Many cooks shy away from most canned vegetables in favor of fresh or frozen. There are exceptions, of course. Canned tomatoes, for example, are a reliable ingredient that is always available and often better than fresh. Another reliable ingredient that comes from a can is beans. Canned beans can be a lifesaver for getting quick, easy, and healthy protein into our eating plans. Making a pot of dried beans from time to time is great, but sometimes there just isn’t time to soak and cook them for tonight’s grub.
Especially when beans are an ingredient and not the star, canned beans are a terrific option for lots of reasons. BUT, always, always rinse those beans! I even rinse the ones that come in a chili sauce. For one thing, that liquid in the can, spiced up or not, has a nasty taste and texture that’s overloaded with salt. A good thorough rinse gets rid of most of that.
What About That Foam?
You may have noticed when you opened a can of beans that there’s some sort of foam at the top of the can. Then when you pour the beans into your strainer or colander it looks like someone poured soap all over the beans.
That foam is from two elements in the beans. First, the liquid in the beans is full of dissolved proteins and starch, also called aquafaba, which creates some of that foam. Aquafaba is used by vegans as a substitute for egg whites because they can be beaten into a meringue. Another factor is a compound called saponins, a harmless, natural plant byproduct, which foams when agitated with water.
Is All That Rinsing Necessary?
There are many opinions on this subject, with the prevailing answer being, “It depends.”
The primary concern for most cooks is the salt content. But you can now buy canned beans with little or no extra salt. Some are also concerned about what flavors, possibly unwanted, may be part of the canning liquid. Certainly, you wouldn’t want that liquid in a salad, a burrito, or mixed with pasta; anytime beans are the star of the dish. But in a soup or to make hummus, that liquid can add potassium, starch, and creaminess.
The Bottom Line
Nutritionally, canned beans provide a quick, healthy protein to your meals just as good as any homemade pot of beans. They are versatile and flavorful. But whether you rinse your canned beans or not is really up to you. That liquid won’t hurt you, but it could affect your sodium intake and the taste of your food.