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How to Turn Canned Veggies Into a Chef’s Meal

Canned vegetables and canned goods, in general, can either be seen as the epitome of easy cooking or as a bland, mushy replacement for the real deal. While we do agree that nothing can replace freshly-cut vegetables, we also think that canned veggies can be a staple in your weeknight meals. They offer convenience and save time, much like bagged salad kits. Here are our tips on how to make a delicious meal from canned vegetables.


Starter tips

canned vegetables
- Canned vegetables are already cooked. That’s why they are sometimes considered mushy. Our tip would be to either lightly warm them and add them last to your cooked meal or roast them in the oven.
- Wash the can before you open it to remove dust. Once you remove the contents of the can, drain it and rinse it in a colander under running water to remove excess salt and preservatives.
Usually, we already have several cans of vegetables lying around in our pantry, but if you do get around to shopping for some, make sure you choose the low sodium options.
- Freshen up your canned vegetables with fresh herbs. Instead of using dried thyme, go for some fresh sprigs. You can also combine some freshly cooked vegetables and a portion of lentils or grains, and dress everything up with something tangy and fresh like yogurt or citrus juice and zest.

Enhance flavor

Be generous with seasonings. We usually recommend cooking with olive oil, but for canned vegetables, the options are even more varied. When adding fat to canned vegetables, adding flavor is the primary goal. So, our recommendations are salted butter, coconut oil, or garlic butter.
You can also try browning the butter. A ratio of 2-3 tablespoons of unsalted butter per can of vegetables is good. Drop the butter into a saucepan and then turn on the heat. Let the butter bubble over a medium-low flame, stirring until it browns. Then throw in your vegetables, toss for one minute, and serve.

Don't overcook

roasted canned vegetables
Instead of heating the vegetables as they are or adding them to a cooked meal, roast them. This will reverse the mushiness caused by canning liquids. After washing and draining the vegetables well, toss them with your favorite spices. Our suggestion would be a dash of sumac for sourness and saltiness, salt and pepper, and either paprika or chili pepper.
Bake the veggies in the oven at 475°F for 20 minutes. Alternatively, bake for only 15-18 minutes, and for the final 3 minutes of baking, crank up the fan for a crispy crust. Another way to go is to broil them for 10 minutes.

The best canned vegetables

canned corn kernels in a bowl
Opt for staples instead of challenging ingredients. In our opinion, the best canned vegetables are corn, tomatoes, carrots, and green beans. They are most well-known, versatile, and healthy.
Canned corn contains almost all B vitamins. Despite its sweet flavor, “it has a low glycemic index, meaning its carbs are slowly released into your bloodstream and are unlikely to spike blood sugar levels,“ according to Eating well.
If you like them, you can also use baby corn. Though the two may seem unrelated, baby corn is the immature version of corn as we know it. Canned baby corn is very forgiving when it comes to cooking – it is highly unlikely that you will overcook it.
Here's a recipe for canned corn pudding- the perfect dish for when you need a large dish, and forgot to run to the store. 
The same goes for tomatoes. They are almost impossible to overcook. According to Food Network, “both canned and fresh tomatoes are equally nutritious.“ Much has been said and written in the appraisal of tomatoes, so we won’t bore you with the details you already know. But if you need a reminder: the beauty of a tomato lies in its high lycopene content. It is a powerful antioxidant that becomes even more readily available when the tomatoes are cooked.

Canned carrots are a good source of vitamin C, E, A, and K, as well as dietary fiber, potassium, niacin, and iron. In terms of flavor, they pair well with mushrooms, and if you’re a fan of aromatic dishes, they respond well with turmeric, cumin, coriander seeds, and white pepper. Pairing them with butter and thyme is a timeless classic. Enjoy them with this versatile recipe for glazed canned carrots

Canned green beans, in our opinion, are the perfect addition to almost any cooked meal. They can become an instant side dish alongside your steak and fish or the green portion of a big casserole. One cup of canned green beans contains almost 2 g of protein. It is also a good source of potassium, vitamin K, and folate. Here's a quick recipe for canned green beans with browned butter. You can also try roasting them!

Sources: 1, 2, 3.

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