Canned beans are great additions to a healthy diet. They’re cheap, nutritious, convenient and shelf-stable. Keep reading if you’re looking for ideas on what to do with canned beans, chickpeas and lentils.
Types of canned beans
All types of legumes (e.g. beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas) can be found in canned form. In most cases, they’re either canned in water with or without salt, except for baked beans.
Canned beans, chickpeas and lentils are a good source of fibre and a decent source of protein, folate and other micronutrients. What’s nice about these legumes is that there’s virtually no nutritional difference between cooking them from dried or buying them canned. Buying in bulk is a little cheaper and cooking your own beans is slightly superior in the culinary sense but the canned varieties are also economical and much more convenient.
The graphs below contain a comparison of some of nutrients for a few types of canned foods (data from 1). Note that the database doesn’t list values for canned lentils but they’re similar than that of cooked from dried.
How to choose canned beans
Water vs oil
I tend to prefer beans canned in water. There are some products canned in olive oil but unless the package specifies it is extra virgin, I prefer adding my own oil. I like to drain and rinse my beans to get rid of most of the gas-inducing compounds in the liquid.
If you have a blood pressure issue, you should look for no-salt or low-salt products. Otherwise, sodium in canned beans shouldn’t be a concern. In addition, if you drain and rinse them, the salt content will be somewhat reduced.
Sauces and flavours
As with canned fish products, canned beans with sauces (e.g. baked beans) and flavours might contain undesirable ingredients, such as low-quality seed oils, sugar and additives. My recommendation is to buy plain varieties and add your own flavours, such as extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, tomatoes, etc.
As mentioned in my post about canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, some food cans are lined with bisphenol A (BPA), a toxic chemical that can cause endocrine disruptions. Look for brands that offer cans with no BPA.
What to do with canned beans
If you’re bored of eating baked beans on toast, below is a list of ideas for you to enjoy canned beans, chickpeas and lentils.
- Throw them on salads
- Throw them in bowls with veggies and grains, e.g. quinoa and mixed beans or quinoa, lentil and beetroot
- Make tacos or burritos
- Make dips, e.g. hummus
- Make tacu tacu or any other variation of rice and beans
- Make soups, e.g. Peruvian minestrone
- Make stews, e.g. garbanzos con acelga or chilli con carne
- Add them to brownies, cake or bliss balls
- Make bean-centric desserts, such as frejol colado (sweet bean paste) or zenzai (sweet bean soup)
- Food Standards Australia New Zealand (2019). Australian Food Composition Database – Release 1. Canberra: FSANZ. Available at www.foodstandards.gov.au