Canned, Frozen or Dried Beans – Choosing the Right Type to Buy

ingredients and nutrition May 29, 2022

Canned, Frozen or Dried Beans

There are so many different types of beans you can buy at the store, so which types should you get? Perhaps you’ve heard different opinions on this and don’t know what’s best to use for your situation. This can all make starting a plant-based diet that much more overwhelming and confusing. So let’s take a dive into this topic so you can move forward with confidence on your plant-based journey!

First, Why the Fuss About Beans?

Nutritionally, beans are truly a powerhouse of nutrients. They are packed with protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, many metabolites, as well as specific bioactive plant compounds called polyphenols. Polyphenols are active substances in plants that have strong antioxidant properties and other beneficial effects. So this is why legumes like beans form such an integral part of a whole food, plant-based diet.

Store-Bought or Home Cooked: Which Kind to Use?

You can actually buy beans in a few different forms – depending on your preference and what’s available at the stores near you. The types of dried, canned and frozen bean varieties sold commercially can also vary quite a bit by country. Let’s take a look at the benefits and disadvantages of using each form of beans:

Canned Beans

If you are new to a plant-based diet and to eating beans in general, using canned beans can be a great way to start exploring adding a variety of beans to your meals. Canned beans are just so easy to use, convenient and shelf-stable. You just need to pop open a can, drain and rinse the beans well, then you can use them straight away in your recipe for further cooking if desired.

Canned beans are technically cooked as they undergo the canning process. However, for optimal food safety, you may want to heat the drained and rinsed canned beans thoroughly first before using. There are also pre-marinated or cooked forms of canned beans that you can enjoy right away in your meal. An example of this would be Trader Joe’s canned Greek Chickpeas with Cumin and Parsley. Enjoy canned beans in a multitude of ways, such as in a 3-bean salad or add them into a green leafy salad for a quick plant-protein boost! 

But here are a few things to consider when using canned beans. Unless you get the unsalted versions, canned beans tend to be higher in sodium than dried or frozen versions. There is also the issue of possible leakage of Bisphenol A (BPA) from the liners in food cans. Unfortunately, the use of BPA substitutes may not be much better (more on this in a future article).

Frozen Beans

This is a great option to have as frozen beans keep for a long time in the freezer, and are easy to thaw and use. Simply run the frozen beans under cold water in a colander, and then boil them quickly to heat them thoroughly before using them in your recipe. The benefits of frozen beans are that you have less worry about BPA, they usually come unsalted, and frozen beans are also picked and packed at peak ripeness.

Unfortunately, the variety and selection of frozen beans available to you may be limited, and is generally dependent on the country you live in. In the United States, for example, you may see more frozen green beans, snow peas, edamame, peas and lima beans. On the other hand, in Middle Eastern countries like Israel, you may see other varieties like red kidney beans, broad beans (fava beans) and white cannellini beans. But other than taking up space in your freezer, frozen beans are a great option to keep on hand.

Dried Beans

This is by far the cheapest money-saving option because dried beans cost less than canned beans and can be purchased in bulk. Just one 900 gram bag of dried beans can potentially make up to about 6 cups of cooked beans, because one cup of dried beans makes about 3 cups of cooked beans! Compare this to a 15-ounce can that yields less than 2 cups of beans, but which may be priced similarly to a 900 gram bag of dried beans. Dried beans also store well for a long period of time and there are fewer issues of BPA to contend with. Not only that, you will often find a much greater variety of dried beans available to choose from at the store, than canned or frozen beans since less processing is required of them.

The major downside of using dried beans is of course the extra time it takes to prep them, by soaking them and then cooking them. However, you can save time by soaking the beans overnight (while you sleep) and cooking more in bulk at one time, so you can freeze extra cooked beans in portions to thaw and easily cook up the next time you need them.

The Bottom line

So here’s my take on this bean debate. First, check what’s available at stores near you. Depending on which country you live in, and what you are able to get locally or online, you may be more limited in the choices of beans you can purchase. If you are a beginner though and have never cooked with dried beans before, it may be easier to get started first with using frozen or canned beans as they are less time-consuming to prepare, and you can get started more quickly making plant-based meals with them.

Over time, it is best to branch out to using different kinds of dried beans and also more frozen versions of beans to get more variety into your meals for the best health. But you can still keep a few cans of beans and lentils as backup in your pantry, for those busy days when you need to throw a quick meal together but don’t have time to cook from dried or don’t have frozen versions ready to use!

Have more questions about beans? Learn more about beans in my related articles on The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Beans and How To Add More Beans to Your Meals…but With Less Gas!

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