How to Soak and Cook Dried Beans

I got some interesting email regarding my post on Ten Reasons Soaking Dried Beans Can Change Your Life. Apparently, I’m not the only fanatic saving money by soaking beans. A few readers emailed to pass wind on different methods for soaking beans. Topics such as “How long to soak” were discussed while some of “the best slow cookers” were reviewed and others shared methods for “no gas pinto beans” and recipes for “white bean chicken chili”. I must admit, I’m a little gassed with all the bean boasting.

But since I’ve found some keener beaners out there, I thought I should expand on the topic of soaking beans. Here are some tips on why you need to soak beans. I’ve also outlined various soaking and cooking methods.

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1. Why should I soak these dang beans anyways?

Consistent and even cooking: A soaked bean is more likely to cook evenly. Soaking makes the bean soft and supple and prevents the bean from splitting open or separating from the skin. Who wants a skinless bean with a tough center anyways? Besides, I’m all for keeping my teeth and avoiding the dentist.

Got windy bean gas? No one wants flatulence, especially if you have a windowless office like me. If you suffer from bean-induced, gut-busting, gastrointestinal gusts then you really must soak your beans. Soaking helps to break down all the complex sugars in beans, sugars like the indigestible oligosaccharides. If you’re a very breezy type, you should soak the beans even longer to maximize the amount of sugar dissolved. Ohhh, yea, and please drain the soaking water. Always use fresh water for cooking.

Added nutritional value: A soaked bean is more likely to retain maximum nutritional value. This is mostly due to the shortened time required for cooking. Basically, the longer you have to cook your beans, the less nutritional value will be retained since many vitamins and minerals are obliterated with added heat.

Soaking is frugal: Cooking food costs moolah due to energy consumption. If you soak your beans, you’ll use less energy than those who attempt to just cook a dried tough bean.

2. How to soak dried beans:

There are about three methods for soaking beans:

Method One: Long Soak

The “Long Soak” method is the most common way to soak your beaners. Just put your beans in a large bowl or pot of water and let them sit submerged for 8-12 hours. Soaking actually begins bean germination and promotes enzyme release. The germination process is what breaks down all the complex bean sugars. Breaking down the complex sugar is a good thing as this is what gives us gas. Apparently, soaking beans using the “Long Soak” method can reduce complex sugars by up to 60 percent. I usually leave my beans to soak overnight as this prevents my “better half” from poking them to see if they are done.

Method Two: Quick Or Power Soak

I haven’t tried the “Quick/Power Soak” method. Basically, just bring a pot of water to boil, add your beans, and then let them boil for about three minutes. After boiling, remove the beans from the stove and let them sit in the hot water for 2-6 hours. This method apparently removes 80 percent of complex bean sugars. How does that toot your horn?

Method Three: Quick Cook

This is basically the no soak method where you just throw your dried beans into a pot and cook the heck outta them. This method only really works with beans like lentils and split peas. I wouldn’t recommend the “Quick Cook” method for tougher beans like kidney or chick peas cause you will fart your friends into an oblivion. Just saying….

How to cook soaked beans:

After soaking your beans using one of the above three methods:

  1. Drain the beans.
  2. Add fresh water.
  3. Cook till the desired texture is reached.

Update: I’ve answered many more bean questions in: How to Soak Dried Beans: Your Questions Answered

Your two cents:

  1. Better Recipes June 12th, 2008

    What a great website! Any website that offers helpful advice and tips for better food recipes is really wonderful. I can now cook dried beans the right way. I am so excited.

  2. Kerry July 13th, 2008

    @Better Recipes Thank you for your kind words. I’m always happy to find another keener beaner!

  3. ROBIN DAWN August 16th, 2008

    Thanks for this great website, I am soaking my beans as I type… I have talent.. ha!!
    I found your website while looking up reasons for soaking etc.. and have to tell you it is a really interesting site and really opened my eyes to dry beans vs. canned..
    Have a great day~~

    Robin Dawn

  4. Patti October 1st, 2008

    Hi!

    I got into beans last year, and I love cooking them, but especially eating them. My question is, can you use the water you cooked the beans in, for veggie stock? I don’t eat meat, and thought the broth would be good.

    Thanks so much
    The Food Faerie

  5. Kerry October 1st, 2008

    @Patti I’ll pass some wind on your question. :D Reusing the cooked bean water will most likely cause some gas. The bean water is full of bean sugars, which in the majority of humans can be hard to break down in the tummy and cause the vapors. If you are one of the few who can stomach bean sugars, then go ahead and blow us away with your veggie broths! :D

  6. Monique October 7th, 2008

    Is there a difference in the amount of time chick peas soak as opposed to black beans, or navy beans? I am planning to cook them all together and wonder if some will be crunchy and others mushy.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks!

  7. Kerry October 7th, 2008

    @Monique I think chick peas and black beans are close enough in size for them to have similar cook times. I wouldn’t recommend soaking and cooking beans like mung and lentils with chick peas though because they will turn to mush before the chick peas are cooked.

  8. Joe Clark December 25th, 2008

    I put 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in a pot of beans this cuts down the gas.

  9. FrugalNYC January 15th, 2009

    Very good and helpful tips!
    Thanks!

  10. pdw January 29th, 2009

    Cooking beans without presoaking (and discarding the soaking water) is not recommended. Beans contain toxins called “lectins” which can cause illness.

    Additionally, beans – especially kidney beans – should be briskly boiled for 2-3 minutes before putting them in the crockpot, to further reduce the lectin levels. Some crockpots do not reach a high enough temperature to safely cook beans, and if they do not reach a high enough temperature they can, in fact, concentrate the lectins to a dangerous level.

    Beans can also be quickly, easily, and safely cooked in the pressure cooker. But again, you still need to presoak (long, quick, or pressure) and discard the soaking water.

    You can research this topic by googling “phytohaemagglutinin crockpot”. Phytohaemagglutinin is the kidney bean lectin, the bean lectin we know the most about so far.

  11. Lorraine February 8th, 2009

    Brilliant! Thank you!

    Lorraine

  12. Jacqui February 28th, 2009

    It’s also useful for reducing the jet propulsion aspect of eating beans to freeze them, in the water, for eight hours after soaking. Means pre-planning the meal well ahead, but that’s a boon anyway, letting you get a good range of foods over a few days.

    Good website – congratulations!

  13. Pattypan March 10th, 2009

    OMG there are *others* who think about beans as much as I do! now I share a shameful secret . . . the skins on my cooked beans invariably come out tough. I soak my beans 6 – 12 hours then cook for as long as it takes. Even when the inside is very tender, skins are tough. I’ve tried salting late–doesn’t seem to matter. pattypan

  14. Joelle June 4th, 2009

    Cooking your beans with a stamp sized piece of Kombu seaweed also cuts down on gas…. after a long soak of course.

  15. Anne July 9th, 2009

    I love my beans in all sorts of recipes but have been slow to convert to dried because I can’t reproduce that lovely consistency of canned beans. Specifically I have tried black beans and chickpeas, both of which I eat a lot of. I soak overnight in the fridge, usually changing the water once. Then they go in the slow cooker for about 10 hours while I’m at work. They always seem to turn out tender enough, but gritty. That texture is still noticeable in soups and homous. I don’t add salt (or anything) when cooking.
    I was considering buying a pressure cooker but not sure if this will make any difference.
    Any suggestions?!? Please?!?

  16. pdw July 9th, 2009

    Anne – yes, a pressure cooker makes all the difference in the world! I could never get beans tender in the slow cooker, no matter how long I cooked them. I think it might be our high altitude. But in the pressure cooker, we can all enjoy all kinds of beans. Even chickpeas or beans that have been stored a long time. Nice and soft!

  17. Anne July 9th, 2009

    Hmmmm. I live in Vancouver, at sea level so I don’t get to blame the altitude. Maybe I’ll find a good solution, but otherwise a pressure cooker is my last hope!

  18. Kerry July 9th, 2009

    @Anne I’ve never soaked my beans in the fridge…I’m guessing this slows down the soaking process and prevents the maximum amount of sugars from dissolving making your beans chewier. Perhaps try to soak them on your counter top at room temperature and change the water a few times. :)

  19. Brooster July 12th, 2009

    I just discovered your site. I’ll never be as musically inclined again! Looks like a really fun site. Sign me up.
    Brooster

  20. Monica July 17th, 2009

    Thanks so much for posting this. I like to make homemade refried beans and thought it may be cheaper to buy the dried beans than the cans. I just bought my first bag of pinto beans and it’s been sitting in the pantry because I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. Thanks for all the great info!

  21. Kerry July 17th, 2009

    @Monica You’re very welcome. I think many people have a pantry with some dried beans sitting around. :D Get soaking!

  22. jeff July 30th, 2009

    anybody else notice the chickpeas “pop” while soaking. i thought i had mice until i realized it was each individual bean bursting its skin or something. i live in a studio in nyc and it was unsettling sleeping with this the first time!

  23. Carl July 30th, 2009

    Jeff – those things drove me crazy last week too! Kerry was soaking some and didn’t tell me about it. They woke me up at 2:30am. I spent a good 5 minutes standing in the kitchen waiting for something to scurry out from under the stove until I figured out where the noise was coming from!

  24. Bob Hardison October 7th, 2009

    I probably love navy beans and pinto beans more than anyone else on earth. I have had to give them up because the gas is much worse than before on me. I will try this soaking and I’ll also include the baking soda also. As of now, I can not ever eat dried beans, but I will try again after trying these methods.

  25. alison hartley October 11th, 2009

    is it possible to over soak the beans ? i cant figure out why i soak them overnight, then slow cook them and sometimes they turn out too mushy. is it the soaking part or the cooking part ? thanks !

  26. Kerry October 11th, 2009

    @alison What kind of beans are you cooking? The general rule is the bigger the bean, the longer soaking times are required. It’s generally the cooking part that makes beans mushy.

  27. pdw October 11th, 2009

    If you soak them, it tends to reduce the cooking time, so you are probably overcooking.

  28. Kim February 5th, 2010

    I ended up here because I’m listening to my chickpeas pop and wondering why. So if anyone finds a reason I’d love to hear it.

    But in the meantime, I followed an interesting recipe in Cooks Illustrated that instructed one to actually brine the beans! They were fantastic. Turns out there’s all sorts of opinions about when to add salt and what it does when you do so, so this method intrigued me. The result were soft, not gritty or mealy beans with skins in tact. The process involved 1 lbs of cannellini beans soaked overnight in a brine of 3T of salt in 4 qts of water at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24-then drained and rinsed. These are then baked at 250 for upwards of about 2 hours with acidic ingredients added towards the end of the cooking, so as not to interfere with the beans texture.

    The recipe itself was from the 2009 The Best Of America’s Test Kitchen. So great-I’m going to try brining more often.

  29. Paul June 7th, 2010

    Hi Kerry,
    Great Website, thanks for the info on soaking beans. There is so much patchy information out there and I just wanted to cook some dried chickpeas for tonight and not have to wait for days and boil them to buggery before I cooked them.

    Thanks and keep up the good work.

    cheers

    Paul

  30. Larry Starnes July 2nd, 2010

    Does anyone know anything about Taylor Peas? We are growing them and do not know when to harvest or how to cook them. when I was planning a garden I ran across them and decided to give them a try. The store salesperson said I should leave them on the vine til they dried out and turned purple then cook them like pinto beans. How dry should I allow them to get and how will I know when they get to the right point? I would appreciate help you can provide.

  31. Amanda July 31st, 2010

    @Fox I used the soak/cooking water from my garbanzo beans in a veggie soup today…so THAT’S why I’ve been farting all day! I am not a very gassy person, so I was wondering where that came from. Good to know!

  32. Kerry July 31st, 2010

    @Amanda Garbanzo bean water will cause this affliction, that’s for sure. ;)

  33. Ross Sharp August 27th, 2010

    Thanks for the great advice. I had no idea that soaking my beans could help to alleviate my wife’s windiness. Great post.

  34. tp August 29th, 2010

    Whoop, you forgot a very important step: to avoid a trip to the dentist, sort through dried beans before soaking and cooking. Use a sheet pan for this. You’ll be surprised at how many small rocks you’ll find masquerading as beans.

  35. Jasmin November 3rd, 2010

    I liked this page.It is very useful . but I have a pustion .
    Every time I cook dry peas a lots of white foam gather on top of pot , is this foam good or I have to take it off from the pot . Please answer my question and let me know where you give me the answer.

  36. Sue November 16th, 2010

    I just found this page and I like it very much! Being from the South and a person who loves to cook, I have cooked a ton of beans. If you add a cup (apx) of Coke Classic (not Diet Coke) to the beans at the beginning of cooking it takes care of the “gas” problem very well and the beans are delicious. Also, if you are adding tomatoes to your beans, don’t add until the beans are done. Then add tomatoes and cook 30 to 45 minutes longer. If you put the tomatoes in at the beginning, the beans will not soften.

  37. Jerry Couch November 25th, 2010

    My Mother always soaked her beans, I just never watched how she did it. I soak my beans overnight but they dont seem to get soft enough even after I cook them they seem a little to firm. what am I doing wrong, should I leave them on a counter or put in fridge, I have read about soaking beans but they just give basic methods, I need to know what I am doing wrong so my beans turn out soft but not to firm on the hand I dont want them mushy either.

  38. Amelia December 5th, 2010

    I love this site. Great information! I, like Jerry, am wondering if I should leave the beans soaking at room temperature or if they should be refrigerated while they soak.

  39. ronnie December 23rd, 2010

    Beans turn out hard or crunchy? Use distilled water.

  40. Alana January 4th, 2011

    I’m confused about how long I should soak my beans. If I start the process tonight can they continue to soak all day tomorrow while I am at work?

  41. Venetia January 23rd, 2011

    You should leave your beans on the counter and let them soak at room temperature. If you are in a very hot or humid climate that’s the only time you should consider refrigerating them….but if you refrigerate them you will have to sooak them longer.

    I always physically pull my beans out of the water in hand fulls instead of just rinsing them off…I do both actually. Much of the dirt and grime rinse off but alot of it settles at the bottom of your bowl….when you pull the beans out by the handfull it solves this “dirty” problem and therefore you won’t be eating dirt and grime.

  42. Jantine January 28th, 2011

    As soon as I started soaking my kidney beans, they started to wrinkle, and a lot of them split open. I ended up only soaking them 4 hrs, afraid they would split more. I cooked them, but they turned out mushy on the inside, with tough chewy skin. What did I do wrong? Are they too old maybe? There was no expiry on the bag….

  43. Hillary September 2nd, 2011

    Um, this may be a dumb question, but here goes: Does it make a difference whether the pot/bowl is covered when soaking?
    Thanks!

  44. Rishi October 11th, 2011

    Is it ok to cook chickpeas in the water it was soaking in?

  45. Eric McQ December 12th, 2011

    I too am a keaner beaner. The seaweed suggestion earlier in this thread, is the one that I have been using for years. The beans turn out awesome, and I noticed a significant reduction in methane production. Keep up the good work, Squawkfox

  46. doshndollars December 20th, 2011

    I love most types beans especially black eye, chickpeas, brown beans and kidney ones.

    I found that soaking the hard black eye, chickpeas or brown beans for 12 – 18 hours before cooking, in a saucepan left open throughout the cooking period, reduces the gas that causes bloating.

    Also when cooking, I start with high heat for 6 – 8 minutes, as it boils and froths, the white foam and all the other methane gas production rises to the surface, I then change the water by sieving, using a colander and rinsing, I repeat this process 2 to 3 times. Until all beans are tender or soft.

    After these, I add quick fried tomato pastes in onions, cayenne pepper, salt.

    Amazing and delicious dish and my family truly enjoy it, no bloating or stinking gas production.

  47. Kim January 12th, 2012

    Is the long soak or the power soak healthier? Like with nutrient loss wise.
    Also with the power soak I want to do it with chic peas I heard somewhere else with that method you only have to let them sit for 1 hour what do you think?

  48. Robert March 10th, 2012

    The beans I used today are more than a year old – I buy large quantities.

    I soaked my beans for about six hours (overnight) and cooked them for about 45 minutes – brought to brisk boil for about five minutes from cold and then added to whatever else is called for – usually a potful of meat, tomatoes, bell pepper, celery, potato, herbs and spices. Smoked meats are a tasty idea.

    I found if I cooked them for a longer period they’d begin to crumble which is OK for soups and chowders. But usually 45 minutes then use a stick-blender to liquidise.

    The 45 minutes cooing period (simmering) applies to most beans and saves energy wastage.

    Dried peas, of course, require no soaking and are ready in ’bout 25 minutes. Also good with smoked meats.

  49. Jerry March 11th, 2012

    Robert I have found this website to be very helpful, what worked for me was reading what other subscribers recommended. I found one post from a person who used a pressure cooker to cook beans it is fairly fast and the beans are somewhat firm not mushy. I was afraid to look for or purchase an old pressure cooker, but the ones available in the store now have all kinds of safety features making them pretty safe. I now cook my dry beans in a pressure cooker,

  50. TwoCat March 11th, 2012

    Hello there! Great tips from everyone but my question is this: After I soak my beans, can I freeze them before cooking them? My daughter has really jumped on the bean bandwagon but I am tired of throwing out questionable beans that have been in the fridge an unknown amount of time. What is the “life expectancy ” of a dried, soak bean? Thanks for all the good work.

  51. Hillary March 11th, 2012

    To twocat:

    yes, you can absolutely freeze them after soaking. I do it all the time (after tossing too many questionable beans from the fridge too). My only problem is that I need to remind myself to portion them to equal the can measurements. So when a recipe calls for 2 cans of beans, I’ll know what to grab from the freezer! In the long run, I guess it doesn’t matter so much. :)

  52. TwoCat March 11th, 2012

    Thanks for the quick reply; beans are soaking now!

  53. BlissfulWriter June 24th, 2012

    When I soak kidney beans, the skin looks like it is about to come off. Should I peal off and discard the skins?

  54. Marti September 3rd, 2012

    I would like to know if it is okay to put a lid on the beans while they soak?

  55. Kerry September 3rd, 2012

    @Marti You don’t need a lid. Let those beans breathe!

  56. Daniel October 25th, 2012

    Hi, i find this website very useful and I have just started to eat beans more often! I was wondering for the cooking the beans part i don’t really get how to drain the beans and add new water then cook until it shows the textile… so basically once its soaked take the water out and put new water and boil them until it looks soft and ready? Just curious about how to drain the beans once you soaked them…

  57. Wayne April 11th, 2013

    Hi!
    I’m new to beans, but having heard on the wind that beans are super good for you and crazy inexpensive/tasty, I’m a convert ! My last 4 meals have included beans – so needless to say, ” I’m totally gassed about beans ” ! I was blown away when I found this site.. it’s a breath of fresh air really. I needed info on cooking and preparation of these lovely legumes, but I admit… I was kinda holding my breath and not expecting much. But your insights have blown the fog away. Dried beans are seriously the best bet. ;) Thanks!

    Plus, there is just something “good” about not using canned (over processed) food. Brings back childhood memories of Mom & Granny in the kitchen on a Sunday, Spring air… veggies being cleaned/cooked.. that “GREEN” scent in the air :) good times. Thanx

  58. Julie Todd July 25th, 2013

    I have a question. I want to use beef ribs in a recipe with my pinto beans, can I cook the ribs (frozen) with the beans, or should I cook them seperately? Should I cook the beans before adding anything else? I also want to add carrots and tomatoes. Should I drain the beans after cooking before adding anything else? I’ve never cooked with dried beans before, only canned. Help!

  59. Terry Hopkins August 23rd, 2013

    I just found your web site and enjoyed reading all of the different ways we prepare beans so I wanted to add my way of dealing with the soak or no soak question. I recently began using the quick method of bringing the navy beans to a boil and cooking for ten minutes, then cover and let sit for 1 hour. I rinse them in the colander, add fresh water, a little garlic and onion chopped up, salt and pepper and cut up bacon and then add ketchup until water is orange. Cook until soft and you will have the best bean with bacon soup possible. This is the way my mom made them but she never soaked the beans and it took the entire day to cook them tender and thicken the juice and a lot of skimming off the bacon fat. I find that using scissors to cut the bacon in pieces allows me to remove all of that fat and now I don’t have to skim at all. :-) When I tried the quick method I was amazed at the difference in not only prep time but “wind”! Thanks again for this chance to find bean lovers like myself…

  60. Patrick rainford October 25th, 2014

    You never answered the question when to add salt to the beans, and a little less rhetoric would be appreciated, suggest to satisfy you need to write by perhaps writing your own book.

    P.S. when to salt the beans!

  61. Kim October 27th, 2014

    I have soaked pinto beans for 24 hours but I don’t have time to cook them. Can I put them in the fridge until tomorrow? If so, do I rinse them & then store in fresh water or rinse them and store them without any water?

  62. Sherry October 27th, 2014

    We let red kidney beans set overnight in the fridge, drained the water and then added them to chili (without boiling). They have boiled on tHe stove in A POT for hours. Will this be safe or are we asking for trouble without having boiled them first?

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