Bean cuisine: how to make the most of dried beans

Back when I was a budding vegetarian, I picked up a copy of the cookbook Bean Cuisine so I could prepare the healthy and delicious legumes and beans that are staples of a well-rounded meatless diet. The recipes were…let’s just say underwhelming. Part of this was due to my inexperience as a cook (at 20 years old I was hardly a kitchen veteran), part was due to the recipes themselves (few of them contained any seasoning – not even salt!), and another portion was likely the beans themselves, although at the time I did not understand why.

These lackluster results led me away from dried beans for years, although now beans constitute a significant part of my diet with much tastier results. That’s because following my unsuccessful initial foray into bean cuisine, I picked up several useful tips and tricks. I only wish I had a resource back then like the recent article in The Guardian on how to get the most from dried beans.

My biggest mistake, I realize now, was using poor-quality dried beans. Budget was my number one concern in those days, so I purchased the cheapest beans I could find. This likely resulted in buying stale beans, which never seemed to cook through and lacked flavor as well. As Itamar Srulovich of┬áLondon’s Honey & Co notes, the key to getting the best out of dried beans is to use beans that have been picked and dried recently, rather than ones that languish on store shelves. Some beans on supermarket shelves can be as many as five years old!

That means finding places with high turnover so that the beans don’t sit on the shelves for ages. With an ever-increasing emphasis on meatless diets, more and more farmers are growing heirloom beans, so farmers’ markets are a good source for freshly dried beans and more interesting varieties to boot. Most dried beans are still less expensive than canned beans, so don’t let a high price-per-pound steer you away from these gems.

The article also discusses other common issues cooks might encounter when making dried beans and offers helpful advice for overcoming those obstacles.

Photo of Basic cooked dried beans from Food52

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3 Comments

  • Rinshin  on  November 20, 2019

    I believe Rancho Gordo site says their beans are best within 2 years of being packaged.

  • manycookbooks  on  November 20, 2019

    I agree. I have purchased a variety of dried beans from bulk stores, with very disappointing results. They are tasteless!

  • averythingcooks  on  November 21, 2019

    I have always had canned chickpeas, navy beans and black beans in my pantry but it was finally Thug Kitchen that got me soaking ,cooking and freezing 1 cup portions of my 3 favorites. At any given time I have a great freezer stash to throw into so many things…….I can’t believe it took me long to start doing this.

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