious.

Beans soaking

Beans beginning to soak

So how about ease of use?

Well, yes, dried beans have to be re-hydrated, and that takes a little time, but seriously…it’s not like you’re having to stand at the sink, patiently basting each bean with water until it’s ready to cook.

You need a bowl, some water, and room on the kitchen counter for Pete’s sake.

Cover the beans with 2-3 inches of cool clean water, 8-12 hours before you plan to start cooking, and then walk away. That’s it! Most folks let them sit overnight.

Beans soaking

Quick Soaking

If that’s too much time for you, try the one hour “quick soak” method:

Place beans in a pot and cover with water by three inches. Bring to a boil and simmer briskly for two minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for one hour. Drain.

Boo-yah! You’re beans are ready to cook!

Before we go one, let’s dispel a common myth:

The Musical Fruit

Common kitchen lore has it that soaked dried beans cause more… intestinal turbulence, if you know what I mean…than canned beans.

Not so much.

Beans are loaded with fiber and some complex sugars like alpha-galactosides, which aren’t particularly compatible with the human digestive system.  Bacteria in our gut gobbles up those sugars, releasing carbon dioxide.

In other words, they kinda have the same problem with them that we have!

One of the primary alpha-galactosides in those beans is called stachyose, and studies have found that a long soak (4 hours or more) led to a 28% reduction in stachyose (about the same as the canning process), but a quick-soak (1 minute boil, 1 hour soak) removed 42.5% of stachyose.

So, yeah…do your co-workers, your loved ones, and your poor innocent pets a favor…quick soak your beans.


Lastly, lets talk dollars and sense. The .99 can produced 1 1/2 cups of rinsed black beans (minus 2oz of sludge) or about 3 servings.

Canned beans

The $1.49 bag of dried beans produced a whopping 6.5 cups of beans (after soaking & cooking plain) or 13 servings.

Dry black beans

That breaks down to around .11 per serving, versus .33 per serving for canned…1/3 the cost! To look at the another way, if the dried beans cost the same per serving as the canned beans, the bag I bought would have set me back $4.29 instead of a buck and a half.

Oh, and even better…this was fairly expensive for dry beans – you can find them for less than a buck a pound in the bulk-foods section of your grocery store.

So, there you have it…time to can the can, and go for the easy-to-prepare, better tasting, less expensive, and (much) healthier option of dried beans!

Please, just remember the quick soak…if not for us, do it for your dog.

-Chef Perry



Q&A: Foam from canned beans?

Foamy Beans

Chef Perry – I don’t know if you know the answer to this, and maybe I don’t want to know the answer either… but why when I rinse my  canned kidney beans d0 I see “foam”?

It looked like I had rinsed “soap” out….?

– Juliann

Dear Juliann:

Canned beans, like all canned products, are “cooked” in the sealed can to a minimum temp to make them safe for shelf life.

This process releases the natural starches into the water the beans are canned in, as this sits there for the life of the can, it thickens, and when you add fresh water to it, the starch creates a foam.

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Rinsing BeansYou really don’t have to rinse canned beans, depending on the usage (though it does reduce the sodium) it’s primarily to remove that excess starch that leeches out of the beans. If you’re making a thick soup/stew, then using them is okay (remember that you’re using more sodium that way, however).

For salads or salsas though, unrinsed  canned beans would be really slimy (again from the starches).

It really depends what you want your final products to be.

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Beans Soaking

Of course the best way to avoid this would be to soak a couple of cups of dried beans in a half gallon of room-temp water overnight, before cooking. A fraction of the sodium, better texture, better flavor, and it’s usually cheaper too!

Thanks for asking, I hope that clears things up for you!

Chef Perry

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