How to Store Dry Beans For The Long Term


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Last Updated: September 20, 2021

Beans are considered one of the ultimate emergency foods because they are very nutritious and non-perishable.  However, beans will go bad if they aren’t stored correctly.

Here’s what you need to know about long-term storage methods for beans.

How Long Can You Store Dry Beans?

When stored in their original plastic packaging, dry beans will last about 1 year.  However, it is possible for dry beans to last 25+ years with certain storage methods, including DIY home storage methods.

Why Dry Beans Go Bad

Like with all dry foods, beans are sensitive to oxygen, light, humidity and heat.  Oxygen is particularly a big concern as it will cause the natural fats in the beans to degrade, causing them to go rancid.  In high-humidity areas, beans can also get moldy.

Even if the beans remain safe to eat, exposure to oxygen and light can cause the beans to lose their nutrients.  After just 2 years, significant vitamin degradation occurs and virtually no vitamins may be present after 5 years.  However, the protein and mineral components of beans will still be intact. (source)

How to Tell if Dry Beans Have Gone Bad

  • Rancid smell: Dry beans should not have any noticeable smell
  • Visible signs of mold: It might look like fuzz or a film over the beans
  • Change in color: Discolored beans are often still be safe to eat but their vitamin content has probably depleted

Weevils and Other Bean Pests

beans infested by weevils

Another issue with storing beans long-term is that they can become infested with weevils or moths.  Often, the weevil eggs are already inside the beans when you purchase them.  Check the beans for holes; these are a sign of insect eggs.

It can take several weeks for the eggs to hatch and develop, so the eggs usually aren’t an issue if you use the beans soon after purchasing.   However, if you plan to store beans for more than a month or so, the weevils can hatch into adults, lay more eggs, and then you’ve got an infestation.

weevil hole in bean
Check the beans for damage before storage. Throw out any beans with holes in them, a sign that there are insect eggs inside the beans. 

To prevent weevils in your bean storage:

  • Rotate through your bean stockpile or
  • Use storage methods which kill eggs

Read more about preventing and getting rid of weevils.

Best Ways to Store Dry Beans

If you want to store beans for 3+ months, here are the best storage methods.

Option 1: Air-Tight Containers

Shelf Life: 3 years

Never store dry beans in the plastic bag that they came in; it’s too easy for moisture and insects to get into those bags.  Instead, transfer the beans to air-tight storage containers.

Keep the container in a cool, dark place.  They should last at least 3 years this way.  However, I don’t recommend storing more beans than you can rotate through in 3 months; the beans are too susceptible to damage, even in air-tight containers.

As mentioned before, one common problem is that there may already be weevil eggs in the beans when you get it.  The eggs then hatch and suddenly you have a huge infestation. Thus, you’ll need to take steps to kill insect eggs before putting the beans in storage, such as by freezing or microwaving them first.

Some good air-tight containers include:

Top Tips:

  • Always rotate through your bean storage. Otherwise they will eventually go bad or lose nutrients.
  • Write the date on a piece of tape on the storage container. This will make it easier to rotate the beans.

Option 2: Freezer

Shelf Life: Indefinitely

Storing dry beans in the freezer will protect them from heat, light, and insects.  They should last years this way. To store dry beans in the freezer:

  1. Put the beans in a sealable freezer bag.
  2. Label the beans with the date so you can easily rotate them.
  3. If you need to remove them but don’t plan on using them (such as to make more space in your freezer), make sure you bring the beans to room temperature before putting them in any storage container as condensation can form.

Option 3: Vacuum Sealing

Shelf Life: 5+ years

Vacuum sealing is a process in which a machine sucks the air out of a special pouch and then seals it.  Because there is little air left in the pouch, vacuum-sealed beans can last much longer.

However, it’s important to note that vacuum sealer bags are not completely air-tight.  There are tiny holes in the bags which eventually allow oxygen and moisture to get inside.  They also don’t protect against insect infestation or damage from light.

If you want to use vacuum-sealing to store beans:

  • Take steps to kill any insect eggs in the beans first, such as by freezing the beans
  • Put a desiccant in with the beans to help control moisture
  • Label the pouches with the date and be sure to rotate through them
  • Store the sealed pouches in a cool, dark place

Option 4: Containers with Oxygen Absorbers

Shelf Life: 5+ years

One simple way to store large amounts of beans is to put them in food-grade buckets, jars, or recycled containers, such as plastic soda bottles.  The problem with this is that there will be a lot of air in the containers and the oxygen will eventually cause the beans to go bad.

A simple solution is to get oxygen absorbers and put them in the container with your beans.  Oxygen absorbers are tiny packets which contain iron and absorb oxygen.  The reduced oxygen also means that any insect eggs in the beans cannot survive.

In theory, beans could last indefinitely stored like this.  However, most containers aren’t actually air-tight.  Buckets will eventually lose their seal and oxygen will leak in (though buckets with gasket lids tend to do better).

Recycled plastic bottles also eventually leak.  Canning jars are more reliable and you can see they are working because the lid will looked “sucked down,” but they can’t hold as much food and are susceptible to breaking.   Thus, using oxygen absorbers with Mylar bags is recommended.

Read more about oxygen absorbers for long-term food storage.


Option 5: Mylar Bags with Oxygen Absorbers

Shelf Life: 25+ years

The best way to store beans long-term is to put seal them in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.  Mylar is impervious to moisture and gases and blocks light.  Because the OAs remove oxygen from the bags, the beans are protected from virtually all spoilage.

When stored this way, beans can last 25+ years with minimal nutrient loss.

This post gives step-by-step instructions on how to store food in Mylar bags.

How do you store your dry bean stockpile? Let us know in the comments below.

Leave a comment

  1. I cannot seem to find a credible answer to this question. If I want to include several different types of beans in a single 5-gallon Mylar bag for long term storage, can I just poke some holes in the original plastic bags to make it easier for the 02 absorbers to do their thing? I really like the idea of keeping the original packaging, and do not relish the idea of repackaging literally hundreds of bags of beans into new bags to keep them separate. And, I am not freaked out about my beans being in contact with the plastic bags they are packaged in; should I be? If yes, specifically why?

    Reply
    • I have this question too. I’ve been thinking of filling a 5 gallon bag with an assortment of bags (ziplock?) of rice, beans, lentils, oats, and small bags of seasonings, spice, salt, sugar, etc to create my own month supply of dry goods. I’m not sure how to store them efficiently and as frugally as possible.
      Small Mylar bags inside of a huge 5 gallon Mylar inside of a thick bucket seems Like it may be overkill.
      Is it possible to use ziplock bags for the individual dry goods and put a large amount of oxygen absorbers in the 5gal Mylar bag?
      Or should I have a 50cc OA inside the ziplock bags too?

      Reply
      • To make sure the air can escape, it’s best to use mesh sacks or bags for storing items. Or just don’t seal the zip-lock bags completely.

        Reply
      • You could use individual mylar bags inside of a 5gal bucket without the additional 5 gal mylar liner. The reason for the bucket is that mylar isn’t rodent proof, but 5 gal buckets are moreso, though not completely.

        Reply
        • Exactly! I’d also like to add that the buckets help protect against physical damage (think about mylar bags being blown around in hurricane wind or debris crashing down on them during an earthquake). the buckets themselves are also incredibly useful for dozens of things ranging from emergency toilets to collecting water.

          Reply
    • Yes, you can just poke holes in the original bags. However, you’d have to poke enough holes and make them large enough that the O2 absorbers could still do their work. Maybe you could get some cloth bags for the beans instead – ones made out of a cheesecloth-type material, netting bags, or similar. Those would accomplish your goal and should be cheap or even free to find.

      Reply
    • purchase in bulk 50lb bags from a restaurant supply wholesaler it is WAAAAY cheaper and will offset some of the cost to have to do mylar and o2 absorbers….just my .02…YMMV.

      Reply
      • Purchase in bulk – but transfer to mylar, and then store in a 5 lb bucket. I use quart bags, which will hold a pound, with an OA, because that’s how I will use them. That way, I’m not putting the rest of my stores at risk. For other things, I might use a gallon bag. In the end, not losing food due to improper storage is still “cheap”. And with mylar being both portable and the longest lasting option, my food storage is as good as it can get.

        Reply
    • I did that, I have some larger bags that I have multiple bags of beans in, and smaller bags with just 1 bag of beans. I started with the larger bags and switched to the smaller ones. For me it makes for sense, because if I’m going to open the bag, I probably won’t use 5 gallons worth of beans in a short period of time. I know it works because I put the oxygen absorbers in there and a couple hours later it’s vacuum sealed. Think of vacuum coffee bags. If they are not sealed visibly ( I give a day or 2), then I open the bag, put them in a different bag with O2 absorbers, and reseal

      Reply
    • You can use “dry canning” to store beans (if that’s what you mean by processing). Or just put an oxygen absorber in with the beans in a clean jar. It’s fast and easy.

      Reply
    • Try to keep them at room temperature or below. They can handle higher temperatures but the oils in the beans will start to go rancid. You can actually still eat rancid food, it just tastes gross. Eating lots of rancid oil supposedly can cause health problems in the long term, but that’s not really an issue if you are storing food for emergencies.

      Reply
  2. I dry canned my beans. Filled sterilized mason jars with beans, placed mason jars on a tray, in hot oven – 200 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place lids and rings on tightly immediately wait for “ping”. Now sealed and shelf stable. Label with contents and date. Check products every few weeks .

    Reply

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