Alternative to Canned Beans


Beans are a wonderful source of vegetarian protein. I add them to salads, soups, veggie burgers, and scrambled eggs (topped with salsa and plain yogurt). Beans from a can are convenient, but unless they come in BPA-free cans, you should cook your own.

Cooking beans at home doesn't require a lot of effort, just good timing. Soak them in advance for 12 to 24 hours and cook them whenever you're in the kitchen anyway. Make a big batch, store them in their cooking liquid, and freeze what you don't use within a week.

Frozen cooked beans are almost as convenient as canned cooked beans. It's true that they have to be thawed, but in some cases you can skip that step, like when you're adding them to soups and stews.

I add epazote to my beans while they cook because it adds flavor and improves their digestibility. Epazote also reduces gas formation.


I foraged for epazote in Central Park and dried what I didn't use fresh. If you plan to pick it yourself, make 100% sure you have a positive identification.

Otherwise, look for it grocery stores that carry Mexican and Central American groceries ingredients. In Manhattan, find epazote at Kalustyan's on Lexington Avenue.

Take care to not over-cook the beans. Longer soaking makes for shorter cooking times, and beans that were dried recently cook much more quickly than those dried long ago. Soaked overnight, the black beans I buy from Pure Cayuga Organics at the farmer's market cook in only 45 minutes.

1. Soak the beans for 12 to 24 hours. 
    2. Rinse the pre-soaked beans well and add them to a pot with plenty of fresh water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender, checking periodically to gauge cooking time.

    3. Cool the cooked beans in their cooking liquid.

    4. Strain the cooled beans, reserving the cooking liquid.

    5. Toss the strained beans with a pinch of sea salt, then transfer them to clean glass jars, leaving an inch of space at the top. Pour the cooking liquid over the beans, making sure that they are completely covered and leaving at least an inch of space at the top (unless you don't plan to freeze the jars). Tighten lids on the jars. Save any excess cooking liquid, or bean broth, for soups, stews and chili. Use it as you would mushroom or vegetable broth. It too can be stored in a clean glass jar in the fridge or freezer. Allow an inch of space at the top if you plan to freeze it.

    6. Transfer the beans and any excess bean broth to the fridge. If you plan to freeze them, allow the jars to chill overnight first. Transfer the chilled jars to the freezer and leave the lids askew to prevent them from cracking if the contents expand. Tighten the lids the following day, after they have frozen completely.