I used to hate beans. They were flavorless, overpriced, and made me gassy. That was in college. Now, I know better. Beans (and veggies) are actually the foundation of my diet! I eat some kind of beans every day.
Beans are super high in fiber, a great source of protein, and are also high in minerals like magnesium, iron, and zinc. And the gas factor? For me it is completely mitigated by soaking and/or sprouting.
I won’t cover sprouting today to keep it simple, but if you’re interested in finding out how to sprout beans you can go here to read a brief explanation I posted awhile back.
In this post I’ll cover the basics of canned versus dried and how to soak, and then cook, dried beans. Let’s dive in!
- Better for you: no BPA exposure in the can lining, no preservatives & excess sodium in packing liquid
- Better for the planet: no cans to recycle or end up in a landfill, which leach BPA and other chemicals into the soil & groundwater
- More economical than canned: at some stores, you can buy 1lb of dried beans for almost the cost of 1 can of precooked beans. Beans swell enormously when cooked so 1 cup of dry beans is equal to about 2 cans worth of precooked beans. This is a rough estimation since some beans swell much more than others – i.e. 1 cup dried garbanzo beans is about 2.5 cups cooked.
- Soaking dried beans significantly reduces, if not eliminates, the gas factor. Beans, like many other plant foods, are high in anti-nutrients like phytic acid.
- I like this information from Weston A. Price – “Phytic acid not only grabs on to or chelates important minerals, but also inhibits enzymes that we need to digest our food, including pepsin, needed for the breakdown of proteins in the stomach, and amylase, needed for the breakdown of starch into sugar. Trypsin, needed for protein digestion in the small intestine, is also inhibited by phytates.” Read more about this here.
- When you soak and/or sprout beans it significantly lessens the amount of phytic acid present in the beans
- Consumption of excess sodium & preservatives to keep the beans from getting too soft
- Exposure to BPA from the can lining
- High levels of phytic acid
- Little to no control over seasoning of the beans
- Easy to use & eat is the only positive thing I can say about canned beans over dried.
Some beans, just like nuts, require less soaking, but a good rule of thumb is a minimum of 8 hours soak time. The only real exception I’ve found to this is red lentils. Red lentils are very soft and starchy and 8-24 hours soaking for those particular beans would be excessive. If I’m using red lentils in a recipe I usually soak for about 3-4 hours. When working with chickpeas, pinto, black, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, etc., soak for at least 8 hours and up to 24.
Now don’t let these times discourage you. If you are preparing a recipe tonight with dried beans and you have to start cooking them in 3 hours or more, start soaking now! Any amount of soak time is better than none. Sometimes I forget to soak the night before and I do it as soon as I wake up the next day. It’s not the end of the world and definitely not worth stressing about.
Ideally, the night (or afternoon) before you plan to cook the beans you will place them in a deep bowl and cover with about 2 inches of water. The beans will soak up a lot of water. If you are a work-at-home individual, I recommend starting the soaking process in the early afternoon so you can drain and rinse the beans several times before heading to bed. My typical soaking process looks like this…
- 4pm: 1 cup beans covered with ~2 inches filtered room temperature water
- 7pm: drain, rinse, and replace with fresh, filtered water
- 9pm: drain, rinse, and replace with fresh, filtered water
- 6:30am: drain, rinse, and replace with fresh, filtered water
- 3:30pm: drain, rinse, and cook
As you can see, I replace the water 3x. If you work outside the home your soaking schedule can look like this…
- 6pm: 1 cup beans covered with ~2 inches filtered room temperature water
- 9 or 10pm: drain, rinse, and replace with fresh filtered water
- 6:30am (or whenever you first wake up): drain, rinse, and place into crock pot on low to cook while you’re at work. Season when you get home & eat!
- Do you come home for lunch or to walk your dog? If so, you may like to start your soak process at that time and then at 6pm drain, rinse, and refill.
With this schedule you are getting less of the draining and rinsing, but that’s ok! The idea behind the repeated draining and rinsing is that you are dumping out the anti-nutrients that the beans release into the water as they soak. If you let them sit in the same soaking water they reabsorb a small amount of the anti-nutrients.
If you work outside the home or just know that you won’t have time/remember to do this before you cook the beans I’d recommend making a large batch all at once. The best way to go about this is to take a day when you know you will be home and start the soaking process the night before. Let’s say Friday night you soak 2-3 cups of beans (in a VERY large bowl), draining and rinsing at least once before you go to bed. On Saturday, as soon as you wake up, drain, rinse, and replace the soaking water, let them soak for about 3-4 more hours, then drain, rinse, and place them into a large stockpot or crockpot to cook.
I don’t normally cook beans in a crockpot, but I did experiment with it just for you guys 😉 Place your chosen amount of beans in a crockpot and cover with quite a bit of water. Let’s say 1 cup of soaked beans and 1.5 quarts of water. Turn setting to LOW and allow to cook for about 6 hours. I haven’t tried cooking on high, but I know it can be done. If you are home to stir them, do it! If you are at work, don’t worry about it. However, if you are at work, I would definitely only use the low setting.
If you are at home, about 4 hours into the cook time, add your desired amount of salt (I usually do 1 tbsp of salt to 1 cup of beans) and stir well. Replace the lid and leave them be. If they are already soft you can turn off the crockpot and let the residual heat continue to slowly cook the beans and allow the salt to season them.
I routinely cook beans on the stovetop. I use the above soaking process and then around 3:30pm I start them cooking. I like to bring them up to a hard boil and turn down to medium so they are simmering. Since I am home the whole time I set a timer for 30 minutes and stir every 30 minutes. I season them about 30 minutes to 1 hour into the cook time, for a total of about 1.5 hours total cooking.
The key to evenly cooked beans when using the stovetop is stirring. Don’t think you can leave your beans on medium, walk away and come back in a couple hours to them evenly cooked – you will have some seriously burned beans scorching your pan (been there!). If you think that stirring every half hour or so is too much trouble I would definitely suggest the crockpot route.
Large Batch Cooking
As I mentioned before, if you are super busy I’d recommend cooking large batches. The additional step here is to portion them out into individual, freezable portions. For a 3 person family I’d recommend freezing them in 1 or 1.5 cup portions. When you portion them out into their containers, make sure to add in enough cooking liquid to completely cover the beans. When you thaw out the portions you will use the same cooking liquid to reheat them in a pot on the stove.
Make sure you label each container with the type of beans inside and the date you froze them.
- When cooking, some beans foam more than others. That foam is not to be stirred back in, but spooned out and discarded. These are impurities in the beans that can and will cause gas and bloating. You can see what I mean in the picture below. Some beans are worse than others with garbanzo beans being the worst.
- Make sure to turn down to medium for the bulk of the cooking time, especially if you choose not to cover the beans.
- If you cover the pot, cook on low.
- Add salt to the beans after they have softened a bit. Adding salt and other seasonings to the beans at the start of the cook time can make them cook unevenly and some can be a bit hard.
I think that covers it! I know this post is very long, but that’s because I wanted to cover all my bases for you guys! Cooking dried beans is not too much trouble and I’m convinced once you have made the switch from canned you won’t want to go back. Dried beans are cheaper, they taste better, and they are better for you and the environment. Please let me know if you have any questions!