A Guide to Using Dry Beans for Cooking

Cranberry beans in mulberry wood bowlIn my opinion, the single best bargain in a grocery store is the one pound bag of dried beans. The amount of nutrition and protein that can be had from a pound of dried beans is amazing, plus the flavor of the beans far surpasses the flavor of canned beans. I use beans of various kinds in countless different meals, from scrambled eggs in the morning to grilled beans in the evening, from an ingredient in a tortilla to a side dish with steak.

Where the value really kicks in is that a one pound bag of dried beans can usually be found for less than a dollar, which yields about six cups of cooked beans without preservatives or the loss of flavor you’ll find in canned beans. Plus, they can be prepared whenever you’re at home for a couple of hours, since they don’t require continuous focus for preparation.

Dry beans are much more of a bargain than canned beans. You can buy a sixteen ounce of canned beans for roughly as much as a sixteen ounce bag of dry beans, but the canned beans are already soaked and cooked and also include other liquids for preserving. In essence, you’re getting a lot less beans – beans with the flavor already cooked out, no less – and paying a lot more for what amounts to water.

Preparing the Beans

Start the process in an evening when you’re going to be at home the next day. First, put the dried beans in a colander and rinse them under cool water. Move the beans around with your hand so that all of the beans get thoroughly rinsed, eliminating any dust or dirt that might be on them.

Then, put the beans in a pot and add water until there’s about two inches of water on top of the beans. I usually measure it with my finger, with water up to the second knuckle and with the tip of my index finger touching the beans. Let that pot sit overnight (unless you’re using lentils, which do not need to soak) or, alternately, let them soak all day while you’re at work.

dry bean mixThe next morning, drain the beans and toss out the water they soaked in. Add six cups of water, put the pot over high heat, and wait until it’s boiling. Drop the heat down to medium-low so that the water is simmering and use the following guide for how long to let them simmer.

Black beans: 1 1/2 hours
Chickpeas: 2 1/2 hours
Lentils: 30 to 40 minutes
Pinto beans: 2 hours
Red beans: 2 1/4 hours

Generally, use the size of the bean as a rule of thumb for how long to cook them. This is easier to do once you’ve boiled some “standard” beans and are familiar with the sizes and boiling times. Also, use your own taste buds as a guide. When it gets close to the boiling to be finished, try a bean or two and see if you think they’re too hard. Drain off the water when finished.

Storing the Beans

Storing the beans is easy. After allowing them to cool to room temperature, ust put the beans in a covered container in your refrigerator and they’ll keep for up to four days. This works well if you have recipes you intend to use the beans in in the near future.

You can also freeze them, but only for a short period. I usually use quart containers and store them a cup at a time. They keep for about a month – any longer than that and they are very mushy when you thaw them.

Sometimes, I just make a batch of beans and leave them in the fridge even without a specific recipe. They’re so inexpensive and so tasty and so flexible that I’ll just add them to anything I’m preparing, from salads to scrambled eggs to tacos – or even just eat a bowl of them for lunch with some salsa and carrot sticks on the side.

Using the Beans

What can you use them for? I’ve mentioned a few above, but here’s a list of ten ways I like to use cooked beans in my own life.

Beans and rice:

cook up some rice, mix with the beans, add almost any other vegetable (and/or meat) you wish, and you’re good to go.

Bean salad:

Beans, a bit of olive oil, whatever veggies you have on hand diced up, and a bit of lemon juice and vinegar makes a great cold salad.

Burritos and tacos

: beans are a perfect ingredient.

Chili:

cooked beans are a fundamental ingredient in any chili.

Dips:

puree some beans and add other ingredients to your liking, like salsa or garlic (try pureeing the beans with chopped tomato, avocado, green onion, green pepper, cilantro, lime juice, and cayenne pepper for a great dip).

Salad:

toss a few on top of most salads.

Scrambled eggs:

just add a handful of beans as you’re scrambling them – perfect for breakfast burritos, too.

Side dishes:

Mix beans and salsa, top with some cheese of your choice, and bake until the cheese is melted for a very easy and tasty side for many meals.

Soups:

you can add beans to almost any soup to directly add protein to the mix.

Taco pizza:

use the ingredients for tacos – including beans – as a pizza topping (with perhaps more cheese than you might otherwise use).

There are so many uses for beans, they’re so cheap, and they’re packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A one pound bag of dried beans is simply the best bargain in a grocery store, in my opinion.

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  1. Vicky says:

    Great post! I also really enjoy using dried beans – no cans to throw out, nothing to drain, and no extra preservatives.

    I generally make a batch and flavor them all one way – I love to just boil them with lots of bacon and my own mix of seasonings. :)

    I love beans!

  2. Sara A. says:

    I prefer to use the crockpot to cook beans… especially in the summer.

    I soak them overnight inside the crockpot, then wake up and let them simmer all day. Then when I come home, the house smells great. Just drain the cook water and use for whatever recipe.

  3. JS says:

    Use pressure cooker.

  4. JS says:

    No need to boil them. I soak mine overnight, then in the morning throw them into a Crockpot with enough water to cover by 2 inches and set it on low. When I get home from work, the beans are ready to go–into a recipe, or just into the fridge for use later that week. Approximately 45 seconds of work total.

  5. Nathan says:

    Very important to note: DO NOT ADD SALT at any point in this process.

    Beans are great with salt, but wait until you are serving them to season them. If you add salt to the cooking liquid, or to the soaking liquid, it makes the beans horrible.

  6. Meghan says:

    You are a cook after my own heart. I love beans and don’t use anything but dried anymore! Sometimes I sneak them into my chili, even though I’m from Texas!!

    I especially like to make them into my own veggie burgers with rice and other veggies. Super delicious meal perfect for the summer :)

  7. Wesley says:

    So I really like chili. Usually I use canned chili beans. Can anybody link me to a good recipe that uses dried beans? I feel like there will be a lot of seasonings and such I need to put in that are already present in the canned stuff.

    Also, family favorite with dried beans. Ham and beans. Big slab of ham (family raises pigs so this is easy for me to get) and a bunch of Great Northern beans. With a side of homemade cornbread, it cannot be beat on a cold winter day.

  8. Cheryl says:

    I agree, use the pressure cooker:

    Black beans, kidneys, peanuts, black-eyed peas, pintos, and soy beans–pressure cook without soaking: 20-25 min.

    Mung beans, small red beans(azuki, aduki)–pressure cook without soaking: 30-35 min.

    Garbanzos (chick peas)–pressure cook without soaking: 40-45 min.

    Lentils,split peas–pressure cook without soaking: 10-15 min.

    (Diet for a Small Planet method)

    Obtain a small pressure cooker at your local resale store. Refurbish it with new sealing ring, pressure relief valve and weight if needed. Mine is over 50 years old and still works perfectly.

  9. Cheryl says:

    Wesley, Look at the ingredients list on the can for spice/herb suggestions, then season to taste with those.

  10. Adam P says:

    I recognize the bargain to be had, but my overall bean cost and bean consumption doesn’t justify boiling beans for hours on end to save $1 or so.

    My current bean usage for chili and soups amounts to opening a can of “Eden” organic no salt added beans (kidney or black soy or pinto or whatever) and draining then dumping in, which takes about a minute and costs ~$2. I estimate I may save over the course of a year about $20 by switching to using dried beans, although I would increase my time spent on beans thought and preparation by about 10000%. I’m thinking leaving my stove on for 3 hours to cook them would eat up a lot of the savings when my electricity bill came tho.

    This is the kind of personal finance that I can’t get behind, but I do know that a lot of people value it and this is a good post for them.

  11. Steve says:

    For people who really are new at this, you should add one step to the preparing stage. Before getting them wet, examine every single bean to make sure you don’t have a rock instead of a bean. I usually do this by just pouring a small handful, check that they’re all actually beans and then drop them into the colander for washing. It doesn’t take more than a minute or two to do this. I find at least one in every bag and sometimes more, and it definitely saves on chipping a tooth in the long run.

  12. Lindsey says:

    Beans are a bargain for sure! Packed with nutrients and essential for a healthy diet.
    It helps to add a piece of kombu (a sea vegetable) to the beans while boiling to add minerals and reduce gas. A bayleaf also works well and makes the kitchen smell great!

  13. Another benefit is that the sodium content in canned beans is really high as well as bpa from the coating on the inside of the cans! Waaay less waste, waay more flavor!

  14. Claire says:

    Those boiling times seem incredibly long to me. My times match up more with the times in comment #5, but I just soak them overnight and boil them on the stove like Trent. I’m not sure how the times could be so different. I guess the moral of the story is watch your beans! You don’t want them to turn to mush.

  15. Emily says:

    My husband makes beans a lot, and he frequently soaks the beans overnight in a lidded pitcher. I think this is especially genius because it allows you to easily pour off the water through the slotted spot.

  16. Amanda says:

    Wesley I made a simple chile this week. 1 cup onion 1 cup red bell pepper 2 cloves garlic sauteed a few min. Add that to crockpot (I used 2 cans black 2 cans kidney beans) 2 heaping tbsp chile powd, 1 28 oz can crushed tomato some water, salt and 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper. Delish w brown rice! Crock pot low for 6-8 hrs.

    i’m soaking black beans to freeze right now tho to save $. I’m
    vegan and use a can a day!

  17. jgonzales says:

    My favorite use for dried beans is to make refried beans in the crockpot. Put the beans in the crockpot with 9 cups of water and cook on low for 8-9 hours on low or 4-5 on high. Once cooked, drain the water from the beans, but keep it! Beat the beans with a mixer, adding the water slowly until it’s a nice thick consistency. To flavor, add any seasonings you want before you cook.

  18. Michelle says:

    Sorry guys, I’ve seen, not one, but two pressure cookers explode in my life. I’d prefer not to have a bomb sitting on my stove thankyouverymuch. Just use a crock-pot! I throw in the beans in the morning, cook them all day on high, and they’re ready by dinner. It’s about the easiest thing ever! And when is the last time you’ve heard of a crock-pot exploding?

  19. Gretchen says:

    Another vote for crockpot.

    They overcook too easily for me on the stove.

  20. Des says:

    @Adam P: My “bean time” only maybe doubles from canned to dry:

    Canned: Open can, dump beans, rinse can for recycling.

    Dry: Open bag into crock pot, cover with water, switch water, turn on crock pot.

    I can hardly count the time the beans soaked, since I was sleeping while it happened, nor the time they cooked, since I was at work while that happened. Like Sara said, you just come home to a batch of cooked beans.

    It’s really just a matter of habits. If you’re in the habit of buying canned beans, it seems like a ton of time to make them from dry. If you’re in the habit of making them from dry, it doesn’t feel like it takes much time at all. The same thing would be true for eating out. If you do it all the time, it seems like cooking at home it so much effort (and dishes). But when it’s your habit it’s just no big deal.

  21. Jamie says:

    Though I do most of the cooking, my boyfriend’s specialty is beans– He makes a huge pot (crockpot) about twice a month, and it feeds us for days! Our favorite way to eat them is by putting several cups of the cooked beans in a big frying pan over medium-low heat, and throwing a bunch of eggs in with the beans and covering the pan until the egg whites are solid. Then we serve them in bowls with avocado, tomato, and cheese, and voila! It’s DELICIOUS.

  22. Anonymous says:

    The best bean dish ever is Gallo Pinto!

  23. Johanna says:

    I realize that this doesn’t apply to everyone, but to me, the biggest advantage of dried beans over canned is that there’s less weight to carry. And since I do my grocery shopping on foot and by public transportation, that means I can carry more beans in one trip, so I make fewer trips to the grocery store and spend less in subway and bus fare.

    If I still lived 1 1/2 blocks from a grocery store, I’d still be buying canned beans almost exclusively.

  24. Adrienne says:

    “…drain the beans and toss out the water they soaked in.” Why not save it for watering your plants?

  25. Ajtacka says:

    Thank you for this post, Trent.
    I’m a vegetarian, so beans are important for my diet. The canned beans available to me now are basically baked beans, kidney beans and if I’m really lucky, chickpeas. So I’ve started dabbling in dried beans.

    One of the things I love is that here, all packs of dried beans are labelled the same: “Beans”. Red, big, small, spotty, white… all just “Beans”. Can anyone tell me a website with pictures and names so I can identify them??

    Also, 1 month in the freezer? That seems to me like a very short time – I have beans there that I cooked about 6 months ago. Is it just a texture thing, or they actually go ‘bad’?

  26. Julie says:

    I am a big fan of the crockpot for beans.

    Also for those that noted their cook times vary wildly, older beans take longer to cook or may require a longer soak.

  27. Rebecca says:

    Depending on the minerals and quality of your tapwater, your bean cooking time can vary. Adding a pinch of baking soda to decrease the pH of your water can speed up the cooking time substantially if you have acid water in your neighborhood.

  28. Ben says:

    VERY IMPORTANT,

    Don’t forget to sort the beans first to make sure there are no stones in them. One stone in your beans could ruin your whole day.

  29. valleycat1 says:

    #4 Wesley: http://www.cooking-mexican-recipes.com/pinto_bean_recipes.html Easy & totally delicious & easily multiplied or divided to quantity you want to make – the roasted garlic is the key! These also dehydrate well (my husband takes them when backpacking).

    I don’t soak dried beans overnight, although many people prefer to. Just rinse well & then cook slowly. Also, if you’re adding any salt, do at at the end, not the beginning, & they’ll soften more quickly.

  30. Maria says:

    I think you REALLY miss the frugal boat if you DON’T use a pressure cooker (got mine for a steal at Aldi’s two years ago) – saves a lot of electricity! My favorite website for times is Miss Vicki…
    http://missvickie.com/howto/times/timingframe.html
    Her rice methods are great, too!

    @#15Ajtacka – CHECK THIS OUT!!! Miss Vicki has PICTURES!!!

  31. AJDS says:

    A word to the wise- don’t let the beans soak too long. My mom forgot about some soaking and left them in the water for 2 or 3 days. Rotten beans smell exactly like throw-up. It wasn’t pleasant. *L*

  32. rhianndances says:

    Current research (from the ADA) shows that microwaving beans and legumes preserves the greatest amount of nutrients whereas using a pressure cooker takes away the most nutrients. Beans take about 5-15 mins depending on the bean. More water usually needs to be added halfway through the cooking time.

  33. chacha1 says:

    @Atjacka, it’s just a texture thing. Freezing makes the water retained in the beans expand, which disrupts the tissues of the beans. When they’re thawed, they’ll have less “bite” and be mushy.

    Now, if you’re making refried beans or putting them in chili or tacos or whatever anyway, that’s pretty much a negligible effect. If you wanted a side dish of nice whole structurally-sound beans, it’ll be a disappointment. :-)

  34. Sheila says:

    I use a crockpot to cook beans, also. I have read, however, that if you’re cooking red kidney beans in the crockpot, you need to boil them for 10 minutes first. There is a toxim in red kidney beans that’s only removed after boiling for 10 minutes, which a crockpot doesn’t do.

  35. Rebecca says:

    I went to dried beans over canned 2 years ago and never looked back. They taste sooooooo much better, and a lot less salt. Don’t add salt to the cooking water before they are done, it makes the beans tough. And if you are prone to gas, adding a small strip of Kombu, which you can find in Asian stores, can help with the gas issue. We have never pre boiled any beans, even kidney beans, with no issues, but it wouldn’t hurt them any.

    I tend to use my crock pots, because I have 3, but a pressure cooker can be very safe to use. Just make sure your seal is good and your valve is loose and working.

    And we definitely keep beans in the deep freezer for over a month, even over 4 months and I think they are fine. Actually the store canned beans are mushier. Make sure to drain the cooked beans well, and then just scoop them into a container, a pint size jar works good.

    Lastly, for anyone who have never had hummus they liked, you need to cook your own beans.

    Cooked garbanzo beans
    lemon juice
    tahini
    salt
    olive oil

    it is perfection itself. and has ruined any store bought hummus for me.

  36. Sarah says:

    I agree with Adam. How does the cost of cooking figure into the mix? I would think that 1-3 hours of stove time or all day of crock pot time would add some material cost. Are there any thoughts on this??

  37. Kestra says:

    Trent’s times are very similar to my own and I cook lots of dried beans. I’ve heard altitude can make a big difference in cooking times.
    I’ve never worried about how long my beans are frozen for, but I tend to use them pretty quickly (within 2-3 months at most).
    I’d just add to the instructions, I don’t know where Trent got 6 cups of water. I’m assuming he’s talking about cooking a pound at a time but didn’t specify.
    Just use LOTS of water, and add more as needed. The longer the bean has to cook, the more extra water they’ll need.
    I’m working on doing my own calculations re: cooking vs. canned cost. So far, my time might be more important in the immediate future, but I do like that there’s no additives when I cook from dry.

  38. Another Elizabeth says:

    Excellent post, Trent!

    I’d just like to add a trick I learned about a year ago for de-gassing beans that has really helped my family enjoy beans more. I rinse my beans, put them in a pot with an inch or two of water and bring them to a boil for about two minutes. Then I put the whole pot into the sink, dump in a good handful (1/4 cup?) of baking soda and stir like crazy until it quits foaming. Then dump the beans into a colander and rinse well, cover with some more hot water and let them continue soaking. Also, with the pre-boiling you really only need to let them soak for an hour or two instead of overnight.

  39. Grace says:

    A cook from Cuba shared her alternative to soaking: cover the beans in a pot with a generous amount of water; bring them to the boil; turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for one hour (before cooking further). I’ve been following this method with success.

  40. Melissa says:

    I have recently started using a crock pot to cook dried beans. I read a ton of info online that had wildly varying soaking (2 hours! overnight! not at all!) and cooking (all day! 3 hours!) times. I think crock pots must vary wildly in temperature. Here’s what works for me. I do not soak the beans. I put them straight into the crock pot then add water until it is 2 inches above the bean line. Cook on low for 4-5 hours. The first time I waited 6 and they were mush.

  41. Sandi says:

    Wow – your timing for this post is perfect…..My husband just bought several packages of dried beans for a couple of crock pot recipes, so we really appreciate the helpful tips!

  42. Kate says:

    Exploding pressure cookers are not fun and having grown up with one that exploded several times I would never use one in my house. Just the thought makes me sort of sick to my stomach.
    I love making beans in the crockpot. So easy!

  43. Jane says:

    @Cheryl
    Where do you find new sealing rings for pressure cookers? I tried to use an older pressure cooker, and I couldn’t get it to work. I figured it wasn’t properly sealed but didn’t know how to replace it. Now it’s just sitting, collecting dust in my basement. I would love to actually use it.

  44. almost there says:

    Used to like navy beans with ham in crockpot. Anasazi beans are somewhat sweeter(discovered from four corners area and reintroduced). They are red/rust and white. But now we are trying Paleo diet so no beans for us. Made a great meat pie from Mark’s daily apple site. Yummy.

  45. Cheryl says:

    Jane, re: New sealing rings
    There should be manufacturer info on the bottom of the pan and a model number. First try your local cooking equipment store. Someplace like Walmart may have them during the season. Or, go to the manufacturers website; or call them on the phone. I called on the phone since my cooker was so old. They were able to cross check to find the correct sealing ring (it was sold by Montgomery Wards, where my aunt worked, but manufactured by Mirro). Be sure to get a new pressure release “button” to prevent explosions.

  46. Brittany says:

    Crockpots are also incredibly energy efficient… I remember doing the calculations a while back, and it was costing me something like 20 cents to have my crockpot on for 8 hours. Definitely cheaper to cook than used canned beans, even if energy costs.

    I also have frozen beans for more than a month and had no problems. Frozen beans in liquid (soups) get tough, but frozen straight and frozen in sauces/ rice mixers are fine.

  47. Cheryl says:

    One way to tell if the pressure isn’t holding in is if there is steam or water coming out of the area between the lid and the pan. Try reversing the seal.

  48. SwingCheese says:

    I’ve never made beans in the crock pot or the pressure cooker. That somehow seems like more work than doing it on the stovetop (to me anyway), lol! I also make homemade hummus, with chickpeas, garlic, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper to taste, and I use chicken broth rather than tahini or olive oil for extra flavor and to get my consistency. I love homemade hummus!

  49. deRuiter says:

    Seems that exploding pressure cookers might be handler error. Make sure the little pipe on top on which the metal weight sits is clean and empty of gunk, NEVER FILL PRESSURE COOKER MORE THAN HALF FULL. Replace the little pressure relief black button every time you ut a new lid gasket, the little button comes with the ring in the box. When jiggler on top starts to jiggle, turn down heat to lowest setting which allows the gadget to jiggle at the rate you want. Turn off heat after required period of time, and allow pressure to release naturally, or put whole pressure cooker under stream of cool water in sink and open when steam stops escaping. Hard to see how a properly functioning pressure cooker using these techniques will explode. IF YOU OVER FILL THE PRESSURE COOKER THE SAFETY DEVICES MIGHT NOT WORK DUE TO CLOGGING. After frequent use of the pressure cooker for over 40 years with no mishaps, I’m a firm believer that pressure cookers are safe tools and energy and time savers. There was a mention in this column recently from a reader who froze the bag of dried beans over night which speaded the soaking time. Has anyone else experimented with this technique? Did it work?

  50. Our Life Inc says:

    @Wesley Chili powder and cumin should be plenty to get you started, spice wise. Sometimes I add some crushed red pepper as well.

    Great post Trent. I love beans. With your first dish, the beans and rice, my wife and I love to grill up some onions, peppers, mushrooms, zuchini and pineapple. Then we mix the grilled veggies with rice and beans. The flavor and texture of the beans and pineapple is like a party in your mouth! Highly recommended!

  51. Callie says:

    I vote for the pressure cooker. Without it a good bit of forethought is in order. With it you can choose to have beans last minute. I’m sure the newer ones are much safer than those of old. I saw one “explode”(the pot itself did not come apart) as a child too, but I’m not sure it wasn’t user error.

  52. DoDNA says:

    Please mention that you should visually look at the beans as sometimes there are little stones/rocks in the bags of dried beans. I know this sounds wierd but I have found them in various brands of dried beans and they really hurt when you bite down on one of them. :o)

  53. Jenn says:

    Modern pressure cookers are great! They really don’t explode :) They are now made with multiple safety valves… Don’t be afraid!

    Otherwise, I totally agree that beans are a great source of nutrition. I never think ahead, so I always end up using canned beans.

    I’m going to try using dry beans this week. I hope it goes well…

  54. Cat says:

    Dried beans have more nutrition (especially less sodium) that their canned counterparts. Plus you are also avoiding the BPA that is in can linings. Good enough reasons for me spend extra time prepping dried beans.

  55. Carol says:

    I go with the crockpot, also. Soak the beans over night, rinse and put in the crockpot with onions, garlic & seasonings. When I get home from work, it smells wonderful!

  56. michael bash says:

    Trent, I’m very glad to see you on the soak ‘m overnight team. Points from the voice of experience. 1) Rinse AND remove any small stones or corn kernels etc. The best beans are bought by weight NOT in a package. I live in Macedonia in Greece, and Florina is the bean capitol of the world, i.e. you can really taste the difference. 2) When you boil for the first time, a white foam will form. This is to be skimmed off. A purist will say drain, rinse and start again from cold water. It’s up to you. 3) NEVER add salt until beans are almost done. Send questions if you want. mbash1944@yahoo.com

  57. michael bash says:

    re #31 – I mean beans bought in bulk/by weight, not in a package. You don’t have to go to Florina, though if you want to, go in October. I have a standing order from a friend who hails from up there.

  58. Carol says:

    I was raised on beans (cooked on stove – no crockpots back in the olden days!) and cornbread, and I still love beans. I got lazy and bought mostly canned beans for years, but with the bpa issue, I’m going back to dried. I agree heartily with the earlier post about sorting first. I toss about 1/4 cup at a time on a white dinner plate and look carefully for ‘other than bean.’ Not only can a little stone ruin your day, but a little clod of dirt can stick together throughout the cooking process and then be pretty disgusting when you bite into it.

  59. Canner Jo says:

    Throw out the water the beans were cooked in? Have you never enjoyed a mug of soup bean (what we call pinto beans in the south) juice on a cold winter’s day?

    If you don’t plan to use the bean juice in your recipes, drain it and enjoy it as a warm beverage! I’m not sure how other dried bean juice would taste, though…

  60. HW says:

    You will want to make sure and add some salt to your cooked dry beans, otherwise they will taste a little bland. A little salt (maybe about 1 tsp per pound) really brings out the flavor.

    Also, it is my experience that beans cooked in the crockpot seem to fall apart and lose their shape more easily than cooked on the stove or in the pressure cooker. I’ve also stored beans in the freezer for more than a month without a problem.

  61. EdTheRed says:

    Spice things up! If I may suggest, add flavor to most of the beans mentioned by preparing a soffrito (sofrito in Spanish) before cooking the beans. Recipes for soffrito are all over the net. The Cuban and Puerto Rican versions are quite savory.

    I’ve had good success with olive oil, a clove or two of chopped garlic, chopped onion, chopped green pepper, fresh cilantro, a bit of dry oregano and ground cumin. Once the soffrito is nicely sweated (the onion is translucent) I add some marinara and then the soaked, par-boiled beans.

    Stir the beans and sauce together and simmer with plenty of water for the period that Trent mentioned above. I don’t add salt until the cooking time is almost over. The sauce should thicken up nicely towards the end of the cooking period, as long as the lid on the pot is tilted to allow for evaporation.

    For a shortcut, I’ll make and sautee the soffrito then use canned beans. Sometimes they are a little to salty for my taste. Besides, I don’t like the fact that there is BPA lurking in the can liners.

    A note about soffrito: It can be prepared in a blender and then frozen in small containers until you are ready to sautee. I’m not sure how long it keeps in the freezer, but I figure it’s good for at least three or four weeks.

  62. Erica says:

    Ever since my husband and I transitioned to eating (a lot) less meat, beans (dried beans) have become a large part of our diet. There are a couple of things that we’ve learned that have made it way easier for us to love them.

    #1: No soak! Having to soak my beans before use was a huge impediment, as if I decided beans were what I wanted to eat, I had to soak and wait for the next day. Beans in a heavy pot in the oven for 90 minutes or so, with no soaking? GENIUS. The Paupered Chef did a great article here on the method: http://thepauperedchef.com/2009/06/90-minute-no-soak-beans.html

    #2: Buy really fresh beans, and use them in a timely fashion. That means (for us) buying from the bulk bins at the local cooperative or Whole Foods (not actually as expensive as advertised if you stick to the bulk/produce sections); if these aren’t an option, checking in ethnic foods shops. Bulk bins are turned over pretty frequently, and ethnic food shops also go through stock of stuff like this on a reasonable basis, while I’ve found that the bags of beans on the bottom shelf in the soup aisle frequently have a layer of dust or the plastic is starting to cloud. By the same token, if you buy them and let them sit in the pantry for two years, you don’t reap the benefits of freshness. Dried beans that are fresh cook more quickly, become more tender, maintain a better structural integrity, and the flavor is miles better.

    #3: Try some different beans – especially some heirloom varieties. This isn’t so much of the money-saving thing – it brings dried beans back on par with canned – but you get flavors you can’t find anywhere else. Five bucks for what turns into two pounds of soaked/cooked beans – where else will you find two pounds of the highest quality of anything for that kind of money? Rancho Gordo is a good place to get them, and they ship all over if you don’t live in the SF Bay area.

    I’ll have to try adding Kombu as Rebecca in #20 suggested. That’s been my only issue with using dried beans.

  63. Emma says:

    Remember that red kidney beans contain a dangerous toxin (haemagglutinin) that causes very nasty food poisoning if the beans are undercooked. It is crucial to soak the beans (8 hours minimum), change the water and bring them to a rapid boil for at least 10 minutes before simmering until cooked. Soaking the beans and then cooking in a slow cooker without boiling is a recipe for a trip to the hospital!

  64. Lisa says:

    After soaking the beans, drain, then divide them into usable portion sizes & freeze them. (I freeze in 1.5 cup portions, which roughly equals 1 can when cooked.) It’s then a simple matter to cook a small portion of beans whenever you want to. You can leave them in the freezer almost forever this way.

    Freezing soaked beans also greatly reduces the cooking time required.

  65. Angie says:

    You know those little cloves of garlic that are in the center of the bulb, the ones that are annoyingly small? I always throw them in my beans when they are cooking. Then you can fish them out at the end.

    Or, if you are making refried beans you can leave them in and mash them up with everything else. Yum!

  66. elizabeth says:

    I love beans for the reasons you’ve stated!

    One tip though: if you soak the beans overnight with a bit of baking soda (a tsp or so) it eliminates the.. smell.

  67. valleycat1 says:

    When you add water to beans while they’re already cooking, use boiling (from a teapot or at least hot tap) water – keeps the temp up so the cooking time doesn’t increase.

  68. Arvin says:

    Would love to hear the actual savings versus using canned beans (I understand the taste argument but it doesn’t bother me). How much are you really saving when you account for the water you use, the gas or electricity, and the all important time factor? Personally I’d still stick with canned for my purposes.

  69. Carol Terry says:

    All this talk has made me hungry for Red (kidney) Beans and Rice – but mine have no taste! What kind of spices, additives should I put in for that New Orleans taste??

  70. Elisabeth says:

    Try this faster method. Pick over for stones, rinse, cover as you describe in water. Bring to a boil, then immediately shut off. Let sit covered on the stove for an hour or two. Bring back to a simmer until done. They cook very quickly with this way.

  71. AnnJo says:

    In my area, one-pound bags of beans at the store are nearly three times more expensive per pound than the 25# bags I get at my local Cash & Carry. They store very well and are a cornerstone of emergency food storage, so why not get them in bulk?

    For all the emphasis on frugality, it does seem to me that whenever Trent shows a picture of his ingredients in a cooking post, or talks about food purchases, the items are purchased in small quantities and the prices seem quite high compared to what I spend, especially considering he’s in the Corn Belt and I’m in a pricy coastal community. Unless storage or pests are a problem, why would anyone buy rice, beans, oatmeal, pasta, etc. in one-pound increments?

  72. AnnJo says:

    I’m one more vote for pressure cookers, and modern ones are very safe IF YOU FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. And pressure cooking beans requires a little special care, because too big a batch and they can foam up and block the pressure release thingamajiggies. I’ve only started using pressure cookers and canners in the last few years, and they are wonderful things!

  73. Michael says:

    Trent,

    I don’t use beans enough. Thanks for the post, which has helpfully reminded me to do so more. One thing to decrease cooking time significantly: instead of (1) soak for hours/overnight (2) boil for the times given, I instead (1) parboil (i.e., boil for just a few minutes), which I suppose gets the water seeping into the beans faster, then (2) soak, then (3) boil for much less time than you gave. It works great; try it!

  74. nicole says:

    I love beans as well in bacon grease, and re-fried on taco’s.
    For Ajtacka and anyone else who’s interested here’s a good list of bean types with pictures: http://www.all-creatures.org/recipes/i-beans.html
    And does anyone know whether dried beans will sprout? If so then that’ll be another cheap ingredient for lunch for me.

  75. Bill says:

    I am a bit confused about the pressure cooker fears, unless you defeat the safety measures myth buster style with welding down the bobbler(sp) how are your having these explosions?

    @#22 Kate if you saw a pressure cooker explode once, the pressure cooker would be incapable exploding agian.

    If a pressure did explode, it would be capable of penetrating a wall or roof.

    AND

    it would make the local news every single time.

  76. Kate says:

    @#40 Bill: I know what I saw and I saw what I saw. The top exploded off, the contents flew all over the place and it was frightening enough that I, like Michelle wouldn’t use one.
    Even though I know that pressure cookers have improved in the years that have passed, it was traumatic enough that I don’t care to use one. I know that not everyone feels this way and I am okay with that.

  77. Maria says:

    @#42 Kate – Trauma is Trauma. I count myself lucky I never saw it. I’ve been using the modern type with the safely valve for many years now and couldn’t live without it. Beans, rice, stocks, really everything. WAY faster and better for so many things – but I didn’t even KNOW they could explode so THANK YOU! I won’t be taking the old one my MIL keeps offering for canning but buying my own brand new one :-)

  78. Sarah says:

    Agreed! I cook up a crockpot of Great Northern and a crockpot of pintos every few weeks, then store them in 1 to 2 c. amounts in small ziploc bags in the freezer. By my estimation, I am saving about half price of canned beans with very little work.

  79. kristine says:

    What about the water the beans are soaked in? Why toss it? It must be full of tasty nutrients that a garden would love, no?

  80. Darryl says:

    If I am using the beans in a stew which will cook for an hour and a half, should I par boil them for an hour or so first? Or will the stew cooking time be enough? Black and white beans. Thanks

  81. littlepitcher says:

    I read recently that if you freeze the raw, dried beans prior to cooking them, that they will take less time to cook. Do purchase your beens from a store which gets plenty of turnover. You do not want to start a pot for black bean salad for a party, only to find that, 18 hours later, the beans were petrified from old age and will never soften.
    Turkey ham has fewer calories and fat than pork ham, generally is cheaper, and makes a superb seasoning meat. If you find it on sale, purchase plenty and dehydrate it.
    Add the same amount sugar or sweetener to beans that you use in salt. The small amount improves their flavor dramatically.
    Use leftover beans in stuffed peppers or meatloaf to stretch the meat and improve the flavor.
    Somewhere in my reading, I found a factoid that 25% of the calories in beans are from insoluble fiber and therefore are not digested by the body. This should be good news to all, unless you plan to have tasty but fattening cornbread with your “44’s”–mountain slang derived from the caliber of a Civil War pistol and the bean’s postprandial, noisy flatulence.

  82. Ranga says:

    Use pressure cooker. That’s what a billion people use in India to cook food, everyday.
    And, pressure cooker fits the theme of this site. It is perhaps ‘the most frugal’ way to cook, esp for beans, rice, many vegetables etc.

  83. Ranga says:

    #43 kristine : That is an awesome tip. Thanks !

  84. Aaron says:

    This is counterintuitive; I find that I can reduce the cooking time for black beans and chick peas by reducing the heat. They tend to come out a little softer too.

  85. Janice says:

    Having lived on the coast all my life, I had no idea it was so difficult to cook beans at higher altitudes.

    My pressure cooker has solved all my problems. Works for rice also. . .thank goodness someone told me!

  86. Jen says:

    Hooray for beans! We have been cooking our own beans and freezing extras for a few years now; I only keep a few cans on hand for those occasions when I run out or need extra. It’s not only a money saver, but there is less waste (I bring my own cloth bag to the store and fill it in the bulk section) and no exposure to BPA lined cans.

    Wesley, here is a simple recipe for meatless chili – add meat if you wish, we are vegetarian so I wouldn’t be able to tell you how much to add:

    1 large white or yellow onion, sauteed
    1 large bell pepper, sauteed

    8 c cooked beans (I cook all my beans first vs cooking from dried with all other ingredients then make my chili) – black, kidney, pinto, or a mixture of these

    1 can diced tomatoes (I love fire roasted tomatoes w/ green chilis)

    1-2 cans tomato sauce*
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    2-4 Tablespoons chili powder, to taste
    1 tsp cumin
    1 tsp oregano

    *If you need more liquid as the chili cooks, you can add plain water, veggie broth or more tomato sauce

    Dump it all into a crockpot and cook for 6 hours on low OR cook on stovetop — bring all to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for an hour.

    Freezes *very* well!

  87. Terri says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I am printing it out and putting it in my personal cookbook!

  88. Annie says:

    Has anyone considered the price of gas from a natural gas stove into the overall price of dried beans? I have often wondered how much that adds to your energy bill. It also makes me wonder which uses more overall energy-a can of beans with the creation of the can and the beans at a factory with the can recycled, or a batch of beans that cook on the stove, sometimes for hours if it is not with a pressure cooker. Any info or websites with such info is welcome!

  89. Does your site have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an e-mail.

    I’ve got some ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing.
    Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it expand over time.

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