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How to Cook Dried Beans
Why should you go through the trouble of cooking with dried beans when you can just buy canned ones? Simply put, they’re cheaper, tastier, and healthier. We’re talking about upping the quality of our kitchen game while saving money! Win, win. Learn how to cook dried beans on your stove, in your crock pot, or in your instant pot.
I was a canned bean user just two years ago, but when I figured out a simple method for incorporating dried beans into my cooking, there was no turning back. Once you learn this hands-off method, I’ll bet you’ll be willing to swap a little bit of convenience for these fresh, creamy beans….at least most of the time.
You can even cook a big batch and have some portioned out in the freezer for future meals.
While cans of beans can seem pretty cheap, cooking with dried beans is even cheaper! A pound of dried beans equates to about six cups of cooked beans. When you do the math, it’ll save you money to cook from dried.
You can’t argue with the fact that something cooked fresh is going to better than its canned counterpart. (Of course there are rare instances of human error in the kitchen that we won’t account for….I’m looking at you, forgotten beans on the stove). The flavor and texture of beans cooked from scratch beat any canned variety. Plus, it leaves you with options for infusing the beans with fresh aromatics.
I like to be in control….of my salt. Most canned varieties of beans contain more salt than is necessary, and cooking from dried allows you to avoid that higher sodium content. A little bit of salt can be the ticket from a “meh” dish to a divine dish. But, too much salt can be a ticket to health problems.
We all have those dinners that arise unplanned, and not every meal can be prepared with foresight the night before. SO, I have two methods of rehydrating beans for you. One is for those times when you can prepare the night before, and the other is…..well, for those times when you can’t.
Before rehydrating with either method, sift through your beans for any debris or rocks that might be mixed in. Place your beans in a colander and rinse them under cold water.
APPROXIMATELY ½ CUP OF DRIED BEANS = 1.5 CUPS OF COOKED BEANS = 1 CAN OF BEANS
Overnight Soak: This is my preferred method. After sorting and rinsing, place beans in a bowl and fill the bowl with water to cover the beans by 2-3 inches. They will expand as they soak. Allow them to sit overnight or for at least 8 hours. This soak helps to reduce the infamous “gassiness” that beans are known for, as it gives the beans time to leach out the carbohydrates that are difficult for our bodies to process.
Quick Soak: If you need beans in a pinch, this will get you there quicker. After sorting and rinsing, place beans in a large pot on the stove. Cover with 2-3 inches of water and bring to a boil. Boil the beans for just 2 minutes, then cover and remove from heat. Let them rest for an hour before draining.
Stovetop: Once your beans are soaked, drained, and rinsed again, place them in a large pot on the stove. Cover with 2-3 inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover the pot to let simmer for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
The time will vary depending on the variety and freshness of your dried beans. If foam appears on the surface while bringing the pot to a boil, use a slotted spoon to remove it. If you want to add aromatics or vegetables to your beans, you can add them when you add the beans to the pot. You can even tie up your herbs inside of cheesecloth for easy removal at the end. Hold off on adding salt to your beans until at least 30 minutes into their cooking time, as salt will increase their cooking time when added early.
Taste and season when you’ve reached your ideal tenderness. Letting them cool in the cooking water will allow them to absorb the added salt and lead to better texture and flavor.
Crock-Pot: Once your beans are soaked, drained, and rinsed again, place them in the pot and cover them with 2-3 inches of water. Cook them on low for about 8 hours or until they have softened to the perfect texture. Like with the stovetop method, aromatics and veggies can be added in the beginning, but hold off for at least a few hours (since they are already cooking slower) on adding salt. Taste and season. Let sit in cooking liquid to cool and then drain your beans.
Instant Pot: Once your beans are soaked, drained, and rinsed again, place them in the pot of the instant pot. Make sure that when covering the beans with water you do not go above the fill line. The ratio of water to beans will be 4 cups of water for every cup of beans.
Adding a couple of tablespoons of olive oil will help reduce foaming, and you can add salt at the beginning or end of the process here. Follow your instruction manual for the cooking times on each variety of bean. It will be significantly less than either of the above methods. Allow the pot to release steam naturally, and then your beans are ready to be used after draining.
Time to get creative. Cooking beans with just water and salt is a classic, but you can try adding various vegetables and aromatics to the cooking process for some bold or subtle flavor shits.
Especially if you’re planning on using the broth of the cooked beans to enhance a recipe (which I’ll touch on later), adding seasonings can be an excellent option.
Some considerations are quartered onions, a half head of garlic, fresh herb sprigs of thyme, rosemary, or sage, black peppercorn, bay leaves, dried chilies, celery stalks, carrots, or fennel bulbs/fronds.
Just remove the add-ins when the beans are finished cooking!
In the Fridge: Store your cooled beans in an airtight container for 4-5 days.
In the Freezer: Store your cooled beans in airtight containers or ziplock bags for up to six months. You can measure or weigh your beans to have the perfect portions ready to plop in your soup. They thaw easily under warm water or for soups and stews can just be added directly to the pot in their frozen state.
Use your cooked beans in any of your favorite recipes! They’ll be great as direct replacements for canned beans in stews, soups, burritos, tacos, jambalaya, chili, enchiladas….and the list really does go on and on…
How to Cook Dried Beans
- large pot
- 1 cup dried beans black, pinto, cannellini, kidney, or garbanzo beans
- 1-2 tsp salt
- a quartered onion, a half head of garlic, thyme sprigs, rosemary sprigs, fresh sage, peppercorn, bay leaves, dried chilis, celery stalks, carrots, or fennel bulbs/fronds
- Sort through beans and discard any rocks or debris. Rinse in a colander and place in a bowl covered with 2-3 inches of water. Soak at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.
- Drain and rinse in colander.
- Place beans in a large pot and cover with 2-3 inches of water. Add the aromatics or vegetables of your liking. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Skim any foam that appears with a slotted spoon. Simmer for 30 minutes before adding salt.
- Add 1 teaspoon of salt and continue simmering for up to 1.5 hours more. Check the pot and stir contents occasionally. Add more boiling water if the water level lowers below cooking beans.
- Turn off heat, season to taste with additional salt, and discard any vegetables and aromatics. Let beans cool in cooking liquid to soak up salt. Drain (save cooking liquid if desired). Store in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- There are several great uses for the cooking liquid (especially if aromatics have been added). Substitute the bean liquid where water is called for in soups, stews, and stocks.
- 1 cup of dried beans will yield approximately 3 cups of cooked beans.
- You can easily double or triple this recipe. It can be nice to make a batch and freeze some in 1.5 cup (the equivalent of a can) bagged portions.
- An easy way to incorporate aromatics is to place them in a cheesecloth tied together and then place the cheesecloth directly into the pot of beans and water. This will make for easy removal once the beans are done simmering.