Which is cheaper, canned or dry beans? Here is a break down of price, nutrition and cooking time for 4 different types of beans. Plus recipes for how to cook dried beans in a slow cooker or Instant Pot!
Part of my strategy for eating real food on a budget (which is the EXACT same strategy I teach in Grocery Budget Bootcamp) is to make foods from scratch when it counts.
Have you ever wondered if cooking dry beans cost less than buying canned beans?
I’ve wondered that myself, and today I’m crunching numbers to see which is cheaper.
Guide for How to Cook Dried Beans
Before we dig in, here is some information about my research on beans:
- Store used: Walmart. I’m choosing Walmart because it’s a national chain and the prices don’t vary too much from region to region. To account for any variation there might be, I’m using online prices since they’re available to everyone.
- Beans: For this post, I’m comparing black beans, garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas), pinto beans, and great northern beans. These beans make up the majority of bean recipes. They’re affordable and my family likes them (especially in black bean brownies and cookie dough hummus).
- Quality of beans: Since I’m wanting to eliminate as many variables as possible that would skew the basic comparison of dry beans versus canned beans, I’m using generic-brand beans. Not organic and nothing fancy. Just plain beans.
- Yield: On average, the typical pound of dry beans yields anywhere from 5 to 7 cups of cooked beans. When possible, I’ve noted a better dry to cook yield for each bean and the source. If I could not find a source, I went with an average of 6 cups.
- Serving Size: One serving of cooked beans – whether they are from a can or you make them from scratch – is ½ cup.
Okay, the guidelines are set. Let’s see which is cheaper, dry beans or canned beans!
Which is cheaper: dry black beans or canned black beans?
Dry Black Beans
Walmart.com didn’t have a one-pound bag of Great Value black beans, but they did have a two-pound bag for $2.78.
- One pound of dry black beans costs $1.39.
- According to Serious Eats, one pound of dry black beans will yield 7 cups of cooked black beans.
- One pound of dry black beans will yield 14 servings.
- One ½ cup serving of cooked-from-scratch black beans costs $0.10.
Cooked Black Beans
Walmart.com offers a 4-pack of Great Value black beans for $2.50.
- One 15.25 oz can of cooked black beans costs $0.63.
- One ½ cup serving of canned black beans costs $0.18.
The Winner: Dry Black Beans
Dry black beans cost less than canned black beans by $0.08 per serving. If you find canned black beans for 35¢ per can, you break even in cost.
Recipes Using Black Beans
Which is cheaper: dry garbanzo beans or canned garbanzo beans?
Dry Garbanzo Beans
Walmart.com does not sell store-brand garbanzo beans online, so I’m using the cheapest option available, El Mexicano brand. A one-pound bag of this brand is $1.78.
- According to Serious Eats, one pound of dry garbanzo beans will yield 7 cups of cooked garbanzo beans.
- One pound of dry garbanzo beans will yield 14 servings.
- One ½ cup serving of cooked-from-scratch garbanzo beans costs $0.13.
Cooked Garbanzo Beans
I used the cheapest option available then, which in this case, happens to be S&W brand garbanzo beans.
- One 15.5 oz can of canned garbanzo beans costs $0.86.
- One ½ cup serving of canned garbanzo beans costs $0.25.
The Winner: Dry Garbanzo Beans
Dry garbanzo beans cost less than canned garbanzo beans by $0.12 per serving. If you can find canned garbanzo beans for 46¢ per can, you break even in cost.
Recipes Using Garbanzo Beans
Which is cheaper: dry pinto beans or canned pinto beans?
Dry Pinto Beans
Walmart.com offers dry pinto beans in two different sizes, 32 oz (2 lbs) and 64 oz (4 lbs). We know that we can save money by buying in bulk, but let’s see how much and compare both of these sizes to canned pinto beans.
- According to Serious Eats, one pound of dry pinto beans will yield 7 cups of cooked pinto beans.
- One pound of dry pinto beans will yield 14 servings.
- If you buy a 2 lb bag, one pound of dry pinto beans costs $1.04.
- If you buy a 2 lb bag, a ½ cup serving of cooked-from-scratch pinto beans costs $0.07 (rounded from 0.074).
- If you buy a 4 lb bag, one pound of dry pinto beans costs $0.92.
- If you buy a 4 lb bag, a ½ cup serving of cooked-from-scratch pinto beans costs $0.07 (rounded from 0.065).
Cooked Pinto Beans
Walmart.com offers a 4-pack of Great Value pinto beans for $2.50.
- One 15.5 oz can of canned pinto beans costs $0.63.
- One ½ cup serving of canned pinto beans costs $0.18.
The Winner: Dry Pinto Beans
Dry pinto beans cost less than canned pinto beans by $0.11 per serving. If you can find canned pinto beans for 25¢ per can, you break even in cost.
Recipes Using Pinto Beans
- Slow Cooker Refried Beans (pairs well with the best scrambled eggs!)
Which is cheaper: dry great northern beans or canned great northern beans?
Dry Great Northern Beans
Walmart.com didn’t have a one-pound bag of Great Value great northern beans, but they did have a two-pound bag for $2.84.
- One pound of dry great northern beans costs $1.42.
- According to the USDA, one pound of dry great northern beans will yield 6 cups of cooked great northern beans.
- One pound of dry great northern beans will yield 12 servings.
- One ½ cup serving of cooked-from-scratch great northern beans costs $0.12.
Canned Great Northern Beans
I used the cheapest option available online. In this case, it’s Bush’s Best reduced-sodium great northern beans.
- One 15.5 oz can of canned great northern beans costs $0.98.
- One ½ cup serving of canned great northern beans costs $0.28.
The Winner: Dry Great Northern Beans
Dry great northern beans cost less than canned great northern beans by $0.16 per serving. If you can find canned great northern beans for 42¢ per can, you break even in cost.
Recipes Using Great Northern Beans
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Conclusion: canned vs dry beans
Across the board, it’s cheaper to buy dry beans and cook them yourself than it is to buy canned beans.
The one thing I didn’t take into consideration in this cost comparison was the actual cost of cooking. The price of electricity and gas varies, as does the cooking method (i.e. whether you cook on the stove, in a slow cooker or in an instant pot), which makes it difficult to draw a clear cut answer.
Another thing to consider is the additives and preservatives added to canned beans. In the four beans mentioned above, I found calcium chloride and disodium edta. Compared against the only ingredient needed to cook beans at home: water.
How to Cook Dried Beans
The good news is that cooking dried beans is simple! Here are 3 methods:
- How to cook dried beans.
- Slow cooker beans.
- Instant Pot Beans. This is a fast and easy way to cook dried beans from scratch.
How to De-gas Beans
Many people complain that beans give them gas, and therefore don’t eat them. If that’s you, I encourage you to de-gas your beans by soaking them using this method.
Why do you need to soak beans?
Soaking beans is the way to degas beans. It also helps with the cooking process later! Many people like to soak their beans overnight after boiling them for a few minutes.
How to Cook Beans Without Soaking
Hate the soaking part of cooking dried beans? Try making them in the Instant Pot! It is super easy and requires no soaking.
Cooking dried beans from scratch can be quick! Here’s how to cook dried beans in an Instant Pot.
As mentioned before, this is a fast and easy way to cook dried beans! Simply:
- Place beans and water in the instant pot.
- Adjust the timer according to the amount of beans.
- Let the pressure release naturally when done.
You can find more detailed instructions in my recipe here.
How to Cook Dried Beans in the Crockpot
Making dried beans in the crockpot is also super easy. It just takes longer, but still produces great results!
- Place (pre-soaked) beans in slow cooker and cover by 2 in of water.
- Add seasonings and cook the beans on low for 5-6 hours, or on high for 3-4 hour.
- Drain, measure, and store!
Do dried beans go bad, and how long do they last?
Simply put, yes. Dried beans can go bad, but their shelf life is actually 1-2 years! After that, they begin to lose moisture and nutrients. They’re a great pantry staple to have on hand.
I have several kinds of beans in glass jars that have been in my pantry for quite a while. How can I tell if they are “bad”?
SJ - Team Crumbs
There’s a lot of signs that beans have gone bad. Some of them are: withering, making a hissing noise when you open the jar, discoloration, fowl smell, etc. When you open a package and your gut tells you something is off, do a little research!
I use canned beans because I’m only cooking for myself, and figure the cost of cooking one or just a few portions of beans at a time would add significantly to the cost of using dry beans. Cooking more than that, probably some would go to waste. Plus canned beans go on sale regularly and last a very long time. They also require less planning ahead.
I do use dry beans harvested from my vegetable garden, of course.
I’m still not sure which is actually cheaper for someone like me who’s cooking for one. Either canned or dry is a great, cheap food source.
Kyare - Team Crumbs
Thank you for your input Cathy. I love hearing other opinions on our blog topics!
If the dry beans go bad you can utilize them for blind-baking pie crust, making diy hot compresses, bean bag toys or the inevitable classic chair. If you put a small pouch of them in a slingshot it is a non-lethal way to get animals out of one’s yard/garden.
Just saying, that’s off the top of my head. Good thing I can’t dig any deeper than that or I’d get in trouble more regularly.
Love your recipes, tips, tricks and more.
I’m so glad I came across your blog, there is a wealth of amazing information here! I’ve only scratched the surface here, but I can’t wait to dig in more. I especially enjoyed the post about the essential oils!
Thank you for all that you do.
You’re most welcome, Heather!
Love the idea of storing the beans in 1 1/2 cup portions, that really helps
You’re very welcome!
What about the cost of water and power to cook the beans?
The cost of water and power varies from area to area, and is even free for some people. However, if you were to actually calculate the cost of water and power, I think you’ll find that it’s negligible.
Hello! Just discovered your website and have started some almonds to try to sprout — thanks!
In regard to the dry vs canned beans — Thank you for doing the comparison. I am wishing you had added the cost of soaking (water) and cooking (propane/wood stove/natural gas), as these considerations go into my decision of what beans to buy, living off-grid.
Hi Annette – I don’t live off-grid myself, so I wouldn’t even know where to start with the cost of propane/wood/gas!! However, if you can calculate those based on your monthly expenses (as well as water – check your water bill!), then you can easily add it to the bean numbers above. 🙂
I mostly buy dry beans, but always have a few cans of cooked beans around for emergencies, and I try to get organic ones from Aldi or Traders Joe’s because they’re pretty cheap. We eat so many beans, I would find dealing with all the cans annoying (storing them, recycling them, etc.). But of course, my biggest reasons are for cost and avoiding the additives (although, the organic ones don’t have them). By the way, does anyone know of a good source for dry organic beans for cheap?
Christie – Palouse Brand (http://amzn.to/2otvjXl) is certified non-GMO and they do all their processing in-house (they grow, package and ship themselves). I don’t know about cheap, but they’re definitely quality!
Sam’s Club has 10-pound bags of organic black beans for $12-13. Kroger has smaller bags of Simple Truth Organic beans and lentils decently priced if you catch them on sale.
Awesome – thanks D.C.!
Hi Tiffany! I am catching up on your posts about making beans. You mentioned in one post that you commonly cook enough beans for the month and then store them. How do you store your beans for the month? Thank you!
Hi Kim! I store them in the freezer in 1 1/2 cup portions. 🙂
I use dry beans ONLY because of the chemicals in canned beans. The added ‘citric acid’ is often made from corn. If it says naturally derived citric acid, I check with the company to determine what type before I will use it.
I haven’t bought canned beans in a very long time. I have some dried beans hanging around, but I can most of them myself. I sterilize one side of my sink and put in the beans and then I cover with water and leave overnight. The next day I fill my quarts a little more than half full and add water. I put the garbanzo in pint jars because well, we like hummus but not in that quantity eh???…..lol Process for the recommended time and I have canned beans that are much safer to eat. No BPA and I always buy organic. I’m going to have to figure out how much I pay per can. Prices up here in Canada are a bit higher than yours.