Do You Drain Beans for Chili – A Matter of Personal Preference!

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One of the best things about cooking is that you can customize every recipe to be exactly how you want it. If you don’t like something or would prefer something is changed, you are the one cooking the food so you are the one in control. When it comes to making chili, you also have some control over whether to drain your canned beans or not.

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Some people like to use the beans’ water, whereas others rinse canned beans before adding them. It is personal preference but you should still know why some people rinse their beans and others don’t.

Do You Drain Beans For Chili – A Matter Of Personal Preference!

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Should You Drain Canned Beans?

While I previously said that it is personal preference and the choice can be made by you, some recipes take that choice into their own hands and make it for you. The water in canned beans such as pinto beans or kidney beans is a liquid and a very watery one at that. Therefore, adding it to your chili might change the consistency and texture of your chili too much – leading it to be a very messy and watery disaster.

In a chili, beans are incredibly important as they supply a great deal of protein and nutrients to the rest of the dish and also help the chili feel more satisfying and filling – which can lead to a very hearty meal. The other ingredients are also important and will usually include water as a liquid to help correct the consistency of the chili overall.

If a recipe calls for water, you are able to use the water from your canned beans; however, there is no judging how much water will be in the can without you draining the beans and measuring the volume of water you have. This seems like a lot of hassle when you could just measure water in a jug and drain your beans without the two tasks being connected. Although, if you are trying to minimize waste, this can certainly be seen as a good way to start.

draining beans for chili

How To Decide if You Want To Drain Canned beans

There are many ways to decide if you should drain chili beans or if you should keep the water and use it alongside your tomato sauce for a delicious chili with the perfect consistency. The best way to decide is to weigh up the pros and cons of each option and see which one better suits your current needs.

Pros of Not Draining Beans

There are a lot of pros that come with you deciding to use your bean water in a chili recipe, these range all the way from being more nutritious to actually helping the consistency of your chili.

  1. Bean water contains water, salt, preservatives, additives, and bean starch. This mixture is both flavorsome if used properly and also will help thicken your chili. During the canning and cooking phase of the canned beans’ life cycle, the beans are essentially blanched and shut in cans before being sterilized and cooked at high heat. This is all according to the Canned Food Alliance and is a great explanation for why this water is helpful. As the beans have been blanched, the starch from inside is able to leak into the water and thicken it, which will in turn help thicken your chili.
  2. It is incredibly convenient and waste-free to use the water from your beans. It requires you to just measure the volume of how much water there is, and that’s all there is to it. No waste, no worries.
  3. Beans that are canned and left in the water for a while can sometimes have their coloring pigments seep into the water and naturally dye it. While the uses for this are limited, it can be a very nice way to sneak some natural coloring into your chilly so that you are left with a perfect picture-friendly meal that is as good on the tongue as it is on the eyes.

Cons of Not Draining Beans

The cons of not draining your beans are mostly dietary and health-related. This is because the water has added preservatives and other ingredients in them that some people do not take into consideration before consuming.

  1. There is a lot of excess salt in beans. Draining canned beans will remove a lot of this excess salt, which can help you have a healthier homemade chili if you are watching your sodium intake. Draining the water is said to remove roughly 30% of the salt from the beans, and rinsing the beans will remove around 40% of the salt. Chili recipes naturally have salt in them, so using the bean water is essentially similar to doubling up on the amount of salt you use.
  2. Some beans come with different additives and preservatives that can change the flavor of the water a lot. On top of this, sometimes it isn’t even water. Some beans are canned with tomato sauce with flavorings such as chili powder, garlic powder, and extra salt. This use of calcium chloride is not necessarily bad on its own, but the trouble is that the tomato sauce can sometimes be far too sweet to complement the rest of your chili con carne. Essentially, if you are being meticulous with your chili, it is best you control all the flavors added instead of using the bean water.

Is Draining Kidney Beans Always a Good Idea?

Draining kidney beans, pinto beans, or any beans used in chili is always going to be a personal choice. Even if a chili recipe calls for drained beans or undrained beans, it is your choice, and I’m sure you can make it work. Making chili is fun, and the cooking process is all about using what you want, so it really doesn’t matter if you use tap water and your own salt or if you opt to use canning liquid from leftover beans.

FAQs on Draining Beans For Chili

Should I drain beans before adding them to chili?

You can drain beans before adding them to chili if you are trying to control how much sodium you intake, as the water is very salty. Alongside this, the water is going to have to be measured before being added, so you know that you are adding enough.

Do you have to drain kidney beans for chili?

You do not have to drain kidney beans at all. Some people are looking out for their sodium intake, so draining the beans will help them with this. Other people like to use the bean water to help thicken the chili as the water has starch in it.

Do you drain pinto beans for chili?

You can if you want to, yet keeping the water can help provide extra nutrients and flavor to the chili. As well as being used as a thickening ingredient to help ensure your chili is not too watery.

Is it okay to use the liquid in canned beans?

Using the liquid from canned beans is a great way to minimize waste. The liquid is mostly water and salt with some other additives and can really help tie a chili together.

By Anna

Hey, I’m Anna; writer, editor and amateur cook extraordinaire! Food has been my life and my passion for the most of my life – it’s crazy to think I didn’t pursue a career in cooking. I’m obsessed! However, keeping cooking as an obsessive hobby has worked for me – my passion grows as the years pass by – maybe I wouldn’t say the same if it was also my day job! I hope you find cooking inspiration, entertainment and “stop and think interesting tid-bits” throughout my writing – and I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got anything you want to share. Food feeds the soul – so get eating!

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