Everyone’s story is the same: their pantries all have at least one bag of old dried beans that you bought way back that was intended for a now-forgotten recipe.
Dried beans are a great source of nutrition, but their prep time can be a deterrent for many.
When you do happen to stumble across that archaic relic and decide to use it, how do you know if it’s gone bad?
Dried beans have a minimum shelf life of one year as per United States Agency for International Development, USAID. They can last 2+ years if kept away from heat, light, and moisture but will start to lose nutritional value after 5 years.
Storing such a simple staple is much like other dried goods, you need to keep it away from light, heat, and moisture.
While dried beans in general have a set of requirements for proper storage, there are different types of dried beans that may not last as long as others.
Do Dried Beans Really Expire?
When we talk about dried beans we are referring to varieties such as pinto, garbanzo, or black beans.
These varieties you have to rehydrate overnight before they are usable in the recipe you need them for. This lack of moisture is what helps keep them fresh over a long period.
While technically dried beans will stay edible for several years, they can lose their taste and texture.
People may find this unappealing but in a survival situation, they can still count as precious calories.
How Do You Know If Dried Beans Are Too Old?
Luckily, since moisture is the number one culprit of spoiling dried beans, it’s easy to spot when a batch has gone awry. Here are some of the tell-tale signs of your dried bean stash going bad:
- Dried beans should have little to no odor. If you smell anything rancid or sour then the beans should probably be tossed
- If there is moisture present then there can be mold. Black or white fuzzy mold is an indication that the beans are no longer viable.
- Shriveled or discolored dried beans can be found in every batch and should be taken out before rehydrating.
How Long Do Dried Beans Last in The Pantry?
Keeping your dried beans in your pantry or basement shelf in their original bag will only get you so far in terms of freshness.
The packaging is generally porous and oxygen can freely penetrate the material.
Since the plastic is clear, light and heat can get inside, potentially causing the growth of bacteria.
If this is how you store your dry beans, then much like pasta, you won’t get more than 12 months out of it until you start to notice degradation.
Even though they have been run through a thorough drying process the dried beans are apt to absorb any moisture that they’re introduced to, even an increase in humidity.
Weevils and Other Pests
These pantry invaders will generally show up as dinner guests in the packaging your dried food comes in.
This is because they like to lay their eggs inside the product at the factory. Since they take several weeks to hatch, you don’t notice them until it’s too late.
Other pests can lay their eggs inside little holes within the beans themselves.
If you want to exercise some extra caution then freeze your beans for 48 hours and that should kill off any eggs within.
Ensure you let the beans come to room temperature before you prepare them for additional storage. Some folks use a microwave for up to 90 seconds to kill any insect eggs.
What is the Shelf Life of Dried Beans
There are many different methods by which you can preserve your dried beans and they all have an approximate shelf life.
Keep in mind that even though the nutrition in the beans may deteriorate within less than a decade, the taste will remain the same for much longer.
Here is a chart that breaks down how long you can expect your dried beans to last based on your storage method:
|Storage Type||Approximate Shelf Life|
|Original Bag||12-48 Months|
|Airtight Container or Mylar||10+ years|
As you can see, there is a huge jump in shelf life when you simply move the beans into an airtight container.
These numbers are based on optimal storage conditions where light, heat, and moisture cannot get to the product.
How to Keep Dried Beans from Spoiling
There are many types of dried beans that you can store over the long term, some popular varieties include:
- White beans
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Pinto Beans
- Navy Beans
- Chickpeas (Garbanzo)
The nice thing is that all of these can be stored in the same way without any adverse effects harming one or the other.
When storing beans you want to eliminate the big three problems for shelf-stable food: light, heat, and moisture.
Any combination of these can start a chain reaction of bacteria and mold growth.
Airtight Containers and Mylar
One of the best ways to store any dry food, airtight containers or Mylar bags present an environment where nothing can grow.
Mylar bags especially work with vacuum sealers to eliminate oxygen inside the bag, perfect for killing off any insect eggs.
Oxygen absorbers are little packets of iron filings that oxidize when introduced to the air. This in terms absorbs the oxygen and replaces it with an inert gas such as nitrogen.
Adding one or two of these into your storage container can drastically increase the shelf life.
Subjecting your bean stock to the deep freeze can keep its shelf stable for an indefinite amount of time.
The best way to go about it is to vacuum seal the beans and then toss them inside the freezer, of course, you can omit that part and just put the bag in the freezer.
Doing this may cause freezer burn which can be detrimental to the texture of the beans.
A power failure would be your worst nightmare if you’re storing beans in the freezer.
If this happens to you, take them out as soon as possible and let them come to room temperature.
Any moisture that forms on the inside of the bag or container can ruin the beans, so airflow is important when thawing.
Dried beans won’t last forever but you can get them pretty close with proper storage methods and environmental conditions.
Treat all dried beans the same for storage and keep them away from anything that can breed on them, eat them, and spoil your shelf-stable supply.
Frequently Asked Questions
New to storing dried beans? Here are some of the most common questions we get asked about storing them.
Dried pinto beans will last you up to 3 years if vacuum sealed in an airtight container.
You can expect dried black beans to last between 3-5 years with optimal nutritional value.
Dried garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas) will last 2-3 years when stored correctly.
Perrin is an adventure guide and naturalist currently living a nomadic life in the Canadian wilderness. His education and expertise is in wilderness survival and wildlife tracking. He enjoys teaching people about the outdoors and has managed large groups on expeditions.
With several accredited certifications, including being a wilderness first responder and a leave no trace expert, Perrin believes it is important for all of us to reconnect with the natural world.