Life’s too short to run out of beans. When you have leftovers, here’s how to store them safely.

You opened a can of beans for dinner, and you still have some of it left. Storing leftover canned beans after they have been opened is simple, but there are a few things to keep in mind to guarantee their safety and ensure their best quality.

It doesn’t matter what type of beans you plan on saving; the rules below apply.

Can You Store Canned Beans in the Can After Opening?

Once you’re done cooking, it can take you a lot of energy and willpower to clean up the mess and store the leftovers. Though you may be tempted to stick the leftover beans in your fridge, trust us when we tell you that it isn’t necessarily the best idea.

Canned food travels from the factory, trucks, warehouses, and stores before it ends up in your kitchen. This poses the opportunity for many pathogens to live on the outside of your can. Placing the tin can in your fridge, thanks to the circulation of air in it, can potentially transfer said bacteria to other items.

Additionally, the metal that the can is made with will begin to oxidize as soon as it is opened, which will in turn affect the quality of the beans inside. The beans will have a metallic aftertaste, and that’s far from ideal.

With beans in a tomato sauce or any canned food that has an acidic ingredient, it is possible for the metal lining to leach out in significant amounts. This isn’t a hazard, but it can significantly alter the taste and the quality of canned food.

We will get to a better method for storing canned means in a moment. However, if you nevertheless decide to store leftover beans in the can, ensure that the can is as sealed as possible. Use saran wrap or a plastic bag over the can to limit air from entering the can.

How to Safely Store Canned Beans

It is essential to safely store your leftover beans for maximum freshness and minimum risk of bacteria growth. Remember: even with the best storage, beans left out before refrigeration will have a higher risk of bacterial growth.

Once you cook your leftover beans and they’re hot, ensure that you cool them down quickly. If left sitting for too long, they could reach the temperature range that promotes bacterial growth.

Because bacteria growth happens quickly between 40°F and 140°F, avoid letting your beans sit out for an extended time. Simply put, do not leave your beans out at room temperature for longer than 1-2 hours. It is best to store beans as swiftly as possible on a hot, sultry summer day.

To cool down warm beans down, remove them from the hot pan and spread your beans across a plate. Once cooled, use a fresh spoon to move your beans into a storage container. Avoid using any utensils used for eating, as this can introduce bacteria to your beans.

It doesn’t matter if you prefer a plastic or glass storage container as long as it is air-tight. If air is exposed to leftover beans, bacteria can multiply. Your beans may also end up dry, discolored, and unappetizing.

Place your container in the refrigerator and enjoy the leftovers within four days.

How Long Can You Store Canned Beans

When stored in the refrigerator, you can enjoy your leftover beans for 3-4 days. That is, if the beans have not sat out for an extended period before refrigerating. After this period, the beans may be unsafe to eat. According to the USDA, this timeline applies to most leftover foods, including leftover canned beans.

If you are able to, eat the leftover beans sooner than later. As time goes on, the risk of food poisoning grows. Though some people swear they can eat canned foods a few days past the recommended 3-4 days, we do not recommend it.

When reheating the leftover beans, make sure they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid food poisoning further.

How to Tell If Your Beans Are Spoiled

If you store your leftover beans past the USDA recommended timeframe, they will begin to spoil. Sometimes, they may spoil a bit sooner, especially if they were left out before placing in the fridge.

Since it isn’t always noticeable with a quick look, here are a few ways to double-check:

Take a close look at the beans. Try to determine if any mold or other characteristics don’t look right. The beans may appear gooey or have white liquid around them if they are spoiled.

Smell the beans. You will know if they are spoiled if they don’t smell right.
If they appear to look and smell okay, take a small taste. Just try one bean, and if it tastes fine, then it is probably safe to eat.

Trust your gut. If something seems off to you in any way, it is best to go ahead and pitch them. If they are spoiled, the beans will not only taste bad but can lead to severe food poisoning.

Can You Freeze Leftover Canned Beans?

If you want to store leftover canned beans but don’t intend on using them within 3-4 days, you can freeze them.

Once frozen, you can thaw and eat the leftover beans within four months. The same rules apply after you take the beans out of the freezer to thaw; eat within 3-4 days.

As far as storing beans in the freezer, the same rules apply to the fridge. Use a clean spoon to transfer the beans to an air-tight container and place them in your freezer.

Though your leftover beans will last up to half of a year, the flavor will be best within a couple of months. Nothing terrible will happen if you eat them in 3-4 months, but they will be of lower quality.

If you plan to keep beans in your freezer for an extended period, past the 4-month mark, you will notice that the texture will change.

The Wrap-Up

You have some leftover beans and want to store them safely and keep them within their best quality. The best way to store beans in the fridge is by using an air-tight container and then eating them within 3–4 days.

If you need to keep them for longer, they will be safe in the freezer for up to 6 months when stored properly. By not following USDA guidelines, you risk bacteria growth, which can easily lead to food poisoning.