Cooking dried beans from scratch might seem daunting to someone who’s never done it. Really, it comes down to two basic steps: Soaking and Cooking. Soak your beans overnight, drain and rinse off the soaking liquid, then cook in fresh water. These Chef’s Tips will help you make them Ultimate Beans. And if you’re still scared, just skip the cooking, grab a couple of cans, and follow tip number 9: Be Bold and Go For It!
1) Soaking: Soak your beans. You can soak them overnight for at least 8 hours. Remember that the beans will grow 2-3 times in size while soaking so soak them in a large enough container to cover with 3-4 inches of water. For a “quick soak”: Boil the beans for 1 minute, then soak for 10 minutes in that hot water. Drain and rinse the beans after soaking then cook in fresh water.
2) Baking Soda: It’s all about the base here. We’re talking chemistry with this “base”. Add ½ tsp. of baking soda the next time you’re stewing a big pot of beans to help tenderize them faster. This will speed up the cooking time, especially helpful with older dried beans.
3) Hold the Salt: Conversely, hold off on adding salt and other acids until the end of cooking. Wine, citrus juices, vinegars – if using these, add after the beans are tender. Adding them early can toughen the beans.
4) Skim the Foam: When you bring you beans come to a boil, you’ll notice a foam on the surface, sort of like the foam that forms on top of the sea. Skim this off. This occurs as the beans release their gasses. This foam is NOT tasty – get rid of it.
5) Rinse the Foam: When using canned beans, you might notice the same foam. Rinse them in a colander, under running water, until the water runs clear and there is no more foam. Again, this foam is NOT tasty and can make your stomach grumble. Get rid of it.
6) Flavor Town: Take a Flavor Town trip with the aromatics you add while cooking beans. Dried peppers, onions, and garlic will take you south of the border. Oregano, thyme, and garlic will take you through a tour of Europe. Ginger, red chili, and star anise will take you to Asia.
7) Size matters: Big beans means longer cooking, chunky texture – great for hearty winter stews. Smaller beans mean quicker cooking, bite-sized texture – great for salads, bean purees, and little mouths. Yes, kids love plain beans. I’ve especially seen gobble up edamame – they love picking up the beans with their little fingers.
8) Diversity: Enjoy the beautiful colors patterns, sizes, and shapes of beans. There are Anasazi beans, named after the Anasazi horse of the southwest. There are Peruvian Giant Lima Beans. Colorful Yellow Eye Steubens. Creamy White Cannellini. Tiny Red Adzuki. Green Mung…you get the idea.
9) Be Bold and Go For It: Beans can be added to practically any salad, soup, stew, or chili. Think of them as a plant-based swap for roasted chicken breast or ground meat in Chicken Salad, Turkey tacos, braised Chicken thighs, or Beef Bolognese.
For the “Seedling” beginner cooks: Pick up 2 cans of beans this weekend and use them by next Friday.
For the “Team Kale” advanced cook: Cook a batch of dried beans from scratch. Experiment with them in two recipes (soups, salads, dips, etc) by next Friday.
Go for it, Team Plants!
Quick Video with Showing You Two Tips for Making Great Stewed Beans:
Search for any of your favorite Plants-Rule Bean recipes here:
Pressure Cookers are a great tool for cooking beans. They can cut the cooking time for cooking dried beans down to 20 minutes. Based on recommendations from experienced bean-cookers at Chicago Vegan, these are two recommendations, on for the stove-top and the other a plug-in: