A Tale of Two Cans of Beans

You really do get what you pay for.

I’ve been making black bean tacos about every other week this summer. In the original recipe I shared with you, I used Signature Kitchens Low Sodium Black Beans; since then, I’ve been trading out between Signature Kitchens and the slightly higher-priced S&W Premium Black Beans, and it didn’t take long before I noticed that I was getting significantly more beans out of the more expensive can.

The Cost of Cooking Black Bean Tacos With Avocado and Salsa Fresca

“Wait a minute,” I thought. “How many more beans is S&W giving me, and how much of the Signature Kitchens 15 oz can is just bean-flavored water?”

I decided to conduct a scientific experiment. With photos.

Photo 1: Two cans of beans.

Both cans share a soft-focus, orangish background, which I guess is supposed to represent a table? Signature Kitchens has gone with a blue theme and S&W is sticking with red, because all good fights have to be between blue and red, that’s how wars work. (Even bean wars.)

Both cans state that they contain 15 ounces of product. I did not confirm this, because I do not own a food scale.

Photo 2: Nutrition facts.

The nutrition facts are almost nearly identical; both cans state that they contain about 3.5 1/2 cup servings, or 1.75 cups total. They do not specify how much of those cups are actual beans. You will know this information by the end of the article, because I measured the beans in both cans. (I may not own a food scale, but I do own a set of measuring cups.)

The ingredients are slightly different; Signature Kitchens lists black beans, water, and salt, while S&W lists prepared black beans, water, salt, sugar, and dehydrated onion. (This is probably why S&W’s can smelled more like food when I opened it. The Signature Kitchens can just smelled like water with a little bean mixed in.)

Also, Signature Kitchens does not care about potassium.

Photo 3: The opened cans.

We can already see that these two cans of beans are going to yield distinctly different products, as noted by the color of their bean water. (I wanted to call this stuff “bean juice,” but that’s technically inaccurate.)

You can see hints of beans in the S&W can. Also bubbles, for some reason. The Signature Kitchens can remains placid, like a lake where beans only lurk deep beneath the surface.

Photo 4: Beans, drained.

You can already tell, just by looking—or if you want to get scientific about it, by counting the ridges on my Fiestaware—that these two cans do not contain the same amount of beans.

Also, the Signature Kitchens beans are slightly larger than the S&W beans, as well as slightly lighter in color. What does this mean? I have no idea. Maybe this is what “prepared black beans” means. Maybe S&W goes to the bean factory and takes all the smaller, darker beans and then Signature Kitchens gets the leftovers. Maybe that’s why the S&W can costs $1.25 and the Signature Kitchens can only costs 79 cents.

I measured the beans. I did not take photos of this because I needed one hand to scoop the beans into the measuring cup and the other hand to hold the measuring cup steady. I did, however, track my results.

S&W Premium Black Beans yielded 1 1/3 cups of beans, drained.

Signature Kitchens yielded about 10 beans over 1 cup, and really I could have stuffed those last few beans in there, but I was trying to be as accurate as possible.

If we’re going by per-ounce weight, the $1.25 S&W can costs $0.08 cents per ounce and the $0.79 Signature Kitchens can costs $0.05 cents per ounce.

But if we’re going by cups of beans, the $1.25 S&W can costs $0.93 per cup and the $0.79 Signature Kitchens can costs $0.79 per cup and… ugh, I’m still getting a better value for the store brand beans, why did I even do this experiment.

This was not how I expected it to end, Billfolders!

But I guess we all learned something new about beans.

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