How to Make Canned Black Beans Better

I’m willing to bet you’ve got a can of black beans in your pantry that’s just begging to be used. Maybe they were originally bought for a never-made Mexican dish. Or, maybe you got them to add to your doomsday stash. Either way, canned black beans are a fantastic meal waiting to happen!

There are so many ways you can make canned black beans go from bland and boring to flavorful and delicious. It can be as easy as adding your favorite seasonings, fresh herbs, and aromatics, or as simple as adding it to your main dish or making it the perfect side dish to compliment your meal. Whichever way you slice it, you can make an easy black bean recipe that is delicious, nutritious, and an instant family favorite.

I personally love cooking with canned black beans. They are great for busy weeknights when you don’t have the energy or desire to cook. Not only that, they are super healthy! Canned black beans are known to lower blood pressure, are a great source of fiber, and are anti-inflammatory. Are you ready to make the best black beans… from a can? Let’s get started!


Canned vs. Dried Black Beans

Canned black beans are already cooked and stored in water. Storing them this way preserves all the nutrients and keeps them fresh. Dried black beans are also pre-cooked but dehydrated, which makes them weigh less. When you soak dried black beans in water, they will absorb the water and weigh more. Dried black beans are more nutritionally dense and contain more protein, iron, potassium, fiber, and magnesium. They also have less sodium than the canned alternative.


How to Make Canned Black Beans

Can of Bush's black beans

Although canned black beans are pre-cooked, there are many ways you can heat them up! Your cans of black beans will have different results depending on how you cook them. For instance, if you don’t drain your black beans, they will better retain their shape and have a smoother, creamier texture. Draining them before cooking them will create a firmer texture and a crispier outside. In the oven, your black beans will dry up and roast, while in the microwave, they will have more moisture.

Here are my top 3 recommended cooking methods for black bean recipes:


On the Stove

To cook on the stove, heat a little olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Then add your preferred aromatics like diced jalapeño, garlic cloves, or red onions. You can add your can of black beans with or without draining (depending on your texture preference) and stir in any spices and flavorings. Bring the beans to a simmer and remove them from the heat. This should all take about 8 minutes, tops!


In the Oven

It is best to first drain your black beans before baking them in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350° and spray a 1-2 quart size baking dish with non-stick spray. Next, add your beans and mix them with any other ingredients that you might have cooked on the stove. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and place it on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 30 minutes until the beans are crispy or bubbling hot (depending on your recipe).


In the Microwave

Place your black beans and any other ingredients you wish to cook with them in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for about two minutes. Give the beans a stir and microwave again for another minute. Once the black beans are at a consistency you like, let them cool and enjoy!


How to Make Canned Black Beans Better

Now that you know how valuable canned black beans can be and what the best methods for cooking them are, how can we elevate this dull superfood and ‘wow’ our tastebuds? Below are some of my absolute favorite ways to add some oomph to canned black beans.


Spice It Up

shaker of cayenne pepper

This pantry staple deserves more than just your basic salt and black pepper. Give your black beans some extra flavor by adding a medley of seasonings such as cayenne pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder, or red pepper flakes. You can make a concoction of your favorite spices or spice it for a specific cuisine, such as Indian, Asian, Southwestern, or Mexican black beans.


Make it ‘Sofrito’

Sofrito is essentially what adds flavor to whatever you are cooking. Ingredients vary depending on the country of origin, but generally, it is a mixture of garlic, onions, and sometimes bell pepper, jalapeño, tomato, and bay leaves. The mixture is sautéed in oil until caramelized before adding in the beans, adding a wonderful aroma and flavor to your canned black beans!


Add Apple Cider Vinegar

bottle of apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar brightens the flavor of your black beans without the need for excess salt. It’s also great for breaking down indigestible sugars to help digestion and reduce the gas-producing chemicals in beans. Just add a splash when the beans are almost fully heated, and you’ve found an easy way to elevate your dish!


Add Lime Juice

bottle of lime juice

Fresh lime juice is excellent for adding a touch of acidity. Even a tiny bit will add some zing to your black beans as it pairs well with the more earthy, rich flavor of the beans and seasonings.


Add Tomato

fresh tomato

Tomato is good for complimenting almost any dish, especially black beans! Dice up some tomatoes or even add tomato sauce to mix with your black beans and freshen up the flavor.


Add Corn

Corn is great not only for adding a great texture but also adds a touch of sweetness that pairs nicely with black beans. You can go even further and add garbanzo beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, or any other can of beans to make the dish more substantial and rich.


Make it Hot & Spicy

can of diced green chiles

Black beans are great with some extra heat! Jalapeños are a classic, but you can also add green chiles, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, or any of your favorite spicy ingredients to your heart’s content.


Garnish with Fresh Herbs

Fresh cilantro is a popular favorite, but other herbs, such as parsley and rosemary, are great additions as well. Fresh herbs are like icing on the cake for your black beans. The light, herbaceous flavors are delightful in contrast with the rich, earthy flavors of the beans.


Make Crispy Pan-Fried Black Beans

Canned black beans can go from squishy to crispy instantly when pan-frying them over the stove. Before cooking, pat the beans dry to remove any liquid. As a result, you’ll get delicious, crispy beans. With some yummy spices, pan-fried black beans are delicious by themselves. However, you can also stuff them in baked potatoes and sweet potatoes or put them in a salad or burrito bowl!


Make Refried Black Beans

Making creamy refried black beans is super easy with canned beans. You can make them drained or not based on what you prefer. Just put the black beans in a bowl with some aromatics and seasonings and mash them with a potato masher. To make them creamy, add some sour cream!


Make Black Bean Soup

Black bean soup is an easy recipe that can be ready to eat in just 20 minutes! You don’t need many ingredients, either. All you need is chicken broth (but vegetable broth works well, too), chunky salsa, sour cream, and any spices and aromatics of your choice.


Serve as a Side

When we think of black beans, we often think of all the delicious things they are paired with. Serving black beans as a side adds a lot of substance and texture to your meal, making it great to serve alongside Mexican rice, tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, or tortilla chips and cheese.



can of black beans


Is it healthy to eat canned black beans?

Yes! Canned black beans have an exceptional amount of fiber and protein. They are also low fat and a great source of vitamin B9, which is good for preventing birth abnormalities. You can up the benefits by getting canned black beans with no salt added. This lowers your sodium intake, which is usually higher in canned foods.


Should I rinse canned black beans?

It depends on your preference! You can add the bean liquid to many black bean recipes, but if you’re looking to lower the amount of sodium, it is best to drain and rinse them. The liquid contains mostly starch and salt, adding a specific texture and flavor to your black beans recipe. Not draining will actually add a lot of flavor, so it’s really up to you!


Do you have to cook canned beans?

No! Canned beans are already cooked, so you can drain them and eat them right away. However, if you like to eat your beans warm, you can heat them on the stove, in the oven, slow cooker, or microwave.


Do black beans need to be soaked before cooking them?

This answer depends on if you are cooking canned or dried black beans. If you are cooking canned black beans, you do not need to soak them as they are pre-cooked and ready to eat. If you have dried black beans, on the other hand, they do need to soak before cooking them.


How to grow black beans.

Growing black beans requires a bright spot that receives six hours of sunlight each day, at minimum. It is best to avoid over-watering as these legumes require little moisture; only irrigate when the soil dries out completely or if they look parched.

In mid to late spring, after the risk of frost has passed, sow seeds spaced three inches apart and a half to one inch deep across rows, which should be 15 to 18 inches apart. For accelerated germination rates, soak beans before planting.

Black bean cultivation is not only possible but also thriving with a few key techniques. Employing regular mulching and watering practices, whether for plants grown on-site or transported into containers, can ensure desired crop yields that boast diverse nutritional content.


How long are black beans good in the fridge?

Black beans stored in air-tight containers can last for 3 to 5 days in the fridge.


Final Thoughts

It is amazing how a simple can of black beans in your pantry can evolve into a tasty, well-rounded dish on your dinner table. Add fun spices and make it a yummy appetizer or side. Or, turn it into a substantial entrée to make burrito bowls or delicious tacos. There really are no limits! Ready to stock up on your canned black beans? I sure am. Happy cooking!


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Written by Laurie Graves

Laurie is a 50-something wife and boy mom, who loves to share easy recipes, DIY home ideas, and food hacks. She truly believes that with a little inspiration, anyone can make their home and meals feel special.