Beans have an indefinite shelf-life if stored properly, i.e., in an O2-free container like Mylar bags or food-grade pales. If they aren’t stored properly, they get tough, so tough they might not soak up water even when boiled. There are several things you can do to soften beans and make them edible.
9 Ways To Cook Old Dried Beans
Use old-dried beans by grinding them into bean flour to make hot and cold compresses or cook them whole and make them edible by softening with various methods including:
- Cook in a pressure cooker
- Increase the soak time
- Short boil method
- Baking Soda Method
- Add salt
- Distilled Water
- Sodium Bicarbonate
- Increase Cooking time
- Avoid adding high-acid ingredients
9 Softening Methods For Warn Out Beans
There are nine methods you can try to get old-tough beans palatable; some of these bean softening methods can be used together.
#1 Soften Beans With A Pressure Cooker
Soften old dry beans to make them edible by cooking them in a pressure cooker.
Cooking beans in a pressure cooker accelerates the cooking process by hours.
Pre-soaking the beans overnight is still suggested, but you can also do a pre-soak in the pressure cooker.
#2 Electric Pressure Cooker
Electric pressure cookers like the Instant Pot are one method of making old beans edible.
Pre-soak beans by cooking under high pressure for 2 minutes and then let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes. Finally, release the remaining pressure. Let the beans sit for 4+ hours and cook normally.
It’s hard to tell you how long to cook beans if they’ve gone rock-solid. Experiment with cooking times. If they aren’t coming out to the desired consistency, add minutes of cooking time until they reach perfection, or you throw them in the compost pile.
The old “cook beans on the stovetop method” usually includes pre-soaking beans for 12 hours to reduce cook time. (see chart below)
Natural Pressure Release VS. Manual Pressure Release
Electric Pressure cookers have two types of pressure release:
1. Natural pressure release, you don’t do anything but let the pot cool down on its own. The float valve that holds pressure in the pot will drop as the pot cools.
2. Quick release you vent the pot manually, which causes the cooker to depressurize quickly. When cooking beans, don’t quick-release without letting the pot cool (natural pressure release), or you might get a volcano of hot bean foam shooting out of the valve opening.
Learn the best method of storing beans in long-term storage for maximum shelf-life. Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Store Bulk Beans Like a Rockstar.”
#3 An Overnight Soak
Cover your beans with 3″ of fresh water, add 1 Tablespoon of table salt and let them sit overnight, uncovered.
For tough old beans, double the soaking time to 24 hours. A little extra soaking with salt might cause your beans to swell.
Adding salt to pre-cooked beans is controversial some believe it makes beans tough, but studies show salt breaks down tough bean skins.
Once you’ve soaked the beans, drain the pot and add fresh water to cook.
Pre-soaking Beans: The Controversy
4 Reasons to Pre-soak beans
1. Reduces gas and bloating when beans are consumed. 2. reduces cooking time, 3. makes a creamier texture of bean, and 4. decreases overall cooking time.
Reasons Not to Pre-soak Beans:
Pre-soaking beans to reduce gas is a wives-tail that doesn’t reduce gassiness. Pre-soaking may reduce bean nutritional value by leaching discarded nutrients when you freshen water the next day.
#4 Short Boil Or Quick Soak Method
Boiling beans and then letting them set on the stovetop. I usually use this method because it’s easy. Once you’ve cooked the beans, you can forget about them until you are ready to make your meal.
Put your beans in a pot on the stovetop, add one tablespoon of table salt, cover with 3 inches of water, 3 cups water per 1 cup of beans, or 10 cups per pound. Bring water to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove beans from the heat, cover, and let them sit for 1 to 4 hours.
If you are working with tough old beans, follow the same steps but let the beans sit longer. Even if I’m using fresher beans, I usually bring beans to a boil in the A.M. and let them sit until cooking time.
#5 Baking Soda
To Soften Old-tough Beans, add 1T of Baking Soda to a 1lb pot of beans or 1/8 tsp per cup of dried beans. If you’re cooking with fresher beans, limit baking soda to 1/4 teaspoon per pound.
Remember, more baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) is not better. You want just enough to soften beans without turning them into a pot of mush.
When you’re cooking with an old batch of beans from long-term storage, you’ll have to experiment to get the correct ratio of baking soda to water.
Don’t use baking soda to soften beans:
#6 Add Salt
It’s a wives tale that salt makes beans tough; it softens the skin and makes for even cooking.
Often salt is blamed for making beans tough when it’s a high mineral or acidic water that is doing it. Salt will slow cooking time because it slows water absorption.
#7 Neutralize Hard or Acidic Water
Your beans might not be too old, and it could be the water you are using to cook them.
Hard water with a lot of calcium and minerals will prevent beans from softening. If you have hard water, use baking soda by adding 1T of Baking Soda to your pot or 1/8tsp per cup of beans.
Acidic water and acidic ingredients will also make beans tough as they cook. Avoid adding acidic ingredients like tomatoes, vinegar, ketchup, sugar chili sauce, molasses, lemon juice, or wine until beans are cooked.
If you go overboard on cooking beans and they’ve gone too soft, adding the highly acidic ingredients mentioned above will make them firmer.
Neutralize acidic water and soften beans by adding 1/8 tsp of baking soda per cup of beans.
Baking soda, also known as Sodium Bicarbonate, works to counteract the calcium and other minerals in your water.
” The addition of baking soda to soften beans destroys B vitamins.”Iowa State University, Extension and Outreach (see link under sources)
Don’t go overboard with the baking soda, or your beans will turn to slop.
Another option for hard water is to cook your old beans in bottled or distilled water.
#8 Increase Cooking Time
After you’ve soaked your beans, the next step is to cook them.
Cover your beans with fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender. Depending on the bean type, cook from 30 minutes to 2 to 3 hours.
Testing old beans for doneness
Remove a couple of beans every 15 minutes and crush them between your fingers to test for consistency.
Bean Cooking Chart: The times below are for cooking beans that have been stored properly.
If you use older or improperly stored beans, increase cooking times. Check beans every 15 minutes by smashing a couple of beans between your fingers.
Chart #1: Bean Cooking Times
|1lb Dried Beans/ 2 cups||Water/Broth||Stovetop|
|Adzuki||10||30 to 40||*||4||4 – 5|
|Black-eyed Peas||10||30 to 45||15 to 25||6 to 12||3-4|
|Black Turtle||10||60 to 90||20 to 40||8 to 12||3-4|
|Cannellini||10||60 to 90||20 to 40||8 to 12||3-4|
|Garbanzo||10||90 to 120||35 to 40||10 to 12||3-4|
|Kidney||10||60 to 90||20 to 40||10 to 12||3-4|
|Lentils||10||30 to 45||*||**||5|
|Lima||10||45 to 60||*||**||4|
|Mung||10||30 to 40||*||4||5|
|Split Peas||10||45 to 50||*||8 to 10||4|
|Pinto||10||90||25 to 40||10 to 12||4|
|White or Navy Beans||10||60 to 90||20 to 40||8 to 12||4|
|Soybeans||10||120 to 180||*||24||4|
#9 Avoid High Acid Ingredients
Acidic water and ingredients will make beans tough as they cook. To reduce water acidity, you can add baking soda to soften, use distilled water and leave ingredients like tomatoes out of your beans until they are at the desired consistency.
To Avoid tough beans, don’t add acidic ingredients until beans are at the desired tenderness.
Here are some examples of high acid Ingredients: tomatoes, vinegar, ketchup, sugar, chili sauce, molasses, lemon juice, and wine.
When Your Beans don’t Soften: Make Bean Flour
I suggest milling bean flour from fresh, dried beans as well as the old ones. Bean flour is a powerhouse of protein and allows you to tackle the sometimes difficult task of eliminating palate fatigue from eating the same things over and over.
Note: Bean flour is an excellent thickening agent for soups and stews
How To Grind Bean Flour At Home (8 Easy Steps)
This is an example of how to do it in a household blender. If you are prepping for SHTF, consider getting a quality grinder such as a Country Mill. Hand-powered mills that don’t require power are your best bet for long-term power outages. I have a country mill. It will grind everything from dent corn to wheatberries and, of course, beans.
Note: hand-grinding beans, corn, or any other dry good by hand is a lot of work so test it out before depending on it for survival.
- Wash and sort dried beans
- Let beans dry
- Fill your blender with dried beans or do small batches if you have a small motor on your blender (the bigger and beefier your blender, the better the results)
- Blend Beans Until Powdery or desired consistency
- Dump flour into a bowl
- Get a second bowl to sieve bean flour
- Use a wooden spoon or spatula to push flour through the sieve into the second bowl.
- Re-blend the bits that don’t push through the sieve (optional)
Another cool thing you can do with tough old beans is to make hot and cold packs.
Use Beans to Make Hot and Cold Packs
If beans are just too old and tough to soften with any of the above methods and you don’t want to make bean flour put them to good use by making hot and cold packs.
Cold Pack: Sew beans inside a cloth bag or in a Ziploc freezer bag, then place them in the freezer. Wrap a thin tea towel around them, and you have a cold compress.
Use a cold press to reduce pain and swelling for short-term
Hot Pack: For a hot compress, sew old beans into some cloth and put them in the microwave to heat them. Just apply the hot pack to an area that needs some relief.
Hot packs reduce muscle stiffness and increase blood flow which is helpful to limber up before physical exertion. You are less likely to pull a muscle.
Dried Beans, Peas, and Lentils Can Help You Save $$ link
PCC Markets, Choosing and Cooking With Beans link
How Long Do Beans Last: 16 Top-tier Survival Beans, Ready Squirrel