How To Cook Dry Beans

how to cook dry beans
“Why in the world would she want to cook her own beans?  Canned are cheap as “beans” 😉 to begin with!”

Well, yes, beans are a fairly inexpensive protein in the can, but here are many reasons why I cook my own.

  1.  Avoid the BPA.   Most cans contain BPA in the lining.  Until a suitable alternative is available, cooking your own reduces this exposure.
  2. Save Money.  Dry beans are anywhere from 1/2 to 1/3 the price of canned beans.  I did a comparison in my area and this is what I found – You can buy a pound of dry Goya black beans at Market Basket for $1.49 which cooks up to at least 6 cups of beans.  This is the equivalent of 3 cans which will cost you about $2.40.  You have saved $0.91.  Now you could take that savings and run.  Or use the savings to buy organic dry beans.  Dry organic black beans in bulk at Hannaford are $2.99 per lb  For some reason I couldn’t find organic canned beans at Hannaford or Market Basket, so from amazon a can of Eden Organic black beans is $1.66.  Again, a little more than 1/2 the price.
  3. I control the ingredients.  There is usually a lot of salt added to canned beans.
  4. Taste and texture.  I can control how soft the beans are by cooking them more or less.  The taste also seems fresher to me.
  5. Reduce packaging waste.  I have been trying to reduce whatever waste I can.  By buying beans in bulk, in my own container, there is another package eliminated!

I know.  It seems difficult and not worth it.  It really isn’t that tough.  Yes it takes a little more planning on the cooking and using (defrosting) end.  When I need beans for a recipe, I cook up at least a pound of beans, use what I need then freeze the rest.  To defrost them quicker, I place the glass jar in a bowl of cool water.  Again, it is not as fast as popping the lid off a can, but close.

I will let you in on a little secret.  Years ago, before marriage and kids, I lived with my cousin.  We tried a few times to cook dry beans and they never got soft, so we gave up.  Well, years later I discovered that you have to soak AND cook them.  We only ever soaked them!  Ah to be young!  

How To Cook Dried Beans

This applies to beans that need to be soaked and cooked.   This method does not apply to lentils or split peas since they don’t need to be soaked and cook very quickly.

Step 1: Prep   Dry beans often have small stones or clumps of dirt in them.  This is normal, but you need to get those out before you cook them.  Sort through the beans, picking out the undesirables then rinse in cold water.

Step 2: Soak   Most beans need to be soaked before cooking.  The larger the bean, the longer the soaking, the longer the soaking the shorter the cooking time. 

Black eyed peas and Adzuki beans do not require soaking – skip this step.

Overnight method:  Put beans in a bowl (I use the pot I will be cooking them in) add enough cold water to cover the beans completely with a few inches of water.  They will absorb the water as they soak.  Let sit overnight (6 -8 hours).

Quick soak:  Place in a pot with enough water covering the beans.  Bring to a boil and boil for 2 mins.  Take pot off the heat, cover and let sit for 2 hours.

Step 3: Cook   Remove any beans that are floating.  Drain and rinse the beans.  Place them in a pot.  Add enough cold water to cover the beans by one inch.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.  If cooking kidney beans, boil for 10 mins. before lowering the heat to destroy a toxin in the beans .  Simmer until beans are tender (see table below for approximate cooking times).  When checking for doneness, test a few beans to make sure they have all cooked.  You can add seasoning while cooking, but do not add salt or anything acidic.  Your beans will never cook.

These times are a rough guide.  Depending on the age of your beans and the length of time you soaked them, the times may vary.



Cooking Time

Black Beans


1 hour
Black-eyed peas

1 hour

Cannellini beans

1 ¼ hours

Chick peas/Garbanzo beans


1 – 1 ½ hours

Great Northern Beans


1 hour

Kidney Beans


1 ¼ hours

Peas -split


1 hour

Pinto Beans


1– 1 ½ hours


SAVE the cooking liquid!   Often you will want some cooking liquid when using the beans.  Definitely for chick peas – I always add some cooking liquid when making hummus.  Just add some of the liquid to your storage container.  It will also help the beans from getting dried out.

Beans will keep in the refrigerator for about 4 days.

For longer storage (up to 6 months), freeze them.  Baggies, plastic containers, or glass – whatever works for you!  I freeze mine in 2 cup portions (just like the cans) in pint mason jars with some of the cooking liquid.

Easy peasy right!?  Apparently, you can also cook them in a slow cooker.  That will have to be another post since I haven’t tried it yet.

Do you cook your own beans?

Top photo take by CIAT/Flickr used under Creative Commons.

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14 Responses to How To Cook Dry Beans

  1. srambach October 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    I have started to cook my own beans – but have been bewildered by inconsistent and unspecific instructions. Thanks for a succinct and comprehensive guide! I am printing it for future reference!

  2. CelloMom October 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    Some foodies recommend soaking the beans for at least 24 hours; they will start the sprouting process, and although 24 hours is much too short for them to actually sprout leaves, they will have pre-digested some of the stuff that causes flatulence.
    One of my friends, who is married to a chef, recommends adding a tablespoon of baking soda to the soaking water: it makes the beans more tender. As she says, Food Science Rocks!

    • Kristina (The Greening Of Westford) October 26, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

      I have heard of the longer soaking and baking soda. I’ve never tried it though. I don’t seem to have much of an issue with the gas, but my husband does if we have beans too often – I’m sure he’ll appreciate this! Thanks for adding to the conversation.

      • Esmereldan Campbell May 9, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

        Actually, the more that your husband eats beans, the less gas he will have. This is because of the gut microflora & bacteria will adjust.

        Personally, I quit pre-soaking my dried beans after having worked in a deli-bakery that always started a crock pot of dried beans every morning by filling the pot and adding dried beans straight from the package.

        Now, whenever I cook dried beans, I put the beans in a large pot, add plenty of water (but NO salt!!!) along with a big dollop of olive oil and herbs or spices, and turn on the burner as low as I can. I let it cook for several hours, checking on it occasionally and giving it a stir, to ensure that the beans do not run out of water and/or burn.

        After a while, they are done and I eat a bowl. Yum!

        If I am going to add pork, I usually do it after the beans have cooked for at least an hour.

        If I am going to add onions, I do so in the beginning – same with garlic. Onions and beans I think are great!

        Your husband might try taking digestive enzymes to help him with the beans. They are pretty inexpensive when bought from Puritan’s Pride or Swanson’s Vitamins.

  3. Small Footprints October 29, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    We almost always use dried beans … I love the smell of them cooking and that feeling that I’m preparing a food which is basically in it’s natural form (while I suppose they are processed in the sense that they are shucked from the pod and packaged, they aren’t as processed as the canned version). Like you … I like to control the ingredients and texture and I especially like that I’m not getting any toxic ingredients from the can. I typically use a crock-pot to cook them … I place them in at night and when we wake up … like magic … beans, cooked to perfection. I like the idea of letting them “sprout” … I’ve read about doing that with rice but it never occurred to me to try it with beans … but I’m all for added nutrition. We don’t suffer from the intestinal problems associated with beans … we’re vegan and have made beans a primary protein so I think our bodies have adjusted. Thanks for a wonderful post … so informative!

    • Kristina (The Greening Of Westford) October 29, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

      I definitely need to try the crock pot method! Seems much easier than watching them so closely – which I often forget to do!

    • Small Footprints November 16, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

      I just repinned this post on Pinterest (with the new address) and wanted to update you on our bean cookery. I now soak the beans for 24 hours and, while we never really had any tummy troubles with them before, I find that they are even more digestable … I’d even say they are calming to our stomachs. I’ve also started using a pressure cooker … which I LOVE! In about 10 minutes I have perfectly cooked beans. Truly, using a pressure cooker is as fast as opening a can and heating it through … and a pressure cooker doesn’t add any BPA or weird ingredients. Thanks, again, for this post!

      • Kristina November 17, 2013 at 10:08 am #

        Thank you for updating the address and the update on the method! I have wondered about that. My husband seems to have some issues. I’ll have to try that. One of these days I WILL get a pressure cooker.

    • Esmereldan Campbell May 9, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

      I sometimes will add a little bit of rolled oats to a pot of beans. They add a difference in texture that reminds me of meat plus I like combining proteins like that.

      If you decide to sprout beans, I have read to be careful and not eat raw kidney beans although I have done so, back before I read that, and had no ill effects.

      Different whole grains like rye berries will also sprout and taste good.

  4. Cheree @ The Morning Latte January 31, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    I have always used dry beans (saves $ and space; always have them on hand) but I never soak them–I just bring them to a boil, reduce and simmer with the lid on till done. Time varies but, in general, most are about an hour. What I’ve always wanted, tho, is a chart of how much of each type of dried bean is needed to equal one can! After so many years, my guessing works but I think it would be handy for those new to using them.

    • Kristina (The Greening Of Westford) June 6, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

      I wish I could do that Cheree! My beans always take so long. I was just reading that it could be because we have very hard water here. In fact, that same book gave yields on different types of beans. No idea how accurate they are but:

      for most beans: 1 cup dried = 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups cooked
      Chick peas, lima beans, great northern: 1 cup dried = 2 1/2 – 3 cups cooked
      lentils: 1 cup dried = 3 cups cooked

      This book also says that a 14 oz can has 1 1/2 cups of beans, but I always feel like it’s closer to 2 cups????

  5. Irene_J June 6, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    This summer I discovered that if I soak beans for a couple of days in the fridge they actually cook SUPER fast. Sometimes in as little as 20 minutes. It was kind of a happy accident: 90 degree heat with high humidity meant I was NOT going to boil a pot of beans for a couple of hours indoors, so I waited until the next day when it cooled off. Black beans won’t cook that quickly, but most other ones will.

    I really like cooking beans with peppercorn and fennel seed. I usually use them whole, and leave the seeds in when I use them later on. Same with cumin seed.

    Good look on the cilantro root! I am definitely trying that.

    irene of Janitorial Service Dallas

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