We enjoy the ritual of cookin’ up a steaming pot o’ beans or black-eyed peas from scratch, but sometimes a time-crunch leads us to the supermarket for canned beans off the shelf.
We found a tastier alternative in the Oregon-based Better Bean Co.’s line of beans in refrigerated deli tubs. The eight ready-to-eat flavors are skillet-sautéed in olive oil in small batches, with half the salt of their canned cousins. The beans are grown in central Washington, with their various ingredients sourced from small farms, some in California.
Look on the lid for the expiration date. The shelf life is 11 weeks, the company says.
Our team of taste-testers sampled six flavors – Cuban Black, Uncanny Refried Black, Southwestern Pinto, Roasted Chipotle Red, Skillet Refried Red and Better Baked Beans, which uses navy beans. Missing were Tuscan White and Three Sisters Chili.
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An array of seasonings showed up in the beans, including apple cider vinegar, coriander, onion, oregano, bay leaf, garlic, sea salt, lime juice and lots of varieties of peppers – green bell, jalapeno, Serrano, habanero and chipotle.
The Better Baked Beans had the most ingredients, with molasses, maple syrup, orange juice, dry mustard and smoked paprika among them. Note: They will not be available until the summer.
Better Beans are about $4 per 15-ounce tub. Find them in Whole Foods and Nugget markets, and the Natural Foods Co-op. More at www.betterbeanco.com.
Meanwhile, this sampling of comments and point rankings for taste and texture (out of a possible 24) from our tasting team should help you make some choices. Four remarks were voiced by most of us: “Tastes fresh,” “Better than canned,” “Good texture,” “Needs salt.”
Better Baked Beans (21 points): “Paprika stands out,” “Tastes like homemade,” “Nice acidity to balance the sweetness.”
Cuban Black (21): “Can taste the oregano,” “Firm; nice balance of seasonings,” “Solid medley of flavors”
Skillet Refried Red (19): “The flavor is more complex than the others,” “Good balance of seasonings, though a little vinegary,” “The earthiness of the beans calms the vinegar taste.”
Southwestern Pinto (18): “Not all mushy, still some whole beans,” “Good companion to huevos rancheros,” “Vinegar a little too evident.”
Roasted Chipotle Red (13): “Disappointed, expected better based on the name,” “Packs some heat spiked with lime,” “More flavor depth than the others, but ‘artificial’ quality to the chipotle flavor.”
Uncanny Refried Black (12): “Bland, I would not buy,” “Like mixing hot salsa in refried beans,” “Too much pepper and vinegar, with clashing flavors.”