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. 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,

  2. 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.

  3. 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. 🙂

  4. TwoCat March 11th, 2012

    Thanks for the quick reply; beans are soaking now!

  5. 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?

  6. Marti September 3rd, 2012

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

  7. Kerry September 3rd, 2012

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

  8. 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…

  9. 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

  10. 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!

  11. 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…

  12. 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!

  13. 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?

  14. 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?

  15. Rosa April 26th, 2015

    Cool. Giving the power soak a try (already doing). I’m all about power anyway 😉

  16. Pat June 28th, 2015

    Tried this method with great northerns. Soaked 24 hours, changed water every 8 hours and used little baking soda each time. They came out to perfection, thick and delicious.

  17. Jk July 31st, 2015

    I’m soaking Navy beans right now overnight. I just put them in a bowl of water with a pinch of baking soda, lay a paper towel over it, and sleep. The next day while cooking the beans, we like to add ham hock or ham chunks left over from a bigger meal in the beans for flavoring. We pair it with cornbread, slaw and sweet tea. Sometimes a jar of green onions in ice water will be added to the table for those that like a bite of onion with a spoonful of beans. A southern favorite:)

  18. Pat September 8th, 2015

    I am so thankful for the info I found from your site. It was good to get answers I can no longer ask my mom,I wish I could still make that call,just to hear her voice. Thanks for all the info others wrote, it made my day to learn more methods of how to prepare other beans. Enjoyed your site and plan on using it in the future. Thanks again 🙂

  19. Mary Wylam October 25th, 2015

    I have been using beans, lentils and peas for years. Navy bean soup is a fall and winter favorite in our house. I have never had this problem before, but I think I “oversoaked” my navy beans. I put them on late Friday afternoon so soak overnight at room temp and I didn’t have a chance to think about them all day Saturday because of an out of town wedding. I got up Sunday morning to prepare the soup and the beans had a real strong bean smell to them with some froth and bubbling on top. I thought, “well, if I drain them off and rinse them well, maybe it would make the smell go away.” I added fresh water to the rinsed beans and I went ahead and chopped the onion, celery, carrots, parsley and put in the ham. I brought to a boil and brought back down to a simmer (they are still on the stove at this time), and have checked them periodically to stir. They don’t seem to smell “bad”….just different than normal. After using all these ingredients, I hate to waste a huge pot of soup. Can you tell me if these are safe to eat….after boiling and all? The beans were probably sitting in a pot for at least 30 hours. I have heard of people eating fermented things and it’s super healthy…but I don’t want to make my family sick either. Thanks for the advice!!

  20. Kirk Douglass January 2nd, 2016

    What?!?! NO!!! Don’t drain the beans. Whatever you do don’t EVER drain the beans. Otherwise you’re just taking all of the natural flavor of the bean and throwing it away, not to mention a lot of those nutrients you were referring to are now in that water. If you get really bad gas you get a pass, but I truly pity you as draining the bean REALLY does take away not only it’s natural and downright delicious flavor, which is what you’re looking for if you’re really preparing some good beans, but you’re also losing the body that thickens up the juices and gives them such a satisfying texture.

  21. Carole Wilkns January 4th, 2016

    I keep finding recipes for beans with tomatoes. Now I have always heard that you don’t add the tomato to the beans at the start or the beans (say navy beans) will not soften. Is this correct

    Thanks for your time. Carole

  22. Patricia January 17th, 2016

    I have soaked black beans overnight and when i tried to cook them on an induction cooktop I cooked them for hours and they are still hard. Any suggestions about cooking dried beans on an induction cooktop? Also if you want to store cooked beans do you freeze them? If so do you freeze them in the water you cooked them in or without water?

  23. suedonna February 24th, 2016

    I just found this site and I really like it. I live in Texas, as well as a well known chef of southwestern foods in TX, Stephan Pyle. His creations, including many dishes containing beans, frequently call for adding Epazote to decrease the unpleasant flatulance effect of the beans. Epazote Black Beans is one of his signature dishes. His new cafe will open in the spring of 2016 in the KPMG tower in the Dallas Arts District. His restaurants are rated 4-5 stars by many. And for years, I have heard him say that Epazote is his remedy for cooking legumes and beans and preventing the ill effects of the gas factor. I highly recommend his restaurants, too. He creates AMAZING dishes. His Heaven and Hell cake is also to die for.

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