Are old dried beans okay to eat

Old Dried Beans – Okay To Eat? How To Cook?

This week (during 2022) I checked on a bin of 10 year old dried beans. I had individually vacuum sealed a whole lot of 1-pound bags of beans (within their original packaging). Many of them are now exactly 10 years old, dated 2012. I said to myself, perfect! Let’s try to cook a pound of these old dried beans and see if they’re edible! Especially since I still have lots of them stored away from that era…

I recalled this particular article (copied below after this update) which I published during 2012 on the subject of old dry beans. So I thought it to be great timing… Real world test on these 10 year old beans, and report my findings here on the same original post.

How I Cooked Old Dried Beans

First, here’s a picture of the bag of old white beans which I removed from my vacuum sealed bag. Notice the price tag… 79-cents! What’s it cost now 10 years later?

Next, I dumped them in a bowl, added plenty of water, and let them soak. I soaked them for 4 hours. After that, I drained and rinsed the beans. They definitely soaked up a lot of water (a good sign!)…

Use A Pressure Cooker

Then I dumped them in my pressure cooker. Added water to cover about an inch or two above the beans. I fired up the gas burner. When the jiggler started jiggling, I adjusted the flame for a nice slowish jiggle. Then, the old beans were pressure cooked for 30 minutes. And whadaya know… they came out great!

My 6-Quart Presto Pressure Cooker
(view on amzn)

I know that white beans (e.g. great northern) are soft-and-easy to begin with regarding cooking. Other types of old dried beans may or may not have come out this well. However, I will be trying another batch of different old beans from that bin at some point.

You might be wondering what I did with these old, but yummy, beans… I added them to my zoodle sauce. What are zoodles? They’re zucchini noodles – made from using a spiralizer. I quickly toss and fry up the zoodles with some olive oil. The sauce was a combo of home canned spaghetti sauce, some ground beef, and some hot sausage (and the old beans). Oh boy was it all good!

Mrs. J wanted quesadillas instead…

Okay, back to the original article:

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 the old dried beans 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.

Answer:

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 kept inside 5-gallon buckets or regular bin totes.

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).

[ Read: Rice and Beans – A Survival Combination ]

46 Comments

  1. Thank you! This tells me exactly what to do with my inherited badly stored beans… friend has a compost pile donation coming.

    1. Well folks, I had a totally different outcome with my old beans, I had been buying food boxes, ( Angel Food,) for many years and every box had a bag of beans, mostly pinto, but other kinds also. Other family members and friends were always giving me their beans. I’ve been on a canning spree this last year and decided it’s time to dig out of all the stored foods and see what I have to can, there were over 25 bags of beans in my first stored place,(pantry) and 20 more bags in the top of a cabinet. These beans were at least 5 years old and some older. I soaked them, 10 lbs at a time with 1 tbs baking soda for each gallon of water. After the first 12 hours I changed the water, added the same baking soda and soaked 12 more hours, rinsed well and soaked another 12 hours. Those beans came out soft as can be and swelled to be large. I ended up canning 75 qts of all kinds including bean soup, they are wonderful. I think the trick is to soak until they swell, which means taking in water. Some very old ones I soaked 48 hours, changing the water every day. They’re all good!!!

    2. I have dried beans stored in 1/2 gallon jars using food saver to get all air out that are 8 years old.
      Decided to cook some, and i noticed they smell like fish odor. Is this a sign they are past their time. Cooking some up to see if they are ok.
      Does anyone know how dried beans are suppose to smell if no longer good or past their time?

      1. benji,
        My recommendation is this… When in doubt, throw it out.

        One’s nose is a good indicator. Beans should not smell like fish.

        Beans are cheap. Just buy new.

  2. Had same dilemma. Thank you for the warning. Will toss them in the desert for the javelina or whatever critters will eat them.

  3. Or bait? Deer ate our 8 year old pasta and rice when we dumped them a couple years back. They’ll eat about anything in the Winter here.

  4. We have eaten beans that were stored in poor conditions. The only negative was the texture, very mealy. I would try sprouting some of them, even if only 10-15% were viable. If sproutable they would be more nutritious and could be ground to make bean flour which can be added to breads or soups. After all, really old dried beans, seeds, and grains have been found in archeological digs that turned out to still be viable.

  5. I cook and eat 5 year old pintos/blackeye’d peas all the time with no problems. I can’t stop buying them on sale and do not eat them as fast as I buy them so they get older. I don’t always cook the oldest ones but when I do cook the old ones they are fine. I read after 6 years they need to be ground up into flour but I haven’t came across any like that yet.

    I just buy them, store in zip locks and put in a box or rubbermaid container and into a closest with nothing but food. They do stay under 70* most of the time.

    I can’t say what 6 year old beans are like but it’s hard to me to see my 5 year old ones which have been great to all the sudden be bad in another year.

    Just so we are on the same dates, my years are years after the best buy date on the bag.

  6. A wise older friend of mine,advised me a long time ago that rice and beans,if stored in a cool dry place will last for many years.Also soaking the beans will help bring out the nutrients better.If it comes down to shtf,just throw in a can of ham or spam and you got a meal,oh yeah I almost forgot,a pone of cornbread to go with it too.Ya’ll will enjoy this meal.Keep your powder dry.

  7. I tried 5 year old beans I had before I started storing things in mylar and buckets. Dith the normal soak overnight and cooked them in the crockpot with a ham bone and they came out fine. Might have been a little firmer than normal but there was no problem eating them.

  8. Old thread, but for anybody coming across it:

    I’ve cooked beans stored for nearly 20 years in a glass jar in a cool basement. They took quite a while to soften, but tasted fine. Since then, I’ve read (but not tried) that brining uncooked beans overnight will soften the skins, so that during cooking, the interior of the bean can cook properly. If I run across another forgotten batch of beans (and I surely will) and they don’t cook well, I’ll give that a try.

  9. Why not just grind your old, dried beans into flour? There are many easy recipies that use bean flour.

  10. beans are so cheap why not see if your old ones will sprout, if so, plant them. or throw them in the garden area and let them decompose and enrich the soil

  11. I stored some and cooked some pinto beans and also some white beans and some black beans (each type of beans kept separate) in 2015 and dehydrated a lot of them and ground them in to powder to use as refried beans and stored the powdered beans in new quart sized Mason jars (32 ounce jars). 12 jars to a case. I stored the beans that I did not dehydrate in Mason jars too. I have not used any of the bean powders yet. They are still sealed in Mason jars stacked in a bedroom. There are 45 cases of Kerr Mason jars (12 quart size jars to a case). My family eats out at restaurants 6 days a week both for breakfast and lunch, so the bean powders have not been used. I have considered donating the beans to some charity but am concerned that they would just be tossed into the trash because they were not commercially prepared. What do you think, would the powders just be trashed?

    1. Frances
      99% chance the home processed food stuff will be “trashed” by most Charities. They will not take a chance on using stuff processed at a home.
      One might be inclined to just reuse the Jars as you need or sell if you’re not going to use them again. 45 cases of Jars is a LOT of Jars

  12. Lots of info here but no one has commented on the nutritional value of 20 year old beans.

    1. Ny jan
      I do not know about the “nutritional value” of older beans, but I have eaten many that were well over 10 and 15 years old, and I can tell you, if TSHTF, I’ll have no problem with the old-stuff at all.

    2. Ny jan, Recently we have been eating lots of our very old beans (trying to do better at rotation). We cook them using a pressure cooker. Makes a huge difference compared to boiling for a long time. I don’t have any 20 year old beans, but do have 10 year old beans. Not a problem. Being critical I would say that they’re not as soft as new beans after cooking, but not bad.

      I have noticed that some varieties of beans fare better than others when they’re old (regarding how well they cook).

      I suspect that the nutritional value is still okay too, although that’s an opinion. A bean is a bean is a bean, so… ;)

    3. I was concerned about the same thing, so i “googled” it. Experts say the beans lose a lot of their nutritional value over time, which we would expect. I have lots of old beans too and hate to throw them in the compost pile. But I really need all the nutrition I can get. So I’m tossing them and just getting a small amount of new fresh ones. I am a life-time cheapskate, but at this stage of my life, health wins out over cheapness.

      1. janie said, “…at this stage of my life, health wins out over cheapness”


        You are so right! Really, if at all possible, health should always be a priority over cheapness (or anything). Thanks for that nugget of truth.

      2. Sprout some of them. The bean is the food supply for the seedling. If they have enough nutrition to sprout, they have enough nutrition to be eaten. If two out of ten sprout, that gives you an idea of the general nutritional content for the batch.

  13. Split peas don’t require soaking, Yvette. Inspect them. Do they differ in look from newer ones? Can you see any mould or bug damage? Is there any trace of a smell before you cook them? If you answered “yes” to any of these, send them to the compost heap. 20 lbs. of split peas is still next to nothing, cost-wise. It’s a relatively cheap food lesson to learn!

  14. Robb, I was told to add lemon juice to the soak water…for the overnight soak..I cremated something tonight too. Tell her welcome to the club.. it happens.

  15. My pinto beans have been stored in a sealed mylar bag, with a moisture packet inside; plus kept in a food grade bucket for 6 years now. I just opened up the bucket and it smelled like a bad fart. I opened up a bag of beans to ‘test’ out, and they look ok, but have the same odor. Has anyone experienced that? Assume these are no-good to eat?! Thanks :)

      1. 20 years without proper storage? You’re going to need a pressure cooker. Them beans gonna be hard. That said, if I couldn’t afford to replace them, I might try a batch and see how it goes. Your mileage may vary.

  16. So nice to see you back Officer Dennis. Some were starting to worry if maybe you went a little too far down the holler. Or maybe a battalion of pasty, pretzel limbed, black clad soy bags were air-dropped out the back of a Soros Airways C-130 and had taken over the mountain.

  17. Mine was about 5 years old, stored in a sealed glass jar, in a warm space next to my oven (the only space I had for them. I soaked and cooked them today and they are soft. What I was looking around for was if they have any nutrition to speak of. I read in some places that they decrease in nutrition past 3 years.

    1. Thanks for that report. I have a lot of old dry whole beans, stored in vacuum-sealed packs. My fault for not rotating those like I should. Other people are probably in the same boat. One wonders if at some point they’re just too far “gone”… Nutrition is important. Though emergency calories are important too…

  18. Just a few thoughts to add to the conversation. I store in glass jars and historically applied plumbers tape to the lid threads to keep bugs out. Then I learned that many times the bug eggs are in the product and that putting a bay leaf in the bottom of the container made the bugs try to leave so they were easily collected from the top of the product. As to beans too hard to cook and their nutrition, they retain the fiber content which is important and I too grind them to use as flour or ‘refried’. Thanks Ever So.

    1. You can put some Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth(DE) in w the beans stored in bag or jar. That will keep bugs from taking up residence. Then when ready to use just wash the beans and all the DE will go right with the water down the drain.

  19. I would think that even though split peas do not usually require soaking…..8 year old split peas probably DO require some soaking w a little baking soda added to the water. I’m surprised this thread hasn’t mentioned baking soda much, seeing as we’re talking about old beans..

  20. Mr. had some old beans in plastic bags and the plastic comes off and is not a good way to keep the beans. He had some Bean Soup beans in plastic containers from 1986. yep 1986. So they do grind well but do not cook well. Bean patties are ok.

  21. Very informative article, as were the comments. Thank you!

    What about rice? What are your collective experiences with stored rice?

    Thanks

    1. At the beginning of COVID I got a jump start on stocking up on rice and beans. We just finished off the last if the rice a few weeks ago and I still cook the beans once in awhile. All stored as is in a Tupperware bin in our pantry. I can at least vouch that both are still shelf worthy for at least 2 years as is as long as they stay dry. My pantry isn’t 100% dry (future project) but find that everything holds ok in a bin. Even rodents don’t bother them.

      This year I up’d my game plan and now store both newer bought foods in Mylar bags with 0A. As to nutrition…figure if it isn’t bad it’s better than zero cals. Rice would be a big staple for us in a SHTF situation seconded by beans. Found that the Mylars I use can fit 40 pounds even of rice and they fit perfectly in a bin. Beans are Mylar’d in 1 gallon size so I could use them as needed. I like beans but I’m about the only one.
      I also hold that if you’re hungry enough there won’t be any more chicken nuggets unless you bag a few wildbirds in the backyard and pretend. Beans might be seen differently then.
      Back on point though I think rice would still be ok. Especially as you’ll probably be eating it with other stuff too. I’m one of the weird ones that try not to focus on calorie count though. I grew up dirt poor and was the chef in the family. (Anyone else ever make “week old” soup?) I’d likely return to such as I’d likely be dirt poor again. At least this time I’ll be better stocked though. Even in a Situation I’ll try to keep a somewhat balanced diet going.

      And if you’re inventive maybe you can use some of the rice to bait pretend nuggets. Be fun for the kids.

  22. I tested 10 year pinto beans and them dry. Takes 3 or 4 cooking and soaking to taste normal. MY 7, 5, and 4 year
    black beans, split peas, navy, and kidney were rancid. They were stored in gallon mylar bags with a 500 cc oxygen assorber. I believe they were under a constant too much pressure and squeezed the oil out of the beans causing them to go rancid.

  23. I re-read the article. Questions? How do you know if the beans are rancid? Can you vacuum seal with to much pressure? If the beans germ is dead, is the bean still good to eat? Any way to tell how much nutrients are lost?

    I then read Teds post, now I’m wondering, “what if”. I’ve got thousands of pounds, vacuum sealed, stored in totes in a cool dark place, but some are getting old, and I don’t want to have to replace tons of beans. I’m gonna dig some out and test them, when I get some time.

    1. They smelled bad. Took them outside to air out and they still smelled. Tried cooking some and they still smelled.
      Leaving some space for nitrogen inside the mylar bags may be better.

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