How to cook dried beans

Do you really need to soak them?

I don’t know about you, but when I think of beans I think of the canned ones, often pre-seasoned and ready-to-go. In fact, I am not sure if, until I made this video, I have ever cooked with dried beans. In my mind, dried beans were a from-scratch cooking tradition that took a long time to make, and the canned varieties were just so much easier. After researching it, however, I realized just how wrong I was. They can take a long time, but they don’t have to, and if you do choose to use a longer method, it requires very little effort. Dried beans can also be a lot cheaper than the canned varieties in the long run. So here is how to cook dried beans.

1) Sort and Rinse Your Beans

The first thing you should do when you open a fresh bag of dried beans is to look through them and make sure there aren’t any small pebbles and twigs. I don’t believe these are common occurrences in dried beans, but they have been found before and so it is always good to check. Then put your beans in a strainer and rinse them. You need to rinse until the water runs clear.

2) Soak Your Beans

So this is the part that can take forever, but you have a couple of different options for how to soak your beans.

The Overnight Method - This is about as simple as it gets. Put your beans in a bowl. Fill the bowl with water until it is covering the beans with about 2 inches of water. Let them soak overnight, or at least 4.5 hours. Yep, that’s it. If you want to get fancy, you can add some salt to the water (about 1 Tbs per pound of beans) and this will make your beans cook a bit faster, however, not all beans respond well to this method. If you use red kidney beans as I do in the video, salt can make their skin tougher, so double-check if salt works with the bean you are using. Drain and rinse the beans before cooking with them.

The Quick Soak Method - This is a great option if you did not plan to use dried beans the night before. Much like the first method, put your beans in a pot and cover them with about 2 inches of water. Heat the water and beans until it comes to a rolling boil. Let the beans boil for about two minutes, then turn off the heat and cover the beans for about 1 hour. Then they should be ready to cook with.

The No-Soak Method - That’s right, you don’t have to soak your beans. I know, this surprised me as well. If you chose not to soak your means, just cook them for longer in your meal (by about an hour or two - research your particular kind of bean for more details) and you may need to add some extra water or broth to whatever you are cooking so that your beans don’t remain dried. The beans should always be covered in liquid if using this method.

3) Cook With Your Beans

It’s that simple! Now you are ready to cook the beans. Add about 6 cups of water for one pound of dried beans and simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the bean. The cool thing about using this method is that you can add spices to jazz up your beans and give them a bit of flavor. You can also use chicken or beef broth to cook them in to give your beans a more meaty flavor. Now you are at the same point as if you were using canned beans. In the video, I am making red beans and I seasoned them with some creole/cajun flavors. My plan is to make them into red beans and rice, sort of following this recipe. The options for how to use dried beans are limitless!

About the Author: