10 Canned Goods Worth Using

No need to wait for the apocalypse

By Aida Mollenkamp

Beans: Garbanzos liven up a spring salad
Beans: Garbanzos liven up a spring salad.

Artichoke Hearts: Great for chicken casserole
Artichoke Hearts: Great for chicken casserole.

Coconut Milk: Use it in farro-mango porridge
Coconut Milk: Use it in farro-mango porridge.

Bad reputations are hard to escape—just ask Lindsay Lohan. A generation of people, emotionally damaged by metallic-tasting corn kernels and mushy asparagus, recoil at the thought of wan canned veggies. But there are plenty of foods that come out of a can fresh and delicious (and, in the case of beans, save you cooking time). Here are 10 canned foods that you can take out of the bomb shelter and display proudly on your pantry shelf.

1. Tomato Paste. Cans or tubes, both are good. It’s useful as the base for anything from pot roast to bisque. And if those cans are too big, just freeze the leftovers.

2. Tomatoes. In-season tomatoes are a breed apart, perfect for no-cook preparations like salads. Any other time of year, we turn to canned tomatoes—whole, diced, crushed, or puréed—for soups, sauces, and slow-cooked meals.

3. Beans. Many types of beans survive canning well, and opening a can is much quicker than soaking and cooking dried beans. Of all the legumes, cannellini, garbanzos, pintos, and kidneys do the best. Sadly, we have yet to find a good canned black bean.

4. Hearts of Palm. We’ve never seen hearts of palm sold any other way, and that’s likely because they’re very hard to prepare. Drain, rinse, and slice for a quick addition to a salad.

5. Water Chestnuts. It’s hard to find whole fresh water chestnuts outside of Asian markets, but canned versions are readily available. We like the crunch and subtle nutty flavor they lend to dishes.

6. Artichoke Hearts. All the flavor of artichokes without the hassle of preparation. Try them in dips, casseroles, or pretty much any other cooked preparation.

7. Lychees. Depending on where you live, lychees can be pretty hard to come by. And even if you do come across them, it can be a pain to get them out of their pesky shells. But the real reason we’re into canned lychees is that they come packed in a delicious syrup that’s particularly useful in cocktails.

8. Pickled Jalapeños. Some spice-lovers wouldn’t bother to eat a taco without a handful of pickled jalapeños. Though making them yourself is supereasy, there’s no shame in picking up a can at the supermarket.

9. Coconut Milk. Its rich, creamy flavor is a necessity in Thai soups, but it also adds a comforting note to breakfast dishes like this porridge. Look for lower-fat versions for a healthier alternative.

10. Tuna. Oil-packed tuna is an affordable indulgence that adds instant flavor and complexity to almost any recipe. Our favorite is the Ortiz brand from Spain; it has superior texture and taste without any fishiness.

CHOW’s The Ten column appears every Tuesday.

Aida Mollenkamp is a food editor at CHOW.

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