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How to Cook Dry Beans: Simple Steps Even Kids Can Follow!

Dry beans make a frugal, nutritious addition to your weekly menu. Learning how to cook dry beans is a great skill for everyone to master. You can even teach your kids to cook dry beans! Or cook dry beans in your Instant Pot.

How to Prepare and Cook with Dry Beans


Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to simply eat more beans. Once a week, if you can manage it in your meal plan. This is the first Super Food Challenge.

Dry or Canned?

ProsCons
Dry BeansLess $More work (slightly)
In control of ALL ingredientsMust pre-plan
Long soak releases all the nutrients/health benefits
Less packaging waste
Canned BeansQuick and easy!More $
Most sources say canned beans are just fine nutritionally (unlike other canned foods – more on this later!)Conservative sources say method of cooking makes them less nutritious, both in proteins and nutrients
Might have added preservatives/junk
More waste (cans)
The Everything Beans Book eBook

The Everything Beans Book has twenty pages of beany information, including all you could possibly want to know about legume nutrition, how to cook dry beans, and lots of time-saving tips for managing this frugal source of protein and fiber more often in your kitchen.

It also offers 30 bean recipes, for the bean lovers of the world and the bean haters.

Where to Buy

My price point for canned beans was, until my last trip to Sav-a-Lot, less than 50 cents. (They just went up to 57-69 cents!! Now I have to watch the sales again.)  This was in 2009…

Fancy beans like garbanzo (chickpeas) and cannelloni beans run more expensive, generally, about a dollar a can even on sale. If you have an Aldi near you, check their regular price for beans (and leave a comment for the rest of us, if you would). I always loved being able to totally skip paying attention to bean sales because I only bought the standard ones at Sav-A-Lot! 🙁 (Healthy Meals at Aldi and Save-a-Lot)

How to cook dry beans.How Frugal is It?

To price compare dry beans to canned:

  • assume that you’ll get about 5-7 cups of cooked beans from one pound of dry.
  • A can is about 1 ½ cups of beans.
  • So a one pound bag will get you 3-5 cans.
  • Generally a pound of beans is less than a dollar.
  • You do the rest of the math!
 

If you’re tired of saying,

“I just want my kids to eat what I make!”

… you’re not alone! Join us for the FREE No More Picky Eating Challenge on Kids Cook Real Food.

Everyone can win at the game of dinner!

How to Prepare Canned Beans

Open can, dump into strainer/colander, rinse gunk off (well!) and use in a recipe hot or cold.

How to Prepare Dry Beans

  1. Rinse
  2. Soak
  3. Long, slow cook

Washing the Beans

Rinse thoroughly under cool water, then sort through them for any stones or other debris. (Yes, I’ve actually found a pebble and clumps of dirt before! I’ve noticed that the store brands tend to have more broken beans and yucky stuff. There’s a local Michigan brand, Carlson-Arbogast Farm, that I’ve had great luck with as far as a quality batch of beans. They’re not usually too expensive, either, and I love buying “local”.)

If using lentils, mung beans, or split peas, you can skip the soaking section and go right to the cooking instructions. If using anything other kind of beans, continue to the next step: soaking.

Soaking Beans and Legumes

All dry beans and legumes, sometimes even lentils, mung beans, and split peas (more on why later) should be soaked before cooking. Soaking shortens the cooking time and makes the beans more digestible. To soak, cover the washed beans with four times their volume of water, then choose one of these soaking techniques.

  1. Normal soak: Leave the beans to soak for 4-8 hours
  2. Nourishing Traditions style soak: Soak for 12-24 hours in hot water, 140 degrees F is optimal (Nourishing Traditions recommendation). The long soak is the healthier method and makes the beans more digestible. I write in my calendar to “soak beans” in the morning, then the following morning “cook beans” for dinner that night. Do not add any salt or acid for the soaking period (updated since NT was published).
  3. Quick soak: (Less healthy, but works in a pinch) Bring the beans to a boil for one minute, cover, and let sit for one hour.

Related: Pressure Cooking Beans Without Soaking

Cooking Beans and Legumes

1. Normal Cook (with methods 1 and 3):  You have the choice of cooking in the soak water (more nutrients) or draining, rinsing and adding new water (less flatulence). Whether reusing soaking water or adding fresh, there should be twice as much water as beans. Boil furiously, uncovered, for ten minutes. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 1-2 hours, until tender.

2. Nourishing Cook (method 2):  Drain, rinse, put back in pot and add water to cover beans. Bring to a boil and skim off foam. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 4-8 hours. Note:  it is actually possible to cook beans for 8 hours and still have them not quite done! Make sure your simmer is a good, solid simmer. My “simmer burner” on low is not enough.

timesaver

Timesaver:  when you’re actually ready to cook and feel the dinner hour crunch, the dry beans are ready to go and you don’t have to do anything to them.

3. Pressure Cook: If you’re really in a hurry, you can also pressure cook beans. Follow the instructions on the link using either a stovetop pressure cooker or an Instant Pot.

Tips for Best Dry Beans

  • 1 cup dry beans yields 2-2½ cups cooked. Unless otherwise stated, the amounts given in my recipes refer to the cooked volume.
  • Salt can disrupt the cooking, so should not be added while soaking. Adding salt during cooking improves the flavor of the beans.
  • If your beans are still crunchy or too firm after 4-6 hours, add a pinch of baking soda to the water.
  • I almost always cook at LEAST a whole pound of dry beans. This way I can add a little extra to my recipe, and then I freeze the leftovers in 1 1/2 cup servings to make “a can” for future recipes. They also can hang out in the fridge for 1-2 weeks (you’ll KNOW when they get bad!).
How to Cook Dry Beans and save tons of money! www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/04/06/monday-mission-legume-recommend-some-beans/

A Foodie Laugh, On Me

It’s amazing that I ever got brave enough to purchase and use dry beans again after my first experience with them. If my mother ever soaked and cooked dry beans during my youth, I wasn’t aware of it. I first used them in college…in a dorm room. (Read: strike one!)

I was a youth minister planning to run a 30-Hour Famine, where my teens would fast from all food for 30 hours to experience hunger, raise awareness of poverty in the world, and raise money for a good Christian organization to feed the hungry. One of the possible conclusions to the experience was to reveal their “first meal” to be Unimix, a high-cal, high protein mush served to starving people in third world countries.

  • 30% maize (or corn) meal
  • 10% oil
  • 10% milk powder
  • 40% beans (mashed or ground)
  • 10% sugar

All that matters is that the recipe called for dry beans, and I wasn’t savvy enough to figure out that I could sub in canned beans. I had only lived on my own one summer and was subsisting on dorm food at the time.

Our dormitory had a small kitchen on the top floor, so I managed to find a pot, and I poured the entire bag of beans in, covered them with water to soak overnight, and stuck the nearly full pot (strike two!) in the corner of our closet-sized abode. Luckily, the pot was on one of the only scraps of tile floor uncovered by our carpet square…because overnight, those doggone beans expanded and spilled nasty black bean juice all over the floor! Plus, they seriously stunk it up.

If you’ve ever soaked black beans, you’ll know the color of the mess I had to figure out how to clean up. Ick!

To end the disaster, the finished Unimix smelled and looked (and tasted!) atrocious. It was perfect. The teens were blown away by their final experience of the 30-Hour Famine, before being led into the next room for their lasagna feast!

So be warned:  dry beans expand! Don’t fill the pot.

For the Ultimate Nutrition, Pair Beans With…

Vitamin C:  helps iron absorption. This could mean having an orange at dinner when beans are served, or just pairing them with tomatoes. Isn’t it wonderful that we tend to put beans with tomatoes in chili and tomato sauce anyway?

How to Prepare and Cook with Dry Beans

Whole Grains:  the protein in beans, because they are a vegetable, not an animal, is not complete in the form that our body can fully utilize. When you pair with a whole grain (2 grains to 1 legume), you can complete the protein and give your body something it can really use. Again, isn’t it great that we tend to eat chili with cornbread, beans and rice (only brown rice counts as whole grain), and bean burritos in tortillas? A lot of this complementary food happens naturally, but it’s nice to know the science behind a good meal sometimes.

How to Prepare and Cook with Dry Beans

A little bit of meat: Research shows (from Nourishing Traditions) that the protein in legumes, even when completed by whole grains, is not as well assimilated by the body as animal proteins. Adding just a little bit of meat – as much as 2% or one small sardine – to beans and rice, for example, allows the body to assimilate the vegetable protein completely, sufficient for growth and health. Such a neat trick for frugal folks!

Simple Side Dishes

I use beans and rice as a side for a lot of meals. It’s a great way to include beans and an extra protein source, especially if you don’t think your family will go for main-dish beans in soups, chilis and Mexican food. Here are a few of my favs:

Homemade Refried Beans
added bonus

Added Bonus: the chicken rice and Mexican rice are, seriously, as easy and quick as a boxed mix but without all the nasty additives. Plus, they’re both very inexpensive, include whole grains AND generate more leftovers than boxed mixes (simple lunches!).

Some Favorite Main Dish Recipes

Veggie Bean Burritos

Veggie Bean Burritos

Black Bean Soup

Black Bean Soup

Tuscan Bean Soup - simplest meal ever!

Tuscan Bean Soup

Gluten free BEAN white sauce with chicken and rice

Gluten-free Protein-Packed White Sauce with Chicken and Rice

Hearty Lentil Stew

Hearty Lentil Stew (Lentils are the most intestine-friendly legume, by the way)

Pasta with White (Bean) Sauce

Pasta with White (Bean) Sauce

Slow Cooker Lentil Brown Rice Casserole

Slow Cooker Lentil Brown Rice Casserole

Tuscan Beef and Bean Stew

Tuscan Beef and Bean Stew

Cabbage Soup with Secret Super Food

Cabbage Soup with Secret Super Food

Mexican style black bean burger

Mexican Style Black Bean Burger

Taco Quinoa Chili

Taco Quinoa Chili

We’re totally leaving “soups and stews” season for summer, so I also want to remind you that cold beans are delish on salads and in pasta salads. They are also good finger foods for babies over 8 months (my daughter LOVES them!).

But I Don’t LIKE Beans!

I understand, I’ve been there. Every so often, I still cringe at the texture of beans in certain dishes, especially cold. There’s got to be something for you, too!

Maybe you can use legumes mashed up as a dip (ever had hummus?). You could try chickpea wraps, which are pretty benign as beans go.

I also had decent luck with making a pancake-like batter with lentils and rice (recipe in The Everything Beans Book). I’m sure you could skip the seasoning in a dosa and use it just like a tortilla for a wrap or taco.

Try a blended soup or just mashing half a can into a batch of tacos or spaghetti sauce. If we can hide pureed veggies in sauces, we can hide legumes, too! Start with lentils, which are very bland and easy to cook.

A Note about Soy

Soy is one of those extremely controversial foods right now. You can find lots of sources that praise soy as the only legume that is a complete protein. You can also find sources that say soy is simply unsafe to eat unless it is fermented. For the purposes of this Monday Mission, just stay away from soybeans, unless you’re making Japanese miso… From what I understand, soybeans are tough to cook with and stink up the house, anyway!

Have a Bean-y Week!

For more great ideas for the kitchen and balancing your nutrition, budget and earth, see these links:

Be sure to come back next week – we’re making yogurt! No dishes or stress, I promise.

Need More Baby Steps?

Monday Missions Baby Steps Back to Basics

Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.

That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.

Sign up to get weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

47 thoughts on “How to Cook Dry Beans: Simple Steps Even Kids Can Follow!”

  1. Katie, after cooking brand 2 days in a row (my 1st & 2nd times doing this…and all because of KCRF!), I am very curious about using a crock pot. I saw a few others mention that they use one while cooking beans, but don’t see any response from you; would you recommend/discourage it for any specific reasons?
    I am not accustomed to being close enough to the kitchen to feel comfortable with a stove top burned on all day for cooking/simmering, but I’ve managed the last 2 days… even so, not something I see myself doing again anytime soon. The crock pot, on the other hand, could work well.
    For the NT method, maybe I just need to do a quick boil on the stove and then leave it in the crock pot? On high, or low? Thoughts?
    Thank you!

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      I’ve made beans in the crockpot before. Soak overnight, strain, add more water, and then cook on low for like 8 hours. I did it once without soaking and they were still crunchy at dinner time, I’ve also done it on high for a shorter time and that didn’t work as well either. Low and slow all day just like on the stove.

      1. Thank you!
        I was also wanting to know hope this compares to the “Nourishing Traditions” style of cooking for maximizing nutrition/digestibility (?). Any idea wether slow Cooker yields similar results? Perhaps the 140° starting temp for soaking, still, but anything else to continue along those lines?

        1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

          Oh yes, sorry. I skimmed right over the NT in your previous comment. I did a little searching and you’ll want to do the initial soak at 140 degrees for 12-24 hours, then boil for 10 minutes on the stove before putting the beans in the crockpot. It looks like the long soak and that 10-minute boil are the important keys to maximize digestibility.

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  5. Hi there, im desperate to start cooking my own beans, especially as ive just found out im pregnant with baby #4 but i worry about the safety aspect? can we eat them cold the next day if they were cooked the day before? will reheating for 20mins be enough? sorry, im a worrier 🙂

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Terri,
      No difference eating cold beans that you’ve cooked yourself vs. cold beans from a can, safety-wise (except that you avoid the BPA from the can when you cook your own). 😉 As long as you refrigerate them after cooking, I should clarify. For real – safe!! Congrats on baby 4! 🙂 Katie

  6. With the cost of electricity to soak them overnight at 140, I feel like canned beans are cheaper. Is there something I’m missing? I feel like the math of dry vs. canned is incomplete when not accounting for (very expensive electricity where we live at least).

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Amanda,
      Sorry I’m so late catching your comment; I got buried releasing the latest ebook.

      The answer is easy – just start the water at 140F, then leave it sit at room temp. No electricity needed. I often soak with room temp water the whole time. Hope that helps! 🙂 Katie

  7. Hi Katie
    I am also a little confused by your earlier comments. Do we soak with an acid medium or is there an update on this?
    I’ve been soaking with an acid medium eg lemon juice, apple cider vinegar etc.
    Would appreciate if you could clarify.
    Tks

    1. Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

      JJ,
      The best bean soak is just water, 140F optimal, but lesser temps are ok. NO acid or salt or you’ll probably get crunchy beans even after a long cook. 🙂 Katie

  8. You wrote “Do not add any salt or acid for the soaking period (updated since NT was published).” Would you be able to explain that comment further, such as where you read this research? Thank you,

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Jodi,
      NT is Nourishing Traditions, which, in the book, recommends salt for the soak. Because of many reasons, including phytic acid reduction and just plain getting the beans cooked, you’re not supposed to add salt until the end of cooking – you’ll get crunchy beans if you soak w/salt.

      Hope that helps,
      Katie

  9. This time of year, I enjoy eating bean & grain stew for breakfast. I top them with cheese before warming them for some animal protein to complement the vegetable protein. Sticks to the ribs and keeps me warm.

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  11. I just cooked chickpeas for the first time. DUH. Why did I not do this before? Just soak, boil, simmer for an hour. They’re so much better than canned chickpeas, and I even LIKE those. Easiest thing ever!

    (Well, maybe sprouting is easier. And kefir. But you know.)

  12. HOW do you soak beans at 140 degrees for 12 hours? How do you keep the temp that warm for that long?
    Thanks!

    1. Linda,
      Good clarification! I just start out with really hot water and let it sit at room temp with the lid on. You don’t need to keep it at 140F; you’re right, that would be quite a feat! 😉 Katie

  13. 1. I’ve been increasing our bean consumption, however with canned beans. I never thought about rinsing my canned beans.
    2. I bought a container of dry bean soup mix. It has beans, split peas, and lentils and instructions for a couple of soup dishes. Did I make a mistake on buying this container? Or can I soak everything together as if there were only beans?

    1. May, I’ve made those multi-bean soup mixes and I don’t think it’s a problem. Some things like lentils may be soaked longer than they need, or cook longer than they need, but it just means it’ll add some thickness to the soup.

  14. We love beans but don’t eat them near as much as we probably could. We do eat a lot of lentils. My daughter is allergic to a lot of things and has trouble digesting grains. But she does fine with lentils. We started out making dosas without seasoning for breakfast. Eventually we ended up soaking and sometimes sprouting lentils, then blending it with some salt and water or bone broth and recently goat kefir. Sometimes I add a tablespoon or rice flour. We cook it either in ghee or whatever animal fat we have. It looks just like pancakes and are delicious. Even our mainstream, non-allergic friends love it.

    1. Ida,
      Dosas are something pretty neat, I agree! They’re in my upcoming beans book. Great tips! 🙂 Katie

  15. So does the thorough rinsing of canned beans include organic canned beans? I’ve never been sure about this and want to get the most nutrients I can. Knowing would be nice.
    🙂

    1. You can get rid of some of the starch and indigestible sugars that cause gas by rinsing canned beans, and you will lose a few nutrients that way, but none of the protein will be lost. Same whether it’s organic or not.

    2. Tracy,
      Unless the recipe calls for the liquid, I always rinse. You can still get rid of the extra salt that way. Then again, I advise to use the bean cooking liquid from your home-cooked beans when possible, so maybe you have a point! Do what feels right to you. 🙂 Katie

      1. To remove gas from dried beans, after the first soak (and the water is hot) pour in backing soda, IT WILL FOAM! Drain and rinse the beans and cook as usual.
        🙂

  16. In the last year I have started usuing more beans in cooking, I have found that its not to hard to find recipes that go with our tastes (like southwest black beans and barley). I have found for me that I can never get the right consistancy in a pot on the stove so I started usuing my crockpot, since then they have come out perfect every time. I am not sure if it uses up more vitamins or not but, we do get more than having to throw a pot of beans out and eat something not so healthy because I messed up so bad they are unedible 🙂 I also do not soak my beans as I have not seen any significant difference for us, sometimes I will dump the water and start fresh while cooking, but I rarely remember to do that.
    I have also moved onto and found many wonderful deserts that use beans, either as a main ingrediant or in replace of the fat.
    Thank you for this

  17. I have some black beans soaking now. Crossing my fingers that my family likes what I have on the menu for tomorrow night. Do you suggest seasoning the beans (other than salt) at the end of cooking?

    1. JK,
      great question!
      Sometimes I just dump it, sometimes the recipe I’m using next (like chili or refried beans) calls for water or liquid, so I use it, and sometimes I throw in at least some garlic cloves while cooking or even carrots, onions and celery and make a proper veggie broth. Many of my bean soups call for either chicken stock or veggie broth, so I can go completely meatless, like for Lent, or just do 1/2 and 1/2 if I’m running low on chicken stock.
      🙂 Katie

  18. I love beans, thanks for this. One correction/tip I just learned a few months ago myself. I had always studiously avoided salting the beans until they were cooked and soft, as everybody tells you, but they usually turned out mushier than canned beans. I read somewhere (don’t remember, sorry) a method that solves the mushiness while turning conventional wisdom on its head.

    You soak the dry beans in salted water! Yes! Rinse off the salt after an overnight soak and cook as usual, adding salt to taste at the end. The beans cook up nicely with a firmer (though cooked) consistency, not mushy.

    I checked this out in “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen,” by Harold McGee. He says that while soaking reduces cooking times of beans by 25%, salting at a rate of 1% (2 tsp/qt) “speeds cooking greatly” by making the cell wall easier to dissolve. While he says the texture may be more mealy this way, the original source (that I don’t remember) said it makes for a creamy consistency in an intact, not mushy, bean, and that has been my experience. I think the key is to soak in salty water but then rinse before cooking in fresh water.

    The Japanese use a square of kombu in soaking and cooking their beans, and kombu is full of minerals, including some salt, so that’s another viewpoint.

    1. Jeanmarie,
      Wow! Fascinating! I hope you’ll stick around to help us all cook more with beans – I’m constantly trying to improve in that area. 🙂 Katie

      1. I’ve actually switched to using my crockpot for beans now. They do come out perfectly. I use part water and part chicken stock to cook the soaked beans. I might try a salted soak again sometime, but the crockpot is just so easy. Just plan 24 hours ahead: soak the beans one night, put them in crock pot the next morning (with fresh water, I don’t reuse the soaking water), and they’re perfectly done for dinner on “low” setting.

  19. FYI – Sav-A-Lot is on the list of corporate sponsors of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which promotes politically and socially gay “marriage” and other LGBT causes. Go to www.nglcc.org and click on corporate sponsors to see the full list. You might be shocked at who all is on there.

  20. Great post!

    And thanks for the link – but the url is wrong! 🙂 Oops! Mine has a dash in the middle . . .

    Here is one of my favorite lentil recipes – a great salad for the summer!
    http://sarahs-musings.blogspot.com/2008/01/super-fresh-and-tasty-lentil-salad.html

    Enjoy!

    Best,
    Sarah

  21. Sarah, fabulous to share recipes! I’m already thinking about a “Beans Carnival” next fall to gear up for soup and stew season… Sorry about the link; it figures that as soon as I get complacent about testing every one, I miss a hyphen! It has been fixed. 🙂

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