One Quick Tip: Why Dried Beans Won’t Cook

Have you wondered why a pot of dried beans just won't cook? Or cooked beans that turn out tough, especially the skins? Or experienced a favorite bean recipe that every once in awhile, just doesn't turn out right?

When beans don't cook, you probably wondered if you soaked the beans long enough or if you should just cook the beans longer. You maybe questioned the recipe or worried that your slow cooker was going bad.

The real cause? Old dried beans. That's right.

Old dried beans don't cook, they just won't cook.

Why Dried Beans Won't Cook, Another Quick Tip from Kitchen Parade.

The Great Fall Pantry Purge: Throw Away Those Beans!

Many of us experience beans that won't cook in late autumn. This is how it goes, right? The temperature drops, suddenly all we can think about is a big pot of hearty bean soup simmering on the stove. So we check our pantries and sure enough, lucky break, there's a bag or two of beans leftover from last winter!

Should you make soup with those beans? Nope. Throw those beans away!

Think about it. Beans are harvested and dried during late summer to early fall, then sent to grocery stores. So by this fall, beans you find in your pantry are at least a year old. For dried beans? That's old, really old.

So every fall, I go to the big glass jar where I keep beans and just throw them away. It's hard – I really hate throwing away food – but I've learned that unless I throw the beans away, all the other ingredients I'll put in the same pot with the old dried beans will get wasted too. Better to throw away a few cheap beans than a whole pot of soup!

FYI this applies to other dried legumes too, like dried peas (including split peas) and lentils. I learned this the hard way just last week after throwing some French lentils into the slow cooker for Lentil Sloppy Joes. The lentils were at least a year old but I decided to cook them anyway. Bad idea: they took twice as long to cook and even then, didn't really cook. We're eating them but it's a struggle.

In my experience, the "old beans won't cook" experience doesn't seem to apply to rice, wild rice, barley, buckwheat, farro or quinoa. These aren't legumes (aka beans), of course, but are other starchy whole-food pantry ingredients.

How to Avoid "Old" Dried Beans

Buy dried beans from a store with high turnover.
Even when beans go on sale, buy only enough to use within a few months.
Check the packaging for expiration dates.
Write the purchase date right on the package.
In the fall, throw away last year's dried beans.

THAT'S IT! Really! One Quick Tip!

This is the latest in an occasional series of posts I call "One Quick Tip" ... because, well, each one includes just a single quick tip that's quick to absorb, easy to adopt, memorable to use. Something that'll make a difference in your kitchen life!

Do you have One Quick Tip you'd like to share? Leave a comment or send me a quick e-mail via This time, I'd love to hear how you manage your pantry, perhaps spices, maybe different flours or nuts, maybe canned goods. Go ahead, share your good ideas!

Favorite Recipes for Dried Beans

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
At Last Black Bean Soup Ham & Beans Lucky Black-Eyed Pea Salad
~ more canned & dried bean recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

© Copyright 2014 Kitchen Parade

Have you ever tried the bring to boil and sit longer method? It would kill me to throw out beans, but that’s all fast. I believe you, Alanna, but it’s hard. I used to make 15-bean-soup bags for my old church, and sometimes would throw in some I’d had for awhile, along w/ the bags of ‘new’...
moo ~ I know it’s hard to throw out any food, even “cheap” beans. Maybe my beans are older than yours :-) but I’d rather throw away cheap beans than a whole pot of food. Of course, I could also consider it an excuse to order pizza ...
While I do mark my packages of beans, but adding a small amount of baking soda does work to help tenderize, and did not make my garbanzos mushy. They were about two years old, and got pushed to the back of the pantry--so I combined all the techniques I knew about to cook them, including soaking about 5 hours, using my pressure cooker, and adding some baking soda. Try it and let me/us know what you think.

We do mark almost every item in the big freezer with the date and a star system (such as 5-star black eyed peas, three star lentil soup, etc.) By the way,with just two of us cooking and eating at home most of the time, taking lunches, going to an occasional pot luck, we have a lot coming in and out, and have to mark the date on incoming large bags of flours (they always go into the freezer), rice, beans, and definitely spices.

We grow our own herbs, including this year 5 kinds of basil, four of oregano, and numerous kinds of mints for teas. We then have our own "herb drying festival," as we call it, every August, and we absolutely mark the herb name and the date it was dried when we bag them. By Fourth of July, we pitch the previous year's harvest, eat fresh, and wait for the next harvest.
Christy ~ Wow, you guys are truly organized! I especially love the idea of marking the freezer additions with stars --- cuz in real life, don’t we often put stuff into the freezer because it’s just not being eaten? What a great way to prioritize! I’m stealing your idea! :-)
Thanks, Alanna! When moo moves and hands down dried yellow peas that are of an indeterminate age, and you soak them for 24 hrs and they still don't quite cook all the way . . . well now I know it wasn't me.
Kirsten ~ Ha ha, old habits die hard! And I’m kinda like your mom, I think of some foods as “shelf stable” forever. WRONG.

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna