Food Storage Experiment – Are 29-Year-Old White Beans Edible?

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For many years, we have stored basic dry goods to help us be more self-reliant. Recently, we opened a couple of number 10 cans containing 29-year-old white beans.

How long will dry beans last in storage? Dry beans can remain edible for 25 to 30 years when stored correctly. Storage conditions make all the difference in extending the usable life of dry beans. They need to be stored in a cool, dry, dark, reduced oxygen environment to obtain the longest quality shelf life. 

I want to give a shout out to our friend Jerzy for inspiring us to conduct this experiment. According to Jerzy, these cans of 29-year-old beans are a great treasure and can provide us with a wealth of valuable information. I think Jerzy is exactly right!

29-Year-Old Dry White Bean Food Storage Experiment

We have designed an experiment that will answer many of the questions we have concerning dry beans that have been stored for many years. The questions driving us include the following.

Are dry white beans stored in a number 10 can in a cool basement storeroom still edible after 29 years? Our results demonstrate that not only are they edible, but they are also delicious if cooked correctly and combined with the right ingredients.

Will old dry beans soften up when cooked even after 29 years in storage? In every one of our test samples, the dry beans eventually softened and became edible. The overall finished quality of the bean varied by cooking method, presoaking, and ingredients added to the beans before they were completely cooked.

Do old dry beans still taste good after almost 30 years? The old beans softened and were delicious in a variety of soups, salads, dips, and even in blueberry muffins.

Will very old dry beans sprout? The 29-year-old beans in our experiment did show evidence of sprouting. The sprouts were not vigorous and less than 30 percent of the beans in the sample sprouted.

29-Year-Old Dry Bean Sample

We took the opportunity to test 2 cans of white beans that had been stored for 29 years in number 10 cans in a cool, basement storage room. White beans tend to be one of the varieties of dry beans that are a little challenging to soften up after years of storage.

The dry white beans were originally packaged at an LDS Home Storage Center. You can purchase dry white beans online from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints here.

The next best option is to buy them in bulk and package them yourself. We have great resources to help you later in this article. These are some other food storage suppliers that we recommend if you want to purchase foods packaged ready-to-store.

Old Dry White Bean Physical Appearance

Two number 10 cans of beans were opened and inspected. A slight sweet metallic smell was noted, but is typical of dry goods stored in both cans and Mylar bags.

Overall, the quality of the white beans appeared to be quite good. They were uniform in color, had smooth skins, and there were very few broken beans. The beans were similar in appearance to fresh dry white beans.

It is important to note these beans are very small, which may have played into their ability to soften as compared to larger beans which may have require more cooking time.

Old Dry Bean Experiment Procedure

The dry beans were sorted and any rocks or discolored or broken beans were removed. We divided the beans into 5 groups for the purposes of this experiment.

The beans were rinsed well. The first 3 groups had 3 cups of beans placed in 3 different glass bowls. The fourth group was rinsed and immediately cooked without soaking. The fifth group was placed in a larger glass bowl that held 4 cups of beans.

#1 – Beans Soaked in Salt Brine Overnight

The first glass bowl contained 3 cups of  beans, 3 teaspoons of salt, and was covered with water 3 inches above the level of the beans. The bowl was covered with a glass lid and allowed to soak overnight.

#2 – Beans Soaked in Baking Soda Overnight

The second glass bowl contained 3 cups of beans, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and was covered by water 3 inches of water above the beans. The bowl was covered with a glass lid and allowed to soak overnight.

#3 – Beans Soaked in Water Overnight

The third glass bowl contained 3 cups of e beans and was covered by water 3 inches of level of the beans. The bowl was covered with a glass lid and allowed to soak overnight.

#4 – Beans Not Presoaked

The fourth bowl contained beans that were not allowed to soak at all before cooking. They were sorted and rinsed with water.

 #5 – Beans Soaked in Baking Soda Overnight

The fifth glass bowl contained 4 cups of beans, 1 heaping teaspoon baking soda, and was covered by water 3 inches above the beans. The bowl was covered with a glass lid and allowed to soak overnight. This sample was added specifically to see how salt, sugar, acid (tomatoes) and bacon fat added at the beginning affect the cooking process.

29-Year-Old Beans Cooking Test Results

We also compared pressure cooking and stovetop cooking for each of the samples. A batch of 29-year-old dry white beans that were rinsed but not soaked was cooked on the stovetop and in the pressure cooker. Cooked beans that were soaked in salt brine, baking soda, and plain water were also compared.

Unsoaked Dry Beans Cooking Comparison

29-year-old dry white beans were sorted and rinsed well. They were covered with a few inches of water and a little bit of olive oil was added to prevent foaming. The beans were not allowed to soak prior to cooking.

Pressure Cooked Unsoaked Dry Beans

The rinsed beans were placed in an Instant Pot and covered with a few inches of water. A small amount of olive oil was added to the water.

The beans were cooked on the Bean/Chili cycle. The pressure was allowed to release naturally. Once the pressure was released the beans were soft and edible.

Stovetop Cooked Unsoaked Dry Beans

Another portion of the unsoaked beans was placed in a saucepan and covered with water. We added a little bit of oil to prevent foaming. These beans were checked at the 2-hour mark and were still fairly hard.

At 3 hours, both the skin and the inside the unsoaked white beans were soft, but the skin was just a bit chewy. I was concerned that cooking them any longer might make them mushy.

The beans were allowed to cool completely. Then we made a simple white bean salad and put it in the refrigerator. This recipe included the cooked white beans, 2 tablespoons chopped red onion, a tablespoon of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon Herbs de Provence, ½ teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper.

I combined all of the ingredients except the beans and stirred well. The beans were a bit fragile and I was a little worried about this salad getting a bit mushy, so I added the beans last. I folded all of the ingredients together and then put the salad in the refrigerator to let the flavors combine. Yum!

Dry Beans Soaked in Plain Water Cooking Comparison

The beans soaked in plain water eventually softened, but the quality was not as good as the beans that were soaked in water with baking soda or salt.

Pressure Cooked Beans Soaked in Plain Water

The portion of the beans in a stovetop pressure cooker softened and was edible. However, it is interesting to note that many of the skins appear to have slipped off the centers.

Stovetop Cooked Beans Soaked in Plain Water

The beans that were soaked in plain water were cooked on the stovetop for over 3 hours before softening. The skins seem to fall off of the beans and were floating on top of the water. The skins were a bit chewy.

Dry Beans Soaked in Brine Cooking Comparison

We rinsed the beans that had soaked overnight in the salt solution. We divided the beans in half and placed one half in the pressure cooker and the other half in a saucepan.

Then we covered the beans with a few inches of water and placed both over medium-low heat. A small amount of cooking oil was added to prevent foaming.

Pressure Cooked Brine Soaked Beans

The beans were cooked in the pressure cooker for 5 minutes and the pressure was allowed to release naturally. Both the skins and the inside of the beans had a soft, pleasant texture.

Stovetop Cooked Brine Soaked Beans

The beans in the saucepan cooked for 2 hours before the beans were soft. The skins were a bit tough but the center of the beans was soft.

Best Cooking Method for Brine Soaked Beans

If you are using 29-year-old beans, you may have limited cooking options available to you. Overall, the pressure cooker produced the best quality beans with both the skin and the center being consistently soft. In a crisis, a pressure cooker will use significantly less fuel than cooking dry beans on a stovetop or open flame.

Dry Beans Soaked in Baking Soda Water Cooking Comparison

For this portion of the experiment, dry beans were sorted, rinsed, and soaked overnight in water with a teaspoon of baking soda. The soaking water was discarded before cooking and replaced with fresh water.

Pressure Cooked Beans Soaked in Baking Soda Water

One portion of the beans was cooked in a pressure cooker for 5 minutes and the pressure was allowed to release naturally. The beans were completely soft and held together nicely.

Stovetop Cooked Beans Soaked in Baking Soda Water

The other portion of beans were cooked on the stovetop for 2 hours. They were soft and edible, although the skins were slightly tough. Good results were obtained but the pressure cooked beans had a more consistent texture throughout the bean.

Ingredients Added to Uncooked Beans Results

The beans used for this study were soaked overnight in water with baking soda. The soaked beans were rinsed and placed in a pan. They were covered with a couple of inches of fresh water above the top of the beans.

The test ingredient was added to the presoaked, drained, uncooked beans and cooked over medium-low heat. The results are noted below. 

Salt Added at the Beginning of Cooking Dry Beans

The presoaked beans had 1 teaspoon of salt added along with water and were placed over medium-low heat. At 2 hours, the beans were soft enough to be considered edible.

An interesting observation to note is that the beans with salt added at the beginning seem to shed their skins. The skins remained tough. The overall appearance was poor.

We are unable to determine if this was due to the age of the beans or the salt. Other beans cooked in this study did not seem to have this same issue.  

Sugar Added at the Beginning of Cooking Dry Beans

The presoaked beans had 1 teaspoon of sugar added along with the water and were placed over medium-low heat. At 2 hours, the beans were soft and looked great.

Acid Added at the Beginning of Cooking Dry Beans

The presoaked beans had a can of chopped tomatoes added and were covered with water. They were placed over a medium low heat to cook. At 2 hours, the center of the beans were soft but had a bit of a strange texture. The skins were tough.

Bacon Fat Added at the Beginning of Cooking Dry Beans

Bacon fat was browned in a skillet along with onions, celery, carrots, and garlic. The presoaked beans were added and covered with water. The skillet was covered and checked at one hour. The beans were still hard. 

Beans were checked at 90 minutes and were soft. The remaining ingredients were added to the soup and we let it simmer for an additional 15 minutes. The soup was delicious and there was no evidence of the actual age of the beans.

Results of 29-Year-Old White Bean Cooking Experiment

The best quality beans will always be achieved when cooking fresh beans. We store dry beans in our food storage, as part of our family emergency plan, to make sure that we have food to eat during challenging times.

Storage Conditions Make a Difference

The dry beans in this experiment were stored under ideal conditions in a sealed #10 can in a cool, dry basement storage room. Storing dry goods correctly will make all the difference in how long the quality of the food will last. Similar results would not be typical for beans stored in original packaging or in a warm environment.

You may be interested to read this post about cooking 18-year-old pinto beans and some of the unique challenges we observed due to different storage conditions. Dry Bean Food Storage Myth – Actual Shelf-Life Revealed

To learn more how to achieve the longest quality shelf life for your stored foods visit these posts.

How to Store Dry Beans in Long Term Food Storage

The longest quality shelf life of dry beans can be achieved by following these simple steps.

  1. Remove dry beans from original packaging. Dry beans will absorb moisture and become hard if stored in the original plastic or paper bag.
  2. Place dry beans in an airtight container. Ideal containers for storing dry beans include number 10 can, Mylar bag lined plastic bucket, Mylar bag, glass bottle, plastic PETE bottle, or a food-grade plastic bucket with an air-tight lid.
  3. Treat dry beans to prevent insect infestation by using an oxygen absorber, vacuum sealing, or using the freeze/thaw/freeze method. This will ensure that you do not end up with cowpea and bean weevils ruining your stored beans.
  4. Place sealed container in a cool, dry, dark storage room.

Visit these posts to learn more about how to correctly store dry beans for long term storage.

Pressure Cooking Ideal for Softening Dry Beans

The best results were achieved when the dry beans were cooked in a pressure cooker and the pressure was allowed to release naturally. I am a huge fan of my Instant Pot because it simplifies cooking dried beans.

The beans were consistently soft and uniform in texture when cooked in a pressure cooker regardless of whether or not they had been presoaked. However, the best results were achieved with the beans that had been soaked overnight with baking soda and pressure cooked.

All Test Groups of 29-Year-Old Dry Beans Eventually Softened

The quality of the cooked beans varied considerably depending on soaking method and the type of ingredients added at the beginning of cooking. However, all of the dry bean test groups eventually softened and were edible.

Pre-Soaked Beans Produced Best Quality

The beans that were presoaked produced the best quality of cooked beans. The beans tended to be more uniformly soft and had a nicer appearance.

Both the salt brine and baking soda water proved to be effective methods. Soaking in plain water did not produce quite the same quality of beans, but produced a better final product than beans that were unsoaked.

Dry Beans Are a Fantastic Survival Food with a Long Shelf Life

This experiment clearly demonstrated that even 29-year-old dry beans, that have been stored appropriately, can be a foundational food in a survival food supply. We were able to create delicious meals by adding a few basic ingredients to these ancient beans from our food storage.

There are a few important tips to remember.

  • Fresh beans are ideal. Rotate your food storage regularly.
  • Storage conditions are important. Optimal performance will be achieved from cool, dry, dark, and packaged in a sealed container with a reduced oxygen environment.
  • Dry beans are versatile and delicious. Experiment with and make beans a regular part of your healthy diet.

We learned a few things from this little experiment. The most important tidbit of knowledge is that dry beans truly are a valuable dry good worth stocking with your daily and emergency food supply.

Thanks for being part of the solution!

Jonathan and Kylene Jones
https://youtu.be/GivTu_qyBl8

Kylene

Kylene Jones is a blogger, content creator, published author, motivational speaker, homesteader, prepper, mother, and grandmother. She practices self-reliance, provident living, and emergency preparedness in her everyday life. She loves working with her husband, Jonathan, and is committed to helping our community be prepared to thrive during the challenges that lie in our future.