Beans. A staple of so many diets. They are one of the most versatile foods on the planet.
Full of protein, rich in fiber and delivering numerous minerals and vitamins, beans are an excellent addition to every healthy diet.
You can incorporate beans into your dishes in endless ways. Bean casserole, bean soup, bean dip, tacos, baked beans, and the all time greatest use for beans: Chili.
For this reason, I do not believe it would be a stretch for me to say that beans are one of the single most important ingredients to keep in the house.
But how long do they last?
Cooked pinto beans last for varying amounts of times depending on your storage method.
Expect your beans to stay good for around three to five days. If you can’t remember how long ago you cooked them, don’t fret. Once they go bad you will know the moment you open your refrigerator. Bad beans have a way of making themselves known.
This Pyrex storage set gives you lots of options for storing your beans.
Pinto beans stored in the freezer last infinitely longer than in the fridge (as with most everything else). You can typically expect frozen beans to last around 8 months.
Storing Pinto Beans
One of the great things about beans is that they have a very long shelf life. Dry beans will last about a year before they start to lose too much moisture. At that point, no amount of boiling will ever make them soft again.
Canned bean longevity is right around infinity. I’ve never seen them go bad. they are even a part of canned food drives. That tells you right there that they don’t expire for a very long time.
Dry beans are the best, but…
Cost-wise, adding dry beans to your meals is like minting money. But when you use dry beans, you may not always have time to soak and cook them before your next meal. So make a huge batch of pinto beans at one time. On those busy nights when you just do not have the time to start from scratch, you’ll have beans on hand.
Cooking Pinto Beans
When you are getting ready to cook your pinto’s you first want to soak them in water. Is this step necessary? Well, you remember that childhood saying, “Beans, beans they’re good for your heart. The more you eat, the more you…”?
The outer coating of beans is covered with indigestible sugars that cause flatulence. Soaking the beans in water is how you get rid of this layer. Coincidentally, it’s also how you get rid of the dreaded “bean gas.” When you soak them, you should let them rest in water for at least six hours (leaving them overnight is the easiest way to make sure they are thoroughly soaked).
One the soak is done, rinse them one final time, drain them and then transfer to the cooking pot. Fill the pot with water about an inch higher than the beans. Add your spices (salt, pepper, garlic cloves are the most popular) and bring to a boil. After the water boils, turn the heat down and let cook for 2 hours with the lid slightly open to let some steam escape. Check the beans for softness. They may need another hour.
Once you’ve finished cooking the beans, it is time to get them ready for storage. I would recommend having some beans ready for the next couple of days of meals by keeping two or three portions in the refrigerator.
The rest of the beans you can put into the freezer. Prepare them in individual packages, make sure the proportions make sense (don’t pack 3 cups of beans into a vacuum bag if you are only eating by yourself). When putting your portions together, leave some of the brine that the beans were cooked in. Doing so keeps the moisture and allows the beans to keep the same freshly cooked taste when you pull them back out of the freezer.
Let them cool!
Allow the beans to cool completely after cooking. If you put them in the fridge or freezer before they have been completely cooled off, you take the risk of having nasty bacterias growing inside of the package, ruining all of your hard work. Plus, the heat from the beans will dramatically raise the temperature of your fridge.
How long does it last?
The portions you set in the refrigerator will last no more than 5 days before they need to be tossed. The ones you have frozen can last as long as 8 months, so you have plenty of time to use them. When you need another portion of beans, transfer them from the freezer to the fridge and leave them for about 24 hours, they will be ready to cook the next day.
Wrap – Up
The best aspect of beans is how cost effective they are. You can get more beans than you can eat in a month for about the same price as a pound of beef. This makes it an excellent way to stretch your meals and save on funds.
Variety is the spice of bean usage
For instance, the recipe for chili calls for three different kinds of beans, some peppers, and a few other spices. All of these ingredients put together make a giant batch of chili that for me will last well into the week. And I’m not just talking about eating plain old boring chili every day for all three meals.
I put it on fries, sweet potato wedges, hot dogs, hamburgers, and a host of other foods I eat throughout the week as well.
I say all of this to illustrate the reasons why I think it is a good idea to purchase your beans in bulk, especially when you catch them on sale. Of course, when you purchase a small harvest worth of Pinto beans you are going to have to find a way to store them for the long term. Locking lid cans like these work wonderfully.
Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: MealMakeoverMoms