All You Need to Know about Shelling Beans: Tips, Techniques, and Recipes


Shelling beans, like Borlotti or Cranberry, are a perfect addition to any meal. These beans, also known as shell beans, have a high protein content and a creamy texture when cooked. They are great in soups, salads, and stews. Shelling beans can be found in most grocery markets during the summer and fall months, or you can grow them yourself in your garden.

If you find yourself with an abundance of fresh shelling beans, but don’t know what to do with them, don’t worry! There are plenty of delicious recipes that feature these beans as the star ingredient. From a simple bean salad with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, to a hearty Indian curry with spices and coconut milk, there is no shortage of ways to enjoy these versatile beans.

When it comes to cooking shelling beans, it’s important to know that they take longer to cook than other types of beans, such as black or pinto beans. They need to be soaked for a few hours before cooking, and then gently simmered for about an hour or until they are tender. The cooking time may vary depending on the type and size of the beans, so it’s best to keep an eye on them and test for doneness.

Dried Beans Versus Fresh Shelled Beans

When it comes to shelling beans, there’s always a debate on whether to choose dried beans or fresh shelled beans. The choice between the two depends on personal preference, cooking time, and the desired texture.

Fresh shelled beans, also known as shelling beans, are harvested from pods when they’re still young and tender. They’re similar to peas in shape and have a slightly creamy texture. Shelling beans can be cooked in a variety of ways, including sautéing, boiling, or adding them to soups and stews. These beans are rich in flavor and are a popular choice for classic dishes like Italian pasta e fagioli or Indian Rajma.

Dried beans, on the other hand, are harvested when fully mature and the pods have dried out. They need to be soaked and cooked for a longer time compared to fresh shelled beans. Dried beans come in different types, including cranberry, borlotti, and black beans. They have a denser texture and a stronger flavor compared to their fresh counterparts. Dried beans are versatile and can be used in a variety of recipes, including salads, soups, stews, and gratins.

The process of shelling fresh beans can be time-consuming, especially when you have a large quantity to shell. If you don’t have the time or simply prefer the convenience, buying dried beans is a great alternative. They can be stored for a longer period and don’t require immediate use like fresh shelled beans. Dried beans are also available year-round in most markets.

When it comes to cooking times, dried beans take longer to cook compared to fresh shelled beans. Dried beans usually need to be soaked overnight before cooking, while fresh shelled beans can be cooked within a shorter time frame. If you’re in a hurry or don’t have enough time for soaking and cooking, fresh shelled beans are a better option.

The texture of beans also varies between dried and fresh shelled beans. Fresh shelled beans have a tender, creamy texture, while dried beans have a firmer, meatier texture. This difference in texture can affect the outcome of your dishes, especially if you’re aiming for a specific texture or consistency.

When it comes to taste, both dried and fresh shelled beans offer unique flavors. Fresh shelled beans have a delicate, slightly sweet taste, while dried beans have a more intense and earthy flavor. The choice between the two depends on your personal preference and the flavor profile you want to achieve.

Another factor to consider is the availability of the beans. Fresh shelled beans are seasonal and are only available during certain times of the year. Dried beans, on the other hand, are available year-round and can be easily found in most supermarkets.

In terms of nutritional value, both dried and fresh shelled beans are a good source of protein, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals. However, the drying process can cause some nutrient loss in dried beans. If you’re looking for the highest nutritional value, fresh shelled beans are a better choice.

In conclusion, the choice between dried beans and fresh shelled beans depends on personal preference, cooking time, texture, taste, and availability. Both options have their advantages and can be used in a variety of dishes. Whether you prefer the convenience of dried beans or the creamy texture of fresh shelled beans, they’re both great choices for adding flavor and nutrition to your meals.


Classic Italian Pasta e Fagioli Recipe

Indian Rajma Recipe

Fusilli with Borlotti Beans Recipe

Dried Bean Salad Recipe

Borlotti Bean Gratin Recipe

Fattoush Salad Recipe

Cooperative Food – Shelling Beans Guide

Types of Shelled Beans

When it comes to shelling beans, there are several different types to choose from. Each variety has its own unique characteristics, making them perfect for a variety of recipes and dishes. Here are some of the most popular types of shelled beans:

Bean Variety Description Best Uses
Borlotti Beans These beans have a beautiful pinkish-red speckled exterior and a creamy texture when cooked. They have a slightly sweet taste and work well in soups, stews, and salads. Salads, soups, stews
Kidney Beans Kidney beans are large, kidney-shaped beans with a dark red color. They have a meaty texture and can soak up flavors well, making them perfect for chili, pasta dishes, and bean salads. Chili, pasta dishes, bean salads
Cranberry Beans Also known as borlotti beans, cranberry beans are medium-sized beans with a maroon and white speckled exterior. They have a creamy texture and nutty flavor, and are great for soups, stews, and hearty dishes. Soups, stews, hearty dishes
Fusilli Beans These small, round beans have a light brown color and a smooth texture. They hold their shape well when cooked and are perfect for salads, casseroles, and side dishes. Salads, casseroles, side dishes
Black Beans Black beans have a shiny black skin and a creamy, tender texture. They have a slightly sweet and earthy flavor, making them a great addition to dishes like black bean soup, rice bowls, and Mexican-inspired recipes. Black bean soup, rice bowls, Mexican-inspired recipes

No matter which type of shelled beans you choose, be sure to fully cook them before enjoying. While some beans can be eaten raw, most should be cooked for optimal flavor and texture. Whether you’re buying them fresh from local markets or from the store, make sure to store your shelled beans properly to keep them moist and prevent them from overcooking.

Now that you know the different types of shelled beans available, you can start experimenting with them in your cooking. From classic bean dishes to creative recipes, there are endless possibilities when it comes to incorporating shelled beans into your meals. Enjoy!


When it comes to preserving cooked beans, canning is a popular method. Canning allows you to store beans for longer periods of time, and it’s a great way to enjoy the taste of summer all year round.

To can beans, you’ll need a few simple ingredients: cooked beans, tomato sauce or diced tomatoes, herbs and spices like onion, garlic, and pepper, and some canning jars. Different types of beans can be canned, but some favorites include borlotti, kidney beans, and Italian green beans.

Start by boiling your jars to sterilize them. Then, pack the cooked beans into the jars, leaving about an inch of headspace. Add your tomato sauce or diced tomatoes, along with any herbs and spices you like. A typical recipe might call for about 1 tbsp of herbs per jar.

Once your jars are filled, wipe the rims clean and secure the lids. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for the recommended time, usually around 10-15 minutes. This will ensure that your beans are properly sealed and safe to eat.

Once your jars have cooled and sat for a day or two, you can test the seals by pressing down on the center of the lids. If the lid doesn’t move, you know the jar is properly sealed. Store your canned beans in a cool, dark place and enjoy them whenever you need a hearty addition to your meals.

There are many ways to use canned beans–some favorites include adding them to soups, stews, and chili, or using them to make a quick and easy bean salad. You can also puree them to make a creamy bean dip or spread for sandwiches.

If you find yourself with an abundance of fresh beans, canning is a great way to preserve them for later use. It’s also a fun and satisfying process that allows you to enjoy the flavors of summer all year round.

✿ Read More About Vegetables.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.