Winter Super Foods: Dried Beans: Preparation

Last Editorial Review: 3/6/2005

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With so many bean varieties to choose from, you'll now need to learn how to cook them. There are two steps to cooking beans: soaking and cooking. Soaking beans allows the dried beans to absorb water, which begins to dissolve the starches that cause intestinal discomfort. While beans are soaking they are also double to tripling in their size. Cooking the beans makes them edible and digestible.

Ready to soak and cook some beans?

Soaking Beans
Note: Lentils, split peas and black-eyed peas do not need to be soaked. Pick through the beans, discarding any discolored or shriveled beans or any foreign matter. Rinse well.

There are four ways to soak beans, depending on how far in advance you plan and how much time you have, you can decide which method of soaking will work best for you.

Traditional Slow Soak: In a stockpot, cover 1 pound dried beans with 10 cups water. Cover and refrigerate 6-8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse the beans.

Hot Soak: In a stockpot, bring 10 cups water to a boil. Add 1 pound dried beans and return to a boil. Remove from the heat; cover tightly and set aside at room temperature 2-3 hours. Drain and rinse the beans.

Quick Soak: In a stockpot, bring 10 cups water to a boil. Add 1 pound dried beans and return to a boil; let boil 2-3 minutes. Cover and set aside at room temperature 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans.

Gas-Free Soak: In a stockpot, place 1 pound of beans in 10 or more cups of boiling water; boil for 2-3 minutes, cover and set aside overnight. The next day approximately 75 to 90 percent of the indigestible sugars will have dissolved into the soaking water. Drain, and then rinse the beans thoroughly before cooking them.

Blackeyes are a little different...

The soaking/cooking method is applicable for most of the beans mentioned. However, recent experimentation has shown there is a better way for cooking blackeyes.

Rather than soaking blackeyes, cover the beans with sufficient water and boil for 3 to 4 minutes. Discard water and cook in beef, chicken, or vegetable broth. If your recipe calls for other ingredients, add them to the broth and beans mixture just as if you were cooking with plain water. Cooking time is about 45 minutes. Try it. Even long-term blackeye fans might prefer this cooking method.

Bean Math

  • One 15-ounce can of beans = one and one-half cups cooked beans, drained.
  • One pound dry beans = six cups cooked beans, drained.
  • One pound dry beans = two cups dry beans.
  • One cup dry beans = three cups cooked beans, drained.
Bean Cooking Times
Baby Lima Beans 1 Hour
Blackeyes 3/4 to 1 Hour
Dark Red Kidneys 1 to 1-1/2 Hours
Garbanzos 1 to 1-1/2 Hours
Large Limas 3/4 to 1 Hour
Light Red Kidneys 1 to 1-1/2 Hours
Pink Beans 1 to l-1/2 Hours
Small Whites 1 to 1-1/2 Hours

Cooking Beans

1. Return the soaked, rinsed beans to the stockpot. Cover the beans with 3 times their volume of water. Add herbs or spices (not salt), as desired.
2. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender (the time will depend on the type of bean, but start checking after 45-60 minutes). Boiling beans will break the skins and leave you with a mushy meal. Add more water if the beans are not covered.
3. When the beans are tender, drain and use in recipes; or for later use, immerse them in cold water until cool, then drain well and freeze in 1- to 2-cup packages. One pound of dried beans will yield about 5 or 6 cups cooked beans.

Pressure Cooking
This is one of the quickest ways to cook beans. After you've soaked 1/2 pound of beans, place them in a 4-quart pressure cooker with 4 cups water. Cook at 15 pounds pressure following the manufacturer's directions for the type of legume you are cooking.

Bean Cooking Tips
Do not add salt or acidic ingredients, like vinegar, tomatoes or juice, this will slow the cooking process. Instead, add these ingredients when the beans are just tender.

Cooking times vary with the types of beans used but also may vary with their age.

Beans are done when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork. Always test a few beans in case they have not cooked evenly.

Soaking, cooking, tips, and times provided by California Dry Bean Board.

Make Beans Part of Your 5 A Day Plan
Sprinkle cumin onto beans while cooking and serve with rice and a salad for a quick complete meal. 5 A Day for Health
Be sure to serve beans with vitamin C rich vegetables to help iron from the beans be better absorbed.
Don't limit beans to just entree dishes or soups, use them for dips, salads, and dessert!
Substitute beans for a meatless meal 1 to 2 times a week.

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Updated 2005

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