how to: kick the can (of beans)

I know many of you Budget Byters already cook your own beans but I wanted to make this post for all of the newbies out there. Beans are one of the most economical and nutritious foods available so I try to use them in recipes as often as possible. Canned beans are quick and convenient but with a little planning ahead, dry beans can be just as easy and HALF the cost of canned.

Many people (including myself) shy away from cooking dry beans because it seems like such a daunting chore with the overnight soaking and hours of cooking. What I’ve discovered is that cooking beans can be as easy as “setting it and forgetting it” and, thanks to Kalyn’s recent post, I now know that presoaking is not even necessary! If you cook a large batch, the beans can be divided up into two cup containers, frozen and then pulled out of the freezer as needed. Taking frozen beans out of the freezer is just as convenient as opening up a can!

Last night, I cooked up a batch of black beans for today’s soup. The final cost for one can equivalent of dry beans was $0.40 cents. Compare that to a store bought can which usually runs me about $0.79 and I’ve cut the cost in half. Plus, I’ve eliminated salt, preservatives and a lot of wasted packaging. Have I convinced you yet?

How To: Kick the Can (of beans)

cooked black beans

Here is how it’s done:

STEP 1: Pour one pound (or two for an extra large batch) of beans out onto a baking sheet and sort through to remove any stones or debris. Transfer the beans to a colander to rinse off any dust.

STEP 2: Place the cleaned and sorted beans in a slow cooker and add 6 cups of water for every pound of beans. Put the lid on, set the cooker to HIGH and let her go. Beans that have not been presoaked will take 4-6 hours to cook on HIGH.

STEP 3: Once the beans are tender, pour them into a colander and give them a quick rinse. Divide the beans into containers (re-sealable or zip top freezer bags), label, date and freeze until ready to use! Easy as that.

One pound of dry beans will yield about 6 cups of cooked beans, equal to about 3 cans.

cooked beans for freezing

The hands-on time to make these beans was only about 15 minutes. Once they were cleaned and sorted, they go straight into the pot and then I didn’t have to do ANYTHING until I checked them four hours later. Then it’s just a quick drain, rinse and pack into containers.

You can cook beans on the stove top if you don’t have a slow cooker although it takes more attention and care. Just place them in a large pot with a lid (same water/bean ratio), bring it up to a boil then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer until tender. Do not let the beans boil heavily or else the delicate skins will disintegrate and you’ll be left with nothing but bean fragments.

If you have any tips, tricks or notable experiences cooking dry beans, share them in the comments section below!

…the black bean soup recipe should be posted later tonight ;)

138 Comments

  1. Sarah says:

    Have you tried freezing them in freezable canning jars?

    • Nope! I’m always a little afraid to freeze in glass jars because of falling objects and delicate toes (crazy, I know). Hahaha.

  2. Rain says:

    A few nights ago I tried cooking black beans on the stove. I soaked them for 7 or 8 hours, then cooked them for about 3. I had to add a little more water halfway through to keep them all submerged, but after 2 hours they were al dente. I kept cooking with the lid off for the last half hour and they ended up with a wonderful gravy! Tasted so good, I dumped the whole thing in for the Chipotle Sweet Potato Quesadillas in your book. SO AWESOME. I had had trouble before with the canned beans rolling out of the tortillas because they weren’t sticking to anything, so the added gravy was perfect!

  3. Meredith says:

    We eat a lot of canned black beans…not anymore now that I found this recipe! Our family favorite is sauteed smoked turkey sausage with onions and garlic, 2 C black beans, 1 C corn, and 2 C brown rice. Add cilantro and/or diced avocado as a garnish. Super yum!

  4. Jessica says:

    Hey Beth! Does this apply to any dried beans? I have bag of garbanzos I wanted to do the same with..

  5. Pitou says:

    Hi,

    What is the weight of drained can of beans? I’ve recently come to Chicago for my masters, so I don’t know much about here. Only grocery stores I know are Target, Jewel and Trader Joe’s. The cheapest raw beans (1 lb) I found was something like $1.5 and the cheapest canned beans (15 oz which makes something like 1 lb) I found was like $0.75. So raw beans’ price is like twice expensive. So if two dried can of beans weight 1 lb, then I either don’t know where to buy cheap stuff or Chicago has weird pricing system.

    By the way, I’ve recently found your site and it’s helping me so much. Thank you for helping strangers like me :)

    • Don’t forget, the cooked beans contain a LOT more water, so that’s why they’re heavier. You can’t just compare the drained weight to the weight of the dry beans because the cooked bean has absorbed water. :) One pound of raw/uncooked beans will equal about three cans of the cooked beans.

    • Heidi says:

      The measurement on canned foods is not a weight measurement it is a volume measurement.

  6. angel s. says:

    Why do you toss the liquid before you freeze the beans? Can they be frozen together?

    • I’ve since started freezing them in the liquid. It does help keep them from drying out in the freezer. :)

      • Sarah says:

        When you use them, do you thaw off and drain the liquid or do you cook the liquid in your recipe?

        • I usually dump the whole frozen block into a colander and run cool water over them until they thaw (it’s very quick) and that rinses them in the process. You CAN use the liquid if you like, though. It can help make soups and stews thicker because it’s full of soluble fiber.

  7. Ariel says:

    Wow! It’s like I’m not cooking but I am! I’m so excited Beth that I can actually prepare a dinner for once in my life!! Please keep the step by step pictures too. This is what makes you different from every other person sharing recipes. Thank you! =D

  8. Sarah says:

    How long do they last in the freezer? I’m looking to do a big stock-up but don’t want the beans to go bad before I could use them!

    • There’s no specific time limit, they just begin to diminish in quality after time (they dry out and get freezer burn). I try to use up freezer items within three months or so.

  9. Andrea says:

    I haven’t cooked black beans in my slow cooker, but I came to this recipe to see if I could freeze cooked black beans (yay! I can!).

    I like to add some bay leaves to the pot as I’m cooking my black beans. It gives them a nice, subtle flavor. I suspect that throwing a bay leaf or two in the crockpot would have the same result!

  10. Another bonus to cooking your own beans: the cooking water (not soaking water) can be kept and used as a tasty stock! I know this works for black beans, not sure for other kinds (will have to experiment with that!)

  11. Michael Gregory says:

    Probably a silly question… but will this process work for any bean or do different beans have different water/bean ratios? My local WF store sells garbanzo beans in bulk, which I would prefer over canned. I just want to make sure I prep them correctly.

    • It should be about the same bean/water ratio for all beans. The only bean I know of that you don’t want to use this method with is kidney beans. They need to be boiled heavily for at least 10 minutes to break down a naturally occurring chemical that can cause extreme gastric distress. The slow cooker doesn’t boil strong enough to accomplish that.

  12. Camille says:

    I love this recipe! I sauteed onions and garlic in vegetable oil and mixed it in the beans as they were cooking for more of a cuban styled meal ;)

  13. Cassie says:

    I’ve heard there are health benefits to soaking foods(like beans) before cooking. How long should I cook the black beans in the crockpot if I pre-soak overnight? Do i still use the high heat setting? Of course this is assuming I actually plan far enough ahead- knowing I can just pour them in the morning of is awesome.

    • Well, I haven’t cooked them in the slow cooker with a presoak, so I can’t speak from experience. Here is the link to the site where I learned about cooking beans in the slow cooker. She did an experiment with soaking vs. not soaking. I’d assume you’ll need less liquid when you finally cook them, though, since they’ve already absorbed some.

  14. Sheri says:

    If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can use a dutch oven (enameled cast iron is best) in the oven set at 200F. If your pot seals well, the timing should be the same as a slow cooker on High.

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