Beans are a nutritious and very versatile food, high in fiber, protein and B vitamins, and low in fat and calories. For a long time now, I have wanted to dive into cooking with dried beans. I’m not sure what held me back except that I wondered about the planning of it all, and it seemed like a lot of work. Not to mention the infamous story about my grandmother and the time her pressure cooker blew beans all over the ceiling. After being diagnosed with celiac disease, I realized that it can be difficult to find certified gluten-free canned beans, especially at Sprouts where I do most of my grocery shopping. Now seemed like the perfect time to give it a go. And you know what? It’s so easy! Now I’m boiling up a storm and stocking my freezer with all kinds of beans. If you are hesitant like I was, read on for 5 reasons to cook with dried beans.
1. Avoid BPA – a recent study showed that people who ate a 12 oz. portion of canned vegetable soup every day for 5 days, experienced over a 1000% increase in urinary BPA compared to those who ate fresh vegetable soup. So eating one can of soup for only 5 days made their BPA levels skyrocket. Why should this concern us? BPA has been linked to an increased cancer risk, decreased fertility, weight problems, behavioral issues in kids…the list goes on and on. I don’t know about you, but I want to limit my family’s exposure to BPA as much as possible. One way I can do this is to stop buying canned beans. There are a few brands that are now BPA-free including Eden Organic, but they can sometimes be more expensive which leads me into reason number two.
2. Save Money – A 1 lb bag of dried beans will yield about 8 cups of cooked beans. If we take an average price $1.29 per 1 lb bag and $1.89 per BPA-free can (each can contains a little less than 2 cups), you will save approximately $6.27 each time you boil a bag of beans. For me, that means more money to spend on organic produce or higher quality meats.
3. Be Prepared for Healthy Meals – When you have a stash of frozen beans on hand, putting a healthy meal together is easy. They thaw in a few minutes under warm water or you can just throw frozen beans into your soup or stir-fry. You get high quality protein in less time than it would take to order a pizza.
4. Control Sodium and Other Seasonings – Cooking dried beans from scratch means that you get to control the amount of sodium and other ingredients that will be added to the pot. Most of our sodium intake comes from processed foods, and consuming high amounts day in and day out can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke or kidney problems. Canned beans can be very high in sodium, and pre-seasoned beans or canned soups can contain questionable ingredients. When cooking dried beans, try adding in your own flavors with onions, garlic and cumin. Get creative!
5. Allergy Free – Like I mentioned, it can be hard to find allergy-free canned beans sometimes. When you cook with dried beans, you control what touches them. Make sure to look at the back of the package to check for an allergy statement. Some brands warn that they are processed in a facility with soy or wheat. There are many brands that are gluten-free, including Safeway, Arrowhead Mills, Rancho Gordo, and Laura Lynn (Ingles Markets). If you know of any more, please let me know. As always, the best way to confirm that a product is gluten-free and not contaminated is to contact the company directly. Also, if you have allergies or celiac disease, avoid bulk bins and buy bagged beans instead.
So, how do you cook them? I follow these instructions, then I portion the cooled beans into small bags and freeze (Ziploc and Saran bags are BPA-free).
If you want to use your slow-cooker, you can check out Kalyn’s instructions.
So far I have been pleased by the taste and texture of the dried beans, and they hold up to freezing very well. I hope you try it if you haven’t already!
Do you ever cook with dried beans? Why or why not?
Do you have any tips to share with newbies like me?