How To Cook and Freeze Dry Beans {aka Cheap Beans}

Note: This was originally published in February of 2009 and remains a perfect illustration of one of AOC’s core philosophies: creating “pantry basic” foods instead of buying them is easy, good for you (you control the ingredients) and saves money.


We use beans a lot around here – they are a healthy, cheap food that can be used no matter what the season – soups in the winter or salads in the summer. I used to only use canned beans – they still seemed pretty cheap to me and I would never remember to soak dry beans even if I did buy them. Which is why it was a revelation when I read somewhere that you didn’t have to soak them. Yes…I really did just write that – will the bean police track me down? (see update below for more on this topic)

So, I did some experimenting. I cooked them by just throwing some dry beans in a pot with water and they cooked in about 1 hour and 15 min. Soaked beans for me took 45 min to one hour, so unsoaked didn’t take much longer. But how to have them in a ready-to-use form like cans without actually having to pressure-can all our beans?

Since I freeze much of our garden produce, I experimented by putting the cooked and drained beans in pint and quart-size freezer containers, covering them with fresh water and freezing.

It worked! The beans were fresh and easy to use in whatever recipe I was making. I did need to remember to defrost them, but there are ways to hurry that along, unlike the cooking process. So, I found a way to have beans conveniently ready to go that I cooked myself, but was I really saving money?

frozen beans

This picture represents about 18 (15.5oz) cans of Great Northern and Garbanzo Beans (I’ve found cans to contain about 1 1/2 c. of beans). On my last trip to a discount chain grocery store, the store brand beans were .62 cents a can, making my 18 “cans” worth $11.16.

I paid $1.84 for 2.22 lbs. of the Great Northern at .83/lb and $1.59 for 2.56 lbs. of Garbanzos at .62/lb. making my total cost $3.43 (or about .19 per can). I saved $7.73! And it took about 10 minutes of hands-on time, making it a great return on my money.

How to Cook and Freeze Dry Beans

  1. Put any amount of dried beans in a stock pot (soaked or not, your choice), covering with double the water (2 lbs will equal roughly 9 cans of beans).
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat to keep beans at a simmer for about 1 hour and 15 min. Do a taste test to see if they are done to your liking, they should be soft enough to eat, but relatively firm – don’t let them get soft.
  3. Drain beans in a colander and rinse well with cold water (this cools them faster).
  4. Divide into freezer containers, leaving 1 inch head space.
  5. Fill with cold, fresh water to just above the beans. There should still be 1 to 3/4-inch space to allow for expansion in the freezer.
  6. Label with the date and type of bean. A piece of masking tape and a permanent marker work fine.
  7. Place in the freezer. They keep for many months this way.
  8. Defrost before using in any recipe that calls for canned beans (1 1/2 c. = 1 15oz. can)


4/25/11 update: For clarification, I DO always drain the water that the beans cooked in before freezing- we’ve found that the first water the beans are in causes the stomach problems usually associated with beans (from releasing phytotoxins). If I’m using the beans the same day, I either do a quick soak or cook like I describe here, but drain the initial water before proceeding with the recipe. Bottom Line: You absolutely DO NOT want to ingest the initial cooking/soaking water to avoid the phytotoxins (or sugars, or whatever…), aka “the bean problem.”



  1. Anonymous says

    I have had very good success with preparing my own beans without soaking first. I cook a large amount and then freeze what I don’t need right away. A question, though. I don’t usually add water to them when I get them ready to freeze. I generally let them cool and then just put them in a baggie. Does the water keep them better?

  2. says

    Jami, LOVE your common sense approach to home and garden. You have your own magazine here! 😀 I’m a die-hard Winco shopper and have watched their prices rise over the past 2 years. (Makes my nose hairs curl to shop anywhere else, not that I have that many nose hairs…) I love your comparison, how to and suggestion about beans. We enjoy beans, too. I’m going to try your idea. Thank you for sharing. Can’t wait to read the rest…

  3. says

    To Anonymous:
    I use the water to keep them moist, like canned, but to be honest, I’ve not done it another way. If they come out of the freezer OK without the water – great! One less step. :)

  4. Anonymous says

    I hope you don’t mind but I wanted to give you the reason for soaking. The reason that you always soak beans was not to reduce cooking time although it does. There are phytotoxins in beans and other vegies. These phytotoxins are what cause digestive distress (gas/bloating,stomach distress) for many people if the beans are not soaked to allow these phytotoxins to be released into the water. You dump out the phytotoxins with the water, put in fresh water and cook. It does help my hubby greatly if I soak them first. A quicker method is to bring cleaned beans to a boil. Turn off the stove and let the beans sit for 1 hour. Drain off this water and add fresh water, then finish cooking. This too will help release those phytotoxins and make the beans easier to digest.
    Thanks and love your blog!

  5. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Anonymous- Of course I don’t mind- I love comments! :-)

    I should mention (I’ll update the post), that I only do this for beans to freeze and I ALWAYS toss the first water, as we, too, have felt that “stomach distress” when I’ve used recipes that haven’t called for soaking (usually slow-cooker recipes…).

    If I soaked for beans I’m freezing, I’d throw out the soaking water and then toss the cooking water before packing in the freezer containers, so I skip the first step and just drain the cooking water.

    I do use the quick soak if I’m making the beans to eat that same day- it was good of you to point that out, thanks!

  6. says

    GREAT idea. Like you, I never remember to soak and canned just doesn’t seem that expensive. But the store brand beans often have HFCS (why????). I am good at making/freezing stock, so this seems like another great option. Thanks!

    • Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says

      Ask away, Becky! :-) I use the freezer containers you can buy in the canning section at grocery stores. I’ve had them for years, though, and I’m trying to move to glass, but don’t have nearly enough jars yet in the different sizes.

  7. Michael says

    I’d like to point out that the digestive problems from beans are not caused by “phytotoxins.” They are merely sugars — sugars that humans don’t digest well. Instead, bacteria in the gut digest them and produce gas. It has nothing to do with them being “toxic.” This is similar to the effect some people get from lactose (also a sugar), and explains why some people are more sensitive than others.


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