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by the author of The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living and The Flat Broke Cookbook
When most people think about the cheapest, relatively nutritious food around, they think of beans and rice. A lot of folks stock up on canned beans, certain that dry beans are too much hassle and too time-consuming. But learning to cook dry beans from scratch can save you a ton of money if beans are a regular part of your diet.
Dry beans cost less per serving than canned beans. For example, a one-pound bag of dry pinto beans costs, on average, $1.79 and will make 12-½ cup servings of cooked beans, whereas a 15 oz. can of national brand pinto beans costs $1.69, a store brand can cost $1.19, and each provides 3.5-½ cup servings. This means that a serving of pinto beans made from dry beans costs just $0.15, while a serving of store-brand canned pinto beans costs $0.34, and the national brand costs $0.48. A family of four that eats beans once a week could save nearly $80 per year by choosing dry beans versus a national brand of canned beans.
Not only are you saving money, but if you are worried about sodium intake, you can completely control it when you cook beans from scratch at home.
As a born-and-raised Southerner, I’ve often turned my nose up at canned beans. The home-cooked version is just so much tastier and has a far better texture. Here’s everything I know about how to cook dried beans.
Sorting and Soaking
You can’t just dump beans from their plastic bag straight into your cooking pot. They have to be sorted and soaked first. If you skip these two steps, you’re likely to run into problems like weird rocks in your beans, bad flavors, and/or extremely long cooking times.
First, let’s talk about sorting. I always rinse my beans in a big colander before putting them in the pot to soak. Then, I simply relocate the beans 1-3 at a time into the pot. I’m looking for several different things I don’t want to include in my pot. First, I’m checking for beans that have gone bad – these can be identified easily because they’re wrinkled, small, shriveled, and discolored. Some have bug holes in them.
Secondly, I’m looking for things that don’t belong: twigs, tiny pebbles, even the occasional bug. You may think this is gross, but trust me, you are checking your beans far more carefully than the beans that ended up in your can from a factory.
Once I have my beans in the pot, it’s time to soak them. I generally soak them overnight, but using this method does have them ready to go in about 4 hours. Don’t be dismayed by this prep time – 95% of it is hands-off.
Add 8 cups of water to every two cups of dried beans. Approximately 2 cups of dried beans are equivalent to 1 can of prepared beans. I usually cook about 4 cups of dried beans and use the leftovers in recipes.
Place your pot on the stove and bring it to a hard boil for about 2 minutes. Put the lid on and remove it from the heat. Then, just leave it there until morning.
I like to drain my beans and use fresh water for cooking. This removes some of the starches that make beans difficult to digest for some folks. However, you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to. You can cook them in the soaking liquid if water is scarce.
Cooking Beans: The Stovetop Method
To cook your beans on the stove, replace the soaking water and cover them by at least two inches with fresh water. Bring your beans to a simmer, but not a hard boil. This keeps them from splitting open.
Cook your beans for 2-4 hours on a low simmer. Stir the beans frequently to make sure they don’t stick, and be sure to add water as needed.
Add non-acidic seasonings at any point in time. If you have anything acidic to add, wait until the last half hour, as this can prevent the beans from getting tender. I also wait about half an hour before they’re done to add table salt. If I’m cooking them with some kind of meat (bacon, hambone, or something else), I put that in from the beginning. I also add onions early on if I’m using them.
Cooking Beans: The Crockpot Method
This is the easiest thing in the world.
Put the beans in the crockpot. Cover them with about two inches of water. Add your seasonings. Cook on low for about 4 hours.
How do you know the beans are ready?
I use the taste test. Take one out, let it cool off, and bite into it. I prefer my beans to be quite tender, but everyone has a different preference. That being said, be sure there isn’t too much hardness to it, or it will be unpleasant to eat a serving of them.
How do you cook dried beans?
I know that dried beans can be quickly and easily cooked in an Instant Pot, but I don’t have one, so I’ll leave those instructions to someone else. How do you cook your beans? Do you have any tips that I failed to include? Share them in the comments.
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites. 1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2) The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.
Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.