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Better Bean Soup from a Can

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2009

Can you substitute canned beans for dry?

We find there’s a real difference in flavor and texture between dried beans you cook yourself and those out of a can. Dried beans can take on the flavors of the garlic, bay leaves, and other flavorings you add to the water, while canned beans taste of salt and not much else. We all need to take shortcuts sometimes—but when it comes to substituting canned beans for dried in soup, don’t be tempted to merely dump them in the pot and think you’re done.

We prepared Tuscan white bean soup and black bean soup with canned beans, adding them to the sautéed aromatics and cooking liquid in each recipe and simmering just until they were heated through, about 5 minutes. Not surprisingly, both soups had flat, disappointing flavor. Next, we made another batch of each soup, this time simmering the canned beans for 30 minutes (any longer and the beans began to disintegrate and fall apart). Although these soups could not compare with the rich flavor of soups made with dried beans simmered for hours, they were worlds apart from the first batches.

The bottom line: If you’re going to substitute canned beans for dried in soup, make sure you simmer them for 30 minutes so they have enough time to take on the flavor of the other ingredients. If a recipe calls for a pound of dried beans, you’ll need 58 ounces of drained, rinsed, canned beans—depending on can size, that’s three or four cans.

CANNED SOLUTION

To substitute canned beans for dried in soup, make sure to simmer for 30 minutes.