The Pros and Cons of Canned vs. Dry Beans

This post is inspired from the many insightful comments you shared with me on a recent post where I thought about what it is that drives people’s decisions to eat a plant-based diet. One idea I hadn’t considered but that several readers brought up was that perhaps eating veg*n is cheaper than a diet heavy in animal products. Cost-effectiveness is an important factor when thinking about daily meals.

Delving deeper into this idea of budget eating, I thought I’d write about beans—a vital source of vegan protein—available in different forms for different prices.

Canned Beans

I’d say the strongest argument in favor of using canned beans is convenience. After a long day at work, the last thing you want to think about is preparing a healthy and filling meal to satiate your growling tummy. Having canned beans in your pantry means that dinner can be ready in 10 minutes—open a can, rinse your beans, and add fresh or frozen veggies. You’ve got a meal ready for the table!

On the other hand, you pay a premium for prepared beans. I live on the east coast in a very urban city, and I’d say the average can of beans costs around $1. For $1, you get 3-4 servings—we’ll say 3 since beans are generally a main source of protein in our meals. At 33 cents per serving, canned beans are most likely cheaper than animal-based sources of protein (we’ll save that comparison for another post!) but not as cheap as making beans yourself from scratch.

One thing that worries me about canned beans is the potential threat of BPA and aluminum lining in the cans these beans are sold in. We need more research to determine exactly how much of the lining cooked beans actually absorb, but some people worry about aluminum because of its link to Alzheimer’s disease, and BPA because it’s been shown to have some effect on the brain and other organs. You’d probably have to consume a lot of canned products, including beans, to truly be concerned. I just wanted to throw this fact out there because some people actively avoid canned food for this reason.

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Dry Beans

Dried beans require advanced preparation before you’re ready to eat. Cooking time can vary, depending on how much you make at once, but you should expect to cook yours on high in the crockpot for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. Preparing to cook them requires virtually no effort on my part—I simply place my rinsed beans in a crockpot, add in the water, and forget about them until they’re done. You have to remember think about your dinner plans in the morning, before leaving for the day.

The best part about dry beans is how cheap they are! One pound of beans in my area generally runs for $2, when there isn’t a sale. Each pound will yield about 9-10 servings. At that price, you only pay around 20 cents per serving! The cost difference between canned and dry may seem marginal on a per serving basis, but I’d say the savings definitely add up considering that beans are a staple in the veg*n diet.

If you want the convenience factor of canned beans, you can make a bigger batch of dry beans at once, and pour the cooked and cooled beans into small, serving-sized containers to freeze for later use. These cooked and frozen beans will last for up to one month.

That’s a lot about beans! I certainly have both types of beans readily available in my kitchen. For those days I’ve been out and about all day, a can of beans saves me from working up a sweat about wondering what to eat. Though there’s certainly nothing that beats coming home to a pot of fresh beans when I’ve remembered to cook them in the morning.

Which do you use; canned or cooked? Why do you prefer one type to the other?

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22 responses to “The Pros and Cons of Canned vs. Dry Beans

  1. I prefer dry beans, especially for crockpot type cooking. But I will buy canned beans for last minute cooking plans. Canned beans don’t seem to work as well when I throw them in the crockpot – they either get rubbery or mushy depending on the type of bean.

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  2. I prefer dried beans. I cook a pound at a time in my crockpot then freeze the beans and their liquid in one cups. That way I have homemade beans all the time. They only take afew minutes to thaw in the microwave or a half hour in a cold water bath.

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  3. Hey! I love your blog 🙂 I have a quick question — are canned beans usually seasoned? If so that would be a big advantage for me. I want to start eating more beans but the idea of learning how to season them is a bit overwhelming 😛

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    • It’s so lovely to “see” you around these parts!

      Most canned beans aren’t seasoned but there are definitely some out there! I think the most common types of seasoned beans are made Mexican style–like refried pinto beans and spicy black beans with corn.

      But seasoning beans is easy–we should experiment together 🙂

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  4. I used to prefer canned until I found out about the bpa lining. Sure dried are a bit of a hassle but thrown into a crockpot or slow cooked in a Dutch oven it doesn’t make much difference!

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  5. This is really helpful information. Lately I have been eating more red kidney beans and black beans from cans because it is convenient. I see that it is much more cost effective and probably healthier to use dry beans. I’m going to try making dry beans in a crock pot next time.

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  6. I totally agree that the cost savings adds up! Especially since I started to make my own hummus, we really move through bags of dried beans! Though, getting a pressure cooker was our real mind-changer when it came to dried beans- when you can get a bag of beans cooked without soaking in an hour or so, it’s much easier to transition to entirely dried beans! (Plus the pressure cooker is great for rice and other whole grains, like Kamut that you would otherwise need to soak!)

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  7. For some silly reason I hadn’t thought to cook my beans in a slow cooker! I have two cookers and love them both but beans just never made it in there. Huh.
    As for preference: my boyfriend, the one who does most of the cooking, prefers canned because they’re right there, ready to use.
    I prefer dried…partly because I live in Canada and you can’t buy pintos here :(. They’re even hard to find dried.
    Mostly because I can find a wider selection of beans.
    There’s also the shelf life factor. Canned foods do eventually go bad. If stored properly in a sealed bag dried goods last much longer.

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    • Haha slow cookers are pretty much the only way I make mine. Do you cook yours either in a pressure cooker or in a pot on the stove top? Those are both faster methods 🙂

      Wow, that’s frustrating that Pinto beans are so hard to find in Canada! Maybe you could try ordering online?

      And definitely dry beans come in a wider variety and the fact that I can use them for so long is awesome.

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      • I make them on the stove top usually but I’m paranoid AND bad about remembering there’s something on the stove in the first place.
        The thing I love about slow cookers is I can put a stew or something on to cook before I go to work and the apartment smells absolutely wonderful by the time I get home some 10 hours later!
        I LOVE cornbread (not that we can get the coarse corn mean here, bleh) and milk with a side of pintos! Is my Southern showing :D.

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  9. I soak all my legumes and pulses for 2-4 days until they sprout – its aids with the digestion – then use some “fresh” (soaked/fermented) to cook with, and cook some more of them for using later in the week (which I store in the fridge), and also put more “raw” (soaked but not cooked) into glass containers in the freezer for using later. That way I always have pre-prepared beans on the ready… this way I get the best of both worlds! 🙂

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      • No worries! My kitchen table often looks like some kind of cross between a garden and a science experiment, lol. I usually have 5-8 bowls of legumes and pulses in various stages of soaking, and I often get asked, “what are you doing?”!

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