Why I’ll Never Drain Canned Beans Again

published May 24, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Joe Lingeman

It’s well-established that I am very into beans. Whether I’m cooking a bag of dried beans on a cozy afternoon or grabbing a can from my pantry for a quick weeknight dinner, I’m always happy to have beans.

One thing I never seemed to understand, though, is why every recipe calls for draining canned beans. It makes sense for some things, like a zippy bean salad, but surely not for creamy soups? All that flavorful, starchy liquid boosts the flavor and naturally thickens sauces and soups. Sometimes, it renders additional thickeners like flour and cornstarch wholly unnecessary! Why would I pour that down the drain?

My thing is, if I can use the whole ingredient, I’m going to do it. And in this case, it actually makes the dish better!

Why It Works

  • It’s flavorful. Much like the delicious pot likker from a pot of simmered dry beans, the liquid in canned beans is full of flavor that shouldn’t go to waste.
  • It’s useful. All that starchy liquid will act as a natural thickener for soups, stews, and saucy dishes, making them instantly creamier.
  • It’s fast. Skip the draining and rinsing as well as extra thickening agents for a more streamlined experience.

A Few Pointers

  • Be mindful of added salt. Depending on the can you’re using, the bean liquid could be enough to season the dish without adding extra salt. Just like other salty ingredients, keep that in mind and taste as you go.
  • Reduce thickeners or skip them altogether. If you’re making a creamy soup or stew that relies on thickeners like flour or cornstarch, you can probably reduce the flour by half or skip the cornstarch altogether depending on how thick you want the dish to be.

The Exception to the Rule

Okay, I know I said I never drain my beans, but there’s always an exception to the rule. The only time I do actually rinse them is when the bean liquid will discolor the dish (like black beans in a salsa) or it isn’t supposed to be saucy (like tossed in a vinaigrette for a bean salad).

If you want, you can save that bean liquid and use it like aquafaba (chickpea can liquid) as a vegan egg substitute.

Try It with These Recipes

This article originally published on The Kitchn. See it there: Why I’ll Never Drain Canned Beans Again