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Dried beans--do they really go bad?

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I have a tendency to buy unfamiliar, intriguing nonperishables on a whim, with no immediate plans to cook them, and they end up hanging around for a long time until I finally find the leisure to experiment with them. Right now I have several bags of dried beans that I bought at various times, including a bag of whole, tiny dark-green lentils labeled "Moong Dal," a bag of Goya peeled favas, and some others. I was thinking about how I should get around to using these, and was perusing Joy of Cooking's bean section, where I found the advice that dried beans should be kept no longer than six months to a year. I'm afraid some of these beans are more like two or three years old. Do dried beans really go bad? What happens--do they lose their taste and texture, and/or nutritional benefits, or do they actually somehow spoil?

I promise I will reform and only buy things I really plan to eat in the near future.

Thanks!!

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  1. Yes they do go bad. They get to the point where no matter how long you cook them they don't get soft. Also the flavor slowly fades away.

    An example, I had two fantastic smoked ham bones left over from several celebrations. I made split pea soup with the dried peas in my pantry. There was no pea flavor in the soup and the consitency was horrible. I cooked the hell out of it and the beans never softened up. Folks with no taste buds complained. The first time anyone ever said that something I cooked was "tasteless" and "weird" with only the flavor of the ham bones. I kept adding onions and carrots to boost the flavor but to no avail. Those peas were only about a year old.

    5 Replies
    1. re: The Rogue

      This is so true. And you should only buy beans from a store where you know the turnover is very quick.

      1. re: butterfly

        Thanks for the advice! Will toss the old beans (or maybe use them for pie weights?) and get some new ones. Heck, they only cost $1.39 a bag.

      2. re: The Rogue

        I can't say that I've had the same experience. I just replied to the query about cooking dried beans. Did you cook the beans in just plain water in advance of adding any other ingredients? Cooking dried beans in water that has had salt or an acidic ingredient added (like tomatoes) will result in tough beans.

        1. re: The Rogue

          man I wish I had read this before we ruined a pot of red beans w/andouille sausage we had ordered. I didn't even think about it. Just soaked them for a couple hours, sautéed my onions, garlic & andouille & cooked the damn beans for ~ 5 hours & still they wouldn't get soft! Ugh. Now we don't have lunches for the week!

          1. re: lsheridan007

            Have you tried putting a little baking soda in with the beans? The alkali in the baking soda helps in softening the beans. I'd give it a try to salvage the dish.

        2. I do this all the time. I love to buy weird beans and then leave them in cupboard for two years and then try and cook them.

          Our last experience was with dried favas. Awful

          1. I once tried cooking some black beans that might as well have been pebbles. And I'd just bought them the day before, so heed the advice about buying from a place with good turnover.

            If you store dried beans in the refrigerator, will that prolong their life substantially, or will it not make much of a difference?