Dried Beans 101

August 27, 2012

There are many different types of beans, and as animal proteins get more expensive, beans are a great option for your wallet and health

What are Dried Beans? Dried beans are legumes that are the edible seeds from various plants of the legume family (genus Phaselous), including peas and lentils.

How to Buy: Beans can be purchased dry in bulk or packages; cooked in cans, or freshly cooked at deli counters or sections of prepared foods, including salad bars.

How to Read the Label: Canned choices can be high in sodium; look for low-salt brands or rinse beans thoroughly. Check country of origin and expiration date. 15oz. can equals 1½ cups cooked beans, drained; 1lb dried beans yields 5-6 cups cooked beans.

Choices: Adzuki Japanese red beans; Anasazi beans for southwest cooking; Italian white cannelloni; fava (broad), red kidney, black (turtle or navy), garbanzo (chickpeas), black-eyed peas, lima (butter), pinto, and others from the Caribbean, Africa, South America.
Edamame (soy), green string, flat Italian beans and more!

How to Use: To cook dried beans, check for small stones, twigs, broken beans and discard. Most varieties need soaking up to 8 hrs, changing water 3-4 times to increase digestibility – soaking overnight is the easiest. Cook in fresh water, bring to a boil, and simmer. Add salt and spices when done. Pressure cooker reduces cooking time. Canned beans need no cooking, but you might want to rinse if packed in salty water before using. Add dried beans to soups, stews, casseroles and more. Use beans pureed, cooked or canned for dips and spreads; adding cooked, chilled beans to salads is also a great option.

How to Store: Cooked beans can be frozen; drain, chill, wrap tightly and label. Store dried beans in secure containers in dark cupboard.

Health Benefits: High protein, low fat, high in folate, potassium, iron, magnesium and other nutrients beneficial for good health. Beans also contain soluble and insoluble fiber.

Smarter Shopper: Dried beans are considerably cheaper than canned; store brands are even cheaper, but always compare!

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