Beans are great for batch recipes – but can you freeze them? We’ll answer that question and share 5 tips for cooking and freezing beans to keep them fresh and flavorful.
November 18, 2021
Have you ever been about to freeze a big batch of chili or soup made with your favorite legume and you think to yourself, “wait, can I freeze these beans?” If so, you are not alone and have come to the right place! The simple answer is yes – freezing beans and bean-based recipes is not only possible, but easy (and in our opinion, a fantastic idea!). With a few simple tips, you can freeze your bean leftovers in no time and make sure they stay just as delicious as when you made them. But first, let’s start with the basics…
Why Should You Freeze Beans?
We all know beans are an essential pantry staple, but what you might not know is that canned and cooked beans make great freezer staples, too! When it comes to getting a nutritious, delicious meal on the table in no time, all bean varieties add plant-based protein and other nutrients to dishes like chili and soup - perfect for batch cooking and freezing for quick meals down the road.
Beans are also good for the planet because they use less water and energy to produce than animal protein and help return nitrogen (one of nature’s fertilizers) to the soil as they grow, so cooking with and freezing beans, whether on their own or as part of a healthy, hearty dish, is a sustainable way to cut down on food waste, help the environment, and save time all at once – and with so many bean-ifits, what more do you need?!
Which Beans Can You Freeze?
Thankfully all kinds of beans can be frozen, from baked beans to black beans, canned to cooked!
Let’s start with canned:
Canned beans are great because they often come seasoned and ready to go so part of the work is done for you, but what if you don’t use the entire can? The good news is, an open can of beans can last up to three days in the refrigerator if you transfer the beans to a clean airtight container. If your weekday meals don’t call for beans, don’t fret! It’s easy to freeze them for future delicious dishes. Simply drain and rinse your beans, place them inside a freezer bag or a reusable, freezer-safe container and fill with water so the beans are fully covered. Then, seal the bag or container, label it with the date and stick them in freezer for up to six months. When you’re ready to use them, simply thaw and drain!
Next up, cooked:
Great news for all those delicious dinner leftovers, you can also freeze cooked beans and recipes containing beans for up to six months. As long as you know what you’re doing, that is! Keep reading to make sure your beans are just as delicious in six months as they are on night one.
5 Tips to Freeze Beans the Right Way
So now you know freezing beans is possible, but how do you do it correctly and freeze beans without losing the taste and texture that make them so good? Here are five easy tips to help:
Being careful not to overcook or overheat your beans helps keep them from splitting or getting too soft, so they’ll retain more of their texture through the freezing process. Cook them on a low heat and, if you’re making a dish like chili or soup, add your canned beans last (they’re already cooked, so just about 5-10 minutes before it’s done should do – just long enough to heat them up) and finish cooking below a simmer to keep them as firm as possible.
KEEP THE TEXTURE
If you’re making beans or a bean-based recipe to freeze for future meals, add an acidic ingredient like vinegar or lemon juice at the very end of the cooking process to help preserve their texture and keep them fresh. Just throw a teaspoon or two into your chili, soup, etc. right before it’s done (adding it too early can prevent the softening of beans, making them harder to cook).
This tip goes for freezing all leftovers. Cooling completely before freezing helps ensure the freezing process is quick once they hit the freezer and is important for food safety reasons (freezing helps keep harmful bacteria from growing) and to prevent freezer burn. This also keeps your beans from heating up other foods in your freezer, as well, causing them to partially thaw and refreeze and altering their quality. Dividing your cooked beans or leftovers into several smaller containers rather than using one helps speed up the cooling process, makes them easier to store, and allows you to pull out exact servings to enjoy in the future.
GIVE THEM SOME SPACE
When you’re ladling your beans into those containers, be sure to leave around an inch of space at the top of each container to allow any liquid in the recipe to expand as it freezes and help keep them from getting squished.
Beans will split if they’re reheated too quickly (basically whenever the inside is cooked before the outside). To help prevent this from happening and protect their integrity, thaw your frozen beans in the refrigerator or at room temperature and reheat them on low heat or just below simmering.
Let’s Get Freezing
So, there you have it – you can freeze beans and bean-based dishes, and it’s an easy, must-try time saver. To see for yourself, make a big batch of one of the recipes below and freeze the leftovers using the tips above for a quick, nutrient-dense lunch or dinner down the line. Your future self (plus family and friends) will thank you!