How Long Do Dried White Beans Last, Exactly?

Dried white beans are a staple in many households, and for good reason.

They’re cheap, you can buy them in virtually any dollar store, convenience store, and supermarket, and they are shelf-stable.

This means that you don’t have to refrigerate dried white beans, and they’ll keep for a really long time regardless (provided you store them properly, which is what this guide will cover).

But, as long as the shelf life of dried white beans is, no one can deny that no food lasts forever.

So how long do dried white beans last in storage? And what should you do to make them last longer?

The Takeaways: Dried White Beans

Where to store: Cool, dry, and dark place

Best quality: 1-3 years in original packaging, 20-30 in #10 cans or Mylar bags

Tips: To soften, let soak overnight, refrigerated. Change the water before cooking.

If kept in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, dried white beans retain their best quality for 1 year. Their vitamin content decreases after 2-3 years and disappears completely after 5 years. They will usually stay safe to eat beyond that, and their content of proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals will remain unchanged.1Preserve the Harvest, Utah State University

Store dried white beans in a dark cupboard in your kitchen, on the shelving of your pantry, or in an unheated basement, in a tightly sealed container that will keep out dust and moisture and protect them from critter infestation. Alternatively, you can also store dried white beans in your garage or attic.

Although you can keep dried white beans in their original packaging, they will dry out faster as plastic packages are permeable to air. A much better storage option, then, is to transfer them into airtight containers, like mason jars or plastic containers with airtight lids and rubber seals.

Make Your Dried White Beans Last Longer

To maximize the shelf life of the dried white beans in your kitchen, protect them from exposure to oxygen and light. Oxygen can cause the natural fats that the dried white beans contain to go rancid. Direct sunlight can cause their color to fade, as well as their flavor profile and nutritional value to deteriorate more quickly.

It isn’t a good idea to store dried white beans on top of your fridge or freezer because these two appliances generate heat. Also, never store dried foods on the windowsill as sunlight can cause them to deteriorate fast.

Make sure to put the dried white beans in a room with low humidity. As with all other dried foods, if the dried white beans absorb excess moisture from their environment, they can turn into a breeding ground for mold and bacteria—and become inedible.

To preserve dried white beans for a long time, package them in #10 cans or in Mylar bags with the oxygen removed, where they can last for 20 to 30 years. Remember: Cooler storage temperatures make the dried white beans last longer. Studies show that the optimal storage temperature for dried foods is between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (4 to 21 degrees Celcius).2Green R., D.J.Rose, L.V.Ogden, O.A.Pike. “Effects of long-term storage on quality of retail-packaged wheat.” Journal of Food Science

Will Old Dried White Beans Soften?

Absolutely yes, old dried white beans will soften! You just need to make sure to sort and rinse or soak them properly.

The trick to sorting dried white beans is to take a handful at a time, inspect them carefully, and discard any legumes that appear too dry or wilted.3J. Languille, D. Luther, S. Wells, The Prepper’s Ultimate Storage Guide

To soften white beans, soak them in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours and cook them for 2 hours. Or cook them for 4 hours without soaking. Be sure to change the water after soaking and before cooking; it will make the beans less gassy.

How to Tell If Dried White Beans Have Gone Bad

If, while cleaning out your pantry, you come across a bag of dried white beans that you’re not sure when you bought, you can probably eat them without hesitation as long as they meet the following conditions:

  1. No critters. If your dried white beans are infested with weevil larvae or bugs, err on the side of caution and throw them away. (Even if you strive to minimize food waste, you, like most people, may find the thought of eating larvae disgusting.)
  2. No mold. Fuzzy patches or green spots on your dried white beans are a sign that they’re overgrown with mold. Since you have no way to determine their safety, you should discard them immediately.
  3. No off odors. If your dried white beans smell off, it could be a sign that the fats that they contain have gone rancid. Worse, it could indicate mold growth or bacterial activity.

Trust your senses; they are there to protect you. The number one rule of food safety is, when in doubt, throw it out.

References

  • 1
    Preserve the Harvest, Utah State University
  • 2
    Green R., D.J.Rose, L.V.Ogden, O.A.Pike. “Effects of long-term storage on quality of retail-packaged wheat.” Journal of Food Science
  • 3
    J. Languille, D. Luther, S. Wells, The Prepper’s Ultimate Storage Guide