Beans. They’ve become a staple in my diet since I discovered them a few years ago (I know, I have no idea how it took me so long!)
At first, I stuck to canned beans because they were easier. But I quickly moved onto dried beans. They’re SO much cheaper.
It was a steep learning curve, but now I can confidently say I’m an expert in bean storage. I’ve prepared and stored many different types of beans and tried various storage methods.
To store soaked beans, drain the soaking liquid and dry the beans with a paper towel. Line an airtight container with a second paper towel and put the beans in. The paper will soak up any excess liquid. The soaked beans will last 5 days in the refrigerator.
How to store soaked beans
You can store soaked, uncooked beans with or without the soaking water.
I always store my beans without the soaking water because they last longer and it’s less effort.
If you’ve used the quick soaking method remember to let the beans cool to room temperature before you store them.
Without the soaking water
To store soaked beans, remove them from their soaking water and dry them thoroughly. Once dry, put them in an airtight container and store them in the fridge. The beans will be good for 4-5 days. If you want to keep them longer, you can freeze them.
Drying the beans stops them from getting mushy and means they’ll keep for longer. You can also put a paper towel in the bottom of the container to soak up any excess water.
Alternatively, you can cook the soaked beans and then store them. This is my preferred method because it saves you time later. Cooking all the beans at once is easier than cooking them in separate batches. I go through how to store cooked beans later in this article (click the link to jump straight to that section).
With the soaking water
To store beans in their soaking water, the most important thing is to remember to change the water regularly (every 12 hours). This stops anything nasty from building up in the water.
Some people also like to add a splash of vinegar to the soaking water to make it less hospitable for microbes.
If you plan to soak the beans for any longer than 24 hours, you should keep the container in the refrigerator. This is especially important during the summer when the air temperature is warmer.
For less than 24 hours the beans will be fine on the counter.
If the beans get too warm, they can ferment or start sprouting. While fermented beans aren’t necessarily unsafe to eat, if you weren’t planning on fermenting them it can be majorly off-putting.
Cold temperatures inhibit the fermentation process.
At room temperature, beans will start to ferment at around 24-48 hours, depending on the temperature. In the fridge, they’ll last 3-4 days before they start to ferment.
When you want to cook the beans, discard the soaking water and then add the beans to whatever dish you want.
Why do you discard the soaking water?
Almost every guide to soaking beans will tell you to discard the water and cook them in fresh water.
Why is this?
There are two main reasons people soak beans:
- To reduce cooking time
- To make the beans more digestible (and stop you farting)
There are certain sugars within beans that we find hard to digest and can cause us to have excessive gas.
Supposedly these indigestible sugars leach out during the soaking phase and are then thrown away when you drain the water.
There’s an ongoing debate about whether this actually happens. But, in my opinion, if you’ve already soaked the beans you may as well err on the side of caution and throw away the soaking water.
How long can I soak beans for?
Ideally, you should soak your beans for between 8-12 hours. If you soak them for less than eight hours, the beans will still require a significant amount of cooking. And if you soak them for longer than 12 they might absorb too much water and go mushy.
Having said that, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that you can soak beans for a lot longer than that with no problems. At room temperature, you can soak beans for up to 48 hours, and in the refrigerator, you can soak them for up to 4 days.
Keep in mind that each batch of beans is different and one batch may last a lot longer than another for no apparent reason. Always check your beans before you cook them to make sure they haven’t gone bad.
It’s really easy to tell with beans if they’ve gone bad because they emit a horrible smell. If you’re worried you’ve oversoaked your beans, rinse them and give them a sniff. This should tell you all you need to know.
Can you freeze soaked beans?
You can freeze soaked beans before you cook them. Simply drain the beans, dry them and then put them in an airtight container in the freezer. They’ll last 3 months. You can also freeze them in the soaking liquid, but they’ll take a lot longer to defrost.
To avoid freezer burn either:
- Use a freezer bag with all the air squeezed out
- Use as small a plastic container as possible and cover the beans with a layer of plastic wrap
Although you can freeze soaked beans, I dont recommend it. It’s much easier to cook them before you freeze them. That way they’re ready to go as soon as you get them out of the freezer.
If you don’t have time to cook them straight away, you can leave the soaked beans in the fridge for a few days until you get a chance to cook them. When you do get round to cooking them, you can transfer the cooked beans to the freezer.
Do soaked beans go bad?
Soaked beans can go bad and illness-causing bacteria can grow on them. They will normally smell and become slimy once they’ve gone bad, so you should be able to tell. Soaked beans can also ferment or sprout. This doesn’t mean the beans are bad, but they might taste different.
Off beans will smell sour and yeasty. If you’re not sure about your beans, rinse them and then smell them. If they smell funky it’s probably best to give them a miss.
Fermented beans are perfectly safe to eat, but they can smell pretty bad. Unless you meant to ferment them, most people would consider the fermented beans gone off.
Because of the smell, it can be hard to distinguish between fermented beans and rotten beans. One tell-tale sign is foaming. If the water is foaming this means the beans are fermenting.
Sprouted beans won’t smell bad, they’ll just look like they’re growing something! Sprouted beans are also safe to eat. In fact, they’re a lot more digestible than unsprouted beans.
If you notice the beans are sprouting and you don’t want them to, move the beans to the fridge. Cold temperatures inhibit sprouting.
How to store cooked beans
To store cooked beans, let them cool to room temperature before putting them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can keep them in there with or without the cooking liquid. In both cases, the beans will last 4-5 days.
The boiling method
In very hot and humid climates it’s not uncommon for cooked beans to start to ferment even in the refrigerator. This will be pretty easy to spot (they’ll start to smell).
To stop this, you can boil the beans for a few minutes every day. This will kill the fermenting bacteria and your beans will be as good as new. After you’ve boiled them, simply wait for the beans to cool and return them to the refrigerator.
In theory, you can do this indefinitely. But eventually the beans will start to go mushy from overcooking.
How to freeze cooked beans
You can freeze cooked beans with or without their cooking liquid.
To freeze the beans, put them in an airtight container. A freezer bag with the air squeezed out is best for dry beans, and a plastic container is best for beans in their liquid. Leave the beans to cool to room temperature before freezing. Cooked beans will last 2-3 months in the freezer.
You should freeze the beans without the cooking water if:
- You want to be able to use the beans in something like a salad or a burrito
- You want to be able to thaw the beans quickly
I like to portion out my beans because it makes it super easy to grab how much I need out of the freezer. But there’s no real need to do this because beans separate easily once frozen. You can keep them all in one bag and just give them a quick squeeze to separate them before taking what you need.
If you’re going to use the beans in a soup or a stew, you might want to keep the cooking liquid. The liquid can be used to add some extra flavor to the soup. Also, freezing the beans in water helps protect them from freezer burn.
If you’re cooking the beans knowing you’re going to freeze them and cook them again at a later date, it’s best to cook the beans al dente. This way, you can put them in your final dish without worrying about overcooking them.
If you do freeze the beans dry, you can always freeze the water separately and use it another time. The liquid itself will last up to 6 months in the freezer.
How to defrost cooked beans
To defrost the beans you can leave them in the refrigerator overnight. They should be ready to use the next day.
If you need to thaw them quickly you can place the container in a warm water bath or under warm running water.
If your beans are separated from the cooking water they’ll thaw much quicker. You can also speed up the process by heating the beans in a pan.
How To Store Soaked Beans
- 1 portion soaked beans
- 1 portion water
How to store soaked beans WITHOUT the soaking water
- To store soaked beans, remove them from their soaking water and dry them thoroughly.
- Once dry, put them in an airtight container and store them in the fridge.
- The beans will be good for 4-5 days. If you want to keep them longer, you can freeze them.
How to store soaked beans WITH the soaking water
- To store beans in their soaking water, the most important thing is to remember to change the water regularly (every 12 hours). This stops anything nasty from building up in the water.
- Optionally, you can add a splash of vinegar to the soaking water to make it less hospitable for microbes.
- If you plan to soak the beans for any longer than 24 hours, you should keep the container in the refrigerator. This is especially important during the summer when the air temperature is warmer.For less than 24 hours the beans will be fine on the counter.