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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  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!!!

      1. I still use Pinto beans from the late 90s. Soak overnight and crock pot them for chili or Tex-Mex. Stored in a bucket with a mylar bag inside. For a long time, the bag was closed by squeezing out the air and tied with a piece of copper wire.

      2. We have a lot of old beans that we want to pressure can. All of the online videos show putting dry beans, pre-soaked and not, in the jar with water and p-can them. They will be cooked again when served so I’m thinking that should be 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. Greetings, The problem I see is not all of the great survival benefits that long term dried, well packed foods available give one… It’s the rotation system that you employ if things go well in life. The bottom line, and I have this same issue with foods stored for decades; Mylar=aluminum, and plastics, plastic=BPA much of the time. ( Not going the industrial solvent rant here; VOC’s, PVC’s, LMNOP’s… ) Does anyone remember The 60’s & 70’s when the talk was of some additive that was particularly prone to bonding with dairy fats? Suddenly organic yogurt, cheeses, milk, weren’t… I still see most dairy in #2 plastic. Difference is now that industrial solvent that was in the plastics is more insidious, it’s BPA as well. So I am all for eating what I’ve put away if it comes to it. It is the way that I procure, process, and store that are the important thing to me these days. Like “Fracking” the reports are being made public through independent labs. Do we trust any lab on their word? I feel that on this one there is a preponderance of evidence leading to answers. Read between the lines and intuit your path toward investments. Would you eat Fukushima seaweed? ( Northwest Coast seafood, oh I’m missing that crab and the FDA & EPA aren’t looking to inform you or me. ) That is if it was dated after 03/11/2011… So as ever hoping to plant some seeds for thought and research. Don’t take this for absolute, as the intent is both go for it, and keep reading those great Mrs.M.S.B., and contributors food storage tips and systems. Point here is like the miso that I keep and used for ten years, not refrigerated and stored in the original wooden Japanese cask; still do, you can’t just go out and by rubber maid or tup-per ware. Find out what your water storage containment systems, plastic 5 gallon buckets, sealers, on and on are made of. If there is a proprietary block on the product look for a company that will not hesitate to fill you in with pride that their product only contains X, Y, & Z… That includes glass, all that great crystal that liquor is kept in is still lead crystal and guess were that lead goes, and fast. China metals have for decades not been trustworthy, and if a standard magnet sticks to something labeled stainless well guess again. Standard U.S. philosophy, “planned obsolescence”; same short cut, dirty tricks used in manufacturing here for decades… ( Stuff added and not, a system corrupt… Do you remember all of the HUD cement/cinder block houses that had to be left as they were full of radon? ) Working on many answers to pass along. I can say for sure that aluminum is bad juju and all those nice shiny bags have been proven to contaminate foods stored in them. So what do we do? Survive-All… Signing off from FEMA Region # 1…

    1. This is about end of the world SHTF type of storage here. Who cares about tin foil used for making hats?

  4. 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.

  5. TO OTTER:
    So if I understand your post correctly, you are suggesting that any way we go we are being cut off at the pass so to speak, because we have to rely on poisonous metals or plastics to seal our food away from oxygen?
    Is that really aluminum inside mylar bags?
    How and what do you use to store your long term needs?
    And to answer you – NO to Fukushima Seaweed and I also miss crab.
    But it isn’t just the seaweed now is it? And it isn’t just food from japan that we need to be wary of.
    Also, where were the Hud housing cinder block homes abandoned? I missed that one.

  6. @ Halfkin, That’s the correct mind spark I generally hope to create with a statement. I often say hurry up and wait… I have shrink wrapped, latex caulked the seal line of 5 gallon buckets for a better life when buried. Some for as long as 32 years. Not all contents are foods, as the distance between locations is days to weeks of travel depending on what my treks revealed at the time. That is to say, if I found that there would be foods in nature that could keep me going I would make use thereof. I have used a nitrogen flush system prior to sealing and at the worst I see aged foods as trap and fish baits. With proper execution and luck you might even get a grouse or buck eating. Venison was the last red meat I ate some 49.5 years ago. My reasons are another story. Yes, 1st Nations people think it odd, to disrespectful not to indulge. In youth my G.I. was compromised. There were other times this has been an issue in life… Yes to aluminum and other metals to create all those eye catching colors… The entire Northern Hemisphere is from sky above, to earth and below ( As in groundwater. ) a “Love Canal”- times who nows? Working on the equation has lead me to four bulk issues that are interacting and I will post when I have all of the references placed in my theorem. As well it is an ever growing information flood that needs to be cross referenced to the satisfaction of my alternative mind “Think Tank”… Prior to my publishing and the posting of between the lines evidence of it’s synopsis…
    As to HUD housing; much of it went to western BIA wards, that is to say Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas’, and other areas that the “System” had contracts to build on reserves. ( A continuation of the eugenics model followed today. ) I spent much of twenty years in the west and have first hand knowledge of the same disposal of radio active wastes through a brickyard’s use of grog that was trucked in and mixed with their clay even though moraine was readily available. For those that don’t know, when firing clay bodies you first must air dry; loosing approximately 5% of size to that process. Grog helps keep the general 10% shrinkage due to air and fire drying at bay. For art you have to keep your walls thin or when you fire the molecularly bound waters are released and with that comes internal pressures that will blow. Therefore you see bricks looking like sandy bodies and three hole bricks have largely taken the market. That is only a tiny piece of the how and why’s for bricks, to earthen ware, to art work. It’s processes are formulas. So to anyone with experience you may speak to the many ways and means I have not. The good that came out of the HUD issues and the unnamed brick yard in CO. as well as other western locations, was finding that negative ion generators with connecting positive ion collection plates actually did lower the amount of air borne radon. I can’t name the company but, a CO. outfit was contracted to install whole house systems and some individuals stayed. It was esthetically nicer housing with newer systems. ( And hey, you can’t see, smell, or feel it; right? ) I have been in a restaurant where a person smoked a cigar in the middle of the room and a table away I could not smell it. All negatively charged airborne particles are drawn upward to the plates instantly. ( Germs, pollens, hepa dusts,VOC’s, ect…) The issue is that you still have radon and you have to clean the collectors. So you need to monitor levels and then all you have really succeeded in doing is condensing the invisible toxins and where do you dispose of them. Interesting aside; going west up Left Hand Canyon, north of Boulder on the right you will find a sealed mine entrance with the old sign reading “Marie Curie Radon Hot Springs”. It was one of the “Health” spas of it’s day… Looping back to cinder and concrete blocks, the brick yards create their own grog by crushing deformed bricks and that is the usual raw material that when fired allows for a thicker wall or body of clay to be used. ( It is also the cinder in cinder blocks.) The fired clays allow for the transfer of interior bonded water to hop out during firing. Now, the way that the surreptitious disposal of wastes came out was largely due to using a quarry of Paleogene Strata sedimentary shale ( Wilfimite-sp? ) is a stones throw from Rocky Flats Nuclear Plant and protests brought independent research to the region. The end result was that the quarry was closed as it contained contaminates of transuranic bodies and their daughter products. This industrial use in the production of blocks and their cinder being mixed as brick grog helped expose the wide range of nuclear contamination throughout the region. From there the web of production and distribution of contamination in masonry materials began to unravel as did the health of the inhabitants looking for answers to odd illnesses. This, as often, is not dead on topic but, where do we start and stop survival dialogues? From here I’ll let you readers do the search for answers to the afore mentioned… As to “being cut off at the pass”, my vision is that someone, somewhere will take up this ball and run with it. Find us a pure system for storage… So far my best trial is to use glazed earthen ware with lids sealed with bees wax. Then wire closed with stainless steel or aircraft wire. I have also seemed to have had success using high count hemp fiber bags which are then sealed by dipping in bees wax. When you cook you can skim any errant wax from the surface. As it is if you get the temperature of your wax right it doesn’t coat the outer layer of foods within… You do however want to be hot enough to impregnate the fiber… A candy thermometer and note book are invaluable assets. You do loose the flushing systems usual ease but, there is a method that seems to flush at the cost of slightly more nitrogen use to be sure. Then bury… Time will tell… Oh, and if you are using mylar plastic inside 5 gallon buckets buried several feet, at least your food should be EMP proofed… Have to end with something laughable. Positivity IS our collective means changing the future… Survive-All…

  7. WOW! Thanks Otter, much thought for food, or is that food for thought?
    Anyway it works!
    And in your similar vein…
    Commenting form Fema Region #10.

    1. I’m sorry. I meant the ‘it”, the beans, will eventually absorb the liquid. I had some Great Northern beans that I soaked over night then simmered for 2 days on the back of the wood stove until they were soft enough to eat. My husband and I ate them and survived. They were 12 years old.

  8. 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.

  9. @ Woodsey, Greetings,… Thank you for the response. 80% rice 20% beans= 100% balanced protein. If it gets you to the next food stuff, texture and age are not going to be an issue… The soaking and simmering is age old, from porridge to chowders… Same system… Survive-All…

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

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

  15. i think your advice on throwing the beans away was so wrong, unless you are a chef or some other college trained professional then dont give advice because changing the wateer on the soak is precisely what your supposed to do, also is her situation trhe same as yours with your beans did they come from the exact same supplier. being that food is so expensive now one should not throw any type of food away.

    1. Throwing away old beans would definitely be a waste, but old beans (or any foods) stored in detergent containers for any length of time are GARBAGE. Cheaping out on containers is dumb, when pro kitchens all across so-called North America throw away untold numbers of buckets every day. There are usually stacks of them behind restaurants, free for the taking.

      Source: I’ve worked in restaurant, hotel and institutional kitchens since 1997.

  16. 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

    1. Probably better to compost and add to the garden after decomp, so your plants don’t have to compete with a million bean sprouts.

  17. 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

  18. 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. Beans are starch, with some trace minerals. If they haven’t returned to the earth, then they still contain whatever they did the day they were harvested, besides water and perhaps some phenols.

    4. 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.

  19. What about 8-year-old split peas? I cooked them in a soup tonight, and suffice it to say, they tasted bad! Something about them just smelled and tasted off. So much so, that I began experiencing an upset stomach within the first 15 minutes. So I threw the rest of the soup out!

    I never bothered to soak them, because I’m told that split peas don’t require soaking. Not sure if I should test it out again with a new batch of beans? But the whole experience has left an indelible impression upon my mind, and not in a good way!

    What would any of you do? Should I test it by soaking them again the next time or just throw the rest of the bag out? It’s a 20 lb. bag that was rarely used!


    1. 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!

    2. 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. Old beans: Fine
    Food stored in detergent buckets for any length of time: BAD TERRIBLE POISON GARBAGE

  21. My wife soaked overnight pintos, 40 years old. She left them on the stove and went shopping. They burned. Tomorrow she’ll try again. Also do a batch in the pressure cooker.

    1. 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.

  22. 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. Copied and pasted from my comment above would you eat? IF:
        It’s 2020 Coronavirus & we have 50# in original bag of dry pinto beans.
        From yk2 so its 20 yrs old kept in house in pantry summer heat can get to high 90’s. Have not opened nor sort through to look for mold (don’t think be a problem) gonna look for all the signs ^ mentioned above.
        Would you eat them if they look good, free of any signs of spoilage?

        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.

    1. 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.

  23. 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…

  24. 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.

  25. I just found this site and am AMAZED at the collective knowledge here.
    I have literally over a ton of old dried pinto beans, some are nearing 20 years in storage. I used 5gal buckets with liner and oxegen absorbers, sealed tightly. I was JUST ABOUT TO HAVE THE WHOLE LOT HAULED OFF, assuming they were too old to be useful.
    NOW, you folks may have just saved me a “ton” of money and trouble.
    Thank you one and all for sharing you stories, experience and knowledge.

    Now can someone direct me to a place to find how to get my HUGE underground storm shelter dry and keep it dry?
    I’m 73 yrs old and we just moved to our present home with my very first storm shelter.
    I plan to use a portion of the space for food storage, Temp stays cool and level most of the year, (north-central Texas).
    Thanks again

    1. Texas Rob:
      First of all, welcome to the Site, Ken does a heck of a job here, and a LOT of folks here really REALLY do know what they talk about.
      I’m going to move an answer to your question over to the Open Forum.
      If you don’t know where that is, go to the Drop-Down Menu and just click on it.

  26. I have beans that ancestors have passed down from the 16th Century. I was not sure they were edible. They were very hard like marbles. But I soaked them until they were plump, about two years and seven days. Then I pressure cooked them for four months. They were DELICIOUS!!

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