5 reasons to cook with dried beans

Health December 2, 2011

Dry Beans

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 BPAa 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?



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  • Kalyn December 2, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Great post. You know I’m a huge fan of beans. And thanks for the shout-out for my post on cooking beans in a slow cooker!

  • Nicole @WholeHealthRD December 2, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Yay! So happy to see someone else on the dried bean bandwagon. I’ve been exploring heirloom varieties all year. Rancho Gordo has an awesome cookbook. I like to simmer soaked beans with smashed garlic cloves covered by 2 inches of water. I just keep an eye on the water level and let it cook down at the end. So good!

  • Nour Zibdeh, RD December 2, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    I cook beans too for all the reasons you mention. I soak them overnight–this way they don’t take too long to cook while simmering. I tried cooking them in a pressure cooker. It was fine if you want to mash them or add them to soup but they were a bit more mushy. My son really loves them firm and whole and that’s how I like them for salads. I don’t know how to master that yet.

  • Chuck Bluestein December 3, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    The Eden beans are the only ones where they do not add salt. They only add seaweed that is healthy for you. But they do cost almost twice as much as other cans. I keep dry beans and also have a solw cooker. But it is a pain having to soak them and cook them a long time.

    So it mostly comes down to money. Salt is not a food and is 40% sodium. A teaspoon of salt has more sodium than a hundred pounds of unprocessed foods like dry beans! I do not add salt to my food. But I do add garlic, cayenne and many other spices.

  • Krista Swan December 3, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I love my slow cooker, so I’m going to try cooking some beans in there!

  • Megan December 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    I love Rancho Gordo beans, too. It is important to buy from places with high turnover. If the beans are too old, they will never get tender. I never have to cook Rancho Gordo beans for very long (usually under an hour after a four hour soak), because they are so much fresher than a lot of other brands on the market. I haven’t tried the Bob’s Red Mill brand yet, but I would bet those would also be good. Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is a great resource for info on different kinds of beans and for delicious recipes.

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  • Rev. Criss December 5, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Plan ahead and sprout the beans.

    You don’t need to sprout them long…just enough that you can see tiny stems appearing. Here’s how:

    I use canning jars with screen lids, so I can rinse, soak and sprout in one container.

    Rinse the beans, and soak (4 hours for lentils, 8-12 hours for chickpeas and other beans).

    Then rinse and drain every 8-12 hours (i.e. morning noon & night or just morning and night) until you see sprouts appear(longer for sandwiches or stirfry, but you will have to rinse to get the shell casing off). Then cook as usual. I have done this for hummus, lentil soup, mung sprouts for stir fry, etc.

    Why? Beans and seeds are made dormant through an enzyme that locks up the nutritional goodness in the bean or seed. Soaking it wakes it up, it thinks it is spring, and the seed wants to release the nutrition to make a plant! That makes it food for us.

    You don’t have to wait to see sprouts form…soaking is enough, but if they don’t sprout, you want a better dried bean source…they are old or treated in a way that kills the seed. So I sprout each batch at least once to see if they are good.

    Don’t overfill your jar, though…the beans can expand significantly, so I fill maybe 1/4 of the jar…less for mung bean sprouts. A little goes a very long way!

    Once sprouted, dry as much as possible, lid and refrigerate or cook as usual and freeze.

    Start with sprouted whole lentils, they are so easy to sprout! 4 hour soak, and in a house with a normal temperature you will have sprouted beans the next day.

    Make sure to watch them more closely in summer or damp weather…rinse more often in case of mold. And use temperate or lukewarm water to speed it up….there is a lot of online info on sprouting.

  • Darcie-such the spot December 5, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    I cook with dry beans fairly regularly. Not only for the reasons you mentioned above, but also because they taste so much better than the canned ones. I almost always use my crock pot, but I have done the stove top method as well. I never thought of doing it ahead of time and freezing them though. I’ll definitely have to try that as it would be a lifesaver on those occasions when I forget to soak them ahead of time or pop them into the crock pot in the morning.

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    I cook with dried beans – but only just recently started. Growing up I always thought we had to put them in water to soak at night – and for some reason that stuck in my head. Once I finally allowed myself to get the beans soaking as soon as it occurred to me – like at lunch time while I’m usually prepping other food for the next 24 hours – I use them much more!!

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  • Cristy December 8, 2011 at 5:29 am

    Thanks for the information! I had no idea there was a difference (other than cost) and will definitely start cooking with dried beans… After soaking & sprouting them, of course.

    • inspiredrd December 8, 2011 at 8:02 pm

      Glad you could be inspired Cristy! Let me know how your bean-cooking goes.

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