Bean Clash: Dry vs. Canned Beans – 10 Key Differences

Beans are highly nutritious and can complement almost any other dish you make, and if you plan your meals, dry beans are an economical addition. But what if you forget to plan and need beans in a hurry? Are canned beans a legitimate option?

There are significant differences between dry beans and canned beans, such as dry beans contain less sodium, but canned beans take less time to cook. Dry beans are cheaper per serving than canned beans, but canned beans are more convenient to use when pressed for time.

Dry Beans vs. Canned Beans: A Comparison

1.1/2 to 1/3 of the cost of canned beans (per serving).Cost more than twice the price of dry beans.
2.Cooking time: anywhere between 3 to 24 hrs.Already cooked (or precooked).
3.Considerable less sodium.1/2 cup contains about 400 – 500 mg of sodium.
4.Cooking takes time and effort.They are ready to eat.
5.Healthier than canned beans.Lower in nutrients; more preservatives.
6. Creamy texture.‘Mushy’ texture.
7.Allows for more servings.Convenient for fewer servings.
8.They need to be cooked in advance.Little to no planning required.
9.More customizable.Already precooked (less customizable).
10.Cooking experience and knowledge required.No cooking experience or knowledge needed.

Before your next shopping trip, take a look at several differences between dry and canned beans.

1. Dry Beans Cost Less Than Canned Beans.

According to the Bean Institute, dry beans, per serving, almost always cost less than canned beans. For instance, the cost per serving of dry pinto beans can be 1/2 or 1/3 of the cost of canned pinto beans (depending on the brand). 

In general, each serving of canned beans can cost twice as much as dry beans, so dry beans are a more economical option, especially if you are serving more than two or three people.

2. Canned Beans Take Less Time to Cook.

Canned beans are already cooked, which means they don’t need a lot of cooking when you make a meal. Impromptu meals like chili or franks and beans can be on the table in as little as 30 minutes or less when you have canned beans in your pantry. 

If you want to make chili, all you need to cook is the ground beef or sausage, then add chili beans and other ingredients. Voila! Supper is served. With dry beans, you will need to plan ahead, as they take at least an hour to an hour and a half to cook. 

3. Dry Beans Have Less Sodium.

When you make dry beans, you have more control over the seasonings and salt versus canned beans. A can of beans contains 400-500 mg of sodium. While you can rinse canned beans and cook them in clean water to heat them, they still have more sodium than dry beans. 

Keep in mind that you can add sea salt and other seasonings to customize your dry beans however you like. Also, when you add sea salt to your beans, you’re not only adding flavoring. You’re adding trace amounts of minerals your body needs, like magnesium, iron, and selenium. These minerals are not very plentiful in most people’s diets these days. 

4. Canned Beans Are Simple to Use.

All you need to do to use canned beans is to open them, put them in the dish you are cooking, and heat. Dry beans require a lot more work and should be prepared and cooked before cooking the other food for your meal. 

Canned beans, like cannellini beans, pinto beans, and chickpeas are best used in soups, chilis, and pulses like hummus. They are great time-saving foods and are good for when you don’t have a lot of time or energy to cook for long periods. 

5. Dry Beans Are Healthier.

Not only do dry beans have less sodium than canned beans, but they also have more protein, folate, iron, and potassium than canned beans. Canned beans also contain more preservatives like calcium chloride and disodium EDTA, which preserves the color of the beans. When you eat canned beans, you also can ingest BPA, which is usually found in the can linings. 

The ingredients in dry beans are just beans, with perhaps a little rock or two. Before cooking dry beans, you may want to wash and sort the beans, so you’re not accidentally cooking and eating a rock. 

There is something else you should know about the folate in dry beans: when cooked, the folate in the beans gets cooked off. The best way to avoid this is to pre-soak your beans before cooking, as the soaking keeps it in better when cooking.

6. Canned Beans Have a Different Consistency.

Many people have noticed that canned beans have a “mushy” texture compared to cooked dry beans, which have a creamy texture. The reason for that is unknown, but every cook who knows their way around the kitchen can attest to the creamy flavor of cooked dry beans. 

Canned beans are mushy, probably because they are mass-produced and canned, which can cause them to be overcooked and mushy. Canned beans might also have a metallic flavor that isn’t present with dry beans, which may be off-putting.

7. Amount of servings and portions.

You’re limited to how many servings you can make when you open a can of beans. If you have a larger family, you may need to use two to three cans or more, driving the cost per meal. But with dry beans, one bag of beans can easily feed a big family. 

The opposite may also happen if you’re cooking for one or two people. Cooking dry beans from scratch may be too much for one person, so you end up having leftovers. If you use canned beans, you can have just enough for one or two people with little to no leftovers. 

8. Canned Beans Don’t Require Advanced Planning.

If you work all day and are responsible for cooking your family’s meals, you don’t have all day to cook beans or other items from scratch. If you want to have baked beans as a side dish, you can buy a couple of cans of baked beans, heat them, and serve them with your meal. 

Dry beans take a long time to cook, which means you need to plan and prepare the beans before it’s time to eat. Canned beans allow you to put a meal on the table with little advanced planning. 

9. Dry Beans Are Customizable.

Are you cooking a Mexican meal? When you cook dry beans, you control which seasonings you use and how spicy you want the beans to be. If you’re making a Mediterranean dish with lentils, you can customize them to your tastes and preferences.

Canned beans cannot be customized past the flavorings already in the can. Even unflavored beans cannot be customized completely, as they are already cooked. 

The flavors of the seasonings that you add to dry beans infuse the inside of the bean, making the flavors pop. You may be able to add your flavors to canned beans, but they won’t taste as good as dry beans when you add seasonings like onions and garlic when you start cooking dry beans.

10. Canned Beans Are Perfectly Cooked Every Time.

Depending on your cooking ability, you may not be able to cook dry beans perfectly. Canned beans are good for those who don’t know their way around the kitchen very well or have not mastered bean cooking 101. 

Canned beans are perfectly cooked every time, and are easy for those who have trouble with cooking beans and getting them cooked just right. 

Everything considered

What option do you prefer: canned beans or dry beans? While canned beans offer convenience and consistency, dry beans provide more food per dollar, better customization, and more health benefits. 

You can circumvent the convenience factor by throwing your beans in a slow cooker, putting the desired seasonings in, with water, and going to work. When you get home, you will have a batch of hot, flavorful beans waiting for you to add the other meal components to. If you’re on a budget, dry beans may be the way to go over canned beans, because of how many servings it gives you.

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This article was co-authored by our team of writers and editors who share one thing in common: their passion for food and drinks!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco works as a New York-based editor at Foodrinke, driven by his lifelong love for food. His culinary journey began in childhood, as he eagerly assisted his mother with her local sandwich and bakery business, relishing every opportunity to sample her creations. Known among family and friends as an easy eater, JC has a particular affinity for Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Peruvian cuisine. At Foodrinke, he channels his passion for food into his work, sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with readers.