The best tasting canned black beans — and the worst

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Right about now, any can of beans in the cupboard is welcome. That’s even more true for black beans, a staple in all things Cajun and Mexican. Canned black beans offer not only a hearty hit of protein, but inspiration. Black beans can become soup, stew or a burger. They can be added to salad, rice, pasta or chili. (And yes, we know chili purists consider that sacrilege, but it’s delish.)

Cooking dry beans is the cheapest option by far, but canned beans are a fine alternative, especially when a dish calls for just a cup or two. In addition to great color and flavor, properly cooked black beans are a nutrition bomb, providing antioxidants — magnesium, manganese and zinc — that support heart health  and reduce high blood pressure.

The best canned black beans are jet black, with skins intact. The flesh has a mild mushroom flavor and is deliciously creamy. Unfortunately, far too few cans of beans hit that mark. They’re poorly cooked, or over-soaked and drained, leaching flavor, color and nutrients. The worst look like miniature red beans and taste like chemicals.

Here’s the scoop on top-quality canned black beans that will upscale any dish — and the mushy, nondescript ones that should never have hit the can. Nutrition details refer to a ½ cup serving.

365 Organic No Salt Added Black Beans

The earthy, mushroomy flavor of fresh-made beans shines in these perfectly cooked beans. The beans and juice are black; the flesh and skins are pleasantly tender. 100 calories, 10 mg sodium, 6 g protein. $1.49 for 13.4 ounces at Whole Foods. (4 stars)

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