Whether or not to rinse canned black beans before using them is a point of debate among home cooks. Some claim rinsing removes excess sodium and indigestible sugars, while others argue it washes away flavor. So what’s the verdict – to rinse or not to rinse?
The case for rinsing black beans
Here are some of the main reasons people choose to rinse canned black beans:
- Removes excess sodium – Canned beans can be high in sodium from the canning process. Rinsing removes up to 40% of the sodium.
- Gets rid of indigestible sugars – Canned beans contain oligosaccharides, sugars that can cause gas and bloating. Rinsing helps wash away some of these sugars.
- Freshens up the beans – Canned beans can have a dull color and mushy texture from being cooked inside the can. Rinsing refreshes the beans.
- Good habit for homemade beans – If you’re used to rinsing dried beans before cooking, rinsing canned beans keeps the habit consistent.
Many recipes and cooking experts recommend rinsing canned beans to remove excess sodium, indigestible sugars, and other impurities from the canning liquid.
The case against rinsing black beans
On the flip side, some people prefer not to rinse canned black beans because:
- Minimal sodium reduction – Rinsing only removes around 40% of the sodium, so beans will still be relatively high in sodium.
- Washes away flavors – The liquid in canned beans contains flavors that complement the beans. Rinsing washes this away.
- Beans stick together – Rinsing can cause beans to stick together in clumps, which is undesirable.
- Extra work – Opening, draining, and rinsing beans adds extra steps when you may want a quicker bean prep.
For these reasons, many home cooks skip rinsing and use canned beans straight from the can.
Does rinsing actually reduce gas and bloating?
The claim that rinsing reduces indigestible sugars that cause gas is controversial. Here’s a deeper look at the science behind this:
- Oligosaccharides cause gas – Beans contain complex sugars called oligosaccharides that humans lack the enzymes to fully digest. These oligosaccharides pass through the intestines undigested until they reach the colon, where gut bacteria break them down, producing gas.
- Effect of rinsing is minor – Rinsing does wash away some oligosaccharides, but beans still retain most of these sugars even after rinsing. One study found rinsing only reduced oligosaccharides by 25%.
- Individual tolerance is key – How much bean oligosaccharides impact you depends on the makeup of microbes in your colon. People’s sensitivity varies greatly.
- Other options – Eating beans regularly, using Beano, and slow introduction can help with gas. Canned beans may be lower in oligosaccharides already.
For most people, rinsing beans makes little difference for causing gas. Focusing on portion size, hydration, physical activity, and probiotics are likely better ways to handle gas and digestion.
Amount of oligosaccharides in common beans (per 100g)
Should you rinse beans for tacos?
When it comes to tacos, a little rinse won’t hurt but isn’t mandatory:
- Rinse to reduce sodium – If limiting sodium, rinse beans to remove up to 40% of the salt.
- Don’t rinse for convenience – If you want quicker bean prep, no need to rinse.
- Rinse for can flavors – If disliking metallic flavors from can, rinsing may help.
- Add other seasonings – Spices, lime juice, etc can mask any bean flavors lost in rinsing.
The choice ultimately comes down to personal preference. Try rinsed and unrinsed beans in tacos and decide which texture and flavor you prefer. The impact on gas and digestion is negligible.
One final tip – drain and rinse or drain beans, but don’t do both. Draining already removes most liquid, so just choose either draining or rinsing.
How to rinse canned black beans
If you opt to rinse your beans, follow these simple steps:
- Open the can and pour beans into a colander or strainer.
- Rinse beans under cool running water for 15-30 seconds, gently stirring or swirling them around.
- Shake colander to drain excess water.
- Transfer beans to a bowl and they’re ready to use as normal.
Rinsing beans only adds a minute or two of extra prep. You can rinse beans upfront and store them rinsed in the fridge up to a week.
Do you really need to soak beans from scratch?
Canned beans provide a convenient shortcut to avoid soaking and simmering dried beans from scratch. But is soaking dried beans worth the extra time and effort?
Here’s a look at the pros and cons of soaking beans yourself instead of using canned:
Benefits of soaking and cooking beans
- Cheaper per serving – Dried beans cost a fraction of the price of canned.
- More control – You can control ingredients and seasonings added.
- Adjust texture – cooking times can be adjusted as needed.
- Greater variety – Many heirloom dried beans aren’t available canned.
- Custom portions – Cook only what you need instead of opening a whole can.
Downsides of preparing dried beans
- Time commitment – Soaking, simmering, and cooling beans takes hours.
- Inconsistent results – Tricky to get perfect tender beans each batch.
- Less convenience – Canned beans are ready-to-use in mere minutes.
- Gas and digestion – May still cause or worsen gas despite soaking.
- More perishable – Home cooked beans only last 3-5 days in the fridge.
There are good arguments on both sides. For tacos, canned black beans may be preferable for convenience, while homemade beans can allow seasoning them to your taste.
Do you have to pre-soak black beans?
Pre-soaking is traditionally recommended for dried beans to:
- Shorten cooking time
- Improve texture
- Increase digestibility
- Remove indigestible sugars
- Allow beans to absorb more water
However, cooking beans without an initial soak is also an option. The keys are:
- Increase water: Use 6-10 cups water per 1 pound beans.
- Cook longer: Simmer gently for 1-2 hours until tender.
- Watch pot: Check beans often to ensure there’s adequate water.
- Season at end: Add salt, acids, etc after beans are cooked.
Soaking isn’t mandatory but does make the process easier. Quick-soak by bringing beans to a boil and letting them sit 1 hour is a good compromise.
Common pre-soaking times
Should you cook beans in a slow cooker?
Cooking beans in a slow cooker offers both pros and cons compared to stovetop:
Benefits of slow cooker beans
- Hands-off cooking – Just add ingredients and turn on, no monitoring.
- All-day timing – Cooks beans while you’re at work or sleeping.
- Automatic keep warm – Holds beans at safe serving temp when done.
- Contained mess – Keeps splatters and aromas contained.
- Leader beans – Whole beans maintain shape and don’t break down.
Potential slow cooker drawbacks
- Longer cook times – Can take 8+ hours even with pre-soaking.
- Overcooking risk – Beans can become mushy if cooked too long.
- Less evaporation – Broths and liquids don’t reduce much.
- Can’t brown – Inability to sauté aromatics for deeper flavor.
- Food safety – Require diligence ensuring safe cooling.
A slow cooker isn’t the fastest option but offers flexibility. Take care not to overcook the beans. Quick-soak or pressure cook methods may be faster.
Should you add baking soda when cooking beans?
Adding a pinch of baking soda to the soaking or cooking water for beans has some benefits:
- Softens skin – Helps break down indigestible compounds in bean skins.
- Shortens cooking – Can reduce cooking time by 25-75%.
- Retains shape – Results in fewer burst or oversoftened beans.
- Increases digestibility – Easier for body to break down beans and sugars.
- Darkens color – Gives beans a deeper, richer color.
Downsides are that it can give beans a slight metallic taste and degrade some nutrients. Use no more than 1/4 teaspoon baking soda per pound of beans.
Other acids like vinegar, lemon juice, or tomatoes can also help soften beans. Buttermilk or yogurt soaks are traditional options too.
Canned black beans provide convenience for tacos, though rinsing them first can freshen them up. If you want total control over flavor and texture, preparing dried black beans from scratch lets you customize to your taste.
No matter which bean type or preparation method you choose, proper storage is important for safety:
- Refrigerate cooked beans within 2 hours, reheating to 165°F before serving.
- Store cooked beans 3-5 days in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer.
- Discard beans if smelling bad or slimy.
With some simple precautions, beans make a tasty, nutritious taco filling full of fiber, protein, and flavor. ¡Buen provecho!