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Foolproof Guide to Cooking Dry Beans!

By March 20, 2017 Blog

Foolproof Guide to Cooking Dry Beans!

For about $.50 and 135 calories (in a 4-ounce serving) you can pack in the protein and nutrients! Legumes are tasty, satisfying, nutritious and cheap. Beans make an appearance in just about every cuisine that considers meat to be a luxury.   Italian, Indian, and Mexican foods use beans as a great way to get more flavor, texture, and nutrition. Beans are easily grown, dried and stored which makes them very accessible as an affordable staple in a pantry. Beans, peas, and lentils top the chart for feeding the masses in an affordable and tasty way!

I eat a mostly plant-based diet, and meat is a luxury in my way of life.   I use legumes as a protein source and even a substitute for meat now and again. I love them in soups, dips, purees, and just all by their little bean selves!

Buying Tips

Dry beans come in many varieties. It is getting easier and easier to find a large variety of beans in grocery stores. Here are few tips when purchasing legumes.

  1. Check color; beans, peas, and lentils should have a uniform color. Discoloration could mean that they are old and have been on the shelf too long.
  1. Check size: you want legumes that are similar in size. If they are mixed sizes, this could interfere with even cooking texture and times.
  1. Check for defects; legumes that are cracked or shriveled might mean they have been mishandled or stored improperly.
  1. Check for debris; you might see small rocks, dried leaves or other debris in the legumes. If there is too much of these it could suggest poor handling, and I would look for another brand.
  1. Check for pinholes; if you are buying prepackaged beans search for pinholes in the packaging. Pinholes could indicate the presence of insects. YUCK!


Cooking Tips

I am never surprised when I add a recipe to the blog with dry beans how many emails I get asking for more details about how to cook dry beans. I will say for some of us it is intimidating and a bit of a lost art. Although cooking dry beans is not complicated it is time-consuming. Once you get the hang of the process, you will be a bean genius in no time at all!

  1. The Sort and Rinse – you must look through your dried beans, especially if you are buying bulk. Look for damaged beans, small stones, and other debris. It is quick and easy and does not require a careful inspection of every bean. Rinse the beans well and drain them. I do this a few times until the water is clear. This process helps removes dust and other contaminants that might be on the dried beans.
  1. The Soak – beans are a dried food they need rehydration before you can cook them. All soaking is the same for all legumes (beans, lentils, and peas). Always soak your beans in cold water. Soak in 3-4 times the volume of measured beans (1 cup of dried beans = 3 cups of water). Soak your beans for 6 – 8 hours minimum. If you are soaking overnight and live in a warmer climate, I would place them in the refrigerator, although not necessary. It will help prevent molding and fermentation. If you see any beans that are floating, remove them. That means they were picked prematurely, and the shell will shrink and shrivel when cooking. Although overnight soaking is the preferred method (it also retains the most nutrients), you can quick soak. Quick soaking, you simply bring the same amount of soaking water (as the dry soak) to a rolling boil. Add beans slowly not to disrupt rolling boil. Let them boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let them set uncovered for 1-2 hours.
  1. Cooking – I love cooking my beans in the soaking water. Using the soaking water helps preserve the nutrient value. The only beans I would not do this with are soybeans. The water can get bitter tasting as they soak. The beans will have soaked up a lot of the soaking water, so you will need to add more. Add water about 2” above the beans and cover. Cover and cook on low heat for the appropriate time in the chart below. DO NOT STIR YOUR BEANS! If you feel you must use a wooden spoon and stir them gently so that you do not break the shells off the beans. When ready to eat they should be firm but tender. Not dry or mealy.   A sneaky test to see if they are done is to remove a few with a tasting spoon. Blow on them; if the skin bursts they are ready to eat!
  1. Adding Flavor – Guess what? Beans cook better when they are cooked in plain water and nothing else. Adding fats, spices, salts, sugars and acids make the skins tough and rubbery. So cook your beans thoroughly and then add all the flavors you want. There is also a rumor that if you add baking soda, you can shorten the cooking time. Although that might be true, it will have an adverse effect on the taste and texture. Better to just plan ahead and give them all the time they need to become the beans of your dreams!


Tips For Storing Dried Beans

I have Mason jars full of beans and lentils. I have found they are the best for storing dried beans.   Here are a few more tips to help you.

  1. Store legumes in a dark, dry place. Should be stored in tightly sealed glass jars.
  1. Adding a few bay leafs will keep insects at BAY!   Get it?
  1. Make up jars of beans that you like in soup together and store them together. When you are ready for bean soup, you won’t have to bother measuring them all out.


Tips For Storing Cooked Beans

Let’s face it cooking dried beans is easy but it is a lengthy process. Here are my best practices for having beans ready when you are!

  1. You can freeze beans! They will keep up to 5 months in the freezer.
  1. When freezing think about the recipes you use them in and the amounts you need them in. Store in those amounts.
  1. You can store freshly cooked beans in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I do this a lot for bean purees to use as a base. Always check for mold and discard the container if mold is present. Do not try to scrape the mold off. You will likely contaminate the entire container.


1 Cup Dried Beans Cooking Times Cooking Water in Cups Cooked Volumes in Cups
Adzuki 45-50 minutes 4 2 1/2
Black (Turtle) 45-60 minutes 4 2 1/2
Black-Eyed Peas 1 hour 4 2 1/2
Chick-Peas (Garbanzo) 2 4 3 1/4
Fava 45-60 minutes 4 2 1/2
Kidney 1 1/2 hours 3 2 1/2
Lentils 30 minutes 4 2 3/4
Lima 45-60 minutes 4 2 1/2
Mung 1 1/2 hours 4 2 1/2
Split Pea 35 – 40 minutes 3 2 1/4
Pinto 1 1/2 hours 3 2
Soybean 3 hours 5 2 3/4
White – Great Northern and Navy 45-60 minutes 4 3

Download PDF of Chart here! 


Now you know how to cook beans check out some of our favorite bean recipes!  

Mexican Quinoa Bowl

Tortilla Soup 

Farm Hand Soup


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