Legumes – The Perfect Storage Power Food

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Orca BeansLegumes are nutrient-dense. They are a good source of fiber, protein, iron, calcium, zinc, B vitamins and are naturally low in fat. One half cup of cooked beans contains about 115 calories and 8 grams of protein. When combined with grain they supply essential amino acids. Research shows that eating legumes helps to maintain a healthy body weight, reduces cholesterol, reduces risk of diabetes, prevents cancer and heart disease. They digest slowly satisfying hunger for a long time.

Beans are perfect for longer term storage and will store up to 30 years, if stored appropriately.

Storage Amounts

60 pounds of dry legumes per person per year is a good estimate for longer term food storage.  Depending on the variety of bean this would be 11 or 12 #10 cans (average weight 5–5.5 pounds), 9 or 10 Mylar pouches (average weight 6-6.7 pounds) or 2 plastic buckets.

I prefer to store a variety of beans and legumes in #10 cans. For instance; 2 pinto bean, 2 black bean, 1Dry Beans in #10 Cans - Copyright Your Family Ark LLC pink bean, 2 white bean, 1 Lima bean, 1 kidney bean, 1 yellow split pea, 1 green split pea, and 1 red lentil would be perfect for one person in our family for one year (except me, I hate Lima beans). Experiment with beans and learn what your family likes. Variety helps both with nutrition and in prevention of diet fatigue.

While I may prefer the #10 cans, I do have buckets of beans in my storage. I keep buckets of pinto, white, and black beans in my pantry with a gamma seal lid for easy access. I cook beans 3-4 times a week so I can go through these buckets in a year. I find buckets a little more challenging to use and rotate.

Shelf Life of Dry Beans

Airtight, cool (below 75 degrees) and dry create optimal storage conditions for dry beans. Dry legumes should be stored in #10 cans for best long term results (up to 30 years). Food grade plastic buckets, Mylar bags, and PETE bottles are also good options.

As beans age, their nutritive value and flavor degrade.They lose moisture content which results in longer cooking times in order to soften them. Beans will gradually lose some of their nutritional content over time. The shelf life for some legumes may be shorter than others.

The Experiment

My sister and I had both purchased pinto beans in 5 gallon plastic buckets before Y2K for our food storage. My beans were stored in our home for one year and in a basement crawlspace for nine years. My sister stored her beans in her garage for nine years and out on the side of the driveway for one year at which time she was ready to get rid of them. I love to experiment and gladly accepted the gift.

I took the beans home and cooked them up side by side with mine. While both beans were edible, my sister’s beans were darker and had a bitter taste. My beans, which had been stored under better conditions, were delicious. Both buckets of beans were purchased at the same time, from the same place, cooked the same (in a pressure cooker) … the only variable was storage conditions.Cooked Pinto Beans - Copyright Your Family Ark LLC

Pictured below, you can see the dry beans. My sister’s 11 year old beans are in the bucket in thePinto Beans - Storage Conditions Matter - Copyright Your Family Ark LLC background. They are dark, broken and have a shiny appearance. In the large measuring cup are the same pinto beans stored correctly in a plastic bucket. The smaller measuring cup are 11 year old pinto beans stored in a #10 can in a basement crawlspace.

This little experiment taught us that storage conditions are critical to the quality of the food. I want my food to be edible and delicious. It is not always possible to have optimal storage conditions. Do the best you can. Cool and dry!

Beans, Beans, The Magical Fruit

Dried – Dried beans and legumes are delicious and inexpensive. Purchased in bulk they are even less expensive. It is a good idea to soak beans before cooking in order to shorten cooking time and produce better quality beans. Soaking also leaches out hard-to-digest complex sugars which may cause gas. Do not cook beans in soaking water. Cooking time varies depending on the variety from one to four hours.  Pressure cooking reduces cooking time to minutes and can soften even very old beans in a much shorter time.

You can freeze cooked beans in freezer containers for up to six months. I will frequently pressure cook a large pot of beans and freeze some for quick meals later. Cooked lentils do not freeze well.

How to Cook Dry Beans – Sort out little rocks or broken beans and rinse well. Soak beans by covering with three inches of water. Let stand for six hours or overnight. Do not soak longer than 12 hours or they may begin to ferment. Drain and discard water before cooking. If you are in a hurry, boil for two minutes and soak only 1-2 hours. Add salt, sugar and acidic foods (like tomatoes) after the beans have completely softened. They will harden uncooked beans. Split peas and lentils do not need to be soaked.

Pressure cooking beans is quick and easy. It saves time and fuel. While beans can be successfully cooked on the stove top or in a  slow cooker, I strongly recommend pressure cooking. Beans become a “fast food” when cooked in the  pressure cooker.

Commercially Canned – Canned beans are a good option for shorter-term storage. They are expensive and often high in sodium, but are easy to cook (most can be eaten right out of the can). Commercially canned beans can be safely stored for several years in a cool, dry place.

Home Canned – It is easy to bottle your own beans by soaking the beans overnight, rinsing and pressure canning  them in jars. This way you control the amount of salt, along with the quality and variety of the beans you eat. Your local extension office can provide you with detailed information on pressure canning beans. Pressure canned beans should be rotated annually.

Bean Butter

Applesauce is a common fat replacer in many healthy recipes. Have you ever thought of not only replacing the fat but significantly increasing the protein and nutrient content with power packed beans?  It’s simple.

Replace up to half of the fat in your favorite recipes with white bean butter. You can make bean butter by smashing or blending cooked white beans. Replace shortening, oil, butter or margarine in baked goods cup for cup. Texture is best when you use half beans and half fat.

Bean butter will only last a few days in the refrigerator. Whip up a big batch and freeze it in ½ cup portions in freezer containers. This makes it quick and easy to up the nutrition in your favorite recipes.

Bean Flour – Magic Powder

Split Pea Flour - Copyright Your Family Ark LLCBeans may be ground into flour and used in a variety of recipes. They make great instant soups and gravies. Bean flour can be added to many baked goods, reducing fat and increasing protein and nutrition. I have found white bean flour to be the best for most recipes. It has a mild flavor that does not detract or change the flavor of the recipes. Split pea flour makes great instant split pea soup. Homemade gravy is as simple as whisking 4 tablespoons of white bean flour and 2 teaspoons any flavor soup base into 2 cups of boiling water and simmering for 3 minutes. Simple, delicious and power packed with all the goodness beans have to offer.

Here are a few helpful tips when using bean flour:

    • Grind beans in a burr or impact grinder which is designed for grains as well as beans. Do not grind beans in a stone grinder as it can damage it. The Country Living Grain Mill has a bean auger and is the best choice for hand grinding of grains as well as beans and corn.
    • Run a cup of hard wheat through your grinder after grinding beans to clean the mill. Brush to remove remaining residue.
    • Substitute up to ¼ flour with bean flour in most recipes. One cup flour =  ¼ cup bean flour and ¾ cup flour. Using more than this may affect the taste and texture of the original recipe.
    • Bean flour can store up to 6 months in the pantry and 1 year in the refrigerator.

Bean Facts

(Exact weight and measurments will vary with different legumes)

1 pound beans = 2 cups dry beans = 4-6 cups cooked beans = 9 servings

1 pound of dry beans = 4-5 cups bean flour

1 16 ounce can of beans = 1 ½ cups cooked beans

# 10 can dry beans = 5.2-5.5 pounds = 12 cups dry beans = about 50 servings

Common Varieties of Dry Beans

Black Beans (Black Turtle) – Black beans are popular in Mexican dishes and make a great substitute for meat. They have a soft, floury texture. Puree cooked black beans and replace up to half of the fat in brownies with high nutrition.

Black-eyed Peas (Cow Peas) – Black-eyed peas are a Southern staple. Hoppin’ John and Black-eyed Peas and Ham are just a few of the popular recipes made with this delicious bean.

Cannellini – This is a white Italian Kidney bean and is commonly used in soups, stews and salads.

Cranberry Bean (Roman Bean) – Beautiful tan bean with red spots/swirls. Cranberry beans are common in Italian dishes. They become tender easily and absorb flavors well.

Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas) – Garbanzo beans are popular in Mediterranean, Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. Try sprinkling on salads or puree them to make hummus.

Kidney Beans – Kidney beans have a robust flavor and are often used in chilis, soups, stews and salads. Kidney beans contain toxins when raw and must be cooked before eating.

Lentils – Lentils make a hearty addition to soups and stews. Red, brown and green lentils add color and variety to recipes. They do not need to be soaked before cooking. Try making a meatless chili by adding lentils in place of hamburger. The texture is similar.

Lima Beans (Butter Beans) – Lima beans have a buttery flavor and are great in soups, stews, salads  or as a side dish. They are used to make succotash along with corn and green or red peppers.

Mung Beans – These beans are small, dark green beans which are the basic ingredient of stir-fries and a perfect addition to salads. Add to soups just before serving.

Pink Beans – These are my personal favorite. Pink beans are commonly used in South American recipes and “Old West” chili recipes. I often combine these beans with another for a unique and colorful chili.

Pinto Beans – Pinto beans are used in salads, chilis, Mexican dishes and to make re-fried beans. These are a favorite staple in our home.

Red Beans – These are similar to dark red kidney beans only smaller. They are often used in soups, salads, and Creole dishes. Red beans and rice is a delicious combination.

Split Peas – Split peas are available in yellow and green. Unlike most legumes, dried split peas do not need to be soaked before cooking. Grind split peas into flour for instant split pea soup. Try adding 2 teaspoons of chicken or vegetable soup base, 1 tablespoon each of real bacon bits, dehydrated carrots, onions, and celery to 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Then whisk in 3 tablespoons pea flour. Cook over medium-high heat for one minute. Instant split pea soup. It is absolutely delicious. For thicker soup add more pea flour.

Soybeans – Soybeans are a nutritional powerhouse but need to be soaked for a long time and are somewhat hard to digest. They are used to make oil, tofu, soy sauce, mock meats, sprouts, soy milk and cheese.

White Beans (Navy Beans) – These beans are amazingly versatile. Navy beans are commonly used to make baked beans, but can be a basic ingredient in soups, salads, and chili. Grind them into flour and replace up to ¼ of the flour in many baked recipes with power packed beans.

Think about adding more beans to your diet as well as your food storage. Beans will store up to 30 years, add critical nutrients to your diet, and help you feel full longer. Do you have enough beans in your food storage?


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.