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A little while ago I posted this recipe for Next Level Hummus, which calls for 4 cups of cooked chick peas. My lovely and talented friend Christa sent me a tweet with a gentle reminder that although I had called for cooked beans, I hadn’t included any instructions for actually cooking the beans. I told her that I *had* previously written a brief bit on cooking dried beans back when I posted this recipe for Curried Potato Chickpea Patties, but I thought she was on to something. I can’t really expect people to scour back-posts for cooking instructions for one ingredient for an entirely different recipe, and so I’ve decided to create a how-to for cooking dried beans, which can easily be accessed by searching the how-to category in the menu on the right. I’ll add to the category over time with other how-to items, so if you have any questions or requests please send them my way.

So, why dried beans? First and foremost, dried beans are waaaaay cheaper than their canned cousins. I was in a grocery store the other day and saw cans of beans on *sale* for$1.99! Sale! And I picked up a bulk bag of the same varietal of beans, which, once soaked and cooked will double in volume and will give me the same amount of beans as in that can for less than 1/4 of the price. Dried beans are generally better for you than canned because you control the cooking. You decide whether or not you want to add salt to the cooking water, and how much. And the liners of those cans are coated with a plastic liner that contains BPA, which may be leeching into the contents of the can. ‘Member all those plastic water bottles you tossed out a few years back because of the BPA fear frenzy? Want that stuff in your food? Me neither.

Dried beans store really well at temperatures ranging from warm to room temperature to freezing. You can keep them in a moisture proof container or bag for up to a year in your cupboard – they will last way longer than that, but beans that are several years old take much longer to cook than those from a more recent harvest. Think of all of the extra space you could have in your kitchen cupboards if you switched to dried beans; since they double in volume once soaked and cooked, the same amount of dried beans will take up half as much space as canned.

If it’s the convenience of canned beans you’re after, fear not. You can soak and cook big batches of dried beans and then portion them up and store them cooked. They’ll last a week in your fridge, and up to six months in your freezer. I like to store cooked beans in a little of the cooking liquid, I find it keeps them a little more tender than without.

Cooking methods and tips for dried beans:

Peas and Lentils: lentils do not require soaking prior to cooking, and cook up quite quickly, in about 20 minutes. Split peas are more like lentils, and also do not require pre-soaking and have a shortened cooking time. Black-eyed peas, yellow-eyed peas, and chick-peas (garbanzo beans) are really beans, and do require a pre-soak.

Beans: beans need to be soaked before they are cooked on the stove top to replace some of the water that was lost when they were dried. This speeds up the cooking time, and also leeches out some of the flatulence causing compounds; you can discard the soaking water before cooking if  this is a concern for you. I generally cook in the same water I soak in because it’s not a concern for me (you can ask my husband about this), and there are valuable nutrients in that water. If you do choose to discard your soaking water, save it and use it for watering your plants.


Before soaking your beans you should give them a once over. Remove any debris that doesn’t look like it belongs there like pebbles or sticks, and any cracked, dull, or shriveled looking beans. Given them a quick rinse in a colander or sieve, and then you’re ready to go.

Conventional methods:

The long cold soak: This requires some foresight. Cover 1 part of dried beans in 3 parts of cold water. Let stand for 8 – 12 hours or overnight in a cool place. If it’s really warm out you may want to do your long soak in the fridge to prevent the beans from going sour before you have a chance to cook them.

The quick hot soak: This is the method I use the most because I don’t often have the foresight for the long cold soak. In a large pot cover 1 part dried beans in 3 parts of cold water. Bring to the boil, and boil for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat, put a lid on the pot, and let stand for one hour.

Cooking: Now that your beans have soaked, you’re ready to cook them.  You can discard the soaking water at this point and replace it with fresh water if you want to. Again, cover your beans in about 3 parts of water for 1 part of beans. Make sure your pot is big enough to accommodate for bean expansion and some foaming which is bound to happen. You can add about a tsp of oil to the cooking water to help combat the foam – the oil disrupts the starch chain formation and reduces foaminess. Bring your beans to a boil for about five minutes. Reduce heat, cover with lid lightly ajar, and simmer for about 40 – 50 minutes, until your beans are tender but not mushy. Cooking time will vary slightly depending on the type of bean, how old the bean is, and whether your water is soft or hard. If you’re adding any flavouring to the beans, like herbs, onions, garlic, you can add these to the cooking water. However, if your ingredients are acidic (lemon juice, tomatoes, etc), hold off adding them until the beans are almost done, as they will toughen the beans and increase cooking times.

Other methods:

Pressure cooker: I don’t own a pressure cooker. Truthfully, they scare me a bit. But they are reported to cook dried beans up in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take. If you have a pressure cooker, you’ll want to fill it no more than half full with your beans and water, and then follow manufacturer’s directions.

Slow cooker: Cover dried beans with lots and lots of water, and go. Follow manufacturer’s directions for best results. It is sometimes difficult to find the right setting with a slow cooker. Too low and the beans may still be hard after 10 hours. Too high and they may be mush.

Microwave: microwave cooking is not recommended for dried beans. The cooking time is the same as for conventional.


All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2011