Reviews you can trust.See why.
Dried White Beans
We’ve always been a little prejudiced in favor of dried beans over canned. But is that always true?
Published May 1, 2014.
Top PicksSee Everything We Tested
What You Need To Know
The problem with most dried beans is that they don’t undergo the same level of quality controls as canned beans do. One dried white bean of the five in our tasting was the exception: an heirloom bean. The company’s smaller yield of heirloom beans seems to be the key. It gives more attention to the beans, and higher turnover ensures freshness. (This also meant that this bean purveyor was sold out of cannellini beans at the time of our tasting and recommended its cassoulet beans as a substitute.)
Also, heirloom beans feature varieties that have been more critically selected for superior flavor and texture. Our tasters found the winning beans “creamy and smooth, nutty and sweet,” with a “fresh, clean” taste and a “lovely texture and appearance.” One taster raved: “I could curl up with a bowl of these.” When we want dried white beans, we’ll make the effort to mail-order them from this heirloom bean company.
Everything We Tested
While this heirloom bean purveyor does sell cannellini beans, it was sold out—a real possibility given the smaller yield of heirloom beans. For a close substitute, the company suggested a variety grown in California from French Tarbais beans, traditionally used in cassoulet. Our tasters found them “creamy and smooth, nutty and sweet,” with a “fresh, clean” taste and a “lovely texture and appearance.” One taster raved: “I could curl up with a bowl of these.” A handful of tasters’ comments about a too firm, “crunchy” texture in the dip pointed to occasional uneven cooking, though these beans were far less susceptible to such problems than other dried beans in the lineup.
Recommended with reservations
An heirloom variety grown in Idaho’s Snake River Canyon region, these beans were “buttery”-tasting, both plain and in dip; tasters found them “fresh,” with a texture that “melts in the mouth but still has a slight bite,” and their “creaminess can’t be beat.” But they lost points in soup for “tough skins” and “lots of blowouts.”
Imported from Argentina, these mail-order beans (available in supermarkets in some regions) were “sweet,” with “decent creaminess,” but were also “inconsistent in size.” Many tasters commented on inconsistent texture: “Some were tough; some were mushy.” In dip, the beans were overly neutral, with “not much flavor”—as one taster wrote, “I guess I want more contribution from the beans.”
These were “big, intact, smooth beans; all identical; sweet and nutty,” with a “chestnut” flavor and “slightly grassy” taste. The “substantial” beans struck tasters as “fresh.” They fell in the ranking because of textural issues, with tasters noting that they were a bit “grainy” and “dry,” both plain and in dip. One taster even commented, “Is this the anticreamy batch? Is this joint compound?” These beans remained firm for far longer than other beans, taking more time to cook—usually a sign of older beans or storage issues.
The dried version of our winning canned bean was disappointing. Goya said the identical variety of beans is sold in both canned and dried form. But too often, the dried beans cooked up “uneven; some are mushy, some are firm,” and were “fairly soft and creamy, but not uniformly,” with “tough skins” and “broken” beans with “lots of blowouts.” In dip, the skins remained “too chewy.” Still, tasters appreciated their “solid” flavor, finding it “earthy and comforting.”
Reviews you can trust
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.