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dried beans vs canned

What's the difference? Am I missing out on reaching some higher culinary level if I continue to use canned beans?

I'm a vegetarian who's only started to eat beans in the last year or 2, and cook a lot with canned black beans and kidney beans. Should I branch out into dried?

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  1. For the most part, I think canned beans are fine, especially if time is in short supply. I use both, at different times, depending on what I'm making and how much time I have.

    Never have seen canned lentils, but that's not a big issue because they cook really fast.

    1. Canned are high in sodium and dry aren't.

      7 Replies
      1. re: kathleenb

        You can reduce that somewhat by draining and rinsing the beans, though.

        1. re: kathleenb

          Not all of them. I just had a look at my cans of chickpeas, borlottis, cannellini, and red kidney beans, and none of them contains more than trace amounts of sodium.

          1. re: Kagey

            What brand do you have that is low in sodium and where did you buy it? I just checked all my cans and they are high - S&W, Bush's, Glory, Progresso. I do know that rinsing removes some of the sodium.

            1. re: kathleenb

              I use the Eden Organic brand almost exclusively, and the nutritional chart states that there are 15mg of sodium per 15-oz. can. It's a good product too, the beans are never too mushy or tasting of tin. I get mine at Whole Foods. (Off the subject, but the brand also makes a great canned black soybean product that I use in hummus, among other things, and it's a winner.)

              1. re: adroit_minx

                Thanks for the tip - I'll get some!

                1. re: adroit_minx

                  Eden makes great products, but those canned beans are really expensive, yes?

                2. re: kathleenb

                  I live in the UK, and mine are the supermarket brands (Waitrose, Sainsbury's). Not much help to you, I suspect. Sorry!

            2. Dried are much cheaper than canned, and don't carry the sodium load. The only plus for canned is convenience. I keep canned on hand for emergencies, but they're not healthy for regular use.

              12 Replies
              1. re: pikawicca

                Your opinion on the adverse health risk is based on what?

                1. re: theflytyr

                  I don't know about pikawicca's health reason, but for me, I'm trying to avoid canned foods due to concerns about the can's lining material. But I figure I should try to eat foods that are less processed anyways.

                  1. re: theflytyr

                    That's a no-brainer -- sodium content. Dry beans have none. Most canned beans are off the chart. If you think high salt is healthy, go for it.

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      Though some companies are now offering no-sodium canned beans...Bush's comes to mind but ironically, they cost more--ridiculous! And makes more of a case for using dried beans...and those with sodium vary greatly! Some have 500 mgs of sodium, some have 280 mgs.

                      1. re: Val

                        If you drain and rinse the beans, it cuts the sodium dramatically, doesn't it? I think the sodium level is figured with the liquid in the can.
                        Don't most people drain them for use in salads, hummus, etc.? I think the liquid tastes awful, so I pitch it when I have to use canned beans in an emergency.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          Yes, I've read that rinsing does help; but what waste when you think about it...liquid down the drain and a can to recycle or throw away. Better to make your own from dried it seems.

                          1. re: Val

                            I couldn't agree with you more. It makes much more sense to cook a big batch of beans - the way YOU like them - and freeze them in whatever size portions that you prefer for later use.
                            Cook them relatively plain so that you have max flexibility for the future. Just like canned beans.
                            You can easily do this one evening or on a weekend afternoon when you're sitting around watching a movie or something.

                            Beans freeze really well and they defrost easily in the microwave or in fridge while you're at work. Little ziplock bags take up little room.
                            Beans in the freezer are like money in the bank. A much better return than you'll ever get from the stock market.

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              And, I must confess: I've just recently started making beans from their dried form...recently bought a little over 1 pound of dried chickpeas...nice folks on this board talked me through the process of soaking and cooking them...then I made delicious hummus from them plus a few other meals! And I still have some in the freezer!!! How great is THAT??? So, I am a true fan of Goodhealthgourmet's black bean dip (on this board) and today I bought a pound of dried black beans. Trying to be "greener" and "leaner" (I'm somewhat small but am always trying to save money)--so by going the dried bean route, everyone wins.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                "the way YOU like them" - canned beans are usually one consistency, mushy.
                                Also: If you are adding flavors/spices/dressing - warm beans will better absorb the flavors.

                        2. re: pikawicca

                          salt is not unhealthy if you do not have a condition that contraindicates salt.

                          1. re: thew

                            I believe that the jury is seriously out on that issue.

                            1. re: pikawicca

                              Actually, the jury is in. There is no need to restrict your sodium/salt intake unless you have a medical condition (such as hypertension) which requires it.

                    2. Should I branch out into dried?

                      I did. I learned new cooking techniques, new recipes, and even went somewhere to buy their beans, so I saw new places. I found some beans taste different and beans have different textures.

                      1. Assuming the dried beans aren't old and are cooked properly, they have a better taste and texture than canned. Plus you can flavour them while they're cooking. There are also many wonderful beans -- including heirloom varieties -- that are only available dried. Rancho Gordo's beans, for example, will make a believer out of you. www.ranchogordo.com

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: carswell

                          Ditto the Rancho Gordo recommendation.

                          1. re: bibi rose

                            Do you know whether they use pesticides? I couldn't find out from the website. (I know plenty of good farms don't go through the hoops to be certified organic but are still free of pesticides). Anyone know?

                        2. If you don't, you miss out on a whole world of flavor! Especially as a vegetarian. You can get so much variety with dried beans and then if you can find a source of fresh beans! Wow! There aren't that many kinds of beans put up in cans. Dried? I've bought at least 20 different types over the years. Favas, cannellinis, cecis, Christmas, at least 5 or 6 varieties of lentils, limas, butterbeans, black-eyed peas, crowders, and many more. How can you pass that up? My favorite fresh beans are purple hull shelly beans and October beans. They all taste different. You can make all sorts of new and wonderful things. And they are good, cheap food.
                          In New Orleans, everybody eats red beans and rice every Monday. It's on the menu at the fanciest restaurants and the most humble dives. And in everybodys's home. Mine too. Cheap, easy, healthy. With our without a ham bone.
                          I'm not a vegetarian but can't do without my beans.

                          1. Make two versions of a hummus or a cannellini dip side by side, one using canned and one using dried. I think you'll find that using dried beans makes for far superior flavor and texture.

                            1. I use both, but dry makes your whole house smell better :)

                              1. I agree there is nothing quite like walking in the door when I have a crockpot of beans going. Just so wonderfully welcoming and good to eat. With bread to dip of course!

                                1. If you are worried about time, get yourself a preasure cooker. You can do a batch of beans in less than an hour and still get the better taste of making them yourself.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: irodguy

                                    A pressure cooker is a great idea. I saw one on discount at Amazon yesterday.

                                    1. re: irodguy

                                      But cooking beans in a pressure cooker is problematic because the foam can block the pressure release and it's soooo easy to overcook them and make them mushy.

                                      I just simmer them in an open pan and check periodically for that tender but still intact stage that is a world better than canned. ...altho canned garbanzos are excellent, I think, and don't really compromise much.

                                    2. I like the dry one myself because you can season them during
                                      the cooking time. and everyone has their own taste and thats
                                      the joy of cooking I think. what would be good is some of these
                                      different recipes for these different variety of legumes.

                                      1. I used to use canned because I wasn't very good at the whole "soak overnight" thing for the dry beans. Then I discovered the "quick soak" method for dry beans: Pop 'em in some water, bring to a boil, turn off the heat, and wait an hour. Then you can start cooking them as if you had soaked them overnight.

                                        I agree that dried offer you a better variety. Dried beans are also easier to carry up to my second floor condo, and take up less space in my pantry than the canned. :)

                                        Would I be hijacking the thread if I ask whether anyone here puts in a pinch of baking soda or baking powder (I never remember which it is!) to help cut some of the post-bean flatulence? Many years back I remember some Latin American colleagues swearing by this, but need verification from the ChowHound Experts. I haven't tried it because I can't remember which it is, and not sure if I believe it.


                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: venera

                                          My mom did this all the time when I was a kid (adding baking soda to beans). I find dried beans less gas producing if I rinse them before cooking them. Gets rid of some of the excess sugars that us humans don't digest too well.

                                          I'm a dried bean fan, but keep canned beans on hand for quick meals and emergencies.

                                          1. re: venera

                                            If you just eat beans now-and-then, they're going to give you gas. But if you eat them more frequently, your body will adjust to them and not have quite as much gas.

                                            There is this product called Beano, but I bought some once and was afraid to use it because there was a warning that said you might have a reaction to it if you're allergic to penicillin.

                                            1. re: revsharkie

                                              ...Kind of the opposite theory of "the more you eat, the more you toot..."

                                              From personal experience, I can attest to the above-posted fact... my system has completely adjusted to beans now, but there was a time when even my dog would look at me funny. Stay with it. :)

                                          2. I'd agree - dried are superior, but it also depends on what you're making. Red beans and rice? That's a dish I would *only* use dried...sometimes you want those beans to be slightly more toothsome than the canned...but then talk to me about refried beans? Oh, just give me two cans and I'm off to the races...

                                            1. dried taste so much better!

                                              it took me a while to venture into cooking dried beans, i am a vegetarian too and went through cans and cans of beans.

                                              then i started with making vegetarian chili with dried pinto beans. what a world of difference, the beans are so delicious. so instead of adding beans as just another protein source, the beans are actually a great flavorful component.

                                              1. such a huge difference tastewise but an important one that I'm surprised no one has mentioned is that canned obviously has preservatives and other canning additives, whereas you're just dealing with the bean when it comes to dried; and the price difference cannot be beat.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: bigjeff

                                                  probably no one has mentioned it because the process of canning itself preserves the food, so it's unnecessary to add "preservatives and other canning additives." It's possible to can without even salt.

                                                2. I definitely recommend getting dried ones.
                                                  For one, dried beans can be used to make a great number of wonderful vegetarian soups, and they can be simple yet give wonderful flavor (not easy for vegetarian soup, esp non-pureed or creamy). And how can one cook Tuscan white beans with canned ones?
                                                  Another thing is that some beans are as far as I know only available in dried form. I love the nutty taste of black garbanzo beans but I never seen them canned.
                                                  And of course, canned beans tend to be overcooked and mushy. I find the problem worst with black beans, which sometimes come out almost as a gulp rather than individual beans.
                                                  For more ideas, I highly recommend Lorna Sass's Great vegetarian cooking under pressure.

                                                  1. I received my Rancho Gordo beans today. Order them for the amazingly cool calendar, if nothing else!
                                                    Although I shelled and froze beans when in season, I've almost depleted my supply and this seems the next best thing. They have a huge number of varities and even offer recipes.

                                                    1. I'd think there have to be some enzymes lurking around in them dried beans vs. what may be still alive in canned beans. My vote would go for the dried beans.

                                                      That said, let me say, that I am unwilling to devote the time to using fresh beans, tho' I know it would be better, healthwise and tastewise.

                                                      I don't have a pressure cooker, used one once, and couldn't believe how much steam it was releasing into my small dwelling. I couldn't imagine living here on a daily basis with that continual release of steam into my living space. But for fast cooking of raw beans, the pressure cooker is the way to go. Maybe there's some concoction that could trap that steam and have it not go into the living space air.

                                                      I once made hummus with freshly cooked dried chick peas. The result was a creamy dish. Richer and fresher tasting than the hummus I have made with canned chickpeas. But the difference in quality and taste did not motivate me to continue to use the fresh chickpeas for that dish. The time required for the fresh version was not justified by the taste and quality difference. One version was very good, the other good. If I had time, I'd do the fresh version.

                                                      I wonder if and where Middle Eastern restaurants cut corners, i.e. what canned foods do they use? Do they always use fresh chickpeas for their felafel and hummus?

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                        Wow...this time of year in this part of the country, with the heat on, I could use a massive release of steam into my house!

                                                        1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                          My mother always makes falafel with dry chickpeas, because she soaks them and grinds them up, there is no cooking involved as far as I remember unlike how so many recipes/tv shows that I've seen them prepare it with cooked chickpeas or canned. (that's just weird to me!)

                                                          1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                            Bring the beans to a boil on top of the stove, then pop into a 250 degree oven. Check on them once in a while and remove when tender. No muss, no fuss, no steam.

                                                            1. re: FelafelBoy

                                                              In the Summer, when I love to have fresh hummus on hand but don't want to heat up the kitchen simmering beans for hours, I use my slow cooker to cook one pound of beans at a time, pop them into a Tupperware™ container and stick 'em in the fridge. That way I can puree just enough for a serving or two whenever I feel like it. I do the same thing with the cannellinis that I use for Portuguese Bean and Kale soup. Dried beans really are quite superior in texture and flavor, and that's what cooking is all about.

                                                            2. Dried beans are superior by far in flavor, texture (+ additive-free). You can cook up a pot then freeze portions in containers. that way you'll have your own superior 'convenience food'.

                                                              1. I got around the time issue by cooking them in a crockpot. About 30 minutes to an hour on high then turn is down to low and cook overnight. works great for us. We raise Octobers and let them dry on the vine then shell them out. I store them in glass jars with a good tight lid, and they stay good for a long time. Not that they last that long around here.

                                                                1. I wouldn't say your missing out but if you get a pressure cooker, some good dry beans and start soaking and cooking, you'll probably prefer it. It wasn't as complicated /time consuming as I thought

                                                                  1. I was watching Good Morning America and Emeril had to cook a meal in an hour. One of the ingredients was dried beans. I thought that was interesting. He suggested that you should steam the beans and then boil them. I tried it and it does make the beans softer and easier to cook without breaking the skin. It cut oown on the cooking time. I like to season and flavor the beans with smoked turkey parts and it was delicious. Try it!

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: heteleel

                                                                      What kind of beans was he using? I ask because some types don't take so long. Black-eyed peas, for instance, cook really fast compared to, say, borlottis. That's my experience, anyhow.

                                                                    2. yeah I say you are, there are so many beans, lentils and like, that starting them fromt he dry state, you just can't get the best out them with canned beans. I use canned black beans for one thing, and that's in a salad, just because.

                                                                      Try lima beans, and dried peas, are so much better. Having a hard time explaining but I suggest you try it, you'll change your heart. I promise.

                                                                      1. With my work schedule I hardly use dried beans except lentils. However when I make soup 90% of the time I do use dried soaked over night or in the crock pot.

                                                                        I do think the dried are better in that you can season as they good, but admit I very rarely use them. I do on most occasions do rinse the beans but not always. If I know I won't be rinsing them or draining them I try to buy a better quality beans and I have always been pretty happy

                                                                        1. In recent months, after reading many CH posts about how much better and cheaper soaked-and-cooked dry beans are than canned ones, I started buying dry beans. I gave in to the temptation to buy about a dozen bags of heirloom variety dry legumes online - they are SO pretty in their dry form, but virtually all of them turn sullen, solid colors after cooking. The heirlooms are at least 3 times the price of bags of dry beans at the supermarket. With a few exceptions, I do not think there's much of a difference in taste and texture between home-cooked and canned beans. So it comes down to price: most one-lb bags yield 3 cups of dry, which usually translates to 6 cups cooked. This equals the drained contents of four 15.5 oz cans. House brand canned beans, and national brand beans on sale, can be anywhere from $.50 to over $1.00 per can. So, that's about $2-4, which is twice the cost of dry beans at sale and regular prices (not counting the fuel cost of 60-90 minutes of simmering). Not a huge cost savings, unless compared to the pound price, plus shipping, for heirloom dry beans. However, not having to lug heavy cans, then rinse and recycle them, makes dry beans a better choice for me.

                                                                          If you cook kidney breans from dry, be sure to google them first so you prepare them properly. They contain a toxic substance in much higher quantities than do other beans, and must be correctly cooked or they will cause severe (though self-resolving) gastrointestinal illness.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: greygarious

                                                                            Interesting fact regarding kidney beans. Never knew that but honestly never bought them dried.

                                                                            I wish I had the time to cook, but when entertaining I do try to use dried vs canned. I am making a Black and White bean chili for a friend next week. I will use dried and I think there is some difference rather than sometime the cardboard or metal like canned flavor.

                                                                          2. What about the perpetual recommendation to not cook the beans in their soaking liquid? I personally don't get it -- especially if you do the quick soak method (soak in boiling water for an hour rather than in cold water overnight), it seems like you are throwing out a lot of flavor if you drain and rinse the soaked beans.

                                                                            What do you all do -- cook in the soaking liquid, or drain and refill with fresh water?

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: DanaB

                                                                              Not only are you throwing out flavor when you drain the soaked beans, but you're throwing away vitamins and minerals. The food scientist Harold McGee favors no soaking at all, but rather long, slow cooking. He says this breaks down those carbs that usually cause flatulence into digestible sugars. I have quit soaking beans.

                                                                            2. Dry beans are superior to canned beans - better taste and texture, less sugar and sodium, lower GI and they don't contain Bisphenol A. This is a nasty chemical you find inside the liner in pretty much every metal can. When was the last time you ate canned meat?
                                                                              If cooking the beans is a problem then there is a company called Legupro that makes the Beanbutler. This is supposed to be a fully automatic (including automatic soaking) appliance for dry beans. I think it sounds glorius as I love beans but I'm often too lazy to soak and cook them. I'm hoping the Beanbutler will show up in stores soon.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: janne102

                                                                                I eat canned tuna all the time, as well as occasionally canned chicken and salmon. Canned Hormel chili with meat, etc. Not that I don't believe you about the dangers of canned food, but just wanted to point out that lots of people eat meat from cans pretty frequently.

                                                                                1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                  you are right....but check out www.ewg.org/reports/bisphenola which is only one out of dozens of reports on cans and BPA. I am a bit sceptic to anything that comes from a factory a food factory.