Full disclosure: I haven't menu planned in a while. Since I did a post on how easy and wonderful it is and how essential and blah blah blah, I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that here. But it's true.
We've been flying by our seats and while I hate it, I'm obviously not hating it enough to quickly do something about it, as I am writing this instead of pounding that out.
Last night at about 4:45 it suddenly occurred to me that food was shockingly needing to be prepared yet again. I sighed and then remembered it was Tuesday and then all of my problems were over. Tuesday is Taco Night around here and I had seen one last freezer baggy full of black beans earlier in the week right before dinnertime when I had been digging for a miracle in the chest freezer.
And with that bag I was saved. I microwaved them while I prepped some sauteed onion and peppers, and poured and plated the rest of the meal. So easy.
And that is the story of why I love dried black beans. Yes, I could have opened a can and I have and I will again (probably next week because that was my last bag), but dried ones are so good! Like, just-eat-them-plain good. Like, base-a-whole-meal-around-that-miraculous-bag-you-found-in-the-freezer good.
When I say dried beans, I'm talking the bags of hard beans that are usually with the bags of rice in the grocery store. You know, the kind you have to cook before you can eat them?
Today I wanted to talk about these little beauties and their counterpart: canned black beans. So settle in people, because this is going to be quite a ride.
So what's best? Canned black beans or dried?
That's a tricky question. And because I really need to get some hobbies, I thought we could spend some valuable time discussing the merits of each.
Canned- know what I like about canned beans? No cooking.
Dried- rinse, season and cook, eat.
Dried beans can take forever to prep. You can soak them beforehand, switch out the water, and then cook them all day on the stovetop/crockpot. It can be like a full day project.
However, I kind of hate working so I've decided on
The Lazyman's Way to Cook Dried Beans
I skip the presoaking all together. Some people swear by the soak because they find the beans are better looking and cause less gas after eating. Neither have been something we've had issues with but by all means, soak away if that floats your boat.
I've discovered the joys of cooking beans in my pressure cooker. This massively whittles down the cook time.
The combo of these two things get cooking beans down to just under 2 hours total, 95% of that time being hands off, waiting around while they cook time. But you have to actually think ahead and do it, so...
For easy eating? CANNED BEANS WINS.
Canned- tastes kind of like mushy nothing, and not in a good way
Dried- flavorful, tasty, delicious.
When you cook beans, you can throw in whatever seasonings you want. I'm talking chicken bullion, garlic, onion, cumin, adobo chilis. Whatever.
Flavor is no competition. DRIED BEANS WINS. (although I have added seasoning to canned beans too and that helps a lot)
Canned- cost about $1 for a 15 oz can. I've seen them for as low as $.50 (love you WInco!) and upwards to $1.50 or more.
Dried- costs around $1-$1.50 for a 16 oz bag. If you have access to the LDS Cannery they sell #10 cans that weigh 5.5 lb for $5.50. They don't sell the 25 lb bags anymore so that's the only option from them, darn it all. But the #10 cans have like a billion years shelf life (not actual shelf life) so that's good. Btw, you don't have to be Mormon to shop at the LDS Cannery. They are awesome but most have limited hours so check that out before you make the trek. If you find dried black beans in bulk (winco, costco, cash and carry?) then they'd probably be even cheaper than the $1 a pound.
Nerd Alert: I used to know all the prices/sizes that all these stores had. I even had a giant excel spreadsheet I made. I used to slightly be into couponing. But not anymore. My patient husband has mixed feelings on this, because on one hand I used to barely spend anything but on the other hand he doesn't have to pretend to be excited about the price I paid for dish soap.
And now, back to the prices:
So if it's a buck for a 15 oz can and a buck for a 16 bag, isn't that about the same thing?
Not even close! The dried bean are dried, meaning no liquid. Once they're all done cooking, one pound of dried beans equals 3 cans.
Now if you want to get technical, you do have to add in the price of the water you're using and the electricity to heat your pot and the spices to flavor your beans. But especially if you're refilling your spices in a cheap bulk place like Winco, this is all pennies.
Cost? DRIED BEANS WINS.
I made a very technical chart to display the winner, winners, black bean dinner.
As you can clearly see, while canned beans win out on ease of preparation, dried beans are the ultimate, no debate champion on both taste and cost.
That doesn't mean we never use canned beans. The one great thing about canned beans is you open a can and then eat. Canned beans definitely have a permanent place in my pantry.
But the dried beans are so yummy I would much rather eat those if I can get my act together.
What to Do with Black Beans?
They're so handy for a quick bean and cheese quesadilla or burrito or taco salad or nachos or tacos. Some nights we put them over rice with some sliced sausage mixed in. If you're feeling ambitious, you could make this amazing Black Bean and Corn Chipotle Salad and then invite me over. Or you could just scoop them up by themselves and shove them into your happy little mouth.
Dried Black Bean Cooking Tips
Always rinse your beans before you use them. I just put them in a colander, run water through it and stir them around with my hand. I'm not one to volunteer to use my colander, but this is an important step. You're looking for little dirt clots or small rocks, neither of which would be delicious. Most of the time you're good and there's no problems, but it only takes once. Blah.
I never presoak my beans. Some people recommend that for better looking beans and for less gas after eating, but we've never had any problems with either of those. But feel free to do that if you're concerned about it. I just rinse them, pour them in the pot, add the water/seasonings, and cook.
Lots of recipes call for broth or stock which is great but you can't even taste that expensive nectar. Instead I use cheap bullion. Save your fancy stuff for chicken noodle soup or something. Walmart and many grocery stores have bullion for 1/2 price in the Latino section.
Hello beautiful. This is my BBF (Best Beans Forever). She turns cooking beans from an all day process to just under 2 hours from start to shoveling in my mouth. The Instant Pot is truly a marvel in this world. LOVE mine. But you can make beans in your crockpot or on the stove top too. Just takes a lot longer.
Beans expand a lot while cooking so don't overfill your pot. If you're using a pressure cooker, don't fill it more than halfway.
Once my beans are done, I let them cool off a bit and then bag em up. I scoop them, delicious liquid and all, into gallon freezer bags and then freeze them flat. That way I can easily break off a chunk and microwave it. Don't try to cram too much in each bag: nothing like a giant frozen brick.
This sounds complicated, but I promise you it is not. Yes, it's a bit more work than opening a can, but you just rinse, dump, cook, bag. And then you have more beans to use another day.
Pressure Cooker: When I make black beans in my Instant Pot I don't follow a recipe. First, don't forget to rinse them! For every pound of beans I add 2 quarts (8 cups) of water. I add a few bullion cubes and throw in like a teaspoon each of whatever I feel like- some powdered onion (or a bunch of dehydrated or fresh diced), garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, oregano, chili powder, diced abodo chilis, bay leaf. Whatever. Just don't add salt yet as the bullion can be salty. Add that after they finish cooking if needed. Then I push the manual button and set it for 45 minutes on high and let it cool down for about 30 minutes before I open it up. Some people like to cook them for a shorter time but I've had good success with this.
Crockpot: You can do all the above in the crockpot, it will only take a lot longer. It's been so long since I've done this I don't remember how long, but I think around 6-8 hours on high, but I'd start checking at maybe 5 hours? You'll probably need to add water as the crockpot allows steam to escape. If the beans start looking thick, just pour in some water.
So grab some dried black beans and give this a whir. And then send your mom a picture of your Betty Crocker self with your homemade beans.
Want more fascinating food storage talk? Because really, who wouldn't?
Check out the post I did a bit back about my crazy wheat love along with a peek into my food storage obsession.