Drain Canned Beans for Chili

To Drain or Not to Drain: Canned Beans for Chili

If chili and beans are your favorites, you probably love a bowl of bean-based chili with heaped add-ons like sliced green onions, sour cream, shredded cheese, and crushed tortilla chips. Although a timeless dish, bean-based chili is a favorite among most family dinners and potlucks.

You cannot miss a bean-based chili recipe, whether online or in cookbooks. These recipes usually feature kidney, cannellini, pinto, black, and garbanzo beans suspended in a rich chili sauce or a hearty tomato sauce seasoned with dried spices.

All these recipes require canned beans. That’s so because they are an affordable and protein-packed pantry staple. When using canned beans in chili, do you drain them or use them as they are? Read on to learn more.

Drain Canned Beans for Chili

Do You Drain Beans For Chili?


There’s no right or wrong way to use canned beans for chili. And whether you choose to drain the beans or use them as they’re, that’s a personal preference and is up to you to decide. Some people opt not to drain the beans and use them along with the soup as they feel it makes their chili tastier and thicker. Others drain the beans to remove the extra starch and salt that comes with it.

A study by the University of Tennessee researchers suggests that draining canned beans without rinsing them removes 36% of the added salt. At the same time, draining and rinsing the beans remove 41% of the added salt.

So, if you are struggling with heart or kidney issues and are on a low-sodium diet, draining and rinsing the canned beans is recommended. This way, you won’t endanger your life by consuming too much sodium in the canned beans.

However, if you don’t have any health issues and dietary sodium restrictions, don’t bother draining the beans. Instead, add them to the cooking pot along with its water. Take note of the seasoning you add. Here, you’d be required to add less bouillon cube or salt as the canned beans have salt already. Otherwise, your child will be oversalted and unsalvageable.

How much you’ve spent on the beans can also give you an idea of whether to rinse or not

Cheaper beans can be drained and rinsed as they’re high in sodium and best used in salads. More expensive canned beans contain less salt and preservatives and can be used without draining or rinsing. These are perfect for chili.

According to the Canned Food Alliance, canned beans are blanched beans sealed in cans with water, salt, and sometimes preservatives or additives. The beans are then sterilized and cooked over high heat and under steam pressure. If the beans are canned in their water, they’re likely to contain water, salt, and calcium chloride. Calcium chloride is a firming agent to prevent the beans from being mushy when cooking.

During the cooking process, beans release some surface starch into the water, thickening it. This thickened starchy bean water can be used to thicken watery chilies. Beans also release their pigment into the cooking liquid. And that’s why when you boil black, red, and white beans; you get black, red, and cloudy water.

When used along with the beans, the bean water can make your chili, soups, braises, or stews have a nice color, especially if the beans are red, kidney, or pinto beans. So, consider adding it instead of pouring it down the drain.

Beans canned in tomato sauce contain tomato sauce, sugar, and salt. It’s unusual for manufacturers to add garlic powder, mustard, dried onions, and vinegar for more flavor or tang. And for this reason, such beans are too sweet. The extra sweetness can easily overpower the taste of other ingredients and ruin everything. You don’t want that, do you?

Therefore, it’s best to steer clear of beans canned in tomato sauce when making bean-based chili. And if you want tomato sauce in your chili, use regular canned beans with a can of peeled plum tomatoes. This way, you’ll have total control of the flavor and aroma of your chili.

How Do Drain Canned Beans For Chili

If you’ve never drained canned beans, you may wonder what’s the best way to go about it. Doing so is pretty simple. To get started, pour the can’s contents into a large strainer like a big colander to hold over in the sink and avoid creating a mess. Rinse the beans by holding them under running lukewarm water for 20-30 seconds, and there you have your drained canned beans.

If you don’t have a strainer, don’t worry; there’s a way. Start by holding the edge of a tablespoon against the can opening and tilt to drain the bean water.

Be careful and avoid contact with the shard edges of the can’s lid. Otherwise, you might cut yourself. To rinse the beans, fill the can with tap water and let it sit for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the beans using the same method as draining the bean water described above.

Drain Canned Beans for Chili

Tips To Enhance Your Bean-Based Chili

If you are using canned beans to make chili, remember, the decision to drain or not lies on you and maybe the recipe you’re using. These extra tips will ease the cooking process for you:

  • If you choose not to drain the beans, ensure you revise the ingredients. This is important especially for salt and seasonings, as the canned liquid contains these ingredients.
  • If you opt to drain and rinse the canned beans, remember to do so before adding them to the chili. Otherwise, you’ll drain the chili’s gravy, taking all the flavors and aroma. I’m sure that’s not what you want.
  • Don’t store the remaining canned beans in their can. That’s because they’ll pick up the can’s metal taste, affecting the flavor of any dish prepared using the leftover canned beans.


Should you drain canned beans for chili or not? Well, decide for yourself what you want.

If you want to thicken the chili and don’t have an issue with extra salt, add the beans alongside the soup to the pot.

But, if you have a problem with excess sodium intake, drain and rinse the beans. This way, you reduce the total sodium by 41%.