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Beans are economical, easy to prepare, and a healthful source of plant-based protein. They come in many varieties, sure to suit almost every palate, and are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber plus contain an impressive array of minerals. Most beans have a very neutral flavor profile, lending themselves to a variety of flavors. Properly prepared beans can be a wonderful way to stretch your food budget. There’s so much to love about beans, I could wax poetic for hours! And sometimes I do, just ask my husband. So today I’m sharing how to cook dry beans—6 different ways!

How to Cook Dry Beans

 

To Soak or Not to Soak

We all know beans have a bit of a—ahem—reputation. With proper preparation, we can help eliminate the digestive issues associated with beans.

A quick internet search will produce many recipes that allow you to skip the soaking process or do a “quick” soak. I don’t recommend this. Without a proper long-term soak, our healthy beans are likely to produce gas and discomfort.

In addition, beans contain phytic acid, like all seeds do, which may impede mineral absorption. We can neutralize this by soaking. Harder beans (such as pinto, kidney, black, navy beans, etc.) contain large, complex sugars called oligosaccharides that can “completely confound digestion.”

By giving our beans a good, long soak in an ample amount of water, we can help with the digestive and mineral absorption issues.

 

How to Soak Beans

  1. Sort your beans to remove any debris.
  2. Put in a colander and rinse.
  3. Move the beans to a bowl or cooking container and cover with enough water to go over the beans by a couple of inches. Ideally, you should use warm water to help with the soaking process. Admittedly, I don’t. I use room temperature water straight from the Berkey filter, choosing to extend the soaking time up to 24 hours. If you choose to soak for this length of time, you should change the water at least once. An overnight soak in warmish water is suitable for most people and most beans.
  4. If you are particularly sensitive to beans and have known digestive issues even with soaking, you should choose a 24-hour soak. Also, consider sprouting your beans for several days before cooking.
  5. At the end of your soaking time, there may be some scum or bubbles. Drain and rinse your beans. They should smell fresh. If they smell sour or rotten, rinse them some more. If they still smell bad, there may have been an issue with the beans and they should be discarded. This is rare, but it could happen.

 

How to Cook Dry Beans

When cooking beans, my goal is to make one large pot to use for three or four meals for a family of five. I call these Stretchy Beans. This helps cuts down on my food costs and also the time I spend in the kitchen each day. If you wish to only cook enough beans for a single meal (with leftovers), start with 1/3 the amount I use.

Sort and soak 5 cups of beans (approximately 2 pounds, depending on the type of bean). Once the soaking time is completed, choose your cooking method below. Each requires little effort!

*Note: With all of the following cooking methods, you should salt your beans after they’re cooked to prevent them from becoming too tough.

 

Stovetop

Start with 5 cups of picked-over beans (to remove any stones or debris) and rinse thoroughly.

Soak the beans in plain water the night before you want to cook them, or up to 24 hours (be sure to change the water at least one time if soaking for a full day). I usually soak them right in the stockpot I’ll use to cook them in, making sure I’ve added plenty of water. The beans will swell and nearly triple in volume.

At the end of your soaking time, drain the soaking water off, giving them a good rinse, and put the beans back in the stockpot.

Cover the beans with homemade broth, water, or a mixture of both. I prefer to cook my beans in bone broth to add more nutrients. If I don’t have any broth made, I’ll often add a package of previously cooked bones from my freezer stash and then cover it all with water.

Bring the pot of beans to a boil and then cover and simmer for 1 to 1 ½ hours; longer as needed or less for smaller legumes like lentils. When finished cooking, season with salt, pepper, and garlic.

The beans are now ready to be divided up. Take out enough beans for supper, then divide the remaining beans into two or three other portions, depending on your menu plan for the week.

 

Crockpot

Start with 5 cups of picked-over beans (to remove any stones or debris) and rinse thoroughly.

In the crockpot, soak the beans in plain water the night before you want to cook them (or up to 24 hours, changing the water at least one time).
The next morning, drain the soaking water off and put the beans back in the crockpot, then cover with homemade broth, water, or a mixture of both.

Cook on low for 5 to 8 hours. Larger beans take longer than smaller beans. When they’re thoroughly cooked, lightly season the entire pot with salt, pepper, and garlic.

Take out enough beans for supper, then divide the remaining beans into two or three other portions, depending on your menu plan for the week.

 

Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker

Start with 5 cups of picked-over beans (to remove any stones or debris) and rinsed thoroughly.

In the Instant Pot or pressure cooker, soak the beans in plain water the night before you want to cook them (or up to 24 hours, changing the water at least one time).

The next morning, drain the soaking water off and put the beans back in the Instant Pot, then cover with homemade broth, water, or a mixture of both.

Cooking times vary based on the type of pressure cooker and the type of beans you use. Follow the instructions in your Instant Pot manual or pressure cooker, or look up cooking times online.

Please be aware, beans that have been soaked will cook faster than beans that were not soaked. I’ve found 11 minutes with a natural release to work well for pinto beans. Your experience may vary based on the age of your beans and your altitude.

When they’re thoroughly cooked, lightly season the entire pot with salt, pepper, and garlic.

Take out enough beans for supper, then divide the remaining beans into two or three other portions, depending on your menu plan for the week.

*Note: I don’t use the Instant Pot very often, but my friend Wardee at Traditional Cooking School is a pro with it. If you’re new to pressure cooking, she has two pressure cooking courses that are very affordable and will teach you everything you need to know.

How to Cook Dry Beans

 

Alternative, Energy-Saving Cooking Methods

 

Woodstove

Beans turn out wonderfully on the woodstove!

Soak the beans for your chosen soaking time, pour off the soaking water, and give them a good rinse. Add broth, water, or a mixture of both, and then bring it to a boil on the stovetop.

Move your pot to the woodstove and cook until finished. It takes 8 to 10 hours to cook beans like black and pinto. Lentils cook in just over an hour. Of course, these cooking times can be faster or slower depending on how hot your fire is.

 

Hay Box

Another cheap cooking method is a hay box cooker, or some variation thereof. This is something like a non-electric crockpot. The idea here is to heat a dish to boiling and then nestle it inside of an insulated box.

You can buy a non-electric slow cooker, make your own hay box cooker, or do what I do—use an old cooler and some towels. This works great! You still need to use your stovetop to start the process, but the cooking time is limited.

First, in a pot that will fit inside your hay box, soak your beans overnight and then drain and rinse in the morning. Return the beans to the pot and cover with broth, water, or a mixture of both.

On the stovetop, boil for 10 minutes and then move the pot to your hay box cooker. Depending on the variety of bean, it can take anywhere from 8 to 12 hours for them to soften.

If you choose the old cooler and towel method, you may wish to add a couple jars of hot, almost-boiling water. My cooler isn’t as efficient as it once was, so the jars of hot water help with holding in the heat.

 

Solar Oven

When conditions are right, I may also use my Sun Oven. The Sun Oven is amazing! But as much as I love it, I admit, I don’t use it often enough. While we have plenty of sun and it heats up wonderfully, the wind can sometimes be an issue. And let me tell you, we have some wind in Wyoming!

But seriously, the Sun Oven works great and makes those inexpensive beans even more economical by not adding the additional cost of electricity. Plus, it’s so simple to use.

After soaking and rinsing your beans, just fill the pot with broth or water, or a mixture of both, put it in the Sun Oven, and let it cook. The length of cooking time may vary depending on the temperature you are able to achieve.

This is not a “set it and forget it” method. You’ll need to monitor the progress and adjust the oven to best capture the sunshine.

 

My Favorite Bean Recipes

 

Learn How to Make Delicious & Healthy Bean Recipes

Do you struggle with feeding your family delicious, healthy meals? Are you tired of trying to figure out what’s for dinner each night? Do you cringe when you see how much money your family spends on groceries each month?

If so, Stretchy Beans is the solution you’ve been looking for! Inside Stretchy Beans: Nutritious, Economical Meals the Easy Way, you’ll discover:

  • How to cook healthy, affordable beans with amazing flavors
  • How to make one pot of beans each week and turn it into 3+ delicious meals the whole family loves—without feeling like you’re eating the same thing every night
  • How to spend less time in the kitchen, while still getting dinner on the table every night
  • Weekly Stretchy Beans meal plans that you can adapt to fit your family
  • And much, much more!

Download your copy of Stretchy Beans here!

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