Can You Eat Refried Beans Out of the Can?

by Charlie
Homemade refried pinto beans

Have you ever wondered whether you have to cook refried beans when you get them out of the can, or if you can just eat them cold? It’s always important to understand the safety of food, even canned food, and some beans must be cooked in order to be safe to eat. However, this is not the case with canned beans.

Can you eat refried beans out of the can? Fortunately, you can eat refried beans directly from the can, because they have already been cooked. They don’t need any further cooking or even warming, so if you would prefer to eat them cold, that should be fine. However, you should rinse them before consuming them.

Have Refried Beans Already Been Cooked?

Yes, refried beans have already been cooked. Beans are not canned raw, because part of the canning process involves heating the beans to kill off any active bacteria in them. If the beans were not heated, they couldn’t be canned – so beans will always be cooked when you get them from a can.

The FDA requires all canned food to be cooked (unless it is pickled), and therefore, any food that you get from a can should be fully cooked and ready to eat. Raw products stored in a can would quickly go off because there would be bacteria in those products.

The cooking process kills the bacteria, and then the cans are sealed so that no bacteria can re-enter the food from the air. 

This is why canned food lasts so well; there is no bacteria in the can and it is extremely difficult for external bacteria to access the food inside the can unless the seal is damaged (e.g. a dented can).

Why Do You Need to Rinse Them?

Almost all recipes will tell you to drain and rinse beans, but you might want to know why. The answer is simply that the liquid is salty, starchy, and not very nice. It will not hurt you in small quantities, but isn’t great for you either.

Tipping out what looks like perfectly good “stock” or “sauce” and rinsing your beans sometimes seems counter-intuitive. After all, if it is safe to eat beans that have been soaking in it, surely that liquid is okay to consume?

It is safe, but it simply isn’t very nice or very healthy. The liquid keeps the air out of the can when it is being filled, and without it, it wouldn’t be possible to create a vacuum, but this doesn’t mean it’s a product that you want to consume.

It also sometimes has a metallic sort of taste that has come from the can, so it really is best discarded. If you are eating the beans without putting them into a sauce or meal, you will certainly want to rinse them, because this will remove the salty liquid from them.

To do this, simply tip your beans into a colander and swill them under cold running water until the water turns clear. A little residue from the beans is nothing to worry about, but you should aim to minimize how much you eat, especially if you are trying to cut back on how much salt is in your diet.

Are Refried Beans Better when Eaten Hot?

Many different recipes call for refried beans, and whether they are better hot or cold will just come down to personal preference. If you like, you can put beans into sauces and stews to help bulk them out, or you can use them as side dishes for your meals.

Many people enjoy refried beans served warm, perhaps with a small sprinkle of Cheddar cheese on top. You can add them to curries, or blend them into a different version of hummus.

Try the beans both hot and cold and see which option you prefer. It may be that you enjoy both options, but there’s no need to heat the beans if you would rather not.

Can You Eat Refried Beans from the Can?

If you really don’t want to do the dishes, you might want to just eat your beans straight from the can. You can do this, but there are a few health concerns associated with it, because the can lining will get warm, and could start to release chemicals.

Cans are lined with plastic to prevent the food from reacting with the metal. This is inert when the can is sealed, but if you warm the can up and open it, the lining could become active, and might release chemicals into the food.

Little has been proven yet, but if you are concerned, it’s best to tip the beans into another container so that you can rinse and recycle the can. You can then safely enjoy your beans, without having to worry about how long they have stayed in the can for.

Since you have to tip the beans out of the can to rinse them anyway, this should not be any additional work at all.

Have Refried Beans Been Fried Twice?

The name implies that the beans have already been cooked once, but this isn’t the case. Instead, the word is derived from the Spanish name for the beans – Frijoles Refritos. “Refritos” may sound like “re-fried,” but in fact, it means “well fried.” The beans are not fried twice; they are just well done.

In general, refried beans will only be cooked once. They often have some other ingredients cooked in with them to add to the flavor – these could be jalapeños, garlic, or certain spices. The beans may be cooked in lard or vegetable oil, and they are often lightly mashed so that they can be packed into the can.

However, if you cook beans yourself, they will have been fried twice in a way – both before they went into the can, and after they came out of it.

Final Thoughts

Refried beans can be eaten straight from the can if you want to try this; you do not have to heat them or do anything else to them. Rinse off the salty liquid that they are contained in, and enjoy your meal!

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