How to Cook Beans Like a Pro
If you’re looking for step-by-step instructions for how to cook beans, we’ve got you covered. As more and more people are searching for plant-based recipes, cooking at home, eating on a budget, and using their pantry staples, those long-lost bags of dried beans in the back of the cabinet are finally getting the attention they deserve.
Beans are pulses, edible seeds that are part of the legume family. Pulses include beans, lentils, chickpeas, and dry peas. Registered dietitian Kelly Jones, RDN, CSSD, LDN, is a big advocate for adding more plant foods to any diet, and beans are one of the top foods she recommends due to their versatility and nutrient density. (Pulses like black beans and lentils are a good source of iron, fiber, potassium, folate, and protein.)
“One of my favorite ways to incorporate them is with pasta as an easy way to boost protein content and offer more texture,” says Jones.
How do you cook dried beans?
While canned beans are delicious, nutritious, and convenient, learning to cook dried beans allows you to control the flavor, texture, and additives like salt. Plus they are much cheaper.
There are several easy ways to cook dried beans including the pressure cooker (or Instant Pot), slow cooker, or stovetop. Here’s the three-step process for cooking dried beans.
These steps apply no matter whether you’re learning how to cook garbanzo beans for the first time or trying to figure out how to cook black beans that actually taste good.
1. Clean the beans.
- Pour your dried beans into a colander or strainer. Remove any stones, sticks, or broken beans.
- Then, rinse the beans under cold running water to remove any dirt or remaining debris.
2. Soak the beans.
There are two main soaking methods for dried beans: the traditional soak and the quick soak.
- For the traditional soak method, pour cold water over beans to completely submerge them. Soak for eight hours or overnight. Drain off the soaking water and rinse the beans.
- For the quick soak method, place the beans in a large pot covered with water. Bring to a boil for three minutes. Then remove from heat and let the beans stand for one hour. Drain the soaking water and rinse the beans.
3. Cook the beans.
In general, cook 1 cup of dried, soaked beans in 2 to 3 cups of water, but be sure to check your bag of beans for more specific measurements and cooking times.
It can vary depending on the variety you’re cooking, as well as the age of the beans (older beans may take longer to cook).
In general chickpeas take the longest of all the pulses to cook; lentils are often the fastest.
Tip: 1 cup dried beans = 2-3 cups cooked beans.
How to Cook Dried Beans on the Stove
There’s something comforting about slowly simmering beans on the stovetop when you’re having a cozy day at home.
- Add the soaked beans to a pot with water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook on low for 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the type of bean and your desired level of tenderness.
- Stir the beans occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Keep the beans on a simmer to prevent the skins from splitting.
- Since beans expand when they cook and water evaporates during cooking, you may need to add more water to the pot to keep the beans fully submerged.
- Fully cooked beans should be tender but not mushy.
- When the beans finish cooking, remove them from heat.
- Add seasonings directly to the pot, or rinse and drain beans in a colander to stop the cooking process and prevent the beans from getting too soft.
How to Cook Beans in a Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot
This is the fastest way to cook dried beans. While you don’t have to soak them, you can do a modified quick soak under pressure, which only takes one minute! Yep, only one minute. To start, add the beans and water to the pressure cooker.
Soaking and cooking beans in a pressure cooker
- Bring the beans to a boil on the saute function.
- Put the lid on the pot and cook on manual high pressure for one minute.
- Quick release the pressure, then rinse the beans before adding them back to the pot with more water.
- Cook on high pressure for 8-12 minutes (check your manual for details).
- Release pressure and season to taste.
Cooking dried beans in a pressure cooker
- If you don’t want to fuss with soaking, just toss dried beans straight in the pressure cooker with water.
- Cook the dried beans on high pressure for 10-15 minutes, until tender.
How to Cook Dried Beans in a Slow Cooker
While this method takes the longest, it’s also a “set it and forget it” approach to cooking beans. Soaking is not essential (but it’s still recommended) when using the slow cooker.
- In general it takes about 6 hours to get tender beans from a slow cooker.
- Use cook 1 cup of dried beans in 2 to 3 cups of water.
- Do not use this method for dried red kidney beans, which need to be boiled to deactivate a naturally occurring toxin.
FAQs about Cooking Dried Beans
Have questions about cooking dried beans? We’re here to help you troubleshoot the process!
What is the fastest way to cook beans?
The fastest way to cook beans is in a pressure cooker, like an Instant Pot. For most beans it takes 10-15 minutes to go from dried beans to perfectly cooked tender ones.
Do you have to soak beans before cooking them?
No, you do not have to soak dried beans before cooking. However, while taking a little more time, soaking beans first will provide a better end result.
Soaking beans significantly reduces cooking time. The texture of soaked beans is also better with fewer split and broken beans. And, notably, soaking beans can reduce digestive discomfort by breaking down its gassy starch, raffinose (also found in cruciferous vegetables). But if you’re tummy isn’t bothered after eating beans, feel free to skip the soaking step, especially if you’re cooking them in the slow cooker.
However, there’s no need to soak lentils or dry peas.
How long does it take to cook beans without soaking?
How long it takes to cook beans depends on a variety of factors including altitude, hard water, age of the beans, variety, cooking temperature, liquid ingredients, and more. So it’s hard to estimate how much time you’ll save by soaking.s
Here are some things to consider to speed up the process of cooking beans.
- The longer the bean has been sitting on the pantry shelf, the longer it will take for the beans to soften up with cooking. Increase cooking times for beans that have been in your pantry for over a year.
- What you add to the beans can also affect cooking times.
- Add herbs and spices at any time during the cooking process.
- Salt and acidic foods (like tomatoes, vinegar, lemon juice, wine, etc.) tend to keep beans firm, so add them once beans are tender.