Decade Old Beans – OK To Eat?


Reader Questions:
I have some pintos and lentils that I put away over 12 years ago that are in their original bags inside of Rubbermaid containers. They look like the day they were purchased. There are no bugs or moisture. However, they have not been stored in ideal temperatures. They have been in garages over 80-90 degrees etc. I doubt that they could sprout anymore, therefore they could not be planted.

My question is this:

Can they still be eaten?

Is there any nutritional value left besides filler for the belly?

Are they worth keeping in your opinion simply for fiber?

All I have heard is that ‘old’ beans are tougher when cooked. I assume that means that they do not absorb water like fresh ones and stay a little crunchy!

In addition to those two tubs I have four buckets more of pintos, lentils and peas whose bags were placed inside of white garbage bags and tied closed, and lids put on. These were also stored at incorrect temperatures for many years. Now I eat beans and legumes regularly but these got ‘lost’ in the back under other things and I moved four times during their storage. The problem with these is that the buckets were not food grade. They were old powder laundry detergent buckets. They had been washed and bleached and rinsed profusely.

I wonder if the food, besides being old and ‘tough’ is safe to eat in an emergency situation?

They are already so old and stored incorrectly, so shouldn’t I just toss them?

I have since learned to rotate my dry goods more often and to store in correct containers in proper temps.


I am glad to hear that you are storing food for long term preparedness! 

First of all, you are correct that any food needs to be stored properly and at the right temperature (the lower the better), and also, ideally, in the absence of oxygen (and light and moisture).

I will share with you a very similar situation that I had with old dry beans. Some of our beans are stored in sealed mylar bags and all kept inside 5-gallon buckets.

However, I did have a few bags of dry beans, pinto and black, that were at the back of the pantry shelf for about 5 years. My pantry beans were stored as yours, in their original bags and inside a Rubbermaid container.

One day when I was doing some major ‘spring’ cleaning I discovered the Rubbermaid with the 2 bags of beans inside. Since we mark all of our food, we knew they were 5 years old. We decided, ‘What the heck, let’s try them.’

So after they soaked in water overnight, I cooked them the next day. They were tough, crunchy and not too good… We didn’t eat them. I don’t think they absorbed much water during cooking.

UPDATE The answer to “How to cook old beans” is using a pressure cooker! The high pressure (and resulting high temperature) cooks them fast and will overcome having to cook them traditionally for a very long time on a stove top (for old hard beans).

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