All About Beans

From p. 60 of the Feb/March 2008 Issue of Light & Tasty

Tangy Four-Bean Salad

Tangy Four-Bean Salad

Soaking Methods for Dry Beans

  • Most dried beans, except split peas and lentils, need to be soaked before cooking. Select a soaking method below to fit your schedule.
  • Before cooking, sort through dried beans to remove any broken beans, pebbles or grit. Rinse beans with cold water in a colander.
  • Soaking softens and returns moisture to the beans, which helps reduce the cooking time. Soaking also helps eliminate some of the sugar molecules, oligosaccharides, which are responsible for the gas-causing effect that beans can have. The longer the beans soak, the more of the oligosaccharides are released into the water. The released sugars are discarded with the water after soaking.
  • Soak different kinds of beans separately. Some take longer to soak than others. Black beans can affect the color of other beans. To see if beans have soaked long enough, slice one in half. If the center is opaque, you need to soak them longer. If you have old beans, hard water or live at a high altitude, you may need to increase the soaking and cooking times.
  • Always use a large pot and plenty of water. Dried beans rehydrate to two to three times their size. After soaking, discard the soaking water and drain and rinse the beans.

Quick Hot Soak

Sort and rinse beans. Place in a soup kettle or Dutch oven; add enough water to cover beans by 2 inches. Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand for 1 to 4 hours. Drain and rinse beans; discard liquid unless your recipe directs otherwise. Proceed with the recipe as directed.

Overnight Soak

Sort and rinse beans. Place in a soup kettle or Dutch oven; for every cup of beans, add 3 cups of cold water. Cover and soak at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse beans; discard liquid unless recipe directs otherwise. Proceed with the recipe as directed.

Cooking Soaked Dried Beans

  • After soaking, beans are simmered in fresh water for about 2 hours or until tender. The time will vary based on the variety and size of the bean, hardness of the water, altitude and the freshness of the dry beans.
  • Follow the recipe or package directions for the amount of water to add to the beans. To reduce foaming during cooking, add 1 tablespoon of oil or butter to the pot.
  • Salt or any acidic ingredients (like tomatoes, lemon juice, mustard, molasses, wine or vinegar) inhibit the absorption of liquid and stop the softening process. These ingredients shouldn't be added to the beans until they are tender.
  • To test beans for doneness while cooking, remove a bean from the pot and place it on a cutting board. Mash the bean with the back of a spoon. If it mashes easily and is soft in the center, it is thoroughly cooked. Or, if you prefer, you can bite into the bean to see if it is tender but not mushy. Allow about 1/2 cup cooked beans per serving.

The following is a chart giving the suggested cooking time for soaked dried beans:

Type of Dried Bean/Legume Cooking Time
Black Beans 1 to 1-1/2 hours
Black-Eyed Peas 1/2 to 1 hour
Cranberry Beans 3/4 to 1 hour
Garbanzo Beans 1 to 1-1/2 hours
Great Northern Beans 3/4 to 1 hour
Kidney Beans 1-1/2 to 2 hours
Lentils, green or brown 20 to 30 minutes
Lentils, red 15 minutes
Lima Beans, baby 1 hour
Lima Beans, large 1 to 1-1/2 hours
Navy Beans 1-1/2 to 2 hours
Pink Beans 1 hour
Pinto Beans 1-1/2 to 2 hours
Red Beans, small 1 to 1-1/2 hours
Split Peas 20 to 30 minute

Storing Dried Beans

Store uncooked dried beans tightly covered in a cool, dry area. It is best to use dried beans within 12 months; the older the bean, the longer it takes to cook. Store cooked beans covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze up to 6 months.

Bean Substitutions

  • One pound packaged dried beans (uncooked) equals 2 cups dried or about 6 cups cooked and drained.
  • One cup packaged dried beans (uncooked) equals about two 15-1/2-ounce cans of drained beans.
  • One cup dried split peas equals about 2 cups cooked.
  • One 15-1/2-ounce can of beans equals about 1-2/3 cups drained beans.

Canned Beans

Rinse and drain canned beans before using. You will not only reduce the sodium content, but also eliminate some of the gas-producing sugars.

More Bean Recipes»