If you have a container of dried beans sitting in your pantry and you don't know how long they've been sitting there, you may be wondering if they're good to use. While they may look perfectly fine, as if you've just bought them, there is a shelf time you should consider before using them.
How Long Are Dried Beans Good For?
It's best to use dried beans within a year. Older beans can still be cooked and eaten, but expect cooking times to be longer. If you know your beans have been sitting in the pantry for a long time, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to either the soak water or the cooking water for every pound of beans that you’re preparing. The baking soda will help to soften up the beans but only add baking soda to the pot when you think you need it because it will also rob the beans of some of their nutrients.
Wait to add any salt or acidic foods, like tomatoes, to your bean pot until after the beans have been cooked. These ingredients will harden the beans, causing them to take even longer to cook. That’s an annoyance if you’re cooking fresh beans, but with older beans, it could mean the difference between getting them to soften and not.
You definitely don't want to skimp on the soak time when you're cooking older beans. The U.S. Dry Bean Council recommends allowing beans to soak for a full 12 hours before you cook them. That may sound like a lot of time, but it’s easy enough to accomplish. Just fill a pot with beans and water before you go to bed, and they'll be ready in the morning.
When Good Beans Go Bad
Dried beans shouldn't be cooked in a crockpot, despite what other websites may tell you! That's because crockpots don't get hot enough to kill the natural toxins that are present in beans. Stick to cooking them on the stove. It doesn't take long to do, and you'll get great results.
Eventually, dried beans will become so dry that they won't soften even when you do all the things outlined above. If you have beans that have gotten to this point, they can be used as pie weights, thrown onto your compost pile, or donated to a school or daycare as a craft supply.
Proper Storage Solutions
Keep your dried beans in an air-tight container in a cool, dry space so they don’t deteriorate prematurely. This will keep them from drying out or taking on moisture from their surroundings, both of which can negatively affect their quality.
If you plan to store your beans for an extended period of time, you may want to freeze them for 48 hours before adding them to your pantry. This will kill any insect larvae that may be lurking inside the beans, so you don't end up with a pantry infestation. This also points to another compelling reason for storing your beans in air-tight containers: If each type of bean is sealed in its own container, you won't have to worry about having insects spread from one type of bean to another.