Some say dry beans stay good for decades if you store them properly; others say they are inedible after five years. So what is the shelf life of dried beans?
It depends on how you store them. They don't last as long in your pantry as in a special container for food preservation.
In your pantry, dried beans last for three or four years in their original packaging. If you use special methods to store them for longer, many types of beans are still good after 25 or 30 years. They don't quite have an indefinite shelf life, but they last a long time.
Like other foods, you can use oxygen absorbers to keep them from going bad. If you put oxygen absorbers (small packages containing iron that absorbs oxygen) inside of an airtight container, almost all of the oxygen will disappear from the air. If you store dry beans in this oxygen-free container, they can easily last for decades.
If you have a large collection of dry beans for an emergency or for any other reason, you can keep them from going bad for many years. I have tried dried beans that I stored for over ten years, and they were still good. You only need to store, soak, and cook them properly.
Are Dry Beans Inedible After 5-7 Years?
Some say that dry beans can never last for a decade or more because they will be so hard and chewy that you can't eat them. In my experience, this isn't true at all - if you store, soak, and cook them properly, beans can last more than a decade. They can still taste good and be soft after long-term storage.
Some Types of Beans Last Longer than Others
Pinto beans are one of the best choices if you want to keep beans good for much more than a decade. If you store them properly, they might still be very good after twenty years.
There might be a metallic taste if they were stored in a metal container for that long. However, the taste will go away if you rinse/soak the beans before you use them. Pinto beans can still be delicious after much more than five or seven years.
How to Store Dry Beans
Without any special treatment, dry beans may still last three or four years. If you don't need them to last any longer than that, simply leave them in your pantry in their original packaging.
However, dry beans won't last five, ten, or twenty years in your pantry without special care. You need to prevent bugs from growing by protecting your dry beans from moisture and air.
Oxygen helps food degrade, so limiting exposure to oxygen is one of the best ways to preserve it. You can buy containers that let you easily pump out the air and create a vacuum. These can be as simple as airtight plastic containers with valves at the top that let you pump the air out.
You can get containers that either has built-in pumps or come with pumps you can attach to the container's valves. Not all containers are very high-quality. The air might leak into a low-quality container over time.
Airtight Containers and Oxygen Absorbers
You don't always need containers with pumps. Many people use airtight containers that can't be vacuum sealed.
You can put oxygen-absorbing packets into an airtight container. These packets do not create a vacuum, but they do remove the oxygen from the air. Without oxygen, most bacteria cannot grow and can't make your food go bad.
Getting rid of moisture is even more important than getting rid of oxygen. You can use moisture-absorbers to remove nearly all of the moisture from a sealed container. Mold can grow if there is a bit of moisture.
Dry Ice Treatment
Dry ice (frozen carbon monoxide) works wonders for food preservation if used right. You do not use dry ice to freeze your food but rather to remove oxygen from an airtight bucket. If you allow dry ice to evaporate (it will not melt; it goes straight from solid to gas), the carbon dioxide will push the oxygen out of the container.
The ticket is to put the dry ice in the bucket and then put the lid on loosely. If you put the lid on loosely, then air will be able to escape from the bucket.
The carbon dioxide gas will push the oxygen out of the bucket. After the carbon dioxide pushes the oxygen out, seal the airtight container properly.
Freezing, Thawing, and Refreezing
Sometimes, there can be insects in the packages of dried beans when you purchase them. Even a few tiny insect eggs can lead to insects ruining your food. There is no way to notice these tiny eggs.
If you first freeze your beans for a few days, then thaw them for one day, and then freeze them for a few more days, you will kill all of the bugs.
First, freezing them for a few days will kill any live insects. Then, thawing them for one day will let the insect eggs hatch. Another few days of freezing will kill the hatched insects, and they will never recover.
How to Cook Dried Beans After Long-Term Storage
One of the best ways to make beans taste good after long-term storage is to soak them in water for a long time. First, rinse the beans to eliminate any taste that the beans have acquired while in storage. Then, soak the beans for about four hours before you use them.
While four hours can sometimes be long enough, overnight is better. Make sure the water has time to soften the beans and make them tasty again.
Baking soda is another trick that can make beans taste great after many years. Add a small amount of baking soda to each bowl you thaw the beans in, and they will taste better.
How to Cook the Beans
I have tried cooking beans I stored for a long time using a few different methods, and they all worked from what I tried. Some work better than others, but none of the methods worked poorly.
Use a Pressure Cooker
A pressure cooker can give you nice, soft beans that don't taste like they are years old. Leave the pot closed after you finish cooking them to let the pressure release slowly.
Use a Regular Oven
Using a regular oven, whether propane or electric, is another option. The beans often turn out well if you cook them on a stove element and use a pot with a lid.
Use a Thermal Cooker
If you are storing dried beans for an emergency, you may have a thermal cooker. Thermal cookers work perfectly well. Finally, I have heard that slow cookers and instant pots also work.
Is a Pressure Cooker the Best Way?
Yes, if you have a pressure cooker, it is the best way to cook your beans. The pressure seems to soften the beans better than anything else.
Always make sure you soak the beans before you use them. Even with a pressure cooker, the beans will turn out badly if you don't soak them long enough.
Soften the Beans Before You Add Certain Ingredients
If you do everything slowly and patiently, you can often make stored beans tasty. The beans might be hard and chewy if you rush any of the steps.
You need to be patient about when you add other ingredients. It will taste better if you add tomatoes, salt, sugar, vinegar, or lemon juice after the beans have been fully softened.
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