It only takes a few minutes of hands-on time to cook and freeze dry beans – it’s a great way to save money and control ingredients but still have the convenience of canned beans.
We use beans a lot of beans in our family real food menus – in soups, on salads, and for delicious dips like hummus and white bean dip. Dry beans are a healthy, cheap food that can be used no matter what the season, making them one of the truly versatile ingredients in any whole food pantry.
I used to use only 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- it seems it’s a bit controversial…)
So 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 – so the unsoaked beans didn’t take that much longer.
Okay, so just cooking the beans will work, but how could I get 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…)
Since I freeze so much of our garden produce, I decided to experiment with freezing cooked dry beans. Would they turn out mushy or keep their shape to easily use in all recipes, including salads?
Can You Freeze Dry Beans?
After cooking, I put the drained beans in pint and quart-size freezer containers and then covered them with fresh cold water before freezing. I thought the water would protect the beans from splitting or freezer burn and maybe keep them soft since canned beans have liquid.
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 (usually I soak the containers in a bowl of hot water).
So, I found a way to have dry 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 1 1/2 c. of beans) and found:
- The store brand beans were .62 cents a can, making my 18 “cans” worth $11.16 (update: they seem to run closer to .99 cents a can no in 2018, with sales around .79-.89 cents).
- I had paid $1.84 for 2.22 lbs. of Great Northern beans at .83/lb and $1.59 for 2.56 lbs. of Garbanzo beans at .62/lb.
- 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. It’s fun to try beans like Anasazi and Yellow Eye Heirloom and I froze many of my home-grown Jacob’s Cattle Beans.
How to Cook and Freeze Dry Beans
- 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).
- 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 c. = 1 15oz. can)
Do you cook and freeze dry beans? Have you found them to be just as good as canned?
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, weather 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 dry 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 Dry Beans
Note: This how-to was originally published in February of 2009 and remains a perfect illustration of one of AOC’s core philosophies: creating simple “pantry basic” foods instead of buying them is easy, good for you (you control the ingredients) and saves money.
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