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.
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We use beans a lot in our family real food menus - in soups, on salads, and for delicious dips like hummus and white bean dip.
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.
It's also fun to try different beans like Anasazi and Italian Lamon Heirloom and I froze many of my home-grown Jacob's Cattle Beans.
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.
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I have two suggestions after cooking dried beans for more than 50 years. First, when tasting for doneness, always taste several beans (2-4) from different parts of the pot because beans do not cook evenly. Second, do not use regular masking tape to label containers — its adhesive is not designed to withstand freezing and your labels will fall off. Instead, use freezer tape (labeled as such) or a permanent marker to write directly on the freezer bags.
Thank you Catherine for your wisdom! You are so right about the beans.
As for the tape, I have been using it for 30 years and never had any masking tape come off - in fact, it's often hard to remove when I DO want it off, lol. Freezer tape would be good, too - use what works for you!
Mary Ellis says
All good ideas. I use the Instant Pot. I do not soak beans. They cook very quickly. You can drain and even rinse before freezing if you would like to. I freeze in freezer ziplock bags flat so I can stack them. They are still pre-portioned and thaw quickly so are ready to use in any
Great idea, Mary!
Sandy J says
This is not freeze drying it has nothing to do with freeze drying.
Ha! You're right, it's How to Cook and Freeze "DRY BEANS" as in kidney, black, navy beans. Not "freeze dry" beans. It's all in how you read the title I guess!
Great info... thanks! When I get around to freeze-ahead cooked beans, I will start with 'sprouted' beans. I believe that reduces the anti-nutrient phytate content. And it only requires soaking in a jar overnight, then rinse/drain couple times a day til you see the very tiny signs of germination - no need to really sprout them ... enzymes have then started to do their magic. Then I'll cook & freeze them. (Not much work other than... remembering!)
Yes, that's a good way to go, Nancy.
I have some dry baby limas. I plan to freeze. Can I season with ham hock and cook after blanching. Then freeze.
Sure, you can freeze the beans in any type of cooked form.
You could still freeze dry them, using a Harvest Right freeze dryer at home 😎✌️
This is not freeze drying it is simply freezing
You're right - it's freezing "dry beans" (vs. green beans), not freeze drying. 🙂
This is not freeze drying, you're just freezing them. Freeze drying is when the food gets dehydrated, like Mountain House meals or astronaut's ice cream.
Yep, you're right - sorry you were confused, this is how to cook dry beans and then freeze them. I didn't even think until your comment that the title sounds like freeze-dried!
I love making my beans from scratch and usually make a batch in my pressure cooker every Sunday to incorporate into meals throughout the week. But we never seem to use a pound of any bean in a week. Thanks for the freezing tips.
I should totally make that a part of my weekly routine, Lynn!
Wow! Thanks for laying this out step-by-step! We just got a chest freezer so I'm excited to fill it with food. My son is just starting solids so I'm reading a bit to see how beans do for infants.
I'm glad this helped, Janae!
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.
Becky Fowler says
Can I ask what type/brand of containers you use for the freezer?
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.
You have to figure the cost of electricity too, but this is the way to go...
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!
Extraordinary Ordinary Life says
I just tried canning them myself because I like the flavor and convenience of canned beans better. I do freeze them sometimes too. I will probably can more in the winter.
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!
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!
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. 🙂
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...
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?
Nancy Adcock says
I cooked my beans and ham in crockpot with chicken broth. To freeze, do I pour off the stock and add water? Never have frozen them before. Thank
You can freeze with the stock - that would make them yummy! Water or stock both work to keep the beans moist in freezing.