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Dried vs Canned Beans for Long-term Storage

When I started stockpiling food for long-term storage, I wasn’t sure which type of beans to store. After researching dried vs. canned beans, I concluded that the bulk of my storage would be dried beans repackaged into Mylar bags and buckets. Let’s take a look at why dry beans are better.

Bulk-dried beans are superior to canned beans because they are more flexible. Boil them, sprout them, plant them in a survival garden, or grind them into flour. Dried beans are also less expensive, lighter, and easier to store, with a proven shelf-life of 30+years.

I may be giving you the impression that canned beans don’t have a place in your emergency storage, but that isn’t the case. Let’s look at the pluses and minuses of each type of bean and when to use them.

Dried vs canned beans: water usage

Dried Beans require a substantial amount of water to prepare. If you’re new to storing food for survival, you may not know how important water is to survival.

According to FEMA, you need to store at least 1 gallon of water per day, per person to stay clean, hydrate, and to prepare food.

Federal Emergency Management Agency

To conserve water supply, canned beans are better for short-term emergencies because they require no additional water to make edible. Preparing dried beans requires approximately 3 cups of water per cup and 10 cups per 1lb.

Dried vs canned beans: short-term emergencies

Just say no to Dried Beans for short-term Emergencies. Canned beans are a clear choice.

Canned beans are better than dried beans for short-term emergencies because they are a shelf-stable, non-perishable food source that doesn’t require additional resources to make them edible. In an emergency, they can be eaten out of the can without heating.

Dried vs canned beans: preparation time

Dried beans take a lot of time and resources to prepare. Not something you want to focus on when the world is falling around you. Dried beans are for after the dust has settled and things are in working order.

In a survival scenario, dried beans need to be pre-soaked for 6 to 8 hours and cooked for 45 to 90 minutes, and if the power is out, you are burning up a ton of emergency fuel and using precious emergency water.

Dry vs canned beans: Long-term Storage

Most of my survival beans are dried. All things being considered, it’s much easier to stock up on large quantities of dried beans than it is canned.

Dry beans are superior to canned beans for long-term storage because they are less expensive if purchased in bulk, weigh less, take up less storage space, and provide a 30+ year shelf life.

Dried vs canned beans: Repackaging

If you don’t plan on storing a large cache of survival food, say you just want the 3-day food supply suggested by FEMA, Canned beans are a clear choice because they don’t require repackaging.

Dried beans have to be repackaged for a maximum shelf-life of 30 years. The best DIY hermetically sealed storage containers for dry beans are Mylar bags,food-grade pales with oxygen absorbers.

I store all of my dried beans in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. If I have smaller batches to repackage, I use 1 gallon Mylar bags and store them in a plastic tub.

If I’m storing 33lb of beans or more, I line Food-grade buckets with a large 18×28″ Mylar bag, and throw in a 2000cc oxygen absorber, and seal the bag. Bam, a thirty-year shelf life.

Scott Ready Squirrel

Dried vs canned beans: Storage

To maximize shelf life, 99% of everything in your emergency pantry must be stored in a controlled environment. Beans are no different.

Keep dried and canned beans in a cool, dry location, out of direct sunlight, at 75° Fahrenheit or less but above freezing, if possible. Keep beans off the floor for airflow and away from hot appliances or areas with drastic fluctuations in temperature.

Take care of your beans, and they will take care of you!

Dried vs canned beans: 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. 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.

Canned vs dried beans: Flavor and Texture

Dried and canned beans vary in texture and flavor, but you must decide which you prefer. Most people prefer the taste of dried beans pre-soaked, boiled, and mixed with meat and spices.

If I’m going on taste and texture, I prefer dried beans. In our house, they are more of a Sunday meal. When we don’t have much time, we depend more on the canned variety.

Learn about the best way to store dry beans for maximum shelf-life read the Ready Squirrel article, “Store Bulk Beans like a Rockstar.”

Canned vs dry beans: Additives

Canned beans contain added sugar, salt, preservatives, or other ingredients. If this concerns you, stick with dried beans.

Rinsing Canned Beans Removes Sodium

In a survival situation dumping out the juice in beans wouldn’t be my choice, but if you are salt adverse, this is an option.

According to Kansas State University, reduce the sodium in canned beans’ up to 41% by draining and rinsing before eating.

For Maximum Shelf-life, Avoid Beans With High Acid Ingredients

If you rotate your food stock, you don’t have to worry about high-acid ingredients in beans, but they won’t last as long.

Avoid beans with high-acid ingredients, like tomatoes, for the longest shelf-life on your canned beans. Canned foods high in acids have a shorter shelf life than base PH foods like canned vegetables.

Dried beans vs canned: Cost

One of the reasons I rely heavily on dried beans in my emergency pantry is cost. If you purchase dried beans in bulk, they are much less expensive per cooked serving than canned.

Canned beans vs dried beans: Cost Per Serving

Let’s look at how much a 15oz can of beans will cost compared to a pound of dried beans. You may be wondering what you get for your hard-earned money.

When I write this, one pound of dry pinto beans averages $1.60 per pound and provides approximately 6 cups of cooked beans. The average price for one 15oz can of pinto beans is $1.59, providing approximately 1 3/4 (1.75) cups of cooked beans.

Chart #1: Average Cost of Dried Pintos VS. Canned

Bean TypeServing Size (cup)Average Cost Serving Size (cups)Average Cost
Dried Pinto Beans1.75 $0.266 $1.60
Canned Pinto Beans1.75 $1.596$5.45
When looking at the cost of dry beans, don’t forget to figure out the cost of storage supplies and shipping.

Canned vs dry beans: weight comparison

Before purchasing beans, consider where you will store them and how much weight your shelving can hold. Canned beans weigh almost double what dried beans weigh because of extra water weight and heavier packaging.

You would need to Store 171.42, 15oz cans of beans, weighing 91.81lb, to equal the cooked serving amount provided in one 50 lbs bag of dry beans.

Ready Squirrel

Chart #2 15oz Can(s): Storage Weight

#15oz cans of beansServings (cups)Weight
58.754.68 lb
97.59 (Equivalent to one 50lb bag of dried beans without container)171.4291.81lb
129.30 (Equivalent to 66 lb of dry beans)226.28120.93
195.91 (Equivalent to 100 lbs of dry beans)342.85183lb
One 50lb bag of dried beans will provide approximately 300 cooked, 1-cup servings. For long-term storage, repackage dried beans into food-grade buckets weighing approximately 2lb each, depending on construction quality.

Top 10 Reasons To Sprout Dried Beans From Long-term Storage

Dried bean sprouting is like the secret weapon of long-term storage because sprouts provide a bounty of fresh emergency nutrition in just about any situation.

I’ll admit it, I don’t really like the flavor, but think of sprouts as ready-made vitamins in a true survival situation.

Ready Squirrel

Imagine you are in your bug-out location. Outside there are 2ft of snow on the ground. You’re out of root vegetables, and the garden is long gone. At this point, you are relying on dry stored foods with nothing fresh in your diet. You pull out a bag of white beans and sprout them for fresh nutrition.

10 Reasons Sprouts are Awesome For Survival

  1. They Can be Grown All-Year-Round. 
  2. Don’t Need Light To Grow (put in the sun for chlorophyll)
  3. Sprouts Contain: Vitamins, Amino Acids, Micronutrients, and Protein
  4. Beans remain viable for Sprouting for 1 to 5 years.
  5. Frozen Beans Remain Viable for Up To 20 Years
  6. Sprouts Are Eaten Raw Or Cooked.
  7. Sprouts Can Be Grown Indoors Regardless of Weather Conditions
  8. Sprouting is Easy
  9. Sprouting Equipment and Seeds Are Inexpensive
  10. Sprouting Animal Feed/Fodder, a 50lb bag of beans, can be sprouted into 300 lbs of animal feed.

Viability of Sprouting Beans

If you pull out a 30-year-old bag of dried beans, they probably won’t be viable, meaning they won’t sprout for eating.

  • Seed Viability: If beans are too old or stored improperly, they won’t sprout, and Beans need to be dried properly. Fresh green or soft beans won’t sprout.
  • Irradiated beans are dead and won’t sprout.

To learn more about sprouting beans and seeds, check out the Ready Squirrel Article; Sprouts Are An Excellent Survival Food.

Grow Dry Beans In Your Survival Garden

If you plan on sprouting beans in a survival scenario, it is probably better to start collecting beans from garden plantings because it is a sustainable way to avoid running out of beans to plant or sprout.

You can sprout beans from your long-term storage if they are viable and haven’t been irradiated.

Grow Dry Beans For Storage and Gardening

Plant non-hybrid seeds, grow plants, and collect the seeds annually.

Dry and store some of your harvests for sprouting and for next year’s garden. That way, you will always have viable bean seeds to sprout, plant, and harvest for eating fresh or canning.

MI Gardener: How to Save Bean Seeds

Learn How to Save Bean Seeds

Dried Beans: Flour

Another excellent use for dried beans in long-term storage is to grind them into flour. Good if beans are old and tough or as a protein supplement with wheat flour.

Use a Grain Mill to Make Flour From Beans

I just purchased a Country Living grain mill to grind wheat berries. I haven’t received it yet, but I think it will be a game-changer giving me the ability to make flour from grain and beans.

The downside was I had to buy a special auger to mill larger stuff like dried beans and dent corn.

If you plan on milling beans to flour, make sure your mill has the capability and/or you have the attachment.

What Can I do with Bean Flour?

Bean flour is an overlooked survival food. It contains 21 to 27% protein by volume and can be used as a backup or supplement for wheat stores.

Combine bean and wheat flour to bake bread, you get a full Protein. Not to mention, bean flour makes some quick dips for things like crackers, bread, and fresh produce.

Ready Squirrel

11 Uses For Bean Flour

I haven’t made any of this stuff yet, but I will when I get my mill.

  • Make gluten-free bread, crackers, tortillas, pizza dough, biscuits, cream soups, bean dips, gravies, and tamales.
  • As a thickener for soups, stews
  • As a protein additive.

8 Dry beans for flour

Chickpeas, Navy beans, Fava Beans, Black Beans, White beans, White kidney beans, Lentils, and Green Peas.

8 Reasons Dried Beans are Excellent for Making Flour

One of the first things I’m going to do with my new mill is grinding pinto beans into flour for homemade bean dip. 8 reasons beans are excellent for making flour.

  1. Easier to hand grind than wheat
  2. Bean Flour gives a feeling of fullness
  3. Gluten-free
  4. Dried Beans last decades longer than wheat flour
  5. Add Protein to soups and stews.
  6. Add protein to vegetarian dishes like vegetable fritters from your survival garden.
  7. Quickly make cream soups and dips
  8. Use as a substitute or to stretch wheat flour

Dried beans vs canned: Shelf Life

Dried beans are the better choice for the bulk of your long-term storage. Not only because they are more flexible but also because they can be predictably stored for so long.

The shelf-life of properly stored dried beans with less than 10% moisture, stored in a cool, dry location in a sealed Mylar bag with an oxygen absorber, is 30 years. The expected shelf life of a can of beans is indeterminate.

Canned beans: Best if used by date

Some preppers use the best if-used-by date on a can of beans to determine when they are no longer edible, but the “best by date” isn’t an expiration date.

There are no hard and fast rules on canned bean shelf-life. Choose dried beans over canned ones for long-term storage. You can generally determine how long they will last if stored properly.

Ask yourself, “what’s the shelf life of a can of beans?” The answer, “they go bad when they go bad.”

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.

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 inedible.

  1. A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  2. A “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for the best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date and is not required by law.
  3. A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for a product’s use 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.

Read the entire USDA document concerning Food Product Dating. See the link under resources at the end of this article.

10 Signs That Canned Beans Have Gone Bad

Avoid using cans of beans that show any of the following signs:

  1. Leaking or stained
  2. Swollen
  3. Rust
  4. Badly Dented
  5. Cracked
  6. Foul Odors
  7. Missing or loose lids
  8. Meat in the can has a change in color or odor
  9. When in doubt, throw it out
  10. Don’t taste-test meat you are not sure of

How to soften dry beans

One drawback to cooking dried beans compared to canned ones is that they take so long to cook. Also, as beans age, they may get tough, especially if they aren’t stored properly. Try using Baking Soda to Soften them up and salt to quicken cook times.

Baking Soda Trick To Soften Tough Dried Beans

In a study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), adding sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in pre-soak water and/or cooking water reduces cooking time and the toughness of beans. Add 1 tsp per 3 cups of water to soften and speed up cooking time.

The more baking soda used, the quicker beans will cook and soften but use too much, your beans will have an off-flavor and become mushy.

Grind Beans Into Flour: Make flour with tough old beans when all else fails.

Add Salt To Dried Beans. They Cook Faster

Some cooks say adding salt to beans before cooking makes them tough, but according to the United States Department of Agriculture, dry beans cook quicker when salt is added to the cooking water because it breaks down the bean’s tough outer coating.

I’ve cooked beans with and without salt, and I can’t tell the difference.


Ultimately, it would be best to have both canned and dry beans in emergency storage. Canned beans are excellent for short-term emergencies; they are more convenient and take fewer resources to make an edible meal. Dried beans are preferred for long-term bulk storage because they are less expensive, more flexible, and have a longer shelf-life.

Stay Salty.

Best Regards, Scott

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