How To Cook (and Freeze!) Dried Beans

Beans Tomatoes 3

I rarely cook dried beans the “proper” way, soaking them overnight and then cooking them in fresh water the next day.

Nor do I often cook just the amount of beans I need for a particular recipe.  If I’m going to put in that much time, I surely deserve to get the highest yields possible.  So when I cook dried beans, I make a whole pound at once, doling them out for various meals over the course of the next week.

Pasta Beans 1

Last week, a full pound of pinto beans were divided between cheesy burrito bowls topped with a spicy salsa and a big skillet of pasta and beans.

In other weeks, a pound of chickpeas has been turned into red curry, falafel burgers and roasted chickpeas.

Sometimes, kidney beans get cooked into a vegetarian Cincinnati chili and a pot of beans and garden vegetables.

Eating this way, I rarely get bored with beans. How could I, when they are such blank canvases, ready to take on whatever flavors I assign them?  Here’s how I cook them (and how to freeze the leftovers!)

Burrito Bowl 1

Method 1: Crockpot

Pour one pound of beans and 1-2 teaspoons salt into a crockpot and add enough water to cover the beans by 2-3″.  If you’d like, you can season the water further with salt, pepper or dried herbs. Cook on Low for 6-8 hours, until the beans are fork-tender.  Drain off about half the water, then refrigerate in an airtight container in the remaining cooking liquid.

Cook Time: 6-8 hours
Active Cook and Prep Time:  10 minutes

Note: Beans such as kidney beans, pinto beans and chickpeas will take close to the full 8 hours.  Some varieties, such as Great White Northern beans, will take less time, closer to 6 hours.

Edited to note: According to the FDA, it may not be safe to use this method with red kidney beans.  Before cooking your red kidney beans in a slow cooker, boil them on the stove for at least 10 minutes and pour off the water.  Then you can safely put them in the crockpot with fresh water and cook as indicated above. You may choose to pre-boil other types of beans as well, as there have been several cases in the UK of food poisoning from dried beans, as Mary describes in her comment below.

Method 2: Dutch Oven

Preheat the oven to 350F. Fill a Dutch oven with one pound of beans and 1-2 teaspoons salt and add cold water until the water level is at least 1-2″ higher than the beans.  Season to taste with salt, pepper or dried herbs.  Cover and cook at 350F for one hour, then taste test at least 5 beans for tenderness.  If any of them are still tough, cook the beans for another 20 minutes and test another 5 beans.  Continue testing at 15-20 minute intervals until the beans are fully cooked.

The beans should be tender when you bite in, but not so tender that they are splitting in half with the skin peeling off. In my experience, it takes between 1 hour, 20 minutes and 2 hours to cook a pound of beans, depending on the type. Drain off about half the water, then refrigerate in an airtight container in the remaining liquid until ready to use.

Cook Time: 1-2 hours
Active Cook and Prep Time: 10 minutes

Edited to Note: It is a good idea to pre-boil kidney beans before cooking them.  Boil them on the stove for at least 10 minutes and pour off the water.  Then you can safely put them in the Dutch oven with fresh water and cook as indicated above.  You may choose to pre-boil other types of beans as well, as there have been several cases in the UK of food poisoning from dried beans, as Mary describes in her comment below.

 

 

Falafel Burgers 1

To Freeze the Remaining Beans:

To freeze, place the beans in an airtight container and cover with their cooking liquid.  Leave about 1/2″-1″ air space at the top of the container to allow the beans to expand.  Beans can be frozen for up to 2-3 months, then defrosted when you are ready to use them.

Comments

  1. says

    this is such a helpful post – especially for those who are just starting to try and eat healthier! I remember when I first started my weight loss journey, figuring out what and how to cook large batches of to freeze for later ease [badum-dum!] was a HUGE time saver. Laura from http://oddduckblog.com taught me A LOT back then.

    I love that you shared the various methods! I have a feeling I’ll be making some via the crock pot next week :)

    • Julie says

      The crockpot is my favorite way (if I remember in the morning) because you don’t have to keep an eye on it or stay nearby, like you do with the oven

  2. says

    I highly recommend using a pressure cooker to cook beans. I bought a new one that is apparently much much safer than the old versions, and it can cook a pound of beans in 8 minutes. It saves the house from stinking of beans! Also, have you tried the Rancho Gordo heirloom beans? Some really unusual varieties and they are very good.

    • Julie says

      Wow, that’s amazing! I’ve heard of the Rancho Gordo beans, but haven’t tried them — we have some local heirloom beans at the co-op that I’m itching to try, though!

  3. Mary says

    It doesn’t appear that you’re boiling the beans first – if you’re not, you’re setting yourself up for stomach upsets at the very least, and possibly death if you’re using kidney beans. All beans should be boiled for at least 10 minute and the water poured off before they’re cooked properly, so that the toxins in the beans are released and removed.

    • says

      Wow, thank you for letting me know. I knew they couldn’t be eaten raw, but not that it was risky to slow-cook them. I found this that says not to put them in the crockpot: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FoodborneIllness/FoodborneIllnessFoodbornePathogensNaturalToxins/BadBugBook/ucm071092.htm

      but can’t find any evidence that my oven method is unsafe. Do you have any resources/studies you could link me to so that I can double check that?

      • Mary says

        To be honest, I’m not at all clear on what a Dutch oven is, so I’m just guessing, but I would say that a temperature of 350F should be sufficient. However, the main point about boiling beans is that you must pour off the initial water, otherwise the beans just reabsorb the toxins.

        I should point out that I’m in the UK, and that cases of bean poisoning are more common here. It’s not clear whether this is due to better reporting (it doesn’t seem that the US requires cases of bean poisoning to be reported), or a wider use of dried beans, or possibly even a different composition of the bean crops used here. In a review conducted over a 15-year period, 50 cases of poisoning due to kidney beans were reported: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=0047E906E6509DE7B7D8AF52F2EBEB11.journals?fromPage=online&aid=4705876
        There was also a report from Denmark of two cases: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1776211
        Kidney beans are particularly bad – it’s estimated that only around 4-5 beans is a lethal dose.

        The UK Food Standards agency recommends boiling for 10 minutes, but only for kidney and soya beans: http://www.eatwellscotland.org/healthydiet/nutritionessentials/eggsandpulses/pulses/index.html
        However, other beans have been known to cause problems. The most recent case I found occurred in 2008, in a family who’d eaten butter (lima) beans: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/beware-of-the-beans-how-beans-can-be-a-surprising-source-of-food-poisoning-931862.html
        A review of cases in Switzerland over the period 1966-1994 also included a case of poisoning due to butter beans (Vicia faba): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8711457

        Speaking personally, I boil all beans – 10 minutes isn’t that long, and better safe than sorry.

        • Julie says

          I find it fascinating the way food regulations vary from country to country. There is so much about dried beans that we never even hear about over here, but I know our home canning guidelines are much more rigorous than those in most of Europe (it is widely recognized that you need to use a hot water bath or pressure canner in the US). It could very well be that the way the ingredients are grown, harvested and/or processed makes it different between countries.

          It does sound like kidney beans are especially toxic when eaten dried and raw, and who wants to do that?

          Anyways, I have never had a problem with cooking dried beans directly like stated above, nor have I encountered anyone in the U.S. who has (though I’m sure there are some!) Regardless, I’ll revise the post to put a note to your comment so that people can research and decide for themselves, just to be safe! Thank you!

          (PS: Dutch oven = large covered pot you can put in the oven. Like this: https://secure.lodgemfg.com/storefront/product1_new.asp?menu=logic&idProduct=3947 )

          • Mary says

            Yes, indeed, but food regulations aren’t unusual in that respect! Re canning regulations – I think that’s probably partly a result of the terminology used – two nations divided by a common language, and all that. In the USA, ‘canning’ is used to refer both to what we’d call ‘canning’ (preserving in tins) and ‘bottling’ (preserving in glass jars). The former is far more likely to lead to serious poisoning, especially botulism (which seems to have a far higher incidence in the US), and is not widely used by home cooks in the UK – it’s really considered an industrial process nowadays. Also, most UK recipes for preserves involve using a solution that’s high in acid (vinegar), sugar or alcohol – very few organisms can survive in any of these, thus, as long as everything’s sterilised properly and the food is brought to a minimum temperature, there shouldn’t be a problem. I looked at 20 or so sites, both UK and US, and the instructions for bottling seem very similar for both, but people do point out that there is difference in some of the recipes; for instance, there are warnings that American ‘cider’ is just apple juice, not fermented (and therefore alcoholic) apple juice as the term would be understood here, and obviously the alcoholic cider would be a better preservative.

            Yes, they are most toxic at that point, but the toxins remain if they’re not cooked properly (i.e. with the initial fast boil), so even though they are soft and edible, the toxins are still in there, although probably reduced somewhat by the cooking.

            Just spotted – very impressed how quickly you changed it.

            Thanks for the link. That’s what we’d call a cast-iron casserole dish. As I mentioned, the 10 minutes of boiling and replacing the water seems to be the crucial point, so it’s likely that even though they’d get to a high temperature in the oven, the toxins may not be destroyed, and would be reabsorbed by the beans.

  4. Barbara says

    What??? I have been putting red beans in my slow cooker for years.. And I’m still here on earth… I put my slow cooker on high.. and it boils….Why haven’t anyone ever heard of this before now???

    I am really stumped.. at this scratching my head.. …

    • Julie says

      Hi Barbara, It is something the FDA recommends, but I didn’t know about it either until someone pointed it out in the comments section! It looks like the only established cases have been in the UK, though I’m not sure why.

      • Barbara says

        My last name came from England, I married an Englishman, and the Clan of Corfield is a very old name. So, I have lots of Corfields all over the World. There is one young lady who lives in Birmingham that told me about the kidney beans.

        As I had mentioned this shocking admission on my facebook site. And let me say it was a shock to me about these Kidney Beans. She gave me an education on what they have been told in England about Kidney Beans across the Pond.lol…

        So, now I don’t know if I will EVER use Kidney Kidney Beans again.

        Yep, from now on, I will be cooking with a Red Bean instead of Kidney Bean. As one is different than the other.. I just googled it..LOL.. This really is scaring me.. After all these years of cooking Kidney Beans,,,and not knowing about this way of cooking them. Does that make sense?? Haha..

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