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Certainly, if I were making a salad with canned beans, I would thoroughly rinse them first. But if I'm making soup or chili with canned black beans or kidney beans, should I drain and rinse them first? Goya brand beans have recipes on the side of the can that call for undrained beans.

On the one hand, I've heard claims that using the liquid in the can will increase gassiness, and that in some brands it can contain a lot of sodium. But I've also heard that it contains lots of soluble fiber that is lost if drained. Is there merit to either of these claims? Are there other nutrients that get lost if I drain and rinse? I always feel bad throwing out anything edible.

13 Answers 13

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I finally found what I'm looking for, from the University of Michigan - some actual data on the subject!

They say that rinsing canned beans can reduce the amount of sodium by half, and also reduces the amount of complex sugars which humans can't digest (but the bacteria in our intestines can, with uncomfortable results!)

It appears that draining the fluid is likely to improve the flavor and texture of the resulting food by concentrating the flavor of the beans -- unless you're following a soup recipe that specifically suggests retaining the liquid to thicken the soup.

I still haven't found any information about what healthy nutrients might be lost by rinsing the beans, but the general consensus seems to be that it rinsing will do more good than harm in almost all cases.

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    If I need to thicken my soup, I will sometimes reserve a few tablespoons of the liquid. I also reserve the fluid from one can (of two) when making Hummus from Garbanzo beans. In general though, at least drain them; I think rinsing is optional. – JSM Aug 27 '14 at 17:43
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    The extra sodium is why I would buy the canned beans! – blankip Sep 3 '15 at 19:21
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I recommend that you always rinse and drain them. To me, the juice has an unpleasant snottiness that I don't want in my food at all.

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    I always liked the term 'mucilaginous' (it seems to come up when talking about okra) – Joe Feb 8 '11 at 1:27
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    You guys are trying to ruin my appetite? – zanlok Feb 8 '11 at 5:03
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    when you say "an unpleasant snottiness," are you referring to the slimy texture? It's certainly kind of gross straight from the can, but lots of ingredients have weird textures that can still be good in the right context. It seems to me that diluted in a soup, that liquid would have the same effect as adding a bit of arrowroot or other thickener, no? – Josh Feb 9 '11 at 16:23
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    There are even techniques that actively use the whole of the canning liquid as a thickener or egg substitute. – rackandboneman May 24 '16 at 10:05
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I have read all the suggestions and have decided that there is no "One size fits all" answer...just common sense. If you are concerned about sodium/sugar -Rinse. If the liquid turns you off - Drain/Rinse. If you are putting them in a salad or dry dish - Rinse/Drain. When using canned beans in Chili, Soup, or any dish requiring liquid - Draining/Rinsing (Optional).

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    This is actually a pretty reasonable answer - it mostly summarizes the points in other answers (none of which covered all of these, I don't think). It could use a little more detail, but it's definitely still an answer. – Cascabel Jan 16 '15 at 0:26
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Another thing to consider is salt.. Sometimes the liquid contains too much salt. Rinsing will get rid of some of the excess salt on the beans as well..

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One thing not mentioned in other answers is that some types of beans have seasoned/flavored liquid. Mostly, I tend to see this with black beans (often with a "seasoned" liquid) and so-called "chili beans," which tend to be small red beans or pinto beans in a chili-flavored liquid. (Note here that I'm not talking about actual canned chili or prepared canned dishes -- just beans that are usually found in the same section of a grocery store as "plain" canned beans.)

In those cases, I sometimes retain all or part of the liquid from canned beans, because that liquid contains other seasoning beyond salt, and I tend to use such "seasoned beans" in dishes that could benefit from such seasoning.

Otherwise, I agree with other answers -- I tend to drain and rinse all my other canned beans before using. I don't generally find the texture or flavor the liquid imparts to be helpful in most cases, even in soups, chili, etc., and getting rid of some of the gas-causing elements is useful. I know that significant amounts of vitamins and other nutrients are lost from dry beans if you toss the soak water, so I assume that's the same with draining canned beans.

(Note that in general I tend to retain soaking and cooking water when making dry beans, particularly for nutritional and flavor reasons, but the texture of the stuff in canned beans is often weird. Also, when cooking dry beans, you have the option of cooking slowly for a long time, which will tend to break down many of the gas-causing elements even if you retain the soak water. With canned beans, cooking that long will often cause the beans to get to soft and break down -- and usually I tend to use canned beans when I don't have enough time to simmer that long anyway -- so draining/rinsing is the only effective way to remove a significant amount of gas-causing components.)

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Depends on what you're preparing. Probably: usually yes, sometimes no.

Michael is right about the texture of the fluid in the can if you're consuming it unaltered. However, especially since you've used the mexican-cuisine tag, I was taught to keep the juicy stuff when preparing a homemade mashed beans (as a fresher alternative to a can of refried beans). I expect this flavor rule would go for making hummus as well. But, to get a heartier/fattier browned lard flavor in traditional refried beans, most people probably drain beans (if starting with beans from a can).

  • I don't save the juice even for refried beans, but I confess I've never done a head-to-head test to see which I prefer. My refried beans come out plenty creamy and delicious though. – Michael Natkin Feb 8 '11 at 7:49
  • Do you ever add water so that it gets to simmer longer? I've actually seen people do that and then I'm wondering why they didn't just at least part of the wetness that was already in the can. – zanlok Feb 8 '11 at 16:32
  • It's possible that it's just the extra salt and/or sugar in that fluid that makes a difference. – zanlok Feb 8 '11 at 16:33
  • I do add water, oil, salt, and usually some sauteed onion and cumin. It might be fine to use the liquid in the can, but I just find that stuff so repulsive it never really occurred to me. – Michael Natkin Feb 8 '11 at 16:50
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    @Michael, you can't find it that repulsive if you're perfectly happy to eat beans that have been soaking in it for months :) I just assume that by that point most of what's outside the beans is also inside them, and vice versa. – Josh Feb 9 '11 at 16:33
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I prefer to rinse canned beans. Mainly for the reasons you mentioned: to cut the sodium and the gas-inducing complex sugars. You do lose a little bit of flavor and some nutrients, but since the flavor of the canned bean juice doesn't taste the same as fresh anyway, I don't mind losing it. I just add water to the beans before heating them up.

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I just made & ate a casoulet with canellini beans. Thought I remembered that the recipe said undrained - but now I have a can taste in my mouth that made me wonder. most recipes I've used say drain the beans - i've wondered why, and found this question. Although I agree that nutrients might be lost, I really don't like the taste of can.

  • This does not really answer the question. If you have a different question, you can ask it by clicking Ask Question. You can also add a bounty to draw more attention to this question once you have enough reputation. – Mien Apr 15 '14 at 11:02
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    @Mien I think it kinda does, at least the part of the question that's in the title: rinse them, because they can just taste bad otherwise. The other answers don't really cover nutrients very well either. – Cascabel Apr 15 '14 at 15:24
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My personal experience is worthy of repetition. Black beans must be rinsed for any and all recipes, otherwise the entire meal will turn to a dingy color versus a vibrant, appetizing one. As for the rinsing of other beans - it's personal preference. In a taste test of chili with or without rinsing, you most likely won't be able to tell a difference. In salads, you must rinse all beans of course. If you need to watch your salt and sugars - rinse. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat...haaa!!!!

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If they are canned dark or red kidney beans, I drain and rinse them. If they are red beans in Hot or mild sauce for chili, I do not rinse them. If you want truck stop style chili, I don’t even drain my ground beef either. That exciting extra grease that’s floating on top of the served chili has that superb taste when the oyster crackers soak it up. Yummy, yum, yum...Also soaks up that delicious Tobasco sauce dots floating in the grease!!

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The facts of draining your beans is just like cooking them your self. If you cook them and drain it, you lose all the vitamins and mineral. If you add it to what your cooking, lets say chili, it helps flavor the meat that is just raw stock you browned. Any extra flavors and other stuff you add just give your food a verity of extra flavor. Its like when you go some where and you eat you can't seam to add enough salt or pepper, Because its bland. But when they use stuff like the juice on the beans it's most likely your going to not need salt or anything else. Just enjoy the flavor of the meal.

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Soaking black beans or using canned black beans does remove some of the water soluble fiber, protein, vitamins,and minerals. As for the salt: I can't remember a recipe that doesn't call for some salt. If you rinse canned black beans you will probably remove 30% of the added salt. However, all losses are relatively minor. The advantages of rinsing generally out weigh the disadvantages. To get into the technicals would boring. Either way -rinse or no rinse- Not a big deal.

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Dark Red Kidney Beans . . . I rinse them well (with warm water), then eat them right out of the can. Nature's perfect fiber for mankind. I have beans everyday, no problems with gas because after a while your body gets used to digesting them. "Affordable, healthy, and damn tasty. Absolutely rinse that yuch off of them. It's just extra salt and sugar that you don't need in your body if you want to stay healthy.

I love black beans, but the Dark Red Goya Kidney beans won first place on my palette.

Other than out-of-the-can, I put them directly into a corn tortilla with some cilantro and Guacamole. Oh my. . . so good.

Salads are intensely satisfying and nutritional with these beauties.

Yum.

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    This may not be the best answer, but it is an answer: zac is saying to always rinse them, to get rid of extra salt and sugar. – Cascabel May 1 '14 at 0:06

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