9 Ways To Tenderize Old-Dried-Beans

Beans have an indefinite shelf-life if they are stored properly, i.e., in an O2-free container like Mylar bags or food-grade pales. If they aren’t stored properly they get really tough, so tough they might not soak up water even when boiled. There are a number of 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:

  1. Cook in a pressure cooker
  2. Increase the soak time
  3. Short boil method
  4. Baking Soda Method
  5. Add salt
  6. Distilled Water
  7. Sodium Bicarbonate
  8. Increase Cooking time
  9. Avoid adding high-acid ingredients
Ready Squirrel Bean Cookin

9 Softening Methods For Warn Out Beans

There are nine methods you can try to get old-tough beans palatable. Some of these methods can be used together—9 ways to soften old beans.

#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 presoak in the pressure cooker.

#2 Electric Pressure Cooker

Electric pressure cookers like the Instant Pot are one method of making old beans edible.

Easily pre-soak beans by cooking under high pressure for 2 minutes and then natural pressure release 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 2 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.

#3 An Overnight Soak

Cover your beans with 3″ of freshwater, 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 that 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 actually reduce bean nutritional value by leaching nutrients that are discarded when you freshen water the next day.

#4 Short Boil Or Quick Soak Method

Boiling beans, and then letting them set on the stove-top. I usually use this method because it’s easy. Once you’ve boiled the beans, you can forget about them until your ready to make your meal.

Put your beans in a pot on the stovetop, add 1 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 old tough 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 right 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 actually softens the skin and makes for even cooking.

Often salt is blamed for making beans tough when it’s actually high mineral or acidic water. Salt will slow cooking time because it slows water absorption.

#7 Neutralize Hard or Acidic Water

Your beans might not be too old it could be the water your 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 highly the highly acidic ingredient, mentioned above, will make beans 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 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, stovetop, pressure cooker, crockpot and yield

1lb Dried Beans/ 2 cups Water/BrothStovetop
cook-time minutes
Pressure cooker
cook-time (hours)
Adzuki1030 to 40*4 4 – 5
Black-eyed Peas1030 to 4515 to 256 to 12 3-4
Black Turtle1060 to 9020 to 408 to 12 3-4
Cannellini1060 to 9020 to 408 to 12 3-4
Garbanzo1090 to 12035 to 4010 to 12 3-4
Kidney1060 to 9020 to 4010 to 123-4
Lentils1030 to 45***5
Lima1045 to 60***4
Mung1030 to 40*45
Split Peas1045 to 50*8 to 104
Pinto109025 to 4010 to 124
White or Navy Beans1060 to 9020 to 408 to 124
Soybeans10120 to 180*244
Information Compliments of PC Natural Markets *beans that foam excessively may clog the pressure valve on your pressure cooker **Use longer cook times for old tough beans

#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.

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.

  1. Wash and sort dried beans
  2. Let beans dry
  3. 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)
  4. Blend Beans Until Powdery or desired consistency
  5. Dump flour into a bowl
  6. Get a second bowl to sieve bean flour
  7. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to push flour through the sieve into the second bowl.
  8. Re-blend the bits that don’t push through the sieve (optional)

Another cool thing you can do with old tough beans is 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. Your 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

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