At cents per serving, beans are easy on the budget and serve up flavor, protein and variety. Here’s how to store, cook and use beans.
Stock the Pantry
- Canned beans: When on sale, buy big since canned beans store well and are extremely convenient to use. Check the can for a “best by” date and use it as a guide. If the can is in good condition, canned beans can last for years. The quality may start to diminish, however, which is why manufacturers include a date. Consider writing the purchase date on each can, and organize the cans with the oldest in front.
- Dried beans: If you don’t already buy dried beans by the bag or in bulk, you might want to start. They are usually less expensive than canned and come in many more varieties. Dried beans also don’t have the sodium canned beans do. Store dried beans in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for one to two years beyond the purchase date or possibly longer, though they may lose nutrients. Beans dry out as they’re stored and take longer to cook, so don’t combine new packages of beans with older ones.
Give Beans a Soak
Dried beans benefit from soaking to rehydrate. The beans won’t be soft enough to eat at this point, but they will be ready to add to recipes or to cook.
- First spread the dried beans on a baking sheet and sort through them. Remove small pebbles or debris.
- Rinse in a colander under cold running water to remove any surface sand.
- Method 1: In a large bowl or pan cover beans with about 3 cups water for 1 cup beans. Cover and let soak 8 hours or overnight and then drain. Method 2: Place beans in a large saucepan or Dutch oven and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let beans stand in hot water 1 hour and then drain.
- You can choose not to soak beans. Just add an additional hour or so to the cooking time when cooking until tender. Make sure to replenish cooking liquid as needed.
Storing Cooked Beans
If not using cooked beans right away or canned beans once opened, here’s how to store them:
- Chill: Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate up to five days.
- Freeze: Place beans in freezer bags or containers in 1-3/4 cup portions, which is equivalent to a 15-oz. can of beans. Label and freeze up to three months. Tip: You can freeze dried beans in their cooking liquid.
- To Use: Place the beans, thawed or frozen, in a saucepan with 1/2 cup water for 1-3/4 cups beans. Simmer, covered, over low until heated through. Drain and use.
Five Ways to Eat More Beans
With beans in the pantry, fridge and freezer, start adding them to all sorts of dishes.
- Swap other cooked beans for chickpeas in hummus or mash cooked beans with a fork, spread on toasted baguette slices and top with seasonings and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Make a bean bowl. Layer cooked beans with veggies, roasted diced sweet potatoes, cooked quinoa or rice, sliced olives, chopped greens and vinaigrette or ranch dressing.
- Toss cooked beans into salads, soups, stir-fries or pasta dishes to bump up the protein. They also add bulk, which will help fill you up.
- For quesadillas, spread mashed beans on a flour tortilla, top with shredded cheese and another tortilla. Cook in a skillet until cheese is melted, cut into wedges and serve with salsa and fresh cilantro.
- Serve beans as a base for stew or cooked veggies, just like you would rice.
Methods for Cooking Beans
To cook presoaked beans, choose one of these methods. Remember that cooking times vary, depending on the variety and age. If desired, season the cooking water with herbs and salt or use broth.
- Stovetop: In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, cook beans according to package directions. Or cover beans with at least 2 inches of water and bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes to 2 hours or until tender.
- Slow cooker: In a 4- to 6-qt. slow cooker combine 1 lb. presoaked beans and 8 cups fresh water. Cover and cook on low 10-12 hours or high 5-6 hours, or until beans are tender.
- Pressure cooker: Following manufacturer’s directions, cook 1 cup presoaked beans, 3 cups water and 1 tablespoon oil on high pressure about 25 minutes. Use natural release method for depressurizing.
Are They Ready Yet?
Sometimes dried beans seem to take forever to get tender. Reasons for this could be that the beans are old, the water in the pot is hard i.e., full of minerals or that there’s acid, such as tomatoes or vinegar, in the cooking liquid. Salt doesn’t lengthen cooking time.
When done, beans look a little wrinkly. Be sure to taste a few. They should be creamy in the center but not mushy.
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