Substituting Dried Beans With Canned Is Possible, But There's A Catch

Beans are an inexpensive pantry staple packed with protein and fiber. They are perfect for adding to soups, stews, salads, and more. They will keep you fuller and satisfied longer. The best part about beans? They come dried and canned, both of which have a long shelf life. Canned beans stay good as long as they're unopened for 2 to 5 years (via Food Network), and dried beans are "unofficially" good forever (via Pure Wow). However, according to Good Housekeeping, after 2 to 3 years, dried beans begin to lose nutritional value with almost all of their vitamins depleted by the time that bag hits the 5-year mark. That being said, both canned and dried beans have similar shelf lives yet quite different characteristics.

When preparing a recipe, whether it's chili, soup, or a stew, if it doesn't specify whether the beans called for should be canned or dried, it's easy to assume they're interchangeable. However, it's not as simple as you might think.

They're not easily interchangeable

According to Cook's Illustrated, dried beans absorb the aromatic flavors of the liquid it's cooking in. In contrast, canned beans are already infused with the salty liquid it's stored in, thus bringing out only the natural flavors of the beans. Dried beans simmering in cooking liquid will not only soak up the flavor of the aromatics, but it adds a better texture compared to canned beans. Taste of Home states that dried beans maintain their firm bite and don't turn to mush quite as easily as canned beans. When substituting canned for dried beans in a dish, unfortunately, this can yield less-than-average flavor, putting the canned beans at risk of disintegrating if they cook too long. Cook's Illustrated advises that if you need to make a swap, it's important to let the canned beans simmer for no longer than 30 minutes so that they have just enough time to take on the flavors of the other ingredients.

Many also often assume that canned and dried beans can be swapped at a 1:1 ratio, which is incorrect. Cook's Illustrated states that if a recipe calls for 1 lb. of dried beans, the equivalent would be 58 ounces of drained and rinsed canned beans, which is about 3 or 4 cans. The bottom line is, in terms of flavor and texture, canned versus dried beans are not as interchangeable as you may think, and swapping them without understanding the differences can alter the outcome of your dish.