How to cook dry beans

an assortment of dried beans

How to cook dried beans
My preference has always been to cook dried beans over using canned or jarred. When I’m making beans for a dish I always make extra to tuck in the freezer to have on hand so I don’t have to cook them each time I make a dish.

Can I taste a difference between dried and canned?  Nope. I’m not a super taster like some of my friends, but here’s why I prefer dried over canned or jarred.

It costs less 
One cup of dried beans, which is about a half pound, will yield approximately 3 cups of cooked beans. For example: A half pound of dried organic pinto beans currently costs $1.00, so that buck will get me three cups of cooked pinto beans. Not bad.

Less waste
In these times where recycling seems to be a figment of our imagination, I don’t need to be concerned if the cans or jars are being properly recycled.

Buying the beans in bulk, which is available in most health food stores, will also prevent the unnecessary waste of a plastic bag that pre-packaged dried beans come in. I bring my own reusable muslin bags to the store to fill up with beans and grains.

I can control how they are prepared 
To help eliminate the gaseous state some people get from eating beans there are some methods of preparation that can help reduce that problem.

Soak the beans for at least three hours, up to overnight. To do so first wash the beans in cool water to remove dust and debris and drain. Put them into a large bowl. Bring three times the amount of water to a boil and pour over the beans. Cover them (I use a dinner plate) and allow the beans to soak for a minimum of three hours, up to overnight.

The question of salt 
Years ago I learned you never, ever add salt to beans, either while they are soaking or while they are cooking. Not true! It’s been discovered that salt added to the beans while soaking and then a little added to the cooking water actually helps them to cook more evenly. You can check out this article in Serious Eats to find out more:

If you’re on a low sodium diet though it’s best not to add the salt to the soaking beans.

Don’t add these to beans before they are soft
There are a couple of definite don’ts when cooking beans: don’t add any acid such as citrus or vinegars, and don’t add any sort of sweetener. Unlike salt, these ingredients will keep the beans from softening for sure.

Cooking beans
With the exception of lentils, my preference is to pressure cooker dried beans since it significantly cuts down on the time beans need to cook. A few years ago I bought an Instant Pot and absolutely love it! It’s so much easier to use than the stove top pressure cookers I had used for many years.

No pressure cooker? Cooking beans on the stovetop will take longer than in the pressure cooker, so soaking them overnight will help to cut down on the time.  You can simmer the beans in a heavy pot adding the ingredients mentioned in the next paragraph, until they are done. This article from The Spruce Eats tells you cooking times for stovetop cooking various beans:

Add these ingredients to the beans
When you’re ready to cook the beans drain the soaking water, add the beans to a pot with double the amount of water, a few bay leaves and if you can find it, a 1” to 2” piece of kombu. Kombu is a sea vegetable available in most health food stores. I learned to add kombu to beans when I was studying under Japanese cooks. Several years ago I read in an America’s Test Kitchen magazine that the addition of kombu does help to reduce flatulence. It was nice to get that confirmation ;-) You’ll remove the bay leaves when the beans are done, but often the kombu will soften and melt away so no one will ever know it’s in there. Kombu is good for you, full of minerals, so leaving it in is a good idea.

How long will it take to cook the beans?
That depends on a few things: the type of bean itself, how old the beans are, how long they soaked and what method you are using – a pressure cooker or a pot on the stove.

If soaked overnight, beans like pinto, red chili beans, black beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans and the like will take about 8 minutes once the pressure cooker has come to full pressure. If soaked for three hours only give them 20 minutes.

Chickpeas seem to take the longest time to cook. I usually give them 20 in the pressure cooker if they’ve soaked overnight and 35 minutes if they’ve soaked for three hours only.

Split peas
Interestingly I’ve had numerous circumstances where split peas just won’t get soft without pressure cooking. Several years ago I cooked a pot of split peas on the stove top for three days and they still weren’t all soft. I ended up pureeing it with an emersion blender. No idea why this happens, but is has occurred several times, not only to me but to friends who’ve made split pea soup from scratch. Now I soak split peas overnight and then pressure cook them. Since split peas will bubble up and foam (which can leak out of a pressure cooker and make quite a mess) set the pressure level to low rather than high. Some people like to add a tablespoon of oil to the beans to help prevent foaming. No idea if that works or not.

Clean the pressure cooker
To keep your pressure cooker working properly it’s a good idea to do a thorough cleaning of the valves on the lid of your pressure cooker every so often. After cooking split peas in a pressure cooker it’s important to take the top of the cooker apart immediately since the peas will leave a residue that will dry hard and keep the pressure cooker from functioning properly.

There you go. This was a whole lot of explaining for a very simple process!

Related Categories