Make or Buy? Canned vs. Homemade Beans

Beans are absolutely and without a doubt one of the cornerstones of our cooking. Light summery pastas, hearty soups, potluck salads: you name it and we'll put beans in it. With so many bean dishes coming through our kitchens, do we make our own or rely on canned?

We thought we'd do a three-way comparison on this one. Let's take a look at Goya canned black beans, Goya dried black beans, and Rancho Gordo midnight black beans. Goya is our preferred brand of canned beans and their dried beans are inexpensive and readily available in most grocery stores. Rancho Gordo beans are more gourmet and expensive, but their beans are some of the easiest to cook and our favorite to eat.

All costs were taken from Peapod Online Grocery except for the Rancho Gordo beans:

Peapod Online Grocery
Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food

We'll also use our oven-cooking method for cooking the homemade beans. One pound of dried beans gives us about five cups of cooked beans.

How to Cook Beans: The Fast, Foolproof, No Soak Method

COST BREAKDOWN:

Goya Canned Black Beans:
TOTAL: $1.00 for a 15.5-oz can
PER SERVING (1 cup): $0.50

Goya Dried Black Beans:
TOTAL: $1.65 for a 1-lb bag
PER SERVING (1 cup, cooked): $0.33

Rancho Gordo Midnight Black Beans:
TOTAL: $5.50 for a 1-lb bag
PER SERVING (1 cup, cooked): $1.10

If adding bay leaf, garlic, or other aromatics to your pot of homemade beans, increase the total cost by roughly $0.25.

TIME BREAKDOWN:

Goya Canned Black Beans: 0 Minutes

Homemade Beans: 1 1/2 - 2 hours, almost entirely inactive

CONVENIENCE:

Beans are easy to make. Put them in a pot with some water and cook them in a 325° oven until they're tender. Stir occasionally and add more water as needed. Other than needing to be in your home during the cooking time, they don't require much labor or attention. The hardest thing is remembering to cook the beans ahead of when you'll need them; dried beans certainly can't be instantly turned into a quick weeknight meal!

Once cooked, those beans will keep for about a week, during which time you can take just what you need as you need them for dinners and lunches. Beans also freeze very well. Frozen in one-cup portions, homemade beans are just as convenient as popping a lid off a can.

TASTINESS AND HEALTHFULNESS

Canned or homemade, and other than the sodium in canned beans, the healthiness of beans is about the same. Personally, we think that homemade beans taste better and have better texture. Canned beans often pick up a tinny taste from the can, are too salty (or sometimes not salted enough), and get too mushy.

With homemade beans, we get to add just as much salt as we want, along with aromatics like bay leaf and garlic. We can also control the cooking time, making sure our beans are cooked to the exact level of doneness that we want.

One other thing to consider: dried beans do have a shelf-life, albeit a long one. If you have a pot of beans that just doesn't seem to soften up, the likely culprit is old beans. You're more likely to get old beans with mass-produced dried beans like Goyas that have been sitting in the store or in a warehouse for who knows how long.

This is why we tend to pay a little more to buy beans like Rancho Gordos, which we trust to be fresh (plus we can find so many more varieties than in the grocery store alone!). Food co-ops or grocery stores with bulk bins can be a less-expensive source of reliable beans since they tend to have more frequent turnover of stock.

MAKE OR BUY?

We're going with "make" on this one. Homemade beans are easy enough to make and taste worlds better than the canned version. Plus you get the pot liquor, which is an entirely different thing from the goop packed with canned beans! Even if you feel like you don't eat enough beans to justify cooking up a whole batch, the fact that you can easily freeze the extra still makes this a good choice.

That said, we'll always have a few cans of beans in our pantry for those emergency situations when we didn't quite get our act together or plan far enough ahead. Canned beans lack the depth of flavor of homemade, but they're perfectly fine to use in almost any recipe.

OUR VERDICT: Make!

What do you think?

Related: Burritos to Bean Dip: 10 Bean Dishes for Warmer Weather

(Images: Goya/Peapod and Faith Durand)

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