Beans For Long Term Storage: Top Survival Food

Dried beans are one of the best foods you can store for long-term emergencies or survival food. Beans are easy to store, lightweight, and packed with nutrition. They are also a proven staple food. The Greeks, Egyptians, Mexican and Peruvian civilizations depended on dried beans as a significant part of their diet.

Why are beans one of the best foods to store for long-term storage?

Beans are a filling comfort food packed with protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Averaging 22% protein, they provide the highest protein of any seed crop. They come in various shapes, sizes, and flavors to alleviate palet fatigue. Beans are cheap, shelf-stable, and provide a 30-year shelf-life.

Beans are superfoods, and they are inexpensive compared to emergency foods professionally packaged for long-term food storage.

If you are looking to build a long-term food pantry, I will start with dried beans, white rice, and wheat because they are of excellent value, and it’s easy to store hundreds of pounds of food for emergencies quickly.

Beans, peas and lentils are all legumes and are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. Legumes are typically low in fat and high in fiber, folate, potassium, iron and magnesium.

Beans For Storage: Long Term

Dry beans for storage should be repackaged to attain decades of shelf-life. If you store them in plastic bags from the grocery store, the maximum shelf-life is 12 months.

Research indicates that beans are an ideal longterm (20-30 years) food storage product when stored in No.
10 cans, Mylar®-type bags, or airtight containers and in ideal cool, dry, and dark conditions

Brian Nummer, Food Safety Specialist, Utah State University Extension

Beans store best when protected from Oxygen and light. Oxygen causes bean oil to go rancid, and light degrades the color and quality of the beans.

Store dry beans in a cool, dry location. Keeping storage temperatures between 50° to 70° Fahrenheit is ideal, but around 75° Fahrenheit will work.

The ideal storage temperature for beans is just above freezing, but that isn’t realistic for the average prepper.

Learn about the best way to store beans for maximum shelf life. Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Store Bulk Beans Like a Rockstar.”

Long term Storage Container(s) For Beans

The best bean containers for long-term, oxygen-free storage, and maximum bean shelf-life are lined #10 cans (usually purchased) and Mylar bags, an excellent do-it-yourself method.

You can use other containers to store beans like plastic pails, Ziploc bags, and clear vacuum seal bags, but these will not maximize shelf life.

You can use these containers to store sugar and salt because they should not be stored oxygen-free. For the other staples: white rice, wheat, dried beans, and other hard and soft grains, avoid these containers for long-term storage.

Packaging needs to be proper Oxygen, light, and moisture barrier.

Clear containers don’t keep out light, and plastic is not an actual oxygen barrier.

One aspect of repackaging dry staples is to kill bugs, eggs, and pupae. To kill bugs, oxygen levels need to be below 1% for a minimum of two weeks. It doesn’t matter how many oxygen absorbers you use if new Oxygen isn’t kept out of the container.

Top 3 storage containers for Beans in Long term storage:

#1 Industrial #10 Cans

You can purchase from professional emergency food companies or the LDS pantry online.

#2 Mylar bags (5mils or thicker)

Mylar is a product of the space age. A food container that provides proper Oxygen, moisture, and light barrier as long as they are five mils or thicker. (This is how I store all of my dry foods: white rice, wheat, rolled oats, dried beans.)

My favorite “Do It Yourself Method,” of storing beans is a 5-gallon food-grade bucket lined with an 18″x28″ Mylar bag sealed with a 2000cc Oxygen absorber inside. Food-grade buckets alone are an insufficient Oxygen barrier but they protect the Mylar like armor and they are easier to stack and organize.

Scott, Ready Squirrel

#3 Ball or Canning Jars

Use to store small quantities of beans. Keep the jars covered or store them in a dark pantry to avoid light oxidation of food.

Canning jars aren’t the best long-term container for several reasons.

They are expensive, need to be stored in a dark location, break easily, and aren’t as convenient to store as, say, a Mylar-lined food-grade bucket that can be stacked.

Storage Tip: You might be wondering about using just a 5-gallon food-grade bucket without Mylar; the problem is the plastic in the bucket isn’t an oxygen barrier. Overtime (decades), Oxygen levels will go above 1%, which degrades food and may allow bug eggs to hatch.

This includes other air-tight containers, Ziplock bags, Tupperware, and lidded plastic containers with a seal. None of these containers sufficiently protect food from Oxygen-long term.

Freezing dry staples is an outdated method of killing bugs. Ready Squirrel article, “Should You Freeze Beans Before Long-term Storage?”

Check out the comprehensive Ready Squirrel article, “How to Preserve Beans In Long Term Storage.”

Warning: Dry foods stored oxygen-free should contain 10% moisture or less and be low in fat. Beans stored with a higher moisture level could lead to botulism food poisoning.

Repackaging Dry Beans: Tools and Equipment

When you get ready to repackage your beans, things will go smoother if you stage all of your equipment and tools before you start. Following is a list of tools I use to repackage dried beans and my other dried goods. Hopefully, this will help you get set up for a painless session of dried bean storage.

  • 18″x28″ Mylar Bag(s) (This is the size I use) or 20″x30″
  • 5-gallon food grade bucket with a cheap lid (when using Mylar, you don’t need a fancy lid with a seal)
  • 1-gallon Mylar bags for overflow
  • Standard Clothes Iron to heat-seal the Mylar Bag
  • Permanent Marker to mark the package with the packing date and food type
  • 2500cc Oxygen Absorber(s) for 5-gallon bucket line with an 18″x28″ Mylar bag
  • 500cc Oxygen Absorber(s) for 1-gallon overflow bag(s) for extra beans that won’t fit into your bucket
  • Wood Board used to place the top of the bag over when you seal it with the iron
  • Scissors to cut open the bean bag, scissors make a clean cut, so it’s easier to pour the rice out of the bag

Chart #1: 17 Best Beans For Long Term Storage

Bean TypeOne Cup Boiled

Adzuki Bean29417g57g.2g
Kidney Bean225 15g40g.9g
Pinto Bean24515g45g.3g
Mung Bean21314g39g.8g
Soybean Dehydrated (soybean, edamame)29829g56g15g
Split Pea23116g41g.8g
Black Turtle Bean22715g25.8.8g
Black-eyed pea (Cowpeas)19413g35g.9g
Black Bean22715g25.8g.8g
Navy Bean25515 g47g1.13
Lentils (not a bean)23017.939.9.8g
Lima Bean217 15 g39g.7g
Pink Bean (related to the kidney bean)25215.3g47.2.8g
Garbanzo/Chick Peas26915 g45g4.2g
Cranberry Beans (Roman Beans)24116.5g43g.8g
Pigeon Peas20311.4g39g.64g
Cannellini 22515.440.4g.9g
Information Compliments of the USDA

Best Beans For Survival

Beans are excellent for long-and short-term survival. Up to this point, we’ve been talking bout dried beans because they are the best way to store a massive amount of calories and nutrition inexpensively. What about canned beans?

Canned beans are excellent emergency food for “short-term” emergency food kits. Such as the Federal Emergency Management Agencies suggested a 72-hour emergency kit.

During disasters like hurricanes, power outages, forest fires, tornadoes, and flooding, you need food you can eat that is shelf-stable and doesn’t require additional resources.

Canned beans include water inside the can, so you don’t need to consider your emergency water supply when prepping. 1 cup of dry beans requires 3 cups of clean water

Immediately usable: open the can and eat

You don’t need fuel. You can eat canned beans cold.

Stay Hidden: You don’t have to start a fire to eat beans.

If water is scarce or starting a fire is an issue, canned beans work well at bug-out locations or in a bug-out vehicle.

Canned beans are too heavy to carry bugging out on foot.

Warming canned beans take minutes. Prepping dry beans could take hours if you are filtering water, preparing beans, and gathering firewood.

Cans are tough and self-contained.

All you need to do to eat canned beans is open the can. Ideally, you get to heat the beans, but it’s not necessary.

On the other hand, dried beans are not ideal for situations where you have a water shortage, the power is out, and you have limited time.

Dried beans take a lot of water, fuel, and time to make ready to eat, not ideal when you are cleaning up hurricane damage without power.

Beans, in general, are not ideal for bugging out on foot. Cans are heavy, and dried beans take too many resources.

Storage Tip: Consider Complimentary Proteins when storing emergency food,

When grains and legumes are eaten together (such as rice and beans or peanut butter on whole-wheat bread), they form a complete protein.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Protein, Interactive Nutrition Facts

11 Things You Can Make With Dry Beans

My favorite way to eat beans is a long slow stew with onions, garlic, and many spices. If I have it, I like to throw in some cajun sausage. It goes well with rice for a complimentary protein. That said, there are many things you can do with beans in storage.

#1 Sprout for microgreens

As long as they are still viable, you can sprout beans and a lot of the hard grains in your pantry. (see the video below of me growing wheat.

Imagine being stuck in a winter location with 2 feet of snow on the ground. You don’t have any fresh produce. You can sprout an lb of beans or wheat berries in two days to get a healthy supply of highly nutritious greens.

#2 Soup

#3 Stew

#4 Ground to flour as a thickener for baked bread

#5 Ground to flour or mashed to create a dip

#6 Sweeten and use as a filling for pastries

Japanese Sweet Beans were a little strange at first, but I learned to love them. When I was stationed in Japan, most of the pastry fillings were sweet beans. Don’tknock it until you try it.

#7 Beans and Rice 

When beans and rice are eaten together, they offer a complete complementary protein.

#8 Beans and Wheat

Boil wheat berries whole (porridge) and eat beans on top.

When beans and wheat berries are eaten together, they offer a complete complementary protein.

#9 Boiled with salt

Boil beans and eat them plain or add them to additional meals for a shot of protein. I like to eat beans on rice. If you do, too, I suggest storing soy sauce as a condiment. It has an indefinite shelf-life, and Tabasco has a shelf-life of 5 years.

#10 Refried Beans

Good with home-baked bread, tortillas, or cornbread

#11 Add to garden produce

Mix left-over beans with garden produce from your survival garden

#12 Warm or hot salad(s)

Mix beans with cooked pasta, another staple from long-term storage

#13 Work-crew

This is a side idea, but beans are an excellent way to feed a large group of people. Imagine feeding a work crew or a farm team working on your Bug-out site. Set up a big pot of beans and rice, and you’ve got a modern-day soupline.

How Can I Soften Hard Beans?

Old beans that aren’t stored correctly or cooked in hard water may be tough after cooking. Here are some methods you can use to tenderize hard beans.

Pre-boil Beans for 10 minutes and let them sit for thirty minutes before cooking.

Add baking soda to your soaking water. For every pound of beans ad 1/4 tsp of baking soda, don’t go overboard using baking soda, or beans turn to mush. Adding baking soda to soaking water may reduce B complex vitamins.

Soften beans in a stovetop pressure cooker or an instant pot.

Simmer beans for more than 45 minutes. Cook them forever.

Avoid adding salt or anything with salt in it until after the beans are cooked to tenderness.

Avoid adding anything acidic to beans (canned tomatoes) until after they are cooked.

Freeze beans to soften

  1. Boil beans for thirty minutes
  2. Let Beans cool
  3. Freeze Beans
  4. Place Frozen Beans in a Pot of Water and let them soak overnight
  5. Cook Beans: Bring to a boil, simmer for 45 minutes or until tender

For a more thorough discussion of tenderizing hard beans, check out the Ready Squirrel article, 9 Ways to Tenderize Old Beans.”

Store Dry Beans for Emergency Food

I store dry beans because they are inexpensive, store for 30 years, and it’s easy to repackage a lot of food for long-term storage in a short period. Dry staples, in general, are the superstars of long-term storage, but I consider dried beans one of the top three foods to store, along with white rice and wheat.

Dry beans are lightweight, weighing 50% of what canned beans weigh.

Dry beans are inexpensive compared to other survival foods, and they offer a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to nutrition. Many a civilization has survived with the bulk of their diet being white rice and beans.

Easily store 1100’sof pounds of food with Mylar bags, food-grade buckets, and oxygen absorbers.

To learn more about storing dry beans instead of canned beans for long-term storage, check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Dried vs. Canned Beans for Prepping: Why I store Mostly Dry Beans.”

Dried and Canned Beans Have Similiar Nutrition

I was kind of worried about this with the canned beans. I’m not too fond of the idea of surviving long-term on something that isn’t fresh and has less nutritional value, but all being equal, they are about the same nutritionally.

Canned and dried beans have virtually the same nutritional value, and both types are boiled before consumption, and the canning process has little to no effect on a bean’s nutritional value. Canned beans may contain sodium, preservatives, or additional ingredients; dry beans do not.

Beans are boiled before they are eaten to remove lectins (poisons) present in the raw form.

Dried Beans VS Canned Bean: Storage Life

Dried beans stored oxygen-free will store for 20 to 30 years, and canned beans will keep five years plus. The actual shelf life of canned food doesn’t have a definitive answer.

There are no hard and fast rules on canned bean shelf-life.

Most hardcore preppers will say that canned beans last much longer than five years, maybe a decade or more, but we don’t have a reliable way of knowing just how long canned beans will store. This is one reason I prefer them for short-term emergencies and not so much for long-term storage.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture: Food Safety and Inspection Service, three Dates may be on food products, and none of them tell you when canned beans are no longer inedible.

A “sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale, and you should buy the product before the date expires.

A Best if Used By or Before date is recommended for best flavor or quality, and it is not a purchase or safety date and is not required by law.

A “Use-By Date” is the last date recommended for using the product while at peak quality. The manufacturer of the product has determined the date. The Use-By date is typically on refrigerated foods like milk and eggs.

Are My Canned Beans Bad?

The best way to tell if canned beans have headed south is by using your senses. Canned food will let you know when it’s time to throw it in the bin. When in doubt, throw it out.

10 Signs Canned Beans Should be Chucked

#1 A can is leaking or stained

#2 If a can is swollen don think twice, it’s not good.

#3 Rust could show signs that the seal is broken on the can. The rust itself isn’t an indication of bad food but that the can hasn’t been stored properly.

#4 If you just dented, a can eat it right away. Dropping a can on the floor and denting it might break the seal. When in doubt, throw it out.

#5 If a can is Cracked, throw it out.

#6 Foul Odors, this is a no-brainer.

#7 Missing or loose lids-throw it out

#8 Beans in the can change color or odor- if the canned food is ancient, this is a tough call. It’soing to depend on how hungry you are.

#9 When in doubt, throw it out

#10 Don’taste-test beans you are not sure of. Throw them out.


How Long Do Beans Last? 16 Top-tier Survival Beans, Ready Squirrel

Bean Cooking Chart, PCC Natural Markets PDF

Dried Beans, Peas and Lentils Can Help You Save $$, Iowa State University, PDF