Don’t be scared of beans, or even dry beans! Once you discover how easily you can cook and prepare them, how delicious and digestible they are when prepared well, and how much money you save starting with dry beans, you won’t go back to canned.
Beans are a source of high quality, inexpensive nourishment. They offer minerals, B vitamins, essential fatty acids, and soluble and insoluble fiber. But as wonderful as they are, poorly prepared beans can produce undesirable results in polite society.
Beans contain phytic acid, like all seeds, which can impede mineral absorption if not neutralized during soaking or cooking. But also, harder beans (such as black beans or navy beans) contain large, complex sugars called oligosaccharides that can “completely confound digestion” (source: Putting the Polish on Those Humble Beans).
So proper preparation is key, and here’s how.
What You Need
Start with new crop dry beans. Dry beans that are more than 13 months old are not only less nutritious but harder to rehydrate, and therefore more difficult to cook completely. Reputable natural food warehouses and health foods stores with good turnover can provide delicious, healthy, and young dried beans. The best beans are brand new to 4 months old. Admittedly, this is hard to know. In general, older beans are darker and show more cracked skins and more splitting overall.
Choose your crockpot or stockpot carefully. It needs to be big enough so that the dry beans do not fill it more than 1/3. Otherwise, you will not be able to fit the amount of water required to cook them thoroughly.
If preparing lentils, navy (white) beans, black beans, or fava beans, you’ll also need 1 tablespoon of acid per cup of dry beans. If preparing chickpeas (garbanzo beans), you’ll need 2 tablespoons of acid per cup of dry beans. For the acid, use lemon juice, raw apple cider vinegar, or whey.
For all other beans, no acid is required, but adding a pinch of baking soda can be helpful.
Generally, 1 cup of dry beans will yield 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 cups of cooked beans. These are some common dry bean yields:
- 1 cup dry black beans —–> yields 3-1/2 cups when cooked
- 1 cup dry kidney beans —–> yields 3 cups when cooked
- 1 cup dry pinto beans —–> yields 3 cups when cooked
I will be sharing two easy methods for cooking beans properly: on the stovetop or in the crockpot. Both require that the beans start with a good, long soak.
Step 1: Soaking the Beans
Put dry beans in the cooking container (stockpot or crockpot). Fill with triple the amount of water as beans. Add 1 tablespoon of acid per cup of bean (for navy beans, black beans, or fava beans, or lentils) or 2 tablespoons of acid per cup of chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Optionally, add a pinch of baking soda to the water for all other beans.
In the Stockpot: Bring all to a light simmer, then turn off heat. Cover the pot and let beans soak a minimum of 7 hours, but preferably overnight or 12 to 24 hours.
In the Crockpot: Put the lid on the crock. Turn the crockpot to HIGH for 1/2 to 1 hour to warm up the mixture. Turn off the crockpot. Let beans soak a minimum of 7 hours, but preferably overnight or 12 to 24 hours.
Normally, bubbles and maybe a little scum appear on the top of the soaking water — rinse this all away. The beans should smell “beany”. If they smell rotten, rinse them really well, and then smell them again. If they still smell rotten, they probably are. Unfortunately, you’ll have to toss these beans and start again.
Step 2: Cooking the Beans
Drain and rinse the beans. Cover the beans in the stockpot or crockpot with water. The amount of water should be about double the volume of the beans, due to the beans rehydrating during the soaking.
In the Stockpot: Bring the bean/water mixture to a boil, then cover all or partially as the boil reduces to a constant simmer. Watch for foam, and skim as it appears. Boil gently until beans are tender — about an hour for soft beans, or an hour and a half for harder beans. Turn off the heat. Drain.
In the Crockpot: Turn the crockpot to high for one hour, then turn down to low for the duration of the cooking time. Skim foam occasionally, but quickly so as not to lose much heat. Cooking time depends on the crockpot’s heat output, but generally 8 to 12 hours cooking time is sufficient for most hard beans; soft beans such as lentils and peas will take less time. Turn off crockpot. Drain.
Note: Soft beans, such as lentils, peas, or split mung beans, will often be falling apart by the time they are tender. Therefore, when just starting out preparing these beans, it is advisable to follow a recipe that takes into account the proper amount of water for the desired food consistency.
For old beans that don’t seem to want to soften up, add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda or a piece of kombu (Japanese sea vegetable) to the cooking water to help them along. Either of these will help reduce the gas-producing properties of beans.
Seasoning the Beans
Here are some ideas for flavoring your beans.
Add flavor ingredients during the cooking, such as: spices; seasonings; turkey, chicken or ham bones; and/or broths — during the cooking, not the soaking. I do this if I’m adding soaked (but not cooked yet) beans to a soup; they cook right in the yummy flavors.
Add seasonings after the cooking. I do this if I’m taking cooked beans and adding them to a dish, such as beans and rice, or refried beans, even soup.
Just think of all the other seasonings you can use — herbs like basil, thyme, oregano; spices like cumin, paprika, cayenne; salt, pepper and oil; foods like onion, ginger or garlic. Add any of these either during the cooking or after the cooking when incorporating the beans into a dish.
Uses For Beans
While you’re making beans, why not make up a big batch? Use some immediately or in the days to come, and freeze the rest for later! Here are some of my favorite recipes:
- Refried Beans
- Fasooli (Arabic White Bean Stew)
- Seasoned Black Beans
- Pinto Bean Spread
- Black Bean Spread
- Split Mung Bean Soup
- Cold Grain Salads
- Baked Burritos
- Rice Bowls
- Basic Chili
- Creamy Black Bean Chili
- Company Chili
- Garden Lentil Patties
- Great Northern Bean Stew
- Minty Beef and Lentil Stew
- Ginger, Chicken, Rice and Lentil Soup
- Mujadareh (Arabic Lentil and Brown Rice Stew)
- 12-Bean Soup
This article includes information from the article, Putting the Polish on Those Humble Beans from the Weston A. Price Foundation, as well as information from the book, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell.
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