November 7, 2016

[VeganMoFo 2016] How To Cook Dried Beans From Scratch

Beans! Beans! And More Beans!
I am a huge fan of beans and whenever I see a new variety in Farmer's Market, I quickly grab some to try a recipe or two. A bag of Christmas Beans (as pictured below) was one such impulse buys. Aren't they just beautiful to look at? How can one not buy? :-) Today's post is all about how to prepare and cook dried beans from scratch. Once you get the basics right, it is so much easier (and healthier) than canned version (with their absurd amounts of sodium levels). Personally, I think cooked beans also make a far more delicious meal than canned beans. There is also a information on how to store/freeze cooked beans with a few pretty photographs to look at. While you are soaking a batch of beans, don't forget to check out this entire list of legume recipes for some good ideas. Happy Cooking!

I. Soak The Beans

Check the date on the beans. Though dried beans usually last for about 2 years, it is always best to use them within an year of their harvest. Soaking the beans help cook faster and make them easier to digest. Mark Bittman in his book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian provides three ways to soak dried beans. Based on the time you have on hand, choose the most convenient method. 

1. Quick-Soak: Wash beans. Add lots of water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and soak for 2 hours. The beans will become slightly plump. Then continue cooking on low heat until done.

2. No-Soak: Wash beans. Add water and bring them to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender.

3. Long-Soak: Wash beans. Soak with lots of water (about 2 inches) overnight or 6-12 hours. Rinse. Add water and cook until tender.

I have to confess though my favorite way is the Long-Soak-Cook method. On a Friday night, I soak about 1 to 2 cups of various kinds of dried beans, cook the next morning, cool and freeze them so that they are ready-to-use. One cup of dried beans yields about 3 cups of cooked beans. 

Note on Lentils: These are tiny legumes usually used in Indian dals (like split peas) that have a thick puree-like consistency when cooked. These are relatively quick-cooking and need no pre-soaking.

How To Cook Dried Beans From Scratch

II. Cook The Beans

In Pressure Cooker: Pressure cook for 3 to 4 whistles until they are fork tender yet still hold their shape. 

On Stovetop: On a medium flame on a stovetop add beans with lots of water and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and cook until they are fork tender. Four cups of dried beans usually takes about an hour's time to cook. With a spoon, occasionally remove the foam that forms on the top while the beans are bubbling away. Check for tenderness and test a few beans – when they can be easily mashed between your two fingers. Turn off heat and set aside for few minutes so that it is easy to handle and reserve the cooking water. 

In Slow Cooker: Drain, rinse soaked beans. Cover with about 2 inches of water. Set the machine to the low setting and cook until beans are done which is usually 3 to 6 hours. 

Instead of water, you can also use any kind of broth. You can also add salt to the pot of simmering beans but I usually don't. Instead, I add a combination of aromatics such as an unflavored black/green tea bag, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, black peppercorns, bay leaf, green cardamom, cloves and herbs. They infuse a lovely deep color & flavor to the beans that you won't want to miss out on. I also sometimes wrap the spices & the tea in a thin cloth to make things easy to discard later on. A special note on tea - it leaves absolutely no after-taste to the cooked beans, only a beautiful deep hue. 

Once the pressure releases (pressure cooker method), discard the spices. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid which is to me is like liquid gold and can be frozen separately (for up to 6 months) to be used as stock/flavoring liquid to any stew or curry.

How to Prepare and Cook Dried Beans From Scratch

III. Store The Beans

When stored in a air tight container, cooked beans stay fresh up to 4-5 days. I normally cook extra portions, cool them completely and store in freezer bags. When frozen, these beans last for almost an year! 

Dried beans in the pantry can last indefinitely. So, next time you spot some beautiful heirloom beans, don't shy away. Instead, buy a bag or two, cook/freeze them and use as a secret weapon to put together a healthy weeknight meal in minutes.

How to Prepare and Cook Dried Beans From Scratch

Here are a few vegan bean recipes you might like:

Red Bean and Oat Burger With Sweet Potato Fries


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until next recipe,


  1. What type of beans are those in the top picture... They are beautiful.

    1. Thank you. Those are called Christmas Beans.


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