Dried beans are inexpensive and nutritious! Learn the steps from dried to cooked beans, tips & tricks, and everything in between!
Be sure to use fresh beans for the best results. The older your beans are the longer they take to cook and soften.
Try my Tuscan White Bean soup. Full of nutrition, veggies, and flavor. This is the one I've been making and packing in my hubby's lunches!
Clean the Beans
Although many of us are buying our beans in bags from the grocery store it is still a good idea to take the time to sort through your beans and check for any debris, rocks, and rotten beans.
Simply pour your beans out onto a cookie sheet and look through them for anything that doesn't belong.
Soak the Beans
We soak beans to reduce the carbohydrates in beans that produce gas (yup, we do it so we don't feel so gassy after eating them) AND to help soften their shells to be easier digested by our bodies. It also reduces the cooking time required (which can be a LONG time if they aren't soaked first).
Do I have to soak beans?
No, you can skip it if you want. Especially if your recipe doesn't call for it. But, if you have the chance to think ahead...soak your beans. You will notice a difference in cooking time and some say they notice a difference in taste. However, many skip soaking and swear it doesn't matter. It is completely up to you!
Hot soaking method:
My personal favorite, this method is one of the most effective for removing the gases and softening the beans. It is also one of the quickest methods.
--> Pour your dry beans into a large pot and cover the beans with cold water (use a 4 to 1 ration ---4 cups of water for 1 cup of dried beans). Bring the water to a boil. Let it boil for a few minutes and then turn the heat off, cover the pot and let it sit for at least 4 hours, more if possible. Drain before cooking.
Cold soak method:
The easiest, in my opinion, and still effective method is the cold soak. Simply soak the beans in cold water for at least 12 hours (longer is better).
--> Put your dried beans into a large bowl and cover with cold water (again, about a 4 cups of water per 1 cup of beans). Let them soak for AT LEAST 8 hours preferably 12-16 hours. Drain and rinse.
Rinse Dried Beans
No matter which method you choose to use for soaking the beans you want to be sure to dump the water out and give them a good rinse before cooking. After all, the water's job is to pull out all of those gassy carbohydrates. Let's be sure to get rid of it!
Cooking Dried Beans
Cooking beans is straightforward:
Put your beans into a large, heavy pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to low, and low simmer until done.
-use about 4 cups of water for 1 cup of beans when cooking
-be sure that you cook your beans on a low simmer and not a hard boil. You want the insides to cook without cracking the shell.
-watch your beans to see if you need to add water, they expand as they cook and may need more water.
-be sure to stir and scrape the bottom of the pan so the beans don't burn
-DO add onions, herbs, and garlic to your beans while cooking...so good!
-but don't add anything like tomatoes or salt (acidic ingredients) because they will cause the beans to break down sooner than you want.
-drain your beans before storing.
Tip: the liquid you drain off of cooked beans is gold...don't throw it! Instead, use it in your recipes!
How long to cook your beans?
It's hard to give specific times because it depends so much on how old your beans are, if you soaked them, and all KINDS of things. But here are the best guesstimations:
- Small beans (black beans, black-eyed peas and navy beans): 45 to 90 minutes
- Medium beans (Great Northern, kidney, pinto, garbanzo beans): 60 to 120 minutes
- Large beans (large Lima, Cannellini beans, butter beans): 80 to 180 minutes
When to salt beans and does it make a difference?
I think so! In my experience, adding salt right away makes the beans take longer to soften and cook but adding the salt towards the end (this is also when I add my herbs) seems to be about right for the right texture and flavor.
Should I add sugar to my beans?
If you would like to add sugar, add it at the end! Like salt, sugar makes the beans take A LOT longer to cook. So save the sugar for the end after the beans have properly cooked. Or, be prepared to give the beans a much longer time to cook.
Storing cooked beans:
-let your beans come to room temperature before storing.
-cooked beans last in the freezer for months and in the fridge for a couple weeks.
-1/2 to 3/4 cup of dried beans, when cooked, equals about 15 oz of beans.
-use a scale to measure out 15 oz of cooked beans into Ziploc freezer bags.
-bring frozen beans to room temperature before adding to recipes.
-cooked, stored, and thawed beans can be used in recipes anywhere that calls for canned beans.