One of the most alluring aspects of the vegan lifestyle is the significant amount of money it can save. Today, more and more meat-eaters are incorporating vegan essentials such as beans and legumes into their meal plans in order to save a few bucks. When you break down the numbers, it’s not hard to see why. A pound of dried beans generally costs just a dollar or two, while a pound of meat can cost several times that. Veganism just makes good economic sense.
However, many people are resistant to dried beans, preferring to use canned beans instead. That is certainly an understandable choice – when you’re racing to get dinner on the table, opening a can is much faster and easier than cooking dried beans. But I hope to show you that, with a little foresight and preparation, dried beans can be just as convenient as canned.
First, you will want to buy good dried beans. The beans available at supermarkets are a great choice, but if you want a little more variety, I recommend ordering them from Purcell Mountain Farms. They have an incredibly variety of beans and legumes, and organic offerings as well.
When it comes to cooking the beans, there are a few options. Of course, there is the traditional method, which entails simply soaking the beans overnight. The problem, for me, is actually remembering to do so! If you’re like me, the quick soak method might be the way to go. Place one pound of dried beans in a large pot with six to eight cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and cook for two minutes, then turn off the heat and let the beans sit, covered, for about an hour. Drain them, replace the water, and simmer until they’re soft – between one and two hours.
My favorite way to cook dried beans is in the slow cooker. Dice up an onion and put it in the pot with one pound of beans. Cover the beans with water and turn the slow cooker on high. About an hour before they’re done – just as they’re starting to soften – add salt to taste. When they’re soft, which should take between four and six hours, drain the water.
Dried beans can also be cooked in a pressure cooker, but I’ve never attempted it. Here are some very detailed instructions on how to do so if you’d like to give it a shot!
In order to make dried beans part of your everyday dinner routine, you will want them to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. This means that you’ll have to do the prep work in advance. I generally cook up a few pounds at a time, divide them up into plastic bags and stick them in the freezer. Then you can just take a bag out in the morning for dinner that night.
If you’re still daunted by the prospect of using dried beans, here are a few reasons why you should. Not only are dried beans less expensive than canned, but they are also healthier, as canned beans contain sodium and other preservatives. Further, plastic can linings often contain the harmful chemical BPA.
What’s your favorite way to cook dried beans?
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.