- To store dry beans long-term use either airtight containers, vacuum sealing, food-grade buckets, mason jars, mylar bags, or your freezer.
- Properly storing dried beans in ideal storage conditions can push their shelf life to 25 to 30+ years.
- You can improve the shelf life of dried beans by adding oxygen absorbers in combination with your preferred storage method.
Dry beans are an excellent addition to any food storage stockpile given their prolonged shelf life, but how do you store them long-term?
To store dry beans long-term use either airtight containers, vacuum sealing, food-grade buckets, mason jars, mylar bags, or your freezer. Properly storing dried beans in ideal storage conditions can push their shelf life to 25 to 30+ years.
After extensively researching food storage preparation, I have gathered enough information to determine how to store beans long-term. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the best ways to maximize the shelf life of beans to help you optimize your food storage system.
Which Dry Beans Are Best for Long-Term Storage?
Creating a reliable food storage system is all about finding goods that are guaranteed to last. Dried beans have traditionally been one of the best items that you can incorporate into a stockpile, as they are a great source of nutrients and can last for decades if you store them properly.
With that said, one of the biggest decisions you will have to make when storing dried beans is deciding which beans you want to add to your system. Although most dry beans are great for long-term storage, I’ve found that some are considerably better than others, especially if you are thinking in decades and not years. Consider adding the following dried beans to your stockpile:
- Pinto Beans
- Black Beans
- Split Peas
- Garbanzo Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Soy Beans
- Navy Beans
How Long Can Dry Beans Be Stored?
Preppers and survivalists tend to prioritize dried beans in their stockpiles over most other food items. This dynamic food is loaded with essential nutrients and it can be used in so many different meals to add flavor and substance to your cooking.
However, it’s the shelf life of dried beans that truly makes this such a key item for long-term food storage. Properly stored dried beans can last for decades, with many preppers achieving a shelf life of 25+. If you are looking for a food item that can last, dried beans should be at the top of your list.
Provided there is no contamination in your storage system and the container stays sealed, dried beans can potentially have an indefinite shelf life. What’s more likely to occur is that the quality of the dried beans begins to deteriorate after 25 years, but they should still be safe to eat.
How to Store Dry Beans Long Term
There are more people prepping and storing food than ever before. With a series of major global events occurring in recent years, there has never been a better time to be prepared for the worst.
One of the best ways to do this is to create a long-term food storage system that you can count on in case of an emergency. Any prepper or survivalist will tell you that beans are a mandatory item for any food storage system since they can potentially last decades. While canned beans may be tempting, you want to stick with dried beans to make them last as long as possible.
However, when checking the label on the original packaging, you will likely see a shelf life that is only around 6 months to 2 years. The reason for this is that most sellers assume consumers will store their dried beans in the pantry without additional food storage preparation.
The truth is that you can greatly improve the shelf-life of dry beans by storing them in ideal conditions that will eliminate or, at the very least, prevent chances of contamination.
There are a number of food storage approaches that you can implement to maximize the shelf life of dried beans. You need to consider the quantity of dried beans you want to store, as well as how long you want them to last to determine which shelf life suits your system best.
Air Tight Containers (3+ years)
Airtight containers are a practical and logical approach for many households. Airtight containers are cheap and easy to use, and you likely already have some laying around at home.
When you buy your dried beans at grocery stores, you should always empty them out of their original plastic bags and pour them into a more reliable container. Most airtight containers are made out of quality BPA-free plastic and are a great option for storing dried beans for around 3+ years.
While this may not give your dried beans the most prolonged shelf life possible, it is the most straightforward approach. In addition, 3 years is the minimum that you should expect your beans to last in airtight containers, provided you handled the beans properly beforehand.
If you want to improve the shelf life of your dried beans with this storage method, add an oxygen absorber to the airtight container before sealing it. An oxygen absorber combined with an airtight container should give your dried beans a shelf life of roughly 5+ years.
Vacuum Sealed (5+ years)
Vacuum sealing technology has been widely used among preppers. This is a safe and reliable way to store food for anyone looking to improve the shelf life of their dried beans, especially if you already have a vacuum sealer at home.
This method involves placing your dried beans inside a pouch to have the oxygen removed with a vacuum sealer. The vacuum sealer will remove oxygen, significantly lowering the chances of contamination down the line.
If you correctly vacuum seal your dried beans, you should be able to make them last at least 5 years in the right storage conditions. The one thing you want to make sure of is that you buy good quality vacuum sealer bags. Cheap bags have notoriously allowed in air and moisture over time, which can easily contaminate all of your dried beans.
Food Grade Buckets (10+ years)
Food-grade buckets are great for storing beans if you want to maximize quantity. If your bean storage requires a lot of space and you have a lot of dried beans to pack away, a food-grade bucket may be the most practical solution for your system.
Unlike most other storage methods, which are often limited to 1-gallon container sizes or less, food-grade buckets can be purchased in 5-gallon sizes. This greatly improves how many dried beans you can store in a single container, making the process of packing up your goods much more efficient.
It’s important to use buckets that are ‘Food-Grade’ and not just any regular bucket. In addition, the bucket needs to have an airtight lid that seals for the shelf life to be guaranteed. Dried beans kept in a food-grade bucket should last for at least 10+ years.
Much like with the other storage methods that I covered, adding an oxygen absorber to the food-grade bucket before sealing it, will secure the 10-year shelf life of your dried beans and potentially even increase it.
Mason Jars (5 to 30+ years)
Mason jars are a classic food storage solution that’s been utilized for over a century. These glass containers are as reliable now as ever, making them a popular choice among preppers.
With that said, the shelf life of your dried beans in a mason jar or glass jar can greatly vary depending on how they are stored. Naturally, you should be keeping them in an ideal storage location, but what is equally as important is that you vacuum seal the mason jars after adding your dried beans.
Vacuum-sealing a glass jar can make your dried beans last 25 to 30+ years. Whereas storing dry beans in mason jars without vacuum sealing will likely result in them lasting around 5 to 10+ years. Alternatively, if you don’t have a vacuum sealer, oxygen absorbers are great for adding to mason jars.
Just make sure to keep your glass jar in a safe and dark place, as they are very fragile and let in a lot of sunlight. The plus side is that they can prevent insect infestation, as glass jars cannot be penetrated by pests.
Mylar Bag + Oxygen Absorber (10 to 30+ years)
The ultimate solution for virtually all of your food storage needs is mylar bags. This convenient, versatile, and user-friendly plastic bag has been a game-changer for food storage systems, given how effective they are at maximizing the shelf life of items.
By using mylar bags, you can easily make your dried beans last at least 10+ years. However, if you add oxygen absorbers to the mylar bags, you can increase the shelf life of your dried beans to 25 to 30+ years.
A mylar bag will prevent any oxygen from entering and they are usually designed with a reflective material that doesn’t allow sunlight inside. By properly storing dried beans in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, they can potentially have an indefinite shelf life.
What is much more likely to happen is after 20 to 25 years the dried beans will lose their flavor. At this point, they should still be safe to eat but may not offer the same vitamins and nutrients as before.
Freezer (30+ years or Indefinite)
If you want your dried beans to last as long as possible, there is no better way to do it than in your freezer. Getting the dried beans down to a temperature below freezing will secure their shelf life for at least 30 years or indefinitely.
Freezing is a very reliable storage solution for a lot of preppers, but certainly not all. You need to keep in mind that your freezer needs to be running the entire time and the beans still need to be packaged in air-tight containers.
If you have the freezer space and can guarantee that you will have power in case of an emergency, the freezer is the best place to store dry beans long-term.
How to Tell if Dry Beans Have Gone Bad
Dry beans have a prolonged shelf life, but you should expect them to go bad eventually. This can be quite common if dried beans were not stored correctly and were exposed to some form of contamination.
With that said, the last position you want to find yourself in is opening up your food stockpile only to find that all of your beans have gone bad. That is why you should always check to see if your dry beans are safe to eat before you consume them.
This may not be as obvious as dealing with fresh food items which become noticeably rancid quite quickly. Make sure to check for the following signs to tell if your dry beans have gone bad.
Once dried beans are contaminated, they will start to get moldy. However, given how slowly dry beans go bad, you need to keep an eye out for early signs of mold.
Dry beans usually develop spots and smears of discoloration when the first signs of mold become apparent. As the mold gets worse, it will become more obvious, with blatant discoloration and visibly broken beans.
A foul smell is not the first thing that you should detect when you open up your dried beans. In general, dried beans should have a very neutral and indistinct smell.
If you notice a rancid odor coming from your dried beans, you may also see other signs such as mold developing. As soon as you notice a foul smell, it’s safe to say that the dried beans are no longer good and should be thrown out.
It can be easy to confuse old, discolored beans with mold. While beans certainly have a long shelf life, they will start to lose their quality over time. If they were stored properly, you should not notice any signs for years or even decades.
However, after a while, the older beans will lose their color and appear more faded. This does not necessarily mean that the beans are bad or that mold is present. It simply implies that the older beans are past their prime and will likely not be as nutrient-dense as they once were.
With that said, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between aging and mold to ensure that you do not get food poisoning. As a general rule of thumb, if you have any doubts, it’s probably best to toss out the beans.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker