The humble black bean has been the most versatile staple food in our pantry these days. Tiny in size in its dried form, the little legume cooks up plump and perfectly creamy on the inside with a bit of chew to the skin on the outside. I cook my black beans low and slow in the oven (or on the stovetop) in the largest, heaviest pot I’ve got; my dutch oven. I have a big orange 6-quart’er which I’ve nicknamed The Pumpkin. Cheers for creativity and for naming cookware!
The cooked beans produce a dramatically dark and fragrant broth (do not pre-soak ‘em). I’ve heard bean broths referred to as “liquid gold”because they are nutrient-rich and flavor-packed and can be consumed as is. I wholeheartedly agree with that description. Bean broth is filled with all the starches the cooked beans release and flavored with the aromatics with which you’ve chosen to cook them (for example: whole cloves of garlic, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, black pepper). Word to the wise: do not dump liquid gold down the drain.
Can you freeze black beans?
If I’m not cooking this amazing black bean soup, which starts with dried beans, then I am cooking the beans down even further on the stovetop, in their own broth, to produce a thick and rich and utterly creamy black bean ragout – on par with the best “restaurant” black beans you’ve ever had. If you want your end result to simply be the cooked black beans, then you’ll want to store them in their broth. The beans will keep for about a week in the fridge or you can freeze them for up to a year. I freeze my beans in stacks of glass wide-mouth pint jars (they never last a year in there!). If you’re going to freeze them this way, leave a little headspace at the top of the jar because they will expand when frozen. They defrost beautifully.
Additional uses for leftover black bean broth
If I’m not cooking soup or ragout and I have extra broth leftover after I’ve stored my beans, then I am saving that extra broth to cook my rice. I’m pretty sure this is how the pros do it but I haven’t snooped enough kitchens to confirm. TBD. However, take note: if you’ve ever had rice and beans from a Mexican restaurant, likely the rice isn’t plain old white or brown rice but instead a richly flavored and incidentally more colorful version of the familiar starch. This is probably because that rice was cooked in bean broth.
How much protein is in black beans?
Back to the beans though. Black beans are a great source of fiber and protein. A single one-cup serving of cooked black beans yields 15 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein, which is very comparable to animal protein if you’re looking to supplement them into heartier meals. You get a lot of bang for your buck with these!
Most importantly though, is how effectively they heal my soul a little bit every time I cook a big batch. The magical fragrance from cooking beans creeps from the kitchen into every corner of our home, and fills us with both a sense of comfort and anticipation of the meal ahead. It makes my mouth water just writing about it. Beans are so easy to cook, too, and within the small amount of time it takes for them to start to cook, the fragrance permeates my apartment and I feel completely grounded.
They couldn’t replicate that scent (& effect) from a candle if they tried.
So it’s simple. Cooking up a pot of black beans, or any bean for that matter, has become my favorite way of easing back into a routine of cooking meals at home from scratch. It’s my trustworthy gateway back into that world after a weekend of restaurant dining and less-than-healthy snacking. I think I’ll stick with it and I hope you try it too!