A Guide to Cooking with Dried Beans
Besides vegetables, beans are one our favorite foods to cook with. If you haven’t cooked with them much, you should definitely consider giving them a try. They are beautiful in their myriad forms and colors, and offer our bodies so much nourishment. As we delve further into their world, we find endless uses for them in our meals. We didn’t appreciate them enough before, but they’ve quickly become a staple in our house for all of these reasons.
We’ve only cooked with canned beans in the past, however during our first trek across Taipei city to Trinity Indian Store, we stood wide-eyed at their selection of dried beans. Chickpeas, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, butter beans, soy beans, mung beans. Other beans I’d never even heard of. We couldn’t find many of those listed at the grocery stores or markets in Taipei. Canned nor dried. We quickly scooped up 5 different bags of beans and brought them home excitedly. Beyond the adventure of cooking with dried beans, we would save money, eat less sodium and preservatives, and feel all domestic. We were in! Andrew especially wanted that domestic feeling.
Then, reality set in. How does one even cook with dried beans? We scoured the internet and found tons of resources and decided to give a combination of a few methods a try, while keep the process as simple as possible for us. Here is what we found worked the best.
Step 1: Sort and Rinse the Beans
After you’ve chosen your beans, sort through and rinse the beans really well in a colander to remove any debris or film that may be on the beans.
When choosing your beans, remember to also think about how many beans you want. If you’ll be storing or freezing them after cooking, which I explain later, feel free to cook larger amounts. If not, maybe you want to reduce the amount. Just remember they double in size, so if you won’t be storing them you will have a lot of beans on your hands. We made this mistake when starting out and had a ton of beans to use up. We ended up throwing some out that went bad and felt awful wasting food.
Step 2: Pre-Soak the Beans
Pre-soaking reduces your cooking time because it rehydrates the beans. Word on the street is that it also makes the beans easier to digest, breaking down the plants protective lectins, which can be very unhealthy for us. You have two choices for pre-soaking. You can either soak the beans for a longer period of time, or you can do a quick soak.
- Long Soak: Soaking the beans for 8 hours or overnight is really easy because it cuts down on cooking time. You put them into a sealable container, cover them with water, seal ’em up and they are ready the next day. It is not recommended to soak them for longer than 8 hours.
- Quick Soak: Sometimes you don’t realize you want beans for lunch or dinner that day and you need to make up a batch. Throw them in a pot, cover them with 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil. Once they are boiling, cover them with a lid, remove them from the heat and let them sit for one hour.
If you won’t be cooking the beans right away after soaking, put them in a container without water in the fridge until you are ready to cook. Don’t go longer than a day or two on this step.
Step 3: Cooking the Beans
Cooking the beans takes a bit of time, so give yourself an hour or two depending on the type of bean. Also, make sure you thoroughly cook them. We’ve left a few al dente thinking we’d enjoy a bit crunchier of a bean in my meals and not once has this worked out. It’s all a preference, but make sure they are nice and soft without being mushy.
After soaking the beans, strain them in a colander and discard the water. Some people cook with the same water, but we don’t. There are many debates you can research on the subject if you’re interested though.
Put the beans in a pot and cover them with two inches of water. We also add bay leaves for a little extra flavor. We don’t add salt, but again many debates on this if you want to look it up. Bring the beans to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and partly cover with a lid. Let them cook until they are soft. Most beans we’ve cooked with have taken about an hour. So give yourself some time.
Once the beans are cooked, you can store them in the fridge for up to five days. Check them and make sure they still smell good/ don’t have a slimy consistency before you eat them. Some people cover their beans with water in a container when storing them, but we do not do this. Alternatively you can freeze them for up to six months in a freezer-safe container until ready to use.
There are so many resources out there on this process and we are just learning about it all. Please let us know about any tips or additions you would make to our high-level overview we’ve given here. If you don’t have any experience, let us know how it goes if you try it! We think you’ll love the fresh feeling of adding your own cooked beans to your meals.
Andrew & Caryn