22 March, 2024

Have you ever wondered how to cook dried beans? Here is a simple guide on preparing some of the most common beans! 

Why eat beans?  

Beans are a nutritional powerhouse, rich in plant protein, dietary fibre, and many micronutrients, including iron, potassium and B vitamins like folate. They are a great alternative to red meat, as they are low in fat, have no cholesterol, and are often considered more sustainable. 

Due to their high fibre content, beans can help you achieve your daily fibre intake of 30g a day and provide many health benefits, such as promoting gut health and helping to reduce the risk of breast cancer. 

Beans are cheap and can be incorporated into various meals, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, snacks, sauces, spreads, toppings, and beverages. 

Why choose dried beans over tinned beans?  

Many food packages can contain Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) such as phthalates, PFAS or bisphenols, which can potentially leak from the packaging into the food and may increase your breast cancer risk.  

Tinned foods are no exception. Bisphenols can be used to coat food and drink tins to increase their shelf life, prevent heavy metals from going into the food, and cause a metallic taste. 

Breast Cancer UK recommends avoiding or reducing the food you eat from tinned foods, where possible. In the case of beans, this means choosing dried or cooked beans in glass jars over tinned beans. 

Preparing dried beans  

Now that we have made the case for beans and choosing dried beans, let’s look at how to prepare them. There are two steps to preparing dry beans: soaking and cooking.  

Before diving into the nitty-gritty of preparing dried beans, it’s important to note that you should never eat raw or undercooked beans as they naturally contain a poison that can make you ill. Properly soaking and cooking beans destroys this poison, making beans perfectly safe to eat. 

On another note, this method is for chickpeas, black beans, cannellini beans, pinto beans or kidney beans. It is unsuitable for other legumes, such as lentils and split peas, as they cook much quicker than beans. 

Remember, the beans will at least double in weight once soaked and cooked. 

Soaking 

Soaking beans before cooking helps them cook more evenly, reduces cooking time, and helps dissolve the starches that can cause stomach discomfort. 

Start by giving your beans a good rinse; pop them into a strainer and wash them under cold running water. This helps eliminate any dust, dirt or debris that may still be on the beans. 

Here are two ways you can choose to soak your beans – overnight soak or quick soak. 

  • Overnight soak – place the dry beans in a large container and add water so the beans are covered by about 5cm or 2 inches. Cover the container and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. 
  • Quick soak – put the dry beans in a pot and cover with water by about 5cm or 2 inches. Put the pot on the stove and bring to a boil. Boil for 2-3 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pot, and let the beans soak for at least an hour. 

Once the beans have been soaked, drain and rinse them with fresh, cool water before cooking. 

You can also add a bit of salt to the soak as it helps soften the skin of the beans, allowing them to expand more easily. If you add salt during the soak, reduce the salt you add when cooking afterwards. 

Cooking  

To cook the beans on a stovetop, place the soaked, drained, and rinsed beans in a pot and cover them with fresh er by at least 5cm or 2 inches.  

Place the pot on the stove and bring to a boil. Boil for 10-15 minutes (this will destroy the poison we mentioned earlier). 

Reduce the heat to low, cover it, and let it simmer gently until the beans are tender but firm, stirring occasionally. 

Cooking can take anywhere between 45 minutes and 3 hours. There is no exact time to cook your beans, as the time will vary depending on their freshness, type or size, and how long you soak them. In general, cooking times look something like this: 

  • Small beans (black beans, black-eyed beans and navy beans): 45 to 90 minutes 
  • Medium beans (kidney beans, pinto beans, mung beans, and chickpeas): 60 to 120 minutes 
  • Large beans (cannellini beans and butter beans): 80 to 180 minutes 

You can check if the beans are cooked by mashing them against the pot’s side – the beans should be plump, but mash easily when you press them. Undercooked beans will maintain their firm texture, while overcooked beans will be too mushy. 

NOTE: The beans will absorb a lot of water, so keep an eye on the water level, and if the liquid stops covering the beans, add hot water (try not to add cold water as this will cause a cooking interruption). 

You can also add flavour to your beans by adding herbs, spices and other aromatics like garlic, chillies, rosemary or thyme. Try adding these closer to the end of the cooking time to avoid flavour loss. 

Storing cooked beans  

You can store cooked beans in the refrigerator for between 3 and 5 days. To store them, let the beans cool down after cooking, transfer them to an airtight glass container and pop them in the refrigerator as soon as possible. 

You can also freeze your cooked beans for 1 to 3 months. To do this, place the cooled beans in a freezer-safe container. 

So now you know how to cook dried beans! To help you practise cooking dried beans, check out our Organic Flavours Recipe Book, free to download here.

P. S. Pro tip: since you’ve made it this far, here’s an extra little nutrition tip for you: when increasing your fibre intake by, for example, adding more beans to your diet, make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids to avoid stomach or gut issues, like bloating or gas, and allow fibre to do its work. 



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