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March 2015 Trail Bytes: Dehydrating Beans, New Recipes
March 30, 2015

I had to put on my glasses to count beans for this newsletter. Beans often bust open when you dry them, but they still taste good and add protein and other nutritional benefits to backpacking meals. One value of beans is that the starch in them is digested slowly providing a steady release of glucose – energy for the whole day.

For this newsletter, I cooked red beans in my pressure cooker to see if they would hold their shape better than canned beans and still rehydrate well.

Canned beans split open when you dry them. It doesn’t matter if you dry them with the liquid from the can or rinsed. Dry two hundred red kidney beans from a can and you’ll get one hundred and ninety nine busted open beans. It may have something to do with the beans sitting in salty liquid. Despite their appearance, dried canned beans rehydrate well in meals.

On the other hand, dried beans that look nice may not rehydrate well. People often tell me that the beans they cook on the stove or in a slow cooker stay hard when dried. One reason for this may be that the beans sat at the store or in the pantry for more than a year. Old beans don’t rehydrate well no matter how you cook them. If you are turning out tender dried beans using a slow-cook method, please send me your method so I can try it and pass it along.

Photo above: Pressure cooked red beans before drying.

Soaking and Pressure Cooking Red Beans


I picked my soaking method after visiting the US Dry Bean Council website. There is a lot of good information about beans there. For soaking, use five times as much water as beans. I combined my dry beans with unsalted water in a pot and brought it to a boil for three minutes. I removed the pot from the heat and let it sit for five hours. After five hours, I rinsed the beans, covered with fresh water, and refrigerated overnight. You could reduce the soaking time by several hours with no problems. I just happened to start this project in the afternoon rather than the evening.

Pressure Cook:

In the morning, I poured off the soak water and put the beans in the pressure cooker with enough fresh water to cover. I pressure cooked on high setting (15 psi) for ten minutes followed by the quick-release method to let out the pressure. Since this was an experiment about texture, I did not include any flavor enhancers such as bay leaf, garlic, onion or bouillon – but those are all options for the future. As soon as the beans cooled, I dried them for approximately five hours at 125° F.

Photo above: Pressure cooked beans after drying.


Out of 200 beans, 160 beans held together and 40 beans busted open. That’s 80% intact beans. They all rehydrated well when I included them in meals.

Photo above: Pressure cooked and dried beans after I rehydrated them with a little more water than beans.

Photo above: Pressure cooked and dried beans rehydrated with rice and vegetables in a simple and tasty backpacking meal.

Photo above: Red Beans & Rice, Chili

Pressure cooking is not the only way to produce good looking beans that rehydrate well. The beans in my chili stay mostly intact whether I use canned or pressure cooked beans. This might have something to do with the sauce and meat surrounding the beans slowing down the rate of dehydration. I’ve also noticed that the beans in Zatarain’s Red Beans & Rice are not busted open and rehydrate well. I sent a note to them, but the person who responded could not tell me how they cooked them.

Another way to enjoy the flavor and nutritional benefits of beans is to turn them into bean bark. With the high starch content and ability to blend well with other seasonings, bean bark rehydrates into a delicious sauce in backpacking meals.

Photo above: Black Bean & Salsa Bark Stew, Baked Bean Bark Stew.

Next month I’ll share a two-day camping menu for three people. We’re heading to Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia in April. Cumberland Island has wild horses and we’ll likely see armadillos and raccoons at night. No cars are allowed on the island, so we will carry our gear from the ferry dock to the campsite. Our backpacking style meals will save us the trouble of carrying a cooler.

Best regards,

Chef Glenn & Dominique

Recipes for Adventure Books

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