How to Can Beans

Four Parts:Preparing Dried Beans for CanningPacking the Beans into JarsCanning the BeansCooking With Canned Beans

Canning any type of bean requires Mason jars and a pressure canner. If you have this vital canning equipment, the process is similar for any beans, fresh or dried. A water bath canning process is unsafe for low-acid foods such as beans,[1] so if that's your usual canning method you'll need to acquire a pressure canner and follow these instructions instead.

See How to Can Green Beans if you're using any type of string bean.

Part 1
Preparing Dried Beans for Canning

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    Remove unusable beans and small rocks. Pick out any rocks and any extra shriveled or crushed beans. The damaged beans won't cook properly, so it's best to remove them.
    • If you want to be sure to catch them all, pour them onto a flat surface like a cooking sheet. Don't obsess over each bean; it's not a disaster if you don't catch every one.[2]
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    Rinse the beans. Rinse the dried beans in room temperature water and place them in a large pot.
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    Soak the beans. After rinsing, fill the pot with water (at least twice as much volume as the beans fill)[3] and soak the beans using one of two methods:
    • Overnight soaking: simply leave the beans in water for 8-12 hours. This method is the best for ensuring the beans absorb enough water to cook evenly all the way through.[4]
    • Quick soak: bring the pot of water and beans to a boil, then turn off the burner and let soak 1 hour. This will do the job much faster, but the beans won't cook as evenly.
    • The beans will expand as they absorb water, so leave space in the pot.
    • Broken and split beans will rise to the water's surface. Remove these.
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    Drain the beans. The water you used to soak the beans now contains dirt as well as some of the complex sugars that cause gassiness.[5] Using a new pot of water to cook the beans is recommended.
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    Cook the beans. Cover the beans with fresh water and boil 30 minutes. You can add spices for additional flavor, or leave them plain so the canned beans have greater versatility.
    • Don't cook the beans as long as they would usually take (normally 60-90 minutes or more). The canning process will finish cooking the beans.
    • Optional: Add approximately 1/4 tsp (1mL) salt per pint (500 mL) of beans to better preserve color and flavor.[6]
    • Good ingredients for adding flavor to beans include garlic, red pepper, cumin, coriander, and lemongrass.[7] Don't use all of these at once!

Part 2
Packing the Beans into Jars

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    Clean and heat your Mason jars. Wash the jars and lids with hot, soapy water and place them in a pot of simmering or almost-boiling water. Putting them through a quick rinse dishwasher cycle immediately before use will also work.[8]
    • Do not use storebought jars (such as mayonnaise jars). These have a high chance to break or fail to form a proper seal.[9] You need a glass, threaded jar with self-sealing lid intended for home canning.
    • You should clean the jars well, but you do not need to sterilize them. The pressure canner will accomplish that for you. (You should always sterilize jars before water bath canning, but that method will not remove the toxins that can thrive in canned beans.)[10]
    • Keep the lids in their own pot until you need to use them.
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    Pack the prepared beans into the jars. They should be packed closely, but not pressed too firmly in, since they require room to expand and contract during canning.
    • Make sure your Mason jars are clean and their hermetic seals are intact before using.
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    Fill each jar most of the way with boiling water. Leave about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of "head space" at the top of the jar.[11]
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    Run a knife around the edge of each jar. This will free any air bubbles trapped in your jars, which can weaken the seal and disrupt color and flavor.[12]
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    Wipe the lids clean. Use a clean cloth to wipe the rims of the jar. You don't want any contaminants inside your jar.
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    Attach the lids to the jars. Use tongs or a magnet to pull the flat lids out of the pot of boiling water and place them onto the jars. Screw the rim of each jar over the flat lid, protecting your hands with an oven mitt.

Part 3
Canning the Beans

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    Use a pressure canner, not a water bath. A water bath canning method is dangerous for low-acid foods such as beans, which can harbor the potentially fatal botulism toxin when canned. You must use a pressure canner in order to completely kill any botulism spores that may be present.[13]
    • Always wash your canner with hot, soapy water (and nothing else), then rinse and dry before using.[14]
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    Pour a little hot water into your pressure canner. There should be approximately 2–3 inches (5–7 cm) of hot water.
    • Place the pressure canner on a stove top before you start adding hot water and heavy jars to it.
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    Position the canner's metal rack. Each pressure canner should come with at least one metal rack. Place this rim-side down at the base of the canner, so it is slightly raised from the canner base.
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    Place the jars of beans on top of the rack. Use a pair of jar tongs to place the full jars on top of the rack in the pressure canner.
    • Extra large canners may come with a second rack that can be fitted above one layer of jars and have a second layer placed on top of it.
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    Fasten the lid of your pressure canner. In some pressure canners this simply means placing the lid and turning to lock it. Others require you to tighten wing nuts attaching the lid to the canner.
    • Always tighten two opposite wingnuts at the same time.[15]
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    Heat the canner until it begins venting steam. Turn on your stove burner and wait until steam begins escaping from the canner lid.
    • If your canner has a weighted gauge attachment, make sure it is not attached at this time.[16]
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    Let the steam vent for ten minutes. This process begins the creation of a hot, high pressure canning environment.
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    Determine the correct time and pressure for canning your beans. These vary with pressure canner model, altitude, and type of bean, so it's best to follow the instructions that came with your canner. That said, here is a rough guide if you have no other source:[17]
    • Process the jars at 10–13 lbs (PSI) of pressure.
    • Increase the pressure to at least 15 lbs if you live at 1,000 ft (300m) altitude or above.
    • Lima beans take 40 minutes and (soaked) dry beans take 75 minutes.
    • Process extra large beans for an additional 10 minutes.
    • Take an additional 10 minutes if you're using quart jars (1 L) instead of pints (500 mL).
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    Heat until the desired pressure is reached. There are two different types of gauges you can use.[18] If our canner has both, use the weighted gauge method:
    • A dial gauge simply displays the current pressure of the canner. These should be checked for accuracy annually to ensure safe canning.
    • A weighted gauge set to the desired amount of pressure is screwed onto the steam vent on the lid after the steam has vented for 10 minutes. When the pressure reaches the desired level, the weight will "jiggle" or rock back and forth over the vent approximately once every 15–60 seconds.[19]
    • If the pressure drops below the desired amount (which you can tell from the dial reading or from the weight failing to jiggle), reset your cooking timer. The jars must be processed for the necessary length of time without the pressure ever falling too low.
    • If the pressure dial is too high or the weight jiggles too frequently, lower the heat. Canning at too high a pressure can be dangerous.
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    Turn off the burner once the pressure has been maintained for the necessary amount of time. Leave the canner in place and allow the pressure to reach zero before continuing. This could take a while.
    • Do not remove the weighted gauge until the canner has cooled. Even then, you should use oven mitts as the gauge can remain quite hot.
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    Open the canner lid facing away from you. Unlock the lid and tilt it away from you as you open so the steam doesn't burn you.[20]
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    Remove the jars and let cool. Use jar tongs to place the jars on an out of the way surface and wait for them to cool completely. They can then be stored in a cool, dry place for years and remain edible.
    • To test whether the seal of the jar has held, temporarily remove the screwed-on rim and lift the jar by the flat lid. (Do this over the sink.) A good seal will hold the jar's weight without the lid popping off.

Part 4
Cooking With Canned Beans

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    Serve a bean salad. Any variety of canned bean can add flavor to a salad or be the centerpiece ingredient.
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    Prepare refried beans. Turn your canned pinto beans or navy beans into refried beans, then use them to make bean dip or serve with Mexican food.
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    Make chili. Cook your beans further to make any variety of delicious chili, including vegan options.


  • If you're going to use the canned beans in a variety of recipes, you may want to can them plain or with minimal spices.


  • Pressure canners reach dangerous temperature and pressure levels. Protect your hands and be careful while handling them.
  • Never eat canned food with a bulging lid. This is a sign of improper canning and eating it can cause dangerous bacterial infection.

Things You'll Need

  • Beans of any variety
  • Cooking pot (for dried beans)
  • Pressure canner
  • Stove top
  • Mason jars with lids
  • Jar tongs
  • Oven mitt
  • Water
  • Salt (optional)

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Food Preservation Techniques