It only takes a few minutes of hands-on time to cook and freeze dried beans - it's a great way to save money and control ingredients and still have the convenience of canned beans.
Want to save this?
Enter your email below and you'll get it straight to your inbox. Plus you'll get easy new recipes, gardening tips & more every week!
Some links in this article are affiliate links and if you click on them I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
And while canned beans are super convenient, frozen dried beans are a healthy, cheap substitute that can be used no matter what the season, making them one of the truly versatile ingredients in any whole food pantry.
To soak or not to soak?
I used to use only canned beans - they still seemed pretty cheap to me and I would never remember to soak dry beans when 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?
I did some experimenting to see the cooking difference between soaked and unsoaked beans:
- First I just threw some dry beans in a pot with water and they cooked in about 1 hour and 15 min.
- Then I soaked some beans before cooking and they were done in about an hour.
The unsoaked beans didn't take that much longer - just about 15 minutes.
(Note: here I'm talking about soaking specifically to shorten cooking time - and it only takes about 15 minutes off the time. I always drain the beans before using so we're not ingesting the initial cooking water which can cause the bloating and gas people associate with beans. See more about this in my updated note below.)
Okay, so with the "I didn't remember to soak them" excuse out of the way, how could I have the convenience of beans in a ready-to-use form like cans without actually having to pressure-can all our beans? (I like simple, and that doesn't seem simple to me.) Especially with recipes that call for just 1 can of beans.
Since I freeze so much of our garden produce, I decided to experiment with freezing cooked dried beans.
Would they turn out mushy or keep their shape to easily use in all recipes, including salads?
Can You Freeze Cooked Dried Beans?
I cooked the beans until just tender, put the drained beans in pint and quart-size freezer containers (equal to 1 and 2 cans, respectively) and then covered them with fresh cold water before freezing.
The water helps protect the top beans from splitting or freezer burn - and I thought it would help keep them soft (since canned beans have liquid and that's the type of product I was after).
And 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 (I soak the containers in a bowl of hot water to thaw).
Are dry beans really cheaper than canned?
Okay, I found a way to have dried beans conveniently ready when I needed them, but was I really saving money?
I calculated the savings a few years ago after making enough containers to equal eighteen 15oz. cans of beans (most cans seem to contain about one and a half cups of beans) and found:
- The store brand beans were .62 cents a can, making the 18 "cans" I froze worth $11.16 (update: they seem to run closer to .99 cents a can now with sales around .79-.89 cents).
- I paid $1.84 for 2.22 pounds of Great Northern beans at .83/pound and $1.59 for 2.56 pounds of Garbanzo beans at .62/pound.
- This made my total cost $3.43, or about .19 per can. So my savings was $7.73 - which seems like it would be even more with today's prices, even counting that the dry beans may have gone up, too.
That's a pretty significant savings.
And it took only about 10 minutes of hands-on time, making it a great return for the money, right?
However, I've found that saving money is only part of the equation.
I also like the fact that I can control the ingredients (organic beans, no salt, or add seasonings if I like) and there is a wider variety of dried beans available than canned.
Many canned beans add calcium chloride to firm the beans and calcium disodium EDTA to retain color. Any time I can make our food cleaner (in addition to cheaper) with not too much time on my part is a win-win.
How to Cook and Freeze Dry Beans
- Put the amount of dried beans you want in a stock pot (soaked or not, your choice). Cover with water using a ratio of 1 cup of beans to 3 cups of water, so if you're cooking 2 cups of beans (which is about 1 pound of beans), you'll need 6 cups of water (1 pound will equal about 4 cans of beans).
- 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 too soft or they will fall apart.
- Drain beans in a colander and rinse well with cold water (this cools them faster).
- Divide into freezer containers, leaving 1-1/2 inch head space. (Here are similar containers to those pictured above - I prefer square sided to fit better - and here's a set of stacking freezer-safe glass containers.)
- Fill with cold, fresh water to just above the beans. There should still be 1 to 1-1/2 inch space between beans/water and top of container to allow for expansion in the freezer.
- Seal and label with the date and type of bean. A piece of masking tape and a permanent marker work fine.
- Place in the freezer. They keep for many months this way.
- Defrost before using in any recipe that calls for canned beans (1 1/2 cups = a 15oz. can)
Update on Soaking:
For clarification, I DO always drain the water that the beans cooked in before freezing (clearly listed in the directions) - the first water the beans are soaked or cooked in causes the stomach problems usually associated with beans.
The freezing seems to act like further soaking and we haven't noticed any difference between soaked overnight and not. However, if I plan to use the beans the same day, I will often do a quick soak and always drain the initial water before proceeding with the recipe.
Bottom Line: You absolutely DO NOT want to ingest the initial water, whether it's from soaking or cooking, in order to avoid whatever causes "the bean problem," whether you believe it's from phytotoxins, sugars, or whatever.
That's why I never use recipes that call for adding uncooked dried beans along with all the ingredients and then just cooking and eating (which I've seen in many slow cooker and Instant Pot recipes - be wary of those!).
Recipes to Use Your Frozen Dried Beans
- Chipotle Spice Rubbed Grilled Chicken Salad with Guacamole, Corn & Black Beans
- Spiced Lemon Skillet Chicken with Kale & Beans
- Harvest Vegetable Ham Bone Soup (Crockpot, Instant Pot, or Stovetop)
- Slow Cooker Italian Sausage Vegetable Soup (or Instant Pot!)
- Sausage-Bean Soup with Spinach & Tomatoes
- Homemade Hummus Made With Sesame Seeds (aka, Homemade Tahini)
- White Bean-Dried Tomato Dip
How to Cook & Freeze Dried Beans
- Large Stockpot
- Freezer containers
- 1 pound dried beans, any kind*
- 6 cups water
- Put the amount of dried beans you want in a stock pot (soaked or not, your choice). Cover with water using a ratio of 1 cup of beans to 3 cups of water. (If you're cooking 2 cups of beans - 1 pound - you'll need 6 cups of water).
- Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat to keep beans at a simmer for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. 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 too soft or they will fall apart after freezing.
- Drain beans in a colander and rinse well with cold water (this cools them faster).
- Divide into freezer containers, leaving 1½ inch head space.
- Fill with cold, fresh water to just above the beans. There should still be 1 to 1½ inch space between beans/water and top of container to allow for expansion in the freezer.
- Seal and label with the date and type of bean (a piece of masking tape and a permanent marker work fine).
- Place in the freezer and store for 6-8 months.Defrost before using in any recipe that calls for canned beans (about 1½ cups = a 15oz. can).
Do you cook and freeze dried beans? Have you found them to be just as good as canned?
This tutorial was originally published in the first year of the site, 2009 and has been updated in April 2018 and September 2022.
Disclosure: affiliate links in this article will earn commission based on sales, but it doesn't change your price. Click here to read my full disclaimer and advertising disclosure.