What To Do with Dried Beans

There is a home video of my parents cooking dinner when I was about one. I was obviously doing something adorable while my mom was fixing dinner and my dad whipped out the massive 80’s video camera to document it. What he actually documented was the state of our family dinners at the time—a couple of LeanCuisines being heated up and dinner was ready at the beep. I can’t fault them. This stuff was billed as ‘healthy,’ and they were both working full time in demanding jobs. Dinner was an afterthought.

You see, I grew up in a canned bean kind of family. ‘Healthy’ convience foods were the name of the game, and if it couldn’t be made in 30 minutes, it wasn’t going in the rotation. I’m not saying it was all LeanCuisine (or God forbid Hamburger Helper), but there was definitely a reliance on pre-made seasoning packets and canned vegetables, beans, etc that I thought was completely normal and even ‘healthy.’

I’ll be the first to admit that there are much worse things out there in the world of processed food than canned beans, but when we started this journey of buying as close to nature as possible and making the stuff in our pantry as opposed to buying it, I learned a bit about this alternative to the can. I use the word alternative sarcastically because really, this is the way people have been doing it for thousands of years and how much of the world still prepares beans which are a staple in loads of traditional diets around the world. For the last few years we’ve mostly used the dried variety for all of our bean needs for a few reasons:

What To Do with Dried Beans from Kiwi and Peach

Dried beans are cheaper than their canned cousins by a significant amount and they last almost indefinitely. In Germany, I also found more variety of beans in the dried form which meant I could eat black eyed peas which made me a very happy southern woman.

By using dried beans we avoided the BPA in the plastic linings of some cans. BPA reacts in the body like a hormone and I don’t need anything else throwing that our of whack! BPA is actually banned in the EU in items for children and there has been an overwhelming push as of late for companies both here and abroad to make BPA-free cans because no one wants that gunk in their food. (Though most of us are screwed anyway because we’ve been eating it our whole lives. Wunderbar!)

You avoid the extra sodium and random seasonings that get stuck in the can with the beans. I always, always, always ended up rinsing my canned beans because I wanted to add my own seasoning. It was a pain and I was always irritated that I was probably paying more for the can because it had the seasonings in there.

But the biggest reason that we’ve stuck with using dried beans once we returned to the States is this…

Using dried beans isn’t hard. It’s actually pretty straight forward. They do require a little bit of forethought, but they’re really hands-off and they freeze beautifully. A little bit of work goes a really long way.

I also have a little trick that makes dried beans my go-to for weeknights. At the weekends, make a big batch and freeze it in 1½ cup sized portions. That way, on weeknights, you can pull them out of the freezer just like you would pull a can out of your pantry.

Are you convinced? Let’s pretend you are and let’s make some beans! There are two different ways I like to go about cooking beans and I’ll talk about them both. Here goes:

What To Do with Dried Beans from Kiwi and Peach

What To Do with Dried Beans

If your recipe calls for 1 can of beans you are going to want to use about ½ cup of dried beans. Dried beans will produce, on average, about 3 times the amount when cooked.

½ cup dried = 1½ cups cooked = a 15oz can of beans

The Quick Soak
This is the method I use most often because I usually forget to put them on to soak the night before.

Bring a stock pot full of water to a boil and then remove from the heat. Measure and rinse your beans then add them to the pot. Cover with a lid and let them soak for at least 2 hours.

After those 2 hours, drain off the water. Fill the stock pot with fresh water and salt it well. Bring the new water to a boil add the beans to the pot. Reduce the temperature to medium low and let them cook for about an hour to an hour and a half. Drain and you’re ready to go.

{The length of time depends on how firm you like your beans and how you will be cooking them later. If I’m going to be making chili, I usually only cook them for an hour. Burritos I’ll cook them a bit longer because I’m going to mash them to make refried beans.}

The Overnight Soak
First thing you want to do is grab a bowl that won’t stain. Measure and rinse your beans then add them to the bowl. Fill the bowl with a generous amount of water, cover with a tea towel and let it sit overnight.

When you’re ready to cook them the next day, bring a stock pot full of salted water to a boil, drain off the water the beans were soaking in and add the beans to the pot. Reduce the temperature to medium low and let them cook for about an hour to an hour and a half. Drain and you’re ready to go.


4 thoughts on “What To Do with Dried Beans

  1. If you love beans, take a look at http://www.ranchogordo.com. Rancho Gordo has wonderful heirloom varieties and they beat any store bought dried bean for freshness which = taste. One of my favorites is the Christmas Lima Bean which is not like the mushy green limas I had as a child and disliked intensely!! Good recipes and interesting “bean” info as well as some specialty spices on the site as well.

  2. You have me so convinced to cook from dried beans… if only cans weren’t so darn convenient! (and a freezer to make them in advance could help too!) But I’m determined to try cook them from dried-form at least once and see how it goes 🙂

    • Let me know! I found it so much easier in Germany to just make them myself because I could actually get the beans I wanted and without all the weird seasonings (and added salz!).

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