Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cooking with Dried Beans

Dried Beans 

Dried  beans are one of the most economical dishes you can feed to your family and they taste great when prepared properly. A one pound bag of beans generally costs anywhere from $1.00 to $1.50 and sometimes up to $3.00 a pound for some specialty beans. 

You may think there isn't much savings when buying a bag of dried beans verses canned beans, but there are savings to be had not to mention the added flavor of home cooked beans. A one pound bag of dried beans will cook up to make the equivalent of around three 15 ounce cans of already cooked beans, so when buying dried beans over canned beans you will be saving money. 

Variety of Beans

When I was growing up my Mom made at least four types of dried beans: Great Northern, which we called Soup Beans, Pintos, Lima Beans and Black Eyed Peas. 

These days,in my frugal kitchen, I make all kinds of dried beans. I've come to realize that pinto beans are really not that flavorful. Have you ever tried Cranberry Beans? They are so full of flavor, even when cooked without oil, and are now my favorite bean and they can even be bought at Walmart these days. 

I currently have 25 pounds of beans on hand and they include, Great Northern Beans, 15 Bean Soup, 15 Bean Cajun Soup, Cranberry Beans, Split Green Peas, Lentils, 16 Bean Soup mix, Butter Beans, Lima Beans, Baby Lima Beans, Red Beans, Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Pinto Beans, Yellow Eyed Peas, Black Eyed Peas, and Garbanzo Beans. 

Sorting and Soaking Dried Beans  

The first thing you need to do when getting ready to cook dried beans is sort through them to remove any pebbles or clumps of dirt. Beans are harvested in a way that does not always remove these things, so it is important to sort and then rinse the beans for any dust that may be on them. 

Usually what I do is the night before I want to make beans, I pour them onto the counter and sort them and then place them into a colander and rinse them under cool water. I then place the beans in a large bowl and cover with water up over the beans and allow the beans to soak overnight. 

Soaking beans has at least two major benefits. The first benefit is soaking breaks down some of the starches,  which can cause discomfort later after eating beans. I can always tell a difference when I've soaked my own beans at home verses beans I haven't soaked or canned beans. Another benefit of soaking beans is it makes cooking times shorter, which saves cooking fuel and money. 

Here is a photo of what the beans look like after soaking all night long. You can tell they have more than doubled in size. 

Cooking Beans from Scratch

In the morning, drain the beans and discard the soaking water and rinse again. I always discard the soaking water because to me it does not make sense to cook the beans in the water I soaked them in since that is where some of the unpleasantness of the beans is residing. 

Afterwards I place the beans in my slow cooker, but you can also make them on top of your stove. I used to make my beans on top of the stove, but that requires a great deal of what I call babysitting the beans.  I would have to check them regularly and add water as needed, but with the slower cooker I can turn them on and let them cook and not have to give them very much of my attention while they are cooking

Please excuse the photos as it was dark in the kitchen this morning as I was making these before work. I added an onion to this batch of 15 Bean Soup for flavor. 

What I do is place the beans in my slow cooker and cover with fresh water. Turn the slow cooker on high and cook the beans until they reach my desired stage of tenderness. We like some beans to be soupy and that requires additional cooking time. And I can always add more water to the beans as needed during the cooking process. You can cook them to whatever stage you would like. 

Here is the 15 Bean Soup after it has cooked all day and what it looks like in a serving bowl. 

It is a very hearty and delicious, stick to your ribs kind of dish. There is no oil in these beans although you could add some if you wanted for seasoning. My grandmother used to add bacon grease to her beans for flavoring and so did my Mother, but she eventually switched over to using vegetable oil for seasoning, which is what I had always done. I have used olive oil as well, which makes a great seasoning. But after doing my research this year, I change the way I make beans now and just add onion and some salt for seasoning. 

You can read about that update here

I've cooked dried beans for at least twenty-five years now, and I have made them as a main dish meal many times before. But it was not until this year that I have made them as a main dish meal on a regular basis. We eat beans almost everyday now and on days I am not cooking them we are usually eating beans from the batch made the day before. 

This is a change I've made in our diet to combat some of the rising cost of meat and groceries these days and in my attempt to eat a healthier, plant based diet . I made this 15 bean soup and it cost me approximately $3.00 to make and feed 3 people for dinner tonight. That works out to $1.00 per serving. Like I said about the onions, "I love getting a good bargain and feeding my family with food bought at the lowest price possible while still maintaining a healthy diet". 

CFO ~ Chief Frugal Officer
© Belinda & Frugal Workshop, 2011-2013.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without”


  1. Dried beans are a wonderful staple in anyone's pantry, to be sure. We also eat a lot of beans, especially now that it's cold out, and soups are more frequently being served!

    1. Definitely warms you up on a cold night, Carol! We had to turn the heat on for the first time last night, so this hit the spot for sure. :)

  2. Belinda, do you leave the lid off or on your crockpot?

    1. No, I think the reason I did that was to take a picture. But I definitely cook them with the lid on, Alison. :)


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