Cheap, Convenient & Better Than Canned: Freezer Beans

I love beans. They're an inexpensive, healthy and tasty protein that I eat at least a couple times a week. But I don't love canned beans, which I find flavorless and mushy compared to beans cooked from scratch. So instead of relying on canned beans for quick weeknight meals, I've started cooking big batches of from-scratch beans and freezing them, so I always have perfectly cooked beans on hand and ready to thaw for dinner.

On the weekends I soak 1 to 2 pounds of beans overnight and cook them in the slow cooker, a hands-off method that makes it easy to perfectly cook a large amount of beans at once. (Cooking beans in the oven is another foolproof cooking method.) I usually flavor the cooking water with a couple whole garlic cloves, a whole carrot, a whole piece of celery and add salt about halfway through cooking.

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When the beans are done, I let them cool, remove the garlic and vegetables, and add a little white wine vinegar, about 1 1/2 teaspoons per pound of dry beans. The acidity of the vinegar helps keep the beans from splitting while frozen, without affecting the flavor. I portion the beans into 16-ounce deli containers, making sure to cover them completely with their cooking liquid, and freeze them for up to 3 months. (Any longer than that, and their texture becomes a bit dry.)

To use the frozen beans, I either defrost them in the microwave or thaw them in the refrigerator. For salads or dips, I drain them before using, but for soups, stews and other saucy dishes, I incorporate the flavorful cooking liquid into the dish. Stocking my freezer with a variety of beans is now a regular habit — I can't imagine weeknight dinners without them!

Do you freeze cooked beans? How do you do it?

Related: Cooking Chickpeas from Scratch: Is It Really Worth It?

(Images: Anjali Prasertong)