What's Really In The Liquid From Canned Beans

As anyone who cooks with them knows, canned beans are a savior for weeknight meals. Not only are they inexpensive and easily-accessible, but canned varieties need only a fraction of the time to cook compared to their dried counterparts. Whether you're using chickpeas to bulk up a light, orzo-filled soup or black beans to top a vegan taco salad, canned beans are an endlessly versatile addition to any pantry.

But there's one thing all canned beans have in common: the thick, goopy, and oftentimes very-salty liquid they come suspended in. Admittedly, the substance, also known as aquafaba, doesn't look particularly appealing — and in many recipes, you'll be instructed to drain and rinse your beans, effectively ridding them of the liquid entirely. So why is it there in the first place? According to HuffPost, the bean liquid serves a functional purpose: It plays an essential role in preserving canned beans over a long period of time.

What canned bean liquid actually comes from

According to Bon Appétit, the liquid found in all canned beans is a mixture of water and salt. The salt acts as a preservative, which gives the beans their notoriously-long shelf life. But that doesn't explain the liquid's viscous, thick consistency — which, it turns out, simply comes from the starch that the beans release naturally. "The thickness of the brine comes from the beans themselves as they naturally produce starch," echoed Teesee Moore, a Bush's Beans spokesperson, to HuffPost.

However, this is not to say that all canned bean liquid is the same, added Bon Appétit. Depending on what brand you use, there may be variations in salt levels, consistency, thickness, and flavor. Ultimately, as with all cooking decisions, it's up to you if you choose to use bean liquid in your dishes or discard it. If using it, just be mindful of how much salt you add to your dish — because bean liquid is so salty to begin with, you may run the risk of over-seasoning your meal.