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Dry Bean Food Storage Guide: Long Term Shelf Life Revealed

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On the priority list of survival items, food is one of the most important, and while it may not be as pressing or glamorous a concern as a kickass shelter, weapons, and gadgets, food is absolutely critical to any prepper’s survival plan.

While it may not be quite as important as good water storage and a solid shelter or bug-out bag, some level of food storage will give you a ton of options and allow you to take many approaches to whatever disaster strikes. This is true whether you plan to bug out, bug in, or whatever other plans you have in place for SHTF.

Many people rely on MREs and tinned goods (seriously, how many tins of Vienna sausages do you think are hidden in survival bunkers across the country?) however there are many often overlooked and extremely long-term options that can make your food plans even more robust.

No, we’re not talking about storing seeds for planting vegetables and other produce, although this is absolutely a great long-term plan and one of the best ways to plan for very long-term survivalism should you have the space and know-how to cultivate crops.

What we’re actually referring to are beans, specifically, dry beans which can be stored in space for upwards of 20 to 30 years.

Yes, believe it or not, it is possible to keep a store of nutritious, stable, and very long term food that can still be good to eat in almost half a lifetime, and for preppers who are worried about these extremely long-term survival needs, this presents a great solution.

This is also a great solution for preppers who find it difficult to fund food storage, as beans are readily available, come in a wide variety of types and flavors, and are incredibly nutritious and cheap, meaning that they are a great option for budget-strapped preppers who want to secure calories for the future without sacrificing calories in the present.

They are also a great choice for people who find rotating out different shorter-term goods such as MREs and other foods tiresome and difficult or costly.

While of course, many MREs can last over 5 years when stored correctly, and the same can be said for other food stores preppers rely on, few can last as long as dry beans and at some point, these foods will need to be either eaten or disposed of as they eventually start to lose their nutritional value and go bad.

While 5 to 10 years is still a great medium to long term length for food storage, a guaranteed source of food that can last over 25 years is something that can ease a lot of anxieties and requires very little effort or care after the initial process of preparing and storing the beans, making them efficient and effective.

Some preppers will even move this store of food with them as they grow old and move houses or change cities, which shows just how long-term and robust this type of option can be.

Whether you’re prepping for an economic collapse, social upheaval, or ecological disaster, the humble bean will be able to help see you through, so in this guide, we’re going to look at them in-depth and provide answers to common questions and myths about beans and their storage, the best methods to store them, beans to avoid and how to prepare them when you’re finally ready to unearth them and dig in.

But first things first, let’s take a look at how long beans actually last.

How Long Can Dry Beans Last?

How Long Can Dry Beans Last?

Naturally, there’s a lot of variance to how long dry beans can last. Factors such as storage method, the type of bean used, ambient temperature, storage conditions and temperature, the container used, and storage treatments can all play a huge role in how well beans keep over the long term.

Even if beans are prepared perfectly, there’s still that chance that something goes wrong and the beans turn or become hard or spoiled. This is why it’s best to learn as much as you can about the process of preparing beans, and to prepare enough to offset potential losses like this.

Most of the time beans which have hardened can actually be prepared and softened making them totally edible again, however picking out beans that have spoiled is often necessary even in a batch that is mostly intact, particularly after 15+ years of storage.

If you store your beans correctly, you can expect to get over 10 to 15 years of storage time out of them at the very least. This goes for beans such as; Kidney beans, pinto beans, mung beans, split peas, black turtle beans, lentils, garbanzo beans, cannellini beans, and adzuki beans, as well as a few others.

Most of these can actually last over 25 years to even 30, showing just how versatile and useful beans are for long-term prepping and consumption.

Some beans however are not as long-lasting and are generally avoided due to this, and the perfect example is the soybean, which, even when dehydrated, only lasts 15 years compared to the other types of beans above.

This is a significant reduction in storage time and there are a few key reasons for this, which we’ll talk about later in this article.

But if you stick to the main beans listed there and follow the right techniques, you should be able to reliably store food for multiple decades quite effectively.

Will Old Dry Beans Still be Edible?

Yes, if treated and stored properly, then cooked correctly once opened, old beans which have gone hard and dry can be rehydrated to become completely edible and nutritious which is what makes them such a reliable choice for preppers worldwide.

There are many things you can do to prepare the beans in a way to even bring back some flavor and make them relatively palatable, so not only are you able to benefit from the food, but also the morale boost of something which isn’t rotten or totally empty nutritionally.

But let’s take a look at some of the cooking methods you can use to prepare beans that have been stored, to give you a better idea of how to use them if SHTF.

What Cooking Methods Can Be Used for Dry Beans?

There are a few different ways you can cook beans that have been in storage, and a lot of them should be possible post SHTF. Before we get to that however the beans need to be prepped and rehydrated to make them edible and more flavorful.

To do this, the beans need to be rinsed off, any rotten or off-color beans picked out of the batch and then soaked for at least 4 hours.

Ideally, the beans should be soaked in a bowl with a good few inches of water to allow the beans to fully submerge. It’s best to soak the beans for 12 hours or overnight to make them even better to eat, however.

If you’re cooking particularly old beans which have been stored for a long time, it may help you to add some baking soda to the soaking water, as this can result in the beans being of a better quality when they’re finished being prepared.

For the actual cooking processes, there are 5 main methods you can use to prepare your beans, however, during some emergencies and situations, you may only be able to use some of these methods depending on your setup and what you have available.

Instant Pot

If you have an Instant Pot, this is one of the most effective methods to cook beans, however, this is obviously less likely to be available if SHTF.

Drain out the soaking water and place the well-soaked beans into the pot, covering them with around 3 or 4 inches of water. Add some olive oil to help prevent frothing, then use the bean/chili setting as this allows the pressure to release from the pot more easily.

Once the cycle is complete you should have a totally edible and nutritious pot of beans ready to serve with various other foods or to be garnished and seasoned for eating.

Stovetop Pressure Cooker

Again, this method may not be possible depending on the appliances you have available if SHTF, but this is a common method in normal times.

Drain the beans and place them into the pressure cooker, then cover with 3 inches of water and a little olive oil similar to the above process.

Cook for 10 minutes and allow the pressure to release gradually, then drain them, season and serve.

Dutch Oven on Propane Top

A dutch oven may be more akin to what you’re able to do in a SHTF situation, as long as you have one available. All you need is the pot and a source of heat, and you can prepare your beans.

Drain the beans, and again cover with 3 to 4 inches of water, adding some olive oil to prevent frothing. Cover the beans/pot and allow to cook on medium or low. In a few hours, the beans will be soft, creamy, and ready to be eaten or made into a meal.

Slow Cooker

A slow cooker may not be usable in a survival situation but if you are able to use one, they are very effective.

Again, drain the beans and cover with a few inches of water so that the beans are totally submerged, then add some olive oil to prevent frothing and foaming.

Cook on a high setting for several hours and eventually, the beans will soften up and become quite palatable.

Thermal Cooker

If fuel conservation is a concern, as it would be during a survival situation, a thermal cooker can be a useful option for cooking beans. Beans are drained and placed in the cooker, again covered in water until they are submerged. Olive oil is added to prevent frothing up.

The beans are brought to a rolling boil, covered, and then transferred to the thermal container, ideally using a towel or oven glove to help prevent burning while moving the cooker.

Using a heat retainer does make the cooking process much longer and can take some 4 times longer than normal, but this saves a lot of heat and can soften up old beans very well despite this.

How Do Beans Taste After Storage?

There should only be a negligible amount of difference in the taste of your beans after storage, and besides, beans are usually seasoned or garnished such that the flavor matters little anyway.

But if stored properly the beans shouldn’t taste bad at all. Some report a sweet smell when opening the beans up initially, and this is a common side effect of storing beans and food in tins.

Removing discolored and bad beans, rinsing well, and soaking for the right amount of time in some baking soda often removes this smell entirely and makes the cooking process much easier.

Naturally, they won’t taste fresh, but beans stored this way will keep you alive and can go a long way to bulking out your long-term food supplies which is all they really need to do.

Don’t forget to stock up on salt and other seasonings though to make your survival period that little more flavorful.

Tips for Dealing With Hard Dry Beans

Tips for Dealing With Hard Dry beans

As beans get older they tend to lose moisture naturally, and while this rate differs between beans, it’s common across the board. This makes softening the beans difficult and is the reason why they are soaked before cooking after storage.

You can do a few things to help make this process easier though.


  • Pre-soaking the beans in water and baking soda. This should be standard procedure, as mentioned earlier.
  • Add salt, sugar, and other ingredients to the food after the beans have been softened, as they can harden uncooked beans.
  • The best way to cook old beans is with a pressure cooker as this forces heat and moisture into the beans and accelerates the process of cooking and rehydrating the beans.

Ideal Storage Conditions For Dry Beans

Proper storage is one of the most important aspects of making sure your supplies, particularly your food supplies last in times of crisis, or until crisis actually strikes.

Storing beans in plastic or paper containers or packaging gives them a shelf life of some 3 to 4 years, and if you only plan to store an amount for a period of time this length, this should be ok.

However for longer-term storage and more serious long term prepping, beans should be stored in sealed, airtight containers to prevent insects and rodents from seeking them out, as well as ensuring that moisture and fresh air can’t get to them, as these accelerate the process of spoiling immensely and are one of the main drivers behind all rotten and spoiled foods.

As beans get old, they tend to dry out and this is what makes the process of soaking and extensive cooking necessary to make them edible again.

If stored poorly and not treated properly they can develop a bitter taste which is a sign that they are spoiled and going bad.

Officially, however,  beans have a nearly indefinite shelf life, although the flavor and quality of the nutrition may decrease somewhat.

Legumes and beans should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry location, even if they are sealed in good and well-treated containers.

Oxygen, light, and moisture are all to be avoided when making supplies and food last.

Best Storage Treatments for Dry Beans

In this section, we’re going to look at things you can do to help prepare your containers and beans for long storage, and prevent things like bean beetles or weevils which can even sneak into the beans as they are processed and packed originally.

Pests are one of the leading issues for food storage and cultivation, so taking steps to control this risk and improve long-term storage is a prudent and important step in the storage process.

Oxygen Absorbers

Oxygen absorbers are good for use with beans that are stored in metal cans, jars, or even plastic bottles, as they help remove the oxygen that is left in the air inside the container. If airtight containers are used with these absorbers it creates an oxygen-free environment in which pests will struggle to survive.

Vacuum Sealing

Vacuum sealing beans in specially designed canning jars is ideal as it is quite fast and convenient, simply requiring a special attachment to create a good seal. There are many different types but they work well and remove oxygen again preventing pests and some bacteria from spoiling your food.

Dry Ice Treating

When storing larger containers of food, this method is a more efficient option which is quite popular but a little more difficult.

Dry ice is frozen CO2 and is widely available.

It works by displacing oxygen, and a single ounce of dry ice can purge a gallon of beans, while 2 to 3 ounces of dry ice can purge a 5-gallon bucket. 

Make sure to wrap the dry ice in a paper towel to prevent it from affecting the food it’s stored with, then add to the container just before it’s filled, adding a layer of beans on top of the dry ice then placing the lid of the container loosely on the top leaving a space for air to escape.

The dry ice will slowly start to activate, displacing the lighter air and oxygen out of the box where you left a gap, and making the box oxygen-free. This process can take up to an hour, but in the end, you will have an oxygen-free container filled with food.

Allow the process to totally finish before sealing the bucket, and monitor the bucket for a while after sealing to ensure that no further expansion occurs and that the process is totally finished.

If the lid is sucked inward slightly this is a good sign as the process will have finished and the remaining CO2 in the box will be absorbed harmlessly into the beans.

Freeze/Thaw/Freeze Method

This method protects from insects primarily. It works by placing the beans in a moisture-proof bag and freezing them for a few days. Take them out and let them thaw fully, allowing any eggs inside the beans to hatch. Then free for an additional 3 days to kill any newly hatched pests.

Ensure the beans are allowed to fully thaw to room temperature before storing.

Best Containers for Dry Beans and Long Term Storage

Best Containers for Dry Beans and Long Term Storage

The best options for storage can extend your food supply immensely and protect you from a lot of potential issues down the line.

You can use various things, from simple plastic bags to glass jars, plastic bottles, and number 10 cans, or even larger plastic boxes or containers. Just make sure you have the space to accommodate these in your home or shelter before you commit to filling them!

Types of Beans to Consider

As mentioned earlier, some beans are better than others for storage.

In this section, we’ll look at slime ballpark figures to help you ensure you’re choosing the right beans for your storage needs.

Pinto Beans – These can last up to 30 years if stored correctly.

Kidney Beans – These can last 25 to 30 years if stored correctly.

Adzuki Beans – These can last 25 to 30 years if stored correctly.

Split Peas – These can last up to 30 years if freeze-dried.

Lentils (Disclaimer, this is not strictly a bean, yet it’s similar enough that we’re including it!) – These can last up to 30 years.

Chickpeas – These can last up to 30 years.

Cannellini – These can last up to 30 years.

Of course, these sorts of storage periods are very impressive, however, they rely on you following all the steps for good storage very carefully, and even so, there are cases where your beans may spoil worse than others due to minor differences in their containers, preparation, life cycle or even where they are stored.

It’s best to account for this as much as possible to make sure you have enough contingency and avoid potentially falling short of your needs when SHTF.

Avoid Soybeans!!

A word about soybeans! They are not very good for long-term storage, and even following all the proper steps they won’t last longer than 10 to 15 years very reliably.

This is because soybeans are more oily, which leaves them open to attracting exactly the sorts of things food needs to avoid to prevent storing.

In short, stay away from them unless you have no alternative, no matter how much you like soybeans!

  1. They are more susceptible to oxygen as they have a high oil content
  2. They are less tasty and palatable than other beans, particularly after storage.
  3. They don’t last as long as other beans.

Final Thoughts

While it may seem quite a stretch to imagine eating beans you prepared 30 years prior, it’s perfectly legitimate and possible, and there are many recorded and reliable cases of this.

Beans are one of the most nutritious and reliable foods in the world, and if harnessed properly they can give you a huge advantage over other preppers.

Beans are cost-effective, easy, and cheap to buy and will make a huge difference to your life when SHTF.

There is a lot to learn about food storage and ways to make the food last, but it’s one of the most valuable concerns, as issues such as crop failures and other unforeseen circumstances can leave people totally vulnerable in long-term SHTF scenarios.

Offset this risk and start stocking up on beans today!