By Jane Dummer
What are dry beans?
Dry beans are a pulse crop that is part of the legume family. In Canada, pulses are segmented into five groups: chickpeas, lentils, dry beans, dry peas and faba beans. Now, let’s further explore the types and varieties of dry beans. There are two main types of dry beans: white and coloured. Within these two types, there are several varieties, with popular ones including navy beans (also known as white beans), kidney beans (light red, dark red and white), pinto beans, black beans (also known as turtle black) and cranberry beans.
Why dry beans are good for you
Beans are rich in protein and fibre. In fact, a half cup (250 mL) serving of cooked dry beans contains 6 to 8 grams of fibre, giving you a quarter of the daily recommendation for fibre. They are low in fat and are a complex carbohydrate. They are a source of several vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, potassium and iron. Plus, eating nutritious foods like dry beans promotes heart health and can decrease the risk of diabetes and certain types of cancers.
Market and consumer trends
World demand for dry beans is increasing, while the demand for plant protein continues to gain traction in North America. Canada is one of the world’s top exporters of beans. Manitoba, Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan contribute significant amounts of dry beans annually. Look for “Product of Canada” on the packaging to find out if the beans you are purchasing are locally produced.
Dry beans vs canned beans
People often ask, “Which is better for me: dry beans or canned beans?” From a nutrition standpoint, the differences between dried and canned beans are minimal. Canned beans have a higher sodium content than dry beans, but they are often more convenient being fully cooked and ready to eat. Remember, draining and rinsing canned beans removes most of the sodium. Also, you can buy low-sodium canned beans. Dry beans are sold in bags or bulk and need to be cooked. This gives you more control in the ways to prepare them. Bottom line: All beans are good for you whether dried or canned.
How to cook dry beans
Here are six simple steps to cooking dry beans on the stovetop:
- Remove any cracked or discoloured beans. For ease, this can be done by putting the measured amount on a flat surface like a baking sheet.
- Place dry beans into a bowl or stainer and rinse well with water.
- In a large pot, using a 3:1 ratio of water to beans, soak beans for a minimum of six hours (overnight can be time-effective).
- After soaking, drain and rinse well.
- In a large pot, add soaked beans with water. Use the 3:1 ratio again. For every one cup (250 mL) of beans use three cups (750 mL) of water. On the stovetop, bring beans to a boil and carefully remove any foam.
- Reduce heat to simmer, add any seasonings, partly cover and cook until tender. It will vary between one to two hours of cooking time depending on the bean and how you want the texture. Then it’s time to add them to your favourite recipe.
Storage and shelf-life
Most packages of dry beans can be stored in the cupboard or pantry (cool, dry space) for up to one year. Once dry beans are cooked, they can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days in the refrigerator and six months in the freezer.
Six delicious ways to add beans to your menu
Beans can be enjoyed in many ways. They can be baked, refried, incorporated into burgers, burritos and casseroles, and mixed into salads. Here are six recipes to get you started. Remember, cooked dry beans can be substituted for canned beans in most recipes. Have fun experimenting!
- Beans in a omelette? Yes! Try this Huevos Rancheros Omelette filled with chili and refried beans made with white kidney beans and you’ll be surprised.
- Barley (another Canadian favourite) and black beans make this colourful, fibre-rich Gallo Pinto a delicious substitute for breakfast hash browns or as a side dish for poultry or fish.
- Need a classic baked bean recipe? Dry white navy beans are the star ingredient in this timeless dish.
- Revamp a timeless favourite with these turkey and black bean tacos. Along with the veggies and an easy red onion salsa, these tacos are an easy family favourite.
- Delicious sliders made with beef and black beans are a perfect match both nutritionally and flavour-wise any day of the week.
- No game day is complete without a go-to chili recipe. This dark and stout chili is made with kidney beans and your favourite dark beer.