I Tried 8 Different Cans of Black Beans and There Was One Clear Winner

updated Apr 7, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

A can of black beans is a can of black beans, right? It’s hard to believe there can be any major differences from one can to another when all they have in them is … beans.

But a recent taste test of garbanzo beans revealed some pretty significant differences, from the beans’ size and color to their texture and depth of flavor. I wondered if the same would be true for black beans, so I gathered all the brands I could find from several grocery stores in my area and cracked them open.

Credit: Danielle Centoni

How I Tested the Canned Black Beans

My testers and I first tasted each can of beans drained but unrinsed (we didn’t want water droplets clinging to the beans to skew or dilute the flavor). We examined the beans for color, size, and quality (broken or unbroken). We also tasted the beans after heating in a microwave for one minute. Heating helped bring out the flavor of the beans and allowed us to determine if they got mushy with heat. After determining our top two favorites, we turned each into black bean burger patties to see how they performed. In this use, they were identical in flavor and texture. We also used each to make corn and black bean salsa, and preferred how one brand’s were slightly firmer and that all of the beans were fully intact, which made for a prettier presentation.

The Differences Between the Canned Black Beans We Tested

Before we get to the winners, let’s talk about the differences for a bit. I found that when it comes to black beans, there were far fewer differences than what I found with garbanzo beans. Nearly every brand offered whole, mostly unbroken beans, and all but one were nearly identical in color and size.

Any real variations came up in the taste and texture, but even then the differences were minimal. All of the beans were tender and creamy, although many were a bit on the mushy side. Those that had a bit more body to them had been canned with calcium chloride, which helps the beans retain their shape. And some beans had a tinny or watery taste, even though they were salted, while others offered a more earthy, bean-y flavor. The ones tasters preferred tasted more well-rounded, with a savory flavor that wasn’t overly salty with plenty of bean-y goodness.

So which was the favorite?

Credit: Danielle Centoni

The Best Canned Black Beans: Bush’s Best Black Beans

It was a very close call between this one and our runner-up. And, to be honest, if we were judging purely on flavor, our runner-up would win. But Bush’s beat it out for offering deep flavor and color, with virtually zero broken beans and a slightly firmer texture that was closer to what you get when cooking dried beans from scratch. If you want your black beans to have just a little more textural presence in a bean salad, relish, enchiladas — basically something other than a soup or dip — this is the can to get.

Buy: Bush’s Best Black Beans, $1.19 for a 15-ounce can at Target