5 Mistakes to Avoid When Cooking with Canned Beans

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Michelle Peters-Jones)

Canned beans are a staple to keep in the pantry at all times. Pick your favorite variety and watch how easily and seamlessly this simple and inexpensive food can save your meal. From chili and soup, to burritos and rice dishes, canned beans know how to be the hero of the dinner table — just as long as you know the ins and outs of cooking with them. Here are five mistakes to avoid.

1. Not rinsing the beans first.

Open any can of beans and the first thing you’ll notice is the thick, goopy liquid that surrounds the beans. Not only is this liquid extra starchy, but it’s also usually full of sodium. Unless a recipe specifically calls for using this liquid, it won’t be a welcome addition to your dish.

Follow this tip: As long as the recipe doesn’t require this liquid, be sure to drain and rinse all varieties of canned beans before adding them to your meal.

2. Over-seasoning the beans.

We’re always talking about the importance of seasoning as you cook, but this is one food where it’s best to hold back on the salt. Most canned beans have a lot of sodium, so it doesn’t take a lot of salt to take them from well-seasoned to super salty.

Follow this tip: Be sure to read the label on the can. Some varieties are low-sodium, but most canned beans — even after they’re rinsed — contain a fair amount of sodium, and as a result, they don’t need very much seasoning. If adding salt, start with a very small amount, then add more to taste — only if necessary.

3. Using the wrong amount of beans when substituting canned for dried.

It’s understandable if you want to skip the long soak time and substitute canned beans for dried, but when a recipe calls for dried beans, substituting an equal amount of canned beans isn’t going to cut it. As they cook, dried beans increase (nearly doubling) in both weight and volume.

Follow this tip: As a rule of thumb, substitute two (15-ounce) cans of beans for every cup of dried beans required in your recipe.

4. Not thoroughly drying beans before roasting.

Once drained and rinsed, canned beans can usually be used as is — except if you’re planning to roast them. It’s crucial that you add the extra step of drying them completely before going any further. When chickpeas or other beans are still wet when they go into the oven, they’ll never get that crispy exterior that makes them so delicious.

Follow this tip: Whether you’re roasting chickpeas or any other type of bean, gently roll them between paper towels or clean dish towels to thoroughly dry them before transferring to the oven.

5. Storing leftover beans back in the can.

Yes, this pantry staple is a total convenience food, but when it comes to leftovers, it’s best to put in a little leg work. While it might seem tempting, don’t store your extra beans back in the can. They’ll pick up the taste of the metal, which is pretty unappetizing.

Follow this tip: Ditch the can after opening it; store leftover beans in a covered glass or plastic container in the fridge for up to one week.

What are your best tips for cooking canned beans?