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My hope is to inspire you to be fearless in the kitchen, to try new things, to take the time to make things the homemade way and most importantly, to have fun doing it!

Making the Basics: Cooking with Dried Beans

Cooking with dried beans may be a no-brainer for some, but I only recently made the transition from canned for reasons outlined below.  A few readers have asked about how I prepare and cook with dried beans, so I thought a quick post might help explain the  process.  It’s super easy!

Why cook with dried beans?
There are many good reasons to ditch the cans and cook with dried beans.  For me, the biggest motivator was to reduce packaging waste.  Sure, cans are recyclable but it’s still better not to use them in the first place.  Also, dried beans are certainly more economical than canned.  In my grocery store, one can of beans costs $1.25-$1.85.  Comparatively, one pound of dried beans costs about $1.65, and yields the equivalent of  4-5 cans.  That’s a pretty significant difference, especially when you eat a lot of bean-centric meals as we do!  Finally, canned beans often contain a significant amount of sodium.  Preparing your own beans allows you to control the amount of salt you want to use.  So, more environmentally friendly, wallet friendly, and heart friendly.  What’s not to love?

Types of beans
Essentially all types of beans that are available in cans are also available dried, although the selection varies from store to store.  In my experience, the general method for prepping the beans is pretty much the same no matter what type of beans you are making.  (At least, all of the varieties I have tried have had identical instructions.)  Do keep in mind that there are a few varieties of beans that need to be boiled for longer periods such as kidney beans and soya beans for safety reasons.  Be sure to check the instructions on the specific type you purchase.  Some stores offer bulk bins which can be even more eco-friendly than a regular bag of dried beans if you bring your own bag or container to the store.

Step 1: Soak the beans
There are two soaking methods you can use: a quick soak or an overnight soak.  I pretty much always do a quick soak because it’s, well, quick, but either option works.  Keep in mind that every set of instructions ever says to pick over the beans to remove any stones or other non-bean matter.  I’ve done this maybe once, and I’ve never eaten a stone.  Haha!

Quick Soak
Combine the beans in a saucepan or stockpot with 6-8 cups of water per pound of beans.  Bring to a boil.  Let boil for two minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand for one hour.  Rinse and drain the beans.

Overnight Soak
Combine the beans in a large bowl or stockpot with 6-8 cups of cold water per pound of beans.  Let stand for 6-8 hours or overnight.  Rinse and drain the beans.

Step 2: Cook the beans
Once the beans are soaked, they need to be cooked so that they are soft and edible.  To do this, return the drained and rinsed beans to the pot and add 6 cups of water.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cook the beans just until tender, between 1-2 hours.  Be careful not to overcook the beans at this stage.  You want them to be tender enough that they can be eaten as they are, but not at all mushy so that they will still have good texture when added to other dishes.  I recommend checking a few with a fork around the one hour point and continuing to check every 15 minutes or so until they are cooked to your liking.

Step 3: Storing the beans
Once cooked, the beans will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  Alternatively, they can be frozen (basically indefinitely – see this post about stocking the freezer for more info.)  I tend to cook large batches at once and then freeze them so that they are always on hand when I need them.  To thaw the frozen beans, I use one of two methods.  If I’ve done a good job planning ahead, I just move the container to the fridge and let the beans thaw there.  However, if I come home one night and decide I need to use frozen beans immediately, I just use the microwave to defrost them.  Both ways work fine.

How to substitute when recipes call for canned beans
Most recipes involving beans typically call for a specified number of cans simply because that is an easy measurement to provide.  However, you can easily substitute your cooked beans by using 1½ cups cooked beans per 1 (15 oz.) can indicated in a recipe.  You may also want to consider increasing the salt in the recipe slightly, since canned beans have more sodium and the recipe may have been designed with this in mind.  However, I prefer to err on the side of less salt and use the original amount in the recipe, adding more to taste only when needed.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a bean-centric recipe just in time for Cinco de Mayo.  In the meantime, here are a few more of my favorite recipes involving beans:  (I swear I do eat other types of beans, but clearly, my heart belongs to black beans)
Mexican Lasagna
Spicy Bean Burritos
Black Bean Burgers
Tortilla Black Bean Pie
Baked Southwestern Egg Rolls

  • http://anniecardi.com/ anniecm

    Thanks so much for this post, Annie! I love adding beans to salads for protein, but for some reason I was intimidated by using dried beans. (In a can, they look exactly like they will when you eat them.) Going to try this soon!

  • Kellyn

    Another great way to cook dried beans is a pressure cooker – you can go from dry, unsoaked beans to completely cooked beans in only 25 minutes. It’s amazing.

  • http://warmvanillasugar.com/ Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    What a great, detailed, tutorial Annie! Thanks!

  • Sheryl

    I find stones quite often in both dried beans and lentils. Check them carefully as nobody wants a broken tooth! I like these methods- I usually do the crock pot method which removes the soaking step, but think I’ll try the overnight soak and then cooking stovetop.

  • Lisa

    wow this is very helpful! think I am going to switch and freeze :) thanks!

  • http://www.abigailandgreg.wordpress.com/ Abigail

    Thank you again Annie. As someone who eats a lot of beans, you’ve peaked my interest and forced me to confront whatever societal prejudices I’ve acquired against dried beans. Do you have to rinse them before cooking them (are they coated in something natural or artificial for preservation, like quinoa and saponins)? And do you take any special precautions when storing them dried?

  • http://kathyandryan.blogspot.com/ Kathy

    Thanks Annie! Andrew has to be on a low-sodium diet for kidney stones and canned products fit nowhere in his plan. And so, using dried beans is on my list after we use up the last can we have. :)

  • Mandy W.

    Love this post and will try this soon! I have been wanting to try your Mexican Lasagna. Would you please share what type of freezer containers you are using in the picture? Please and thank you!

  • http://em-and-am.com/ Amanda

    I love these tips! Also, I can’t stress enough how important it is to soak the beans – in college, I once forgot and cooked the beans anyway, thinking “eh, they’ll just be crunchy,” but woke up with the worst stomach cramps of my life. Luckily, my mom told me the magic cure for those kinds of stomach cramps (1 TBSP of baking soda mixed into a cup of hot water), but still . . . it haunts me.

  • http://www.tablefortwoblog.com/ Julie @ Table for Two

    This is such a great post. Thank you for this. I literally JUST opened a can of black beans last night to make stuffed peppers and wish I had seen this before. It’s good to know that a bag of beans can be about 4-5 cans..that’s so great! What a great post right before Cinco De Mayo, now everyone can get ready for it by soaking beans for Saturday :)

  • Michelle

    I plan to make the switch!! I too can’t stand all the waste from canned items, especially when I make chili, which uses like four cans of kidney beans!! I also LOVE that you have a good old normal electric stove. So many people think you need this big fancy gas stove like they have on Food Network and HGTV, but you don’t. I actually love my electric stove and believe my food is just as good as anyone with the top of the line chef’s version.

  • erin mansfield

    Dry beans are such a good, and cheap, alternative to canned! We changed to dry beans a while back, and I don’t think I could go back to canned.

  • http://www.simplysweetjustice.com/ Claire

    This is really helpful, Annie! Thank you! Have you tried making cheeses? That’s my next DIY project.

  • Dwatson

    Great post Annie! I too love beans of all types and I love to use dried. I bought a small crock pot for about $10 and I use it just for dried beans. I never remember to soak them the night before and they just take a few hours in the crock pot.

  • annieseats

    I’m planning to very soon :)

  • annieseats

    Eek! That sounds awful.

  • annieseats

    No other steps are needed beyond what is outlined in the post. No special storage required. Enjoy!

  • annieseats

    These containers are from Garnish. I stocked up on them and use them all the time for storing beans, homemade stocks, ice cream, etc. They are reusable and have held up very well. http://www.thinkgarnish.com/store/shop-garnish/contessas-way/

  • Elizabeth from Indy

    I’m going to have to try this with black beans. I have done it with red beans for my red beans and rice. I love that I can make them all up ahead of time and freeze them…such a great tip!

  • BeckyR

    Annie, have you ever heard of Peachey’s? It is an Amish bulk food store in Rockville. We get all our beans, oatmeal, cous cous, pasta, etc. there. It is a lot cheaper than the grocery and it is only about an hour from Avon so we can easily make a trip a couple of times a year and stock up!

  • Andreawford

    Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve been searching for ways to make our families cooking more environmentally friendly by creating less waste. Eliminating cans is a great thing!

  • rosyblu

    Thank you for this! I tried using dry chick peas once, but didn’t realize that you needed to soak them AND cook them (in hindsight, I see that was dumb!) then tried making hummus and it was inedible. I’m very excited now to try again! I love your blog, you are so good at this.

  • http://www.victoryissweet.blogspot.com/ Victoria_speirs

    you must have read my mind, i have been looking into this for a couple of days. thank you for the great post!

  • Lcoudiere

    Great post Annie! I have made the switch a while ago and can’t believe how easy and economical it is!
    I do the same quick soaking method and if I don’t have the time to cook on the stove I throw everything into my crockpot overnight on the low setting. I find this works really well with chickpeas (I’ve done it a few times with black beans, they are a little on the very cooked side but not too mushy). Thank you very much for posting all these DIY posts, I LOVE them! I can’t wait for more bean-centric recipes!

  • Emilie

    Such a great post, I’ve been wanting to make this transition for a while. Thanks for showing me how easy it can be :)

  • http://thepajamachef.com/ sarah k @ the pajama chef

    did you know that you can also cook black beans in the oven, without soaking them? it takes about 75-90 minutes and is virtually impossible to mess up. there’s a post on my blog if anyone is interested. :) black beans are my favorite too!

  • Brandyk

    Please include a warning about cooking kidney beans in the body of the post. They need to be brought to a BOIL for about 10 minutes in order to to convert the toxin that is naturally in kidney beans. Boiling makes them safe to eat. You can get food poisoning with just 3 or 4 unsafely prepared kidney beans. This is why dried kidney beans are hard to find at the store.

  • Chelsea Martin

    Just did this last night! There is no point in making a small batch of beans. You might as well double or triple it- freeze the extras!

  • Lauren Ochoa

    I recently had a batch of black and pinto beans that I overnight soaked and then put in the slow cooker to cook during the day. 16 hour later, they were STILL hard and uncooked. An online search revealed that old beans exhibit this characterization of not cooking. An online tip of adding a pinch of baking soda did the trick of finly softening them up but I realized that while dry beans do have a long shelf life; it’s not indefinite. I will pay attention to the date on the bag from now on. Thought you might be interested in this tidbit!Now that I have stopped using canned beans (much to the delight of my husband, who swears there’s a huge taste difference), I just need to figure out a way to get off canned tomato products and I will have virtually eliminated my use of canned products.

  • Nikki

    I was just in the store yesterday saying to my husband that I am tired of paying so much money for a can of black beans. I picked up the dried beans and put them back because I wasn’t sure how to cook them. Thanks for the post! Have you tried to make them in a crockpot? and if so how long would you cook them for?

  • Kristi D Rogers

    I’ve been trying to stop using canned beans too, for the reasons you list as well as to avoid BPA in the can linings. The method I love right now is throw it in the slow cooker. I also have never found a stone so I just eyeball them briefly.

  • annieseats

    I don’t have a crockpot so I can’t speak to that. I use the method outlined above.

  • annieseats

    Lauren, my friend and I have some ideas about getting “off” canned tomatoes and I’ll be posting about that later this summer. It’s definitely one of my last convenience crutches!

  • annieseats

    I haven’t. I’m actually planning on trying Fields of Agape (http://fieldsofagape.com/) because I’ve heard their products are available in Indy.

  • http://whatisbakinginthebarbershop.blogspot.com/ Colleen

    This is SO helpful! Thanks for sharing this tutorial. I recently began thinking about making the switch to dried beans due to what I’ve been reading about BPA in cans, so I will definitely give it a shot now that I’ve read this. Thanks!

  • sweetsugarbelle

    We eat a ton of beans !!!

  • Priscilla_W

    Glad to see you encouraging the use of wholesome food.
    I don’t have as much problem with the salt in canned beans, but with the sugar. I understand that in “baked beans” a certain amount of sweet taste is essential to the traditional flavor, but in chile beans and other types, sugar is totally unnecessary. Being diabetic and trying to find a can of beans without sugar is almost impossible. I used to keep a can of beans on the shelf for emergencies, but that is no longer the case.
    I’m not a fan of black beans, they taste sour to me, but I use other varieties. I never soak them. I always start with cold water and beans, bring it to a boil, drain and start again with fresh cold water. That seem work for me.

  • Ulrike

    Thanks for your post! I just wondered last week if you could freeze cooked beans, or if that would change the taste or texture of them. Now that I know that they will taste the same, I definitely want to freeze them in portions as well :)

  • http://bakeeatrepeat.blogspot.com/ Courtney @ Bake.Eat.Repeat.

    I am loving this series. There are so many simple techniques that feel overwhelming to a new cook and using dried beans is definitely one of them! Thanks for making things seem totally doable!

  • Emily

    Thanks for this Annie. I just bought a pound of dried black beans from the CSA and I had no idea what to do with them. Question. If you’re using the beans in a soup or a chili, do you have to do the second cooking part before dumping them in the chili pot, or can you essentially cook your beans in the chili?

  • Bobi Jensen

    I just need to say it again: I love your blog! I have no idea how you find time to do it while also being a doctor…but you do an awesome job at it.

    Bobi

  • Lydia

    Thank you so much for this! I have been wanting to get into dried beans and I wasn’t sure how to :) I was wondering where you got those fabulous containers the beans are in?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p00d83451ce9f69e2 Julie

    I use canned beans because of convenience, but I think I’ll try making them myself — you make it look so easy!

  • annieseats

    There is a link in one of the earlier comments. They are from Garnish (thinkgarnish.com).

  • Erin Peters

    I cook my dried beans in a crockpot – except for kidney beans, which need to be boiled, as another commenter pointed out. I don’t know why kidney beans need to be boiled, but that’s what I’ve read, so that’s what I do.

  • annieseats

    Emily, I would still just cook them as normal and then use them in the chili, since most chili recipes call for canned beans. The only exception would be if a recipe specifically called for soaked but not cooked beans, but that’s hard to imagine :)

  • kate C.

    I agree! I’ve actually only NOT found a stone in my beans maybe once!

    Love beans – we eat so many of them!

  • http://www.tiptopshape2.blogspot.com/ Liz @ Tip Top Shape

    Great post. I love cooking with dry beans primarily for the cost part you described. It’s so much cheaper to use dried!

  • annieseats

    I’m guessing the presence or absence of stones is probably highly variable depending on the brand or manufacturer.

  • http://www.singingwithbirds.com/ renee

    Consider using a digital pressure cooker, the best kitchen investment I ever made! Yesterday I cooked 2 pounds of black beans in 18 minutes. I have gifted them to my 5 daughters who thank me over and over. Love your blog too.

  • Sakantro

    Thanks for the tips! And I love your southwestern egg rolls recipe.

  • RM

    Thanks Annie for the tip about cooking *and* freezing the beans. I have been using dried lentils a lot because you do not have to soak them ahead of time. I hate the salt and “tinny” taste of canned beans. I have a bag of dried mixed beans in my cupboard and trying to come up with an interesting recipe for them (soup? chili?) that is freezable. At least I can cook and freeze the beans this weekend.

  • Gmdametz

    Dried beans are great, but do be careful!! I have been cooking dried beans for many years and there have been several times I have pulled small stones out while sorting. I think it is always worth the small amount of time it takes to sort through them. Love your blog and recipes!!

  • Lauren

    Great Post!

    I’m a vegetarian — thus a lover of beans! I was amazed by the amount of money you save by cooking your own dried beans — love the post :) Annnd so excited for the upcoming bean recipes!

  • http://twitter.com/aCoupleCooks a Couple Cooks

    Oh, thank you for this! We have been working on this too, and it’s so helpful to see what worked for you! One question– when you freeze your beans, do you freeze with the cooking liquid? We have seen both recommended.

  • http://thedishbytrish.wordpress.com/ Trisha

    These are awesome tips, thanks for sharing! I’ve always wanted to start using dry beans but to be honest, have been a bit intimidated. Now I know exactly what to do! My heart belongs to black beans too. ;)

  • Flora Refosco

    I love black beans too, and prepare them pretty much the same way you do.
    But I’d recommend adding a few coriander seeds or fennel seeds when cooking, to avoid the flatulence beans might cause. Another way to do that is to discard the water when they first boil and replace with fresh water (but you seem to already do that, in the quick soak method).

    I got curious about the recipes. Here in Brazil we usually eat beans stewed, and don’t vary too much…
    Thanks for sharing :)

  • Melissa R

    Thank you for this post! ive been wanting to switch from canned, but was a little nervous, but will try now!

  • Maggie Lam

    I love beans but hate cooking with dried ones because they take so long to cook through fully lol. The times I’ve made them … they started causing rumbly noises in my stomach, most likely b/c I didn’t have the patience to let them soak long enough lol =X

  • http://spice-is-nice.com/ Jacqueline

    So last summer I tried to make black bean burgers from dried beans and they turned out terribly – like inedible, and I swore I’d never make anything with dried beans again! But after reading this post, I realize that I only soaked the beans, and never actually cooked them – ha! Can’t wait to try it again this summer now!

  • Heather

    As my family is vegetarian I recently invested in a pressure cooker to cook beans. It speeds up the cooking time substantially! I was a little afraid of it at first but I follow the instructions carefully and now it is one of my most treasured pieces of kitchen equipment!

  • Melody♪♫

    We have beans a couple times a week Black beans in the crockpot is about as easy as a meal can get! I’ve started making hummus with the different variety of beans we cook, and haven’t found a one we won’t eat. (Have not tried the lima bean hummus, yet — probably would get some abstainers on that one…)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gretchen-Taipale/1207085180 Gretchen Taipale

    I love all these DIY food posts you’ve been doing! We recently switched to dried beans too, partly because most cans have BPA in the lining (Eden Organic is an exception). The only canned food we still buy are tomatoes but we are hoping to jar a huge batch this summer when they are in season. You should do a post on canning!

  • annieseats

    I freeze them without the liquid and it’s always seemed to work fine for me. Glad you found this useful!

  • http://jessicainsd.blogspot.com/ Jessica

    The timing of this post is perfect! I haven’t found a store that sells canned black beans here yet but one of the import stores does have a pretty good variety of dry beans. I’ve been wanting to move to dry beans for a while anyway and I had some success back home in the states before I moved, so I bought some. First go around here in China was not very successful!! I was left wondering if what I bought was some other kind of bean died black to look like black beans (knock-offs aren’t unusual here!). Reading this post I think maybe I just need to change my approach. I did a quick soak and then tried to do the cooking process as a part of the recipe. I think I would be better off soaking and cooking and then storing for later use in a recipe. I have one more bag of dried black beans so I will be giving this a try later! Thanks for the excellent timing :)

  • http://atthepatisserie.wordpress.com/ Ann P.

    Definitely going to use this post when I make my favorite Ghanaian dish, Redred!

  • http://profiles.google.com/3kitchenwitches Erin Rockafellow

    Oh I wish I had read this post before I tried to use dried beans! I didn’t know you had to cook them before adding them to a dish. I feel so silly but at least now I know what went wrong ;P

  • Shaunna

    great post! thank you!

  • Shawndra

    I have been wanting to cook my own beans for a while now, to avoid BPA as well as the reasons you mentioned above. I was wondering if you think it would still be more environmentally friendly if I have to buy the dried beans in bags? You seem to be really informed when it comes to these things, so I hope you aren’t annoyed by me asking. =)

  • Francesca

    I cook beans at home weekly! Sometimes twice per week. How do you freeze your beans? I’ve read elsewhere to freeze the beans in their cooking liquid. Do you do the same, or do you just freeze the cooked beans on their own? I’ve never tried freezing them, but would like to start.

  • annieseats

    Well, a small bag has far less packaging than the four to five cans you get out of the beans you make from it. Plus you can try to buy from bulk bins to eliminate the need for the bag altogether. Or you could reuse the bag for another purpose. I hope that helps!

  • annieseats

    I just leave the liquid out. You can do it either way, but I prefer not having to drain them later.

  • Maryellen

    Oh I can’t wait for this! That will be so helpful for me! :) I love your blog and was thrilled to see this post on beans, I can only imagine how even more helpful one on getting “off” canned tomatoes will be!

  • http://suchgreatblog.com/ Mayalaurent

    Thanks for this post Annie! I have been wanting to do this for awhile and have seen so many mixed ways to do this and the freezing helps me not feel like we have to eat that many beans in a week!!!

  • Laura

    Definitely try lima bean hummus…it’s one of my favorites. There’s a recipe for Egyptian-style Lima Bean Dip on page 43 in to Cook Rice, Beans and Grains by Andrea Chesman. It was a hit with even some of my finnickier family members.

  • Anik

    Just wondering where you get your containers that you use to freeze your beans… the ones that are in your pictures.

  • annieseats

    Thinkgarnish.com.

  • Liz Johnson

    Do you know if you can store them in mason jars in the freezer?

  • annieseats

    I don’t see why not. It should be fine :)

  • Jennifer Avventura

    Thanks for this great post! I’ve just found black beans in my supermarket, a huge surprise in Sardinia, Italy for sure. Can’t wait to make black bean soup.

  • Zimmerman Family

    Ok after reading these great instructions and all the comments I am feeling really stupid. After doing everything EXACTLY as you say which is the same as the instructions on the package my black beans taste great but are hard…do I just keep cooking or can dried beans be too old to cook? I have had these in the pantry for a while. Thanks :) I am determined to learn how to do this!

  • annieseats

    You just need to cook them a little longer. The cooking time will vary slightly each time, so I always check mine for doneness before I stop cooking and drain them. I usually use a fork, scoop up a few beans, and try smashing them against the side of the pot. If they don’t smash at all or barely smash, I keep cooking. I like them to give some resistance but smash fairly easily. If they are really easy to smash, I’ve overcooked and they won’t hold up well in whatever I make with them. The good news is with the beans you have that are too hard, you can just simmer them again now until they are a bit softer. I hope that helps!

  • Zimmerman Family

    Thank you they are cooking now, I will keep you posted :)

  • Robin Salant

    How many beans per 6 cups water? 1lb?

  • annieseats

    Yes, 6-8 cups of water per one pound of beans.

  • Michael Fishman

    Thank you for these concise instructions! I just made the decision today to go from canned beans to dried and I came home with a bag of kidney beans and black beans. Fully armed with beans, I know have the know-how thanks to your article! :)