From a nutritional standpoint, dried and canned beans will serve as a store of energy almost indefinitely, but offer optimum nutrition when consumed before they reach the five year mark. Refried bean flakes are in a special category, because they aren’t prone to hardening after a few years like whole dried beans.
Heat and humidity are the most pernicious enemies of dried beans in storage. Both encourage the beans to harden, and when ruined this way, no amount of cooking will soften them up. Once hardened, the only way we know to make beans palatable is to grind them into flour — but this has a completely different use in recipes.
Because of potential hardening, beans deserve extra care in your planning to ensure that you only purchase quantities that can be reasonably used up within two or three years. If you’re rotating your food as we suggest, there’s no reason for your beans to sit on the shelf for longer than that.
If you purchase dried beans by the sack, we recommend vacuum packing them in canning jars for convenient rotation.
Dried beans can also be pre-cooked and canned wet at home to avoid hardening and extend shelf life. This also offers the convenience and quick cooking times of commercially canned beans.