Inexpensive dried beans belong in any pantry, where you can store them for years. Using them in place of canned beans cuts down on recyclables in the garage and frees up food storage space in the kitchen. They also cost considerably less per pound than canned beans and give you control over the amount of salt in your dish. Though dried beans admittedly take much longer to prepare, requiring a soak and extended cooking time, they easily sub for canned in most recipes. Figuring out how many beans you need to swap dried for canned in a recipe is simple when you know the basic measurement equivalents. Keep in mind that beans vary widely in size, so if you want to swap a different dried bean for the variety called for in the recipe, you may need to adjust the amount to compensate.
Use these helpful average conversions and general rules of thumb to measure dried beans:
- 2 cups of dried beans = 1 pound of dried beans
- 1 pound of dried beans = About 6 cups of cooked beans
- 1 part dry beans = 3 parts cooked beans
- 1 cup dried beans = 3 cups of cooked beans
- 1/3 cup dried beans = 1 cup of cooked beans
While they provide you with a great starting point, these rules of thumb vary based on the size of the bean. Larger varieties such as pinto and lima beans yield a bit less when cooked, while smaller ones such as garbanzo and navy beans yield more. Keep in mind that dried beans more than double in both volume and weight when you cook them, and you should be able to estimate the amount you need in most cases.
Conversions and Equivalents
Remember these tips for bean equivalents:
- A heaping 1/2 cup of dried beans = one 15-ounce can of beans
- 1 1/2 cups of cooked beans, drained = one 15-ounce can of beans
- 1 1/2 pounds dried beans = one #10 can of cooked beans (109 ounces)
Canned beans equate to cooked beans, so cooking dried beans before you measure them for a recipe written with canned beans usually results in a more accurate conversion.
For recipes requiring precise proportions, you should always cook and drain the dried beans before you measure them, using the average equivalents as a rough guide to estimate the amount of dried beans you need to prepare. Many bean recipes are fairly forgiving and adjustable. But for just the right balance in a three-bean salad or in a pot of mixed bean soup, you might need to make some adjustments when you convert from canned to dried ingredient amounts so one bean doesn't dominate the dish.
You might need to increase the amount of salt you add during cooking when you use dried beans in place of canned. You can purchase canned beans with no added salt, but many contain sodium chloride, which is added both for flavor and as a preservative. Rinsing canned beans does wash away some of this added salt, but recipes written for canned beans generally compensate with less or no salt added during cooking. Since dried beans contain no salt, you need to add it for flavor when you cook the beans or increase the amount of salt in the recipe to taste.
Interchanging beans in a recipe usually works fine. For example, you can substitute kidney beans for pinto beans in a chili recipe or a bean salad without much alteration to the appearance or overall flavor. In dishes with beans as the main ingredient, such as hummus or refried beans, you may or may not be happy with the result, however. Hummus, which typically calls for mildly nutty garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas), won't taste the same if you use dark red kidney beans, although you may ultimately really like the flavor.
Generally, versatile beans make it easy to experiment and use what you have on hand. As a tasty source of protein, they can also stand in for meat when you want to cook with pantry staples instead of making a run to the store.