Do Dried Beans Expire?

Nearly every cook stashes away some dried beans in the pantry. Dried beans — whether they are chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, or adzuki beans — provide a great source of protein that can sit in a cabinet for months. While cooking them may take some time, these beans can be the star of soups and stews, and they can even be blended into a dip.

For a long time, it was thought that they could last forever, making them an ideal staple to stock up on during sales at supermarkets. The beans are already completely dried, so what could go wrong with them? It turns out that the answer to that question is a bit complicated. Even in their dehydrated state, changes occur to dried beans while they are tucked in a corner of a cupboard. So you may want to take a closer look at the expiration dates on your beans.

Dried beans don't last forever

Dried beans run into several problems as they age. Beans lose their creaminess over time, and trying to revive their freshness becomes more challenging. The older the bean the more difficult it is to cook. And even with increasing the cooking time, the bean could still remain somewhat hard if they've been sitting in your pantry for a few years, though some have suggested that giving the beans an extra long soaking time may help bring them back to life.

Perhaps a more significant issue is what happens to the nutritional value of dried beans as they age. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's FoodKeeper app, the USDA says that dried beans are best consumed within a year or two from purchase. The timeline shrinks to only a year if the bag of beans has been opened. The reason why you want to eat them in this time frame is that the beans lose their nutritional value if they sit for too long. Apparently, the nutrients in the beans start to deteriorate in two to three years, per Utah State University. All of the vitamins in the beans are basically gone after five years. 

Heat can accelerate the nutritional decline of your dried beans so pay special attmention to where you store them. Remember dried beans like cool temperatures and dry spaces. Using air-tight containers also helps to protect and preserve dried beans. Mark your bags of beans with the date you got them to keep track of how long they have been in your cupboard. Most importantly, have a plan to eat them in a timely manner; they won't last forever.