Dried Beans Are a Healthy, Frugal Pantry Staple
Are you still buying canned beans? I know, I know it's convenient. But with a little planning and hardly any work you can save lots of $$$ and eat waaaay tastier beans at home. Seriously, folks. Not only are canned beans way more expensive than dried, but they're also covered in a weird gloopy substance that you have to wash off. I don't know about you, but I'd rather avoid that!
Especially when I can cook them from scratch seasoned with aromatics, bacon (skip that if you're vegetarian or vegan), spices and homemade stock. And while the beans slow cook, the liquid transforms into a flavorful stock fondly called "pot liquor". You won't want to dump this tasty stuff!
Homemade Beans Taste Better
Ever since I quit buying canned beans and started cooking them at home, I eat A LOT more beans. Why? They taste freaking delicious! These days I especially love organic pinto beans sprinkled with celtic sea salt and garlic powder, served with over-easy eggs for a quick and savory breakfast that's packed with protein.
Of course there are a bazillion and one ways to incorporate beans into all kinds of foods. Just consider the possibilities. And then imagine paying 1/4 or less of what you would normally pay for canned beans in all of these meals. That's a lot of money you just saved! Even better, you can make big batches and freeze the beans in smaller portions to quickly de-thaw and add to last minute dishes like chili, tacos, soup, etc.
To Soak or Not to Soak?
However, before I rush to the recipe, I have to mention the option for soaking dried beans. There seems to be two types of folks: the ones who believe that soaking beans makes them more digestible and less likely to cause gas and the those who can't tell the difference. Before I began making beans at home, I couldn't argue for one side or the other.
But in the past year I've experimented with soaking and not soaking my beans. I noticed that when I soak the beans for at least 12 hours with an acid medium (such as organic apple cider vinegar) that I experienced hardly any flatulence. (Okay, I just wanted an excuse to use that word!) If you're in the camp that doesn't experience any stomach issues, there's still another reason why you should.
Phytic Acid in Beans, Grains & Nuts
Certain plant foods such as beans, grains and nuts contain high levels of a substance called phytic acid, a.k.a. phytate. When eaten by a human (animals can handle it), phytic acid attaches itself to minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc, which causes them to pass through the intestines without being absorbed.
While having minimal amounts of phytic acid isn't harmful, if your diet regularly consists of large amounts of beans, grains or nuts then there's a good chance you're developing a mineral deficiency. When your body is lacking essential minerals over a lengthened period of time, this could result in bone deterioration, tooth decay and anemia.
Because of this many people refer to phytic acid as an anti-nutrient. However, this isn't completely true. It can aid in the removal of iron, which is necessary for some folks. But for most others, it's not helpful in large amounts and on a regular basis.
Thankfully, there are ways to reduce the level of phytic acids in these foods by soaking, sprouting or fermenting them using whey, yogurt, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, for example.
Have I convinced you to ditch the cans? Are you about to run out the door and buy a big ol' bag of dried beans? I sure hope so!
How to Soak and Cook Dried Beans For Optimal Taste and Nutrition
Learn how to properly prepare and cook dried beans for optimal taste and nutrition, which will save you lots of money and let you ditch canned beans.
Adapted from The Healthy Home Economist's Why You Must Soak Your Beans
Yield: approximately 6 cups of cooked beans
1 pound of dried organic beans (I typically use black, pinto or garbanzo)
1/4 cup of organic apple cider vinegar (skip this if you're not soaking)
5-6 cups of homemade stock OR purified water** (I recommend reverse osmosis)
2 bay leafs
1-2 pieces of bacon, quartered (optional--omit for a vegetarian/vegan version)
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
4 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
**You can definitely use water if that's all you have; however, I HIGHLY recommend using chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade. This gives the beans a lot more flavor. If you use only water, it will taste bland (in my opinion).
stainless steel stock pot or enameled cast-iron dutch oven (for soaking and cooking)
colander (this collapsable silicone one is pretty awesome)
Want more real food & gadget recommendations? Check out my shop page.
Pour the beans out on a large baking or cookie sheet and sort through them, removing any misshapen beans, stones or pebbles. Pour the sorted beans into a large container (I like to use a crock-pot). Add the apple cider vinegar onto the beans and then cover with purified water. The beans will absorb the water and expand, so make sure you add enough water so that it comes up 3-4 inches above the beans. Cover with a lid or a towel and let soak for 12-36 hours. If you can, change the water periodically and rinse the beans, which will aid in the removal of some of the anti-nutrients. I usually soak mine for 24 hours.
Drain and rinse the beans thoroughly in a colander and place in a stock pot. Add in the homemade stock (or purified water), bay leafs, bacon (optional), onion and garlic. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a simmer, then cover with a lid and reduce to low heat. Cook for 3 hours or until the beans are completely tender. Once the beans have cooled, you can portion them out with a bit of the liquid into freezer safe containers.
Notes & Tips
Depending on your water source, you could have a difficult time getting your beans to soften during the soaking process. This is most likely due to hard water, which is another reason why I highly recommend using purified water. You can buy a gallon of reverse osmosis from most grocery stores and there are often places to refill jugs for as little as 25 cents.
If you don't have time to soak your beans and don't want to wait 8 or so hours for them to slow cook, I recommend using Budget Byte's crock-pot bean technique, which harnesses the slow cooker's high setting and allows for much quicker cooking.
Love this "how to" recipe? Try these:
- how to make nutrient-dense homemade beef stock
- how to make coconut milk with unsweetened shredded coconut
- how to make vanilla extract using bourbon & vodka
- how to make almond milk coffee creamer
- how to cold brew tea: the best method for making iced tea
- how to roast chiles & peppers in the oven
- how to make homemade corn tortillas with masa harina
- how to make whipped cream from scratch in five minutes
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I'd like to hear from YOU!
What's your favorite dish that incorporates cooked beans? Do you think it makes a difference in taste (or how your body reacts) when beans are soaked?
Answer in the comments below.