Wait, Do I Really Need to Rinse My Canned Beans Before Cooking? (2024)

The recipe usually says to drain and rinse canned beans before you use them, but do you really need to? It's a fair question and one, surprisingly, that evokes plenty of opinions. I tapped into my own experiences as a chef and registered dietitian and also reached out to a few of my colleagues to get their advice. Here's what we have to say.

Rinsing Canned Beans, From a Nutrition Perspective

Instinctively, I find myself almost always draining and rinsing my canned beans. This might have something to do with the fact that for years, while working primarily as a dietitian, I told people to do just that. My reasoning was (and mostly still is) that canned beans (not low-sodium or salt-free), can be high in sodium.

If you're a relatively healthy person though, enjoying canned beans without draining or rinsing them first is fine. That's because our bodies require sodium to function. It's only when we go above and beyond what we need that it becomes a problem. Beyond sodium, beans provide potassium, an important electrolyte for heart health, that, according to research, may help offset the effects of sodium on blood pressure, says Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN, and host of “The Nutrition Diva” podcast.

Wait, Do I Really Need to Rinse My Canned Beans Before Cooking? (1)

But if you're someone who needs to watch your sodium intake, it certainly can't hurt to drain and rinse canned beans before using them. Doing so can reduce the sodium by 40%. If you don't want to rinse, consider at least draining them first. Draining alone will “reduce the sodium by a third,” says Reinagel. Bottom line: If you're watching your sodium intake for your health, it won't hurt to drain and rinse your can of beans before using them. Or better yet, buy low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties.

Rinsing Canned Beans, From a Culinary Perspective

Because of my training, I know that salt plays a vital role in bringing out the flavor of food. In culinary school, I gained appreciation for the nuances of when and how to add it, but this can be hard to do if you’re starting with a can of heavily salted beans. That's why I advise my clients to drain and rinse to begin, leaving room forseasoning and tasting as they go.

But it's not just the salt that's of concern, it's also the liquid. Canned beans are packed in a solution of water, salt, and starch. That solution can leave a glossy film on the beans, interfering with not only mouthfeel (slimy beans are a little off-putting), but also the ability of the beans to cling to other ingredients in the dish and absorb those flavors.

What Other Experts Say About Rinsing Canned Beans

While opinions varied among my colleagues, chef and registered dietitian Abbie Gellman is all or none, saying that she typically rinses and drains canned beans whenever she uses them. Not draining and rinsing them can add viscosity, liquid, and/or flavor to a dish, she says, which isn't always something she wants for a recipe.

But Gellman is a bit of an outlier. Most pros answer with, “It depends.” Dana Angelo White, MS, RDN says it has everything to do with what she’s making. "For salads, burritos, and pasta dishes, I always rinse,” she says. “Rinsed and drained beans mix easily with other ingredients, plus the sodium is reduced. On the other hand, hummus, soup, and chili may benefit from a splash or two of that starchy and flavorful liquid." Registered dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth agrees. " “If you don't rinse them,” she says, “just keep in mind that they've already been salted."

The Canned Beans Bottom Line

The choice is ultimately yours. If you're trying to limit your salt intake, draining and rinsing your canned beans before using them is never a bad idea. If you're a purist like me–who wants to be in control of the amount of added salt (while skipping the glossy film) in your dish–then yes, drain and rinse those beans first. But know that it's not wrong to use them straight out of the can. Because why waste water and dirty a strainer if you don't necessarily have to?

Wait, Do I Really Need to Rinse My Canned Beans Before Cooking? (2024)
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