How to Prepare Recipe-Ready Beans for the Freezer

Guest Post by Janelle from Gluten Freely Frugal

It’s a cool winter evening, and you think to yourself, “a bean soup would be so delicious and economical right now”. You hunt for some bean recipes in your slow cooker cookbook, but they all call for canned beans, or dried beans that have been soaked for a day.

No canned beans in the pantry, or the wrong kind. Bummer, move on to Plan B.

Sound familiar?

If you are committed to being frugal, beans can be your best friend. And dried beans are much more economical even than canned beans, plus they have the added benefit of being gluten-free.

Unfortunately, they are also rather inconvenient. I find that by the time I make up my mind to make something with beans, it is too late to begin the process of soaking and softening. And I still find canned beans to be too expensive.

Solution: Freeze your beans.

Did you know that could be done? I didn’t, until I read an article in Gluten Free Living Magazine about preparing beans.

I have greatly modified their recipe to due a much larger quantity, and have modified cook times. It is not terribly labor intensive, but spans a pretty long period of time while you’re doing other things, so pick a day you’ll be home for a few hours.

Here’s how to make Recipe-Ready Beans for your freezer:

1. Find a big pot. I use an enormous soup pot. Bring 9 quarts of water to a boil. Do not add salt; it keeps the beans from softening. Rinse six cups of beans in cold water.  After the water has reached a boil, add the beans.  Boil at a rolling boil for about 3 minutes.

2. Remove from the heat and let the beans soak for an hour.

3. Return to the heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the beans are soft.  It took mine about 2 hours (they were small black beans). Many things can affect how long it takes, including the type, the size, and the age. Older beans tend to take longer to soften.

4. When they are soft enough, package in 2-cup containers (that is the approximate size of a can, so it’s recipe -ready!) You can add some salt now if you want to, and leave them in their liquid.

Now, next time you have a recipe that calls for beans, you can easily thaw out a container from your freezer, at a fraction of the cost.

I ended up paying about $0.80 for 6 cups of dried black beans at the discount store (you could do any kind, though). I got six pints of beans out of this recipe, which equals about $0.13 per “can”.

Now that’s frugal!

Janelle is wife to Brad, who is celiac, and mom to 2 sweet girls, one of whom is celiac. She blogs about the gluten free life on a budget, including coupons, deals, recipes, and other money-saving tips at Gluten Freely Frugal.

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Comments

  1. says

    We do this. It’s so great to have beans at the ready. I hide them in baked goods for my gluten-free boy too and he’s none the wiser!

  2. Kayla P says

    I just made and froze some today for the first time, but I didn’t leave any liquid in with them…. is that okay?

    • Monica says

      I do this all the time. However, today I was home for a few hours and cooked half the amount I usually do, so I cooked them over the stovetop.

  3. Rachel says

    Do you find that those containers work well for freezing? I have been looking for containers to freeze food in rather than the bags.

    • Julie says

      Never tried any of these ideas yet but would love to find out how to do the beans in the crock pot, could you tell me directions?

      Thankyou so much, this will so help out with our family of 6

  4. Monica says

    I soak my beans overnight, rinse the next morning and cook them on the stovetop/or crockpot for about 3-4 hours on medium heat. I guess everyones cooking method will vary.

  5. says

    The one downside to this is that you really have to plan ahead to use them. I like using canned beans for those impromtu lunches and dinners. Frozen beans are just too much of a hassle for me because of the time it takes to thaw them.

    • Heather says

      I freeze mine in bags, and they defrost quicker that way, as they are in a thin layer (which you can whack to break up) instead of in a big lump.

    • Kym says

      I just soak the container in water and they defrost pretty quickly! But I also keep a few canned beans around for if I run out.

    • Megan says

      I pop the container in the microwave for a few minutes on the defrost setting. (Just make sure to loosen the lid first.) It’s so much easier than opening a can, getting out a colander, draining and rinsing. Plus, I can prep other ingredients while the microwave is working it’s magic.

    • Erika says

      I usually freeze some of mine in a bag in a thin layer–or even on a cookie sheet and bag once they’re frozen–so I can just grab a scoop or a handful for quesadillas or something like that. I typically rinse them to defrost them a little–but if they’re going into a soup or quesadillas, it’s not that big of a deal if they are still cold.

  6. Natalie says

    I cook beans in a crock pot overnight. I rinse 2 cups of dried beans, put them in the pot, add water until about 2 inches from the top. I set it on low before bed and by morning they are done!

  7. says

    I have often wondered what type of beans the canned baked beans typically use. we go through tons of the Campbell baked beans and I have often thought of making my own, but there are so many variety of beans out there.

    Also, I was enjoying this post but was even more excited when I got to the end and saw that it was written by my good friend Janelle. I am so glad that you are hosting her posts here. She is an awesome gal.

  8. says

    I’m another crockpot user when it comes to cooking beans. Never thought of freezing them though – but it’s a brilliant idea! Then you’ll always have cooked beans on hand.

  9. deseray says

    I follow this almost exactly, except for draining the beans after the first soak. Then I start with new water and cook them until soft.

  10. WilliamB says

    My solution to the timing problem of dried beans is to use a pressure cooker. It takes longer than opening a can – about 10 min from bag to bowl – but is still very quick and very cheap.

    I really, strongly recommend not cooking the beans in the same water that you soak them in. Doing so tends to give even the most bean-accustomed gas.

    Cook’s Illustrated recommends soaking the beans in salted water, so they get creamy. Since CI is compulsively thorough in their testing, I’m inclined to agree.

    Kristen Brandsema Lowery, baked beans are usually made from white or navy beans. Molasses is what gives them their characteristic flavor.

  11. Jennifer W says

    Please, please, make sure that you boil the beans for at least 10 minutes. Especially red kidney beans. They have a natural plant toxin – Phytohaemagglutinin – that can cause severe intestinal problems, and the toxin needs to be broken down by high heat to be safe. Read it for real at the FDA website – http://www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/foodborneillness/foodborneillnessfoodbornepathogensnaturaltoxins/badbugbook/ucm071092.htm

    I use this “freezer bean” method all of the time – but I rapidly boil beans for 10-15 minutes, then cover and leave in the pot with the heat turned off for 1 hour. This “precooks” the beans 3/4 done and they only take about 30 minutes more simmering when I am ready to add them to my soup, casserole, chili, etc. Just spread them on a cookie sheet, pat dry, and freeze. When they are frozen, take them off the pan, break them up a bit, and throw into a gallon ziplock bag. Scoop out however much you need. Super easy!

  12. Brandi says

    Does anyone know if you can can them in a water bath instead of freezing? I have limited freezer space and although I don’t have a pressure cooker, I have realized you can hot water bath to seal lids on a couple things.

    • Kate says

      Definitely not. Beans are low acid. You can only hot water bath can acidic foods like fruit or vinegary things that have a high enough % of acid. You can PRESSURE can beans, but you must follow approved directions. Just because the lid is sealed doesn’t mean that the food inside is safe to eat. Botulism (the toxin that grows in improperly canned food) is tasteless and has no smell. It’s a really bad way to die.

      • Brandi says

        Ok, thanks. I will freeze some, just can’t freeze many at a time, but I guess that is better than none at all :)

  13. Betsy says

    Save time and reduce the gasiness by using a pressure cooker. Graham Kerr gave instructions in his Mini Max cookbook 20 years ago. I’ve been cooking them this way ever since. Kerr suggests bringing 1 cup beans to a boil in 2 cups water, then pull them off the heat, cover, and letting them sit for an hour. Then drain the beans, and follow your pressure cooker’s instructions for cooking dried beans. I put the cooked beans in zipper bags and freeze them. The result: salt-free, gas-free beans.

    • Courtney says

      I don’t presoak them when I use my pressure cooker. I put in two cups of dried beans (usually black or white), fill it up halfway, then bring to high pressure. Let cook for 20 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the cooker lose pressure naturally.
      Result: no gas beans, in about 30 minutes.

  14. Amy says

    I freeze my beans, but because I have a big family, I cook them in my electric roaster, which is like a crock pot on steroids. Mine is 24 quarts (as compared to 5-7 quarts for a typical crock pot). I can cook 6-7 pounds of dried beans at once, and then I freeze them in meal-size portions in freezer bags. I freeze some in quart-size bags, for meals where beans are just one ingredient, and then I freeze in gallon-size bags for meals that feature beans. But I’m a mom of 4 boys (soon to be 5), and we have 2 extra young men who live with us, so I go through A LOT of beans.

    Sometimes I turn them into baked beans before I freeze them. I use navy beans when I do it, and they turn out really well. However, my usual baked bean recipe also is interesting with pinto beans and black beans. It’s not typical, but it’s yummy and people tend to like their beans that way.

  15. says

    I do this all the time.

    To make them even cheaper, I buy my beans in bulk in 25 pound bags for .65 a pound (instead of $1.25 a pound).

    I just freeze them in Ziploc freezer bags.

    You can also cook them in a pressure cooker with no presoaking. They take about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the type of beans. I’ll cook about 5 cups at a time this way, and then I have 10 cups of beans (since they double in size) . We eat some that day and freeze the rest in bags.

  16. Julie says

    I do this quite a bit, but I also have done it just after soaking them BEFORE the cooking part. It works wonders even with that step out of the way. As a side note, salt does not keep the beans from softening, it is acid (like tomatoes) that keep them from softening. Shirley Corriher, who is a noted food scientist, has said that salt actually helps to soften them and that soaking in salted water if you have very hard old beans will help to soften even those.

  17. Angela says

    I freeze mine packed flat in freezer ziplocks and it takes no time at all to thaw using the microwave or hot water.

  18. Rachael says

    I have been wanting to do this since we usually use canned beans. Thanks for the post!

  19. Anna says

    I have to chime in here because I’ve been freezing beans for a couple months now, and it’s great. I use pint mason jars and put about 1.5 cups of beans in them, covered with liquid. This makes it the same quantity as a storebought can of beans, and interchangeable in recipes.

    If I have my act together I defrost them in the fridge the day before; if not, I just set the mason jar in a pan of simmering water for a few minutes while I prep dinner. I bet the microwave would work too.

    Okay, my last bean-related comment. I tried cooking beans in the oven for the first time today they were SO good. There was a whole new depth of flavor, and the texture was perfect. I think they’ll hold up even better to freezer storage this way.

    • Jessica says

      I am so glad that someone mentioned baking beans in the oven. My life fairly changed when I started using the 90-minute no-soak bean recipe at http://thepauperedchef.com/node/423. Some beans do take longer than 90 minutes, but it’s still faster and more reliable than soaking and cooking on the stove top!

  20. Anna says

    Oh, and I forgot to mention that a huge plus to the oven method is that you don’t have to soak the beans first. They were done in about an hour and 15 minutes, start to finish. And did I mention that they were delicious?!

  21. says

    I’ve done this and love it! Plus you have the added benefit of avoiding canned food— all cans, “tin” or aluminum soda cans– are lined with BPA. Yuck! I wish they’d start making tomato sauce in jars more available, since that’s the worst BPA offender!

  22. says

    I prep beans in my rice cooker on the soup setting and have really good results. Cooking on that setting and then letting the beans soak for, oh, an hour or so usually takes care of it and then they’re easy to freeze or us as needed.

  23. Stephanie says

    I have been doing this for a long time but instead of cooking the beans on the stovetop I cook them in the slow cooker so I do not have to pay attention to them all the time. It is easy and done with just a few minutes of my time.

  24. says

    I’m not sure if if was mentioned, but don’t put any tomato products in the beans until they are as soft as you want them to be. The acid will keep them from getting any softer.

    Also, has anyone here makind their own canned beans in a pressure canner? I’m hoping to do some and was wondering how they’ved turned out.

  25. Melissa says

    After I cook the beans, I freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and then scrape them off and put into plastic bags. That way, I can just take out what I need for each recipe and they don’t clump together.

  26. Faith says

    I use a pressure canner to can beans by the quart. Wash beans and fill jars no more than 1/3 full. That doesnt seem like much in the jar, but if you do more they will be packed to tighly you can hardly remove them from the jar! Add 1 tsp. salt. Cover with water and pressure can for 35 min. at 15 lb. pressure. This is for high altitude, so if you’re not high altitude you may be able to do less pounds of pressure.
    If I’m canning something else and the canner isn’t full, I’ll throw in a few jars of beans just to fill up the canner. I have cooked them for 75 minutes and they’re fine too!

  27. Faith says

    Just a clarification.* Cover with water means ‘ fill jars with water’ NOT cover jars in canner with water! :)

  28. says

    I do this too with dried organic beans from the Whole Foods bulk bins. I freeze my beans flat in a ziploc bag so they don’t take up much room in the freezer.

    Mary Ellen
    The Working Home Keeper

  29. Erin says

    I never cared for dried beans because no matter how long I cooked them, they were still gritty inside, whereas canned beans have an unctuous, creamy interior. Then I read Cook’s Illustrated recommendation to brine dried beans in salt water, and it changed everything. Now dried beans are as delicious as canned. Whenever I’m running low on beans, I just toss a bag to soak with about 3 tablespoons of salt. The next day, I rinse, drain, and simmer in plain water. It usually takes about an hour to an hour and a half, I think. Then I drain them well and freeze them in a jellyroll pan. When they are frozen, bang the pan gently on the counter to break them up, and freeze in plastic bags. They thaw in no time. We eat a lot more beans these days because they come out so well!

    • Johanna says

      To know how dry beans are completely cooked, take a spoon full of them on blow on them. If they start breaking apart and you can see the inside of them, that’s when they’re ready

  30. anon says

    You can quick-soak dried beans too. Boil em for 5 minutes at a hard boil, then cover and set aside for an hour.

  31. Jessica says

    Does anyone have any suggestions on how to make not so “disruptive” to the digestive system? If you cook your own, is it better than canned?

  32. Luana says

    The dried beans taste so much better than the canned! Recently, in a pinch, I used a can of garbanzo beans. They had no taste and were mushy. I’d so much rather use dried.

  33. Johanna says

    In Dominican Republic we rarely buy canned beans. Dry beans taste 100% better than canned beans and are preservative-free. We soak them overnight for a quicker cooking time but that’s the only reason. Using the slow cooker would be like soaking them overnight and you don’t even noticed the time that it took to cook them. Once cooked, you can divide them into batches on plastic containers or even in ziplock bags and freeze them. Make sure to leave some of the water from when you cooked them. Not only they taste better but all the vitamins are in that water, so don’t throw away the water; save it and make your recipes with it. We have been using dry beans instead of canned for long decades!!! Taste better and it’s way cheaper than canned ones!

  34. Johanna says

    To know how dry beans are completely cooked, take a spoon full of them on blow on them. If they start breaking apart and you can see the inside of them, that’s when they’re ready

  35. susan says

    im vegan so beans are a must have, always prefere the dried beans to canned. cuban black bean recipe is the best made with a side dish of my coconut rice,

    use basmanti rice and add about 1/3 cup of coco-real coconut cream to your rice before you cook it(coco real is available in the bartending ing. in most supermarts.)