I usually cook about 2-3 pounds of dried beans every week. That’s the equivalent to about 10-12 cans of beans a week but keep in mind, we’re a family of 4 BUT still – we eat a lot of beans! Whether we eat beans for breakfast, lunch, after school snacking, or dinner, they taste great, they’re healthy, and they’re inexpensive.
Feeding my family beans that I’ve soaked and cooked rather than canned beans that I’ve purchased costs so much less and there’s nothing to throw away or recycle. When I cook the beans myself, I know my family is eating food that’s low in sodium and preservative and chemical free.
Beans are so versatile and can be added to soups, pasta, dips, burritos, and scrambled eggs. They can be used to make hummus or as a substitute for more fattening foods like mayonnaise. I like to add white beans to broth-based soups as a gluten-free thickener, too. Once cooked, white beans break down easily and are hardly even noticed by bean-dis-likers.
Buying a can of beans is definitely healthier and better for you than buying a processed frozen burrito but make sure to check the ingredients. Canned beans can have sugar, preservatives, calcium chloride, calcium disodium, and color protectors – basically a bunch of junk – read the ingredients. In one can of beans, there are about 3 1/2 servings and what you get is about 1 heaping cup of beans, plus liquid. The cost of one can is about $1.00 (on average).
When buying dried beans, you can purchase them by the pound in a 1-pound or 2-pound package or in the bulk food section. Be sure and check the price per pound to make sure you’re getting the best price. Dried beans usually cost about a $1/pound and if you buy a 25-pound bag you’ll save even more money – you’ll also get a workout! It takes us about 3-months to use a 25-pound bag of beans and I usually buy only pinto beans in this quantity since that’s what we eat the most of.
How to Cook with Dried Beans
- Pour your dried beans into a large pot or slow-cooker and cover them with several inches of cold water to soak. If I’m cooking beans in the morning, I let them soak overnight and then turn on my slow-cooker in the morning. (I cook 6-cups of dried beans which is about 2-3/4 pounds. The yield – meaning what I get after cooking the beans – is about 15-cups of beans.)
- After the dried beans have soaked at least 2-hours or overnight, I turn on the slow-cooker and set it to high for 5-hours. You may need to adjust cooking time for your slow-cooker. Test beans for doneness after 4-hours if you’re not sure.
- If I’m organized and not running late in the morning, I’ll add a chopped onion and garlic to the slow-cooker to add flavor while the beans are cooking.
- After the beans have finished cooking, I strain most of the liquid off and then put them into freezer containers in amounts our family will use.
More bean details…
- Dried beans can be cooked in a slow-cooker, a pressure cooker, or on the stove top. They all produce the same result but length of cooking time will vary. Using a pressure cooker is the fastest, followed by stove top and lastly, slow-cooker.
- Dried beans need to soak for a couple of hours before cooking. If I’m cooking dried beans in the morning, I soak the beans overnight and turn on my slow-cooker in the morning. After a busy day, I’ve got an easy dinner when our dried beans have been cooking all day.
- Cooking dried beans in a slow-cooker that automatically shuts off means no one has to be home to tend the stove.
- When cooking dried beans, I always make a large batch, use what I need, and freeze the rest in sizes that are right for my family to use. Be sure and label the freezer containers.
- When recipes call for a “can of beans” the dried beans that have been cooked equivalent is about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of beans. See the picture below.
- If I really want to flavor the beans, I add 1-2 cups of homemade chicken broth to the batch after they’ve soaked overnight. You could also add vegetable broth as well. I don’t soak the beans overnight in chicken broth.
- Beans, beans the musical fruit….okay, you probably know the song but they really are good for us!
Cooking with dried beans adds fiber and protein to a meal – without adding fat. They’re also gluten free. Dried beans are very inexpensive and usually cost about a $1/pound and if you buy a 25-pound bag you’ll save even more money – you’ll also get a workout!
Go Gingham related links:
Why I cook with dried beans – complete with money saving chart!
Very easy and tasty white bean dip
Corn and black bean salad – made with dried beans
Spicy hummus - yes, spicy and made from dried beans!
Lentils and pork – lentils are similar to beans but there’s no soaking
After school snacks that involve beans - and no small packages
How our freezer gets used - what I keep in our freezer and how I utilize the space