How to Cook Dried Beans and Freeze Them for Later
Beans, beans, the musical … I’ll stop now. Ahem … I’m an adult. Right.
Hello! How are you? Do you love beans? Beans as a main, beans as a side, beans in chili, beans in everything? Me too! They’re a vegetarian’s best friend, but they’re everyone’s best friend, too. Chock full of satiating protein and filling fiber … beans are good stuff.
Most recipes these days call for beans by the 15-ounce can, but it really pains me to pay for canned beans when I know that I can save a ton of money by buying dried beans, cooking them at home myself, and freezing them for later. It makes me feel all virtuous when I grab a 2-cup bag of beans from the freezer instead of opening a can that cost me way more.
How much money will I save by doing this, you ask? A ton!
Do you get excited when you find your favorite brand of shoes (in the color you want! and your size!!) for 60% off? Me too! So I love cooking my own dried beans from scratch, because when I do it this way, I save about 55-60% over buying canned. And that’s a conservative estimate.
I had a whole paragraph about the math, but it was way too crazy involved. In a nutshell: If you prepare a pound of pinto beans that cost you $1.99, it should equate to paying about 65 cents per 15-ounce can. A great deal, right?!
You might also wonder: Will my beans taste better? Well, honestly, I go back and forth on this. They don’t necessarily taste better than canned, but there’s something … fresher … about beans prepared at home. Of course, that could be all in my mind. Plus, you control the sodium content, which is nice.
If you’re new to the cooking beans game, you might be thinking, “dude, this is not worth all the work!” Well, I promise it’s not much hands-on – maybe 20 minutes total. And once you get a rhythm down, you’ll be whizzing through the process – the perfect side-project for a weekend day or when you have half a day or so to just putter around the house.
Okay! Let’s do this! There are five steps to cooking dried beans and freezing them for later.
- Get prepped
- Rinse and sort through the dried beans
- Soak your beans
- Cook your beans
- Bag and freeze
Here’s the breakdown:
To get started, you’ll need:
- Time. Cooking dried beans takes some time from beginning to end, but most of that is hands-off. Depending on your soaking method (more about that below), you want to plan ahead. For the overnight process, you’re looking at about 12 hours from beginning to end. Quick soak, more like three. I usually reserve the bean-cooking for when I know I’m going to be hanging at home for much of the day.
- Dried beans. You can buy them by the bag at most grocery stores, or I like to grab organic beans from the bulk section of well-stocked grocery stores like Whole Foods. I most often stock up on common varieties like black beans, white navy beans, cannellinis, red kidney beans, and pinto beans.
- A large pot. I cook two pounds of beans at a time in a 7 1/4 quart pot, and it’s just barely big enough.
- A large colander or large sturdy sieve. Small holes (smaller than your beans!) and as roomy as possible.
- Freezer bags and a sharpie. Because nothing’s worse than mystery freezer food that’s not labeled!
Rinse and sort through the dried beans
Put the beans in a large colander, a few at a time, and pick through them. See any weird bits and pieces? Discard them. It doesn’t happen all the time, but debris like rock or clumps of dirt can definitely be present, so inspect those beans carefully! Also discard badly broken beans or shriveled bits while you’re at it. Rinse, swish, and look through them again.
I then flick them into the soaking and cooking pot, a few at a time, checking the beans carefully one last time. A little insurance that I didn’t miss anything.
Soak your beans
First off, a question that’s often asked: Do I need to soak my beans? My answer is yes! That is, unless you want righteous gas (hey, sometimes it’s important to be blunt.) Soaking the beans (and then discarding that gas-laden soaking water) helps get rid of flatulence-causing compounds. Plus, especially with harder beans, it helps them to cook faster. Both good reasons to soak those beans!
So how do you soak them? Let me count the ways. Okay, there are two. They both start with placing the rinsed and sorted beans into the pot and then filling the pot with water to about two inches above the beans. And then choose your soaking method:
I usually do an overnight soak – it’s just less fussy to fill the bean-filled pot with water and let it sit overnight. Then all you do is drain, rinse, and cook.
As the name indicates, this is a faster way to soak your beans. Place your beans and water on the stove over high heat. Bring to a boil and boil for 2-3 minutes. remove the pot from heat and cover. Let sit for 1 hour then proceed.
Cook your beans
Drain the soaking water, rinse and swish the soaked beans, and drain again. I use the colander or sieve for this.
And now it’s time to cook! Add fresh water to the pot of soaked beans, to about two inches above the top of the beans. I don’t season the beans. I used to add a hefty pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil which gave the beans great flavor, but they would cook up mushier. I didn’t like that. So now I just go for straight-up beans – maybe a bay leaf if I’m feeling fancy. Strangely, the common thought is that salt will make the beans tough, but I didn’t experience that. Just mushiness.
Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. As soon as it comes to a boil, give the beans a stir and reduce the heat to right around medium-low until you find the right temp to maintain a simmer. Cover beans, leaving the lid partially askew to help a bit of the steam to escape.
Cook the beans for anywhere from 30 – 60 minutes or possibly even more, depending on how tough your variety is, until tender. Depending on the type of bean, they may cook fast (such as navy beans) or they may take longer (such as kidney beans). A special note on kidney beans, by the way: Make sure they’re cooked through! Raw and undercooked kidney beans contain a toxin that can cause gastric issues, so cook them well!
My favorite way to tell the beans are done? Use a slotted spoon to scoop a few out and blow on the beans. If the skin peels and curls up, your beans should be cooked. Try one to be sure!
Once the beans are cooked, uncover them and remove them from the heat. Let them cool.
Freeze and bag your beans
Once cool, drain the cooking water from the beans. Some people like saving the bean broth for other uses like soups.
Label several freezer-safe zipper bags with a permanent marker like a Sharpie – I list the variety, quantity, and date.
I then set the bag in a small bowl or 2-cup liquid measuring cup and measure the beans into each by the cupful. I freeze in two-cup increments – roughly the same amount as a can of beans – so I can do the one-for-one thing when cooking up recipes. One bag = one can.
Okay! You’re done! Now transfer your beans to the freezer, and you’re all set. They should keep up to six months.
I pull the beans out of the freezer and add them to hot recipes – like chili or beans and rice – frozen, right out of the bag. But for recipes where I need to start with thawed beans, I’ll pull them out the night before and let them thaw in the fridge, or place the sealed bag in a large bowl of warm water to quick-thaw.
I’ve cooked beans plenty enough to feel confident writing this post, but I wanted to be sure I was right, so I fact-checked at these two sites (which, by the way, are great references if you want to learn more): The Bean Institute and Whole Foods Food Guide for Beans
Save money and sodium! Cook your own beans at home. October 3, 2015 – I’ve just added a star rating system to this recipe so if you have tried it, please be sure to rate it to let others know how you like it – 5 if you love it, 1 if you don’t (but hopefully you love it!) Just click on the stars below the “Print Recipe” button above. Thank you!
How to Cook Dried Beans and Freeze Them For Later
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Save money and sodium! Cook your own beans at home.
October 3, 2015 – I’ve just added a star rating system to this recipe so if you have tried it, please be sure to rate it to let others know how you like it – 5 if you love it, 1 if you don’t (but hopefully you love it!) Just click on the stars below the “Print Recipe” button above. Thank you!
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