Cooking Dry Beans

Updated on February 12, 2015
B.D. asks from Pittsburgh, PA
15 answers

While grocery shopping I started to second guess my purchase of canned beans. I know I've read online that you can cook them overnight in a crock pot so I picked up a bag of dry beans.

So now here's my question, what is the best method for cooking them? Is the crock pot the best method? I assume you add salt? Do you just freeze them in storage bags? And FINALLY...what about the recipes that I would typically use the beans AND liquid...what do I do about the gelatinous liquid I'll be missing?

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So What Happened?

I bought a bag of black beans and great northern beans. Does it make a difference? I assumed they were all the same. Glad I asked!

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answers from Louisville on

If you throw a tablespoon of baking soda while they are cooking, they will be less gassy.

Here's what I used when learning to do beans in the crock pot... The black bean chili recipe at the bottom is awesome!

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answers from Columbia on

Follow the directions on the bag. You soak them overnight (don't do the quick method). In the morning, strain the dirty water and put 1/2 of the beans into your crockpot. Put the other half in the freezer (hey, you won't have to soak next time).

Most recipes for Great Northern Beans, Navy Beans, Ham and Beans, etc. start with adding 8 cups of water. Then chopped onions, a hamhock, white pepper, chopped carrots and celery. I don't add salt until the very end as it makes the beans tough. Cook on low in your slowcooker all day. Enjoy!

Both black beans and Great Northerns need to soak overnight. I enjoy black beans in my chili or baked beans. I use Great Northerns and Navy Beans for ham and bean soups.

ETA: Here's some information about the Phytohaemagglutinin (Kidney Bean Lectin) which Julie mentioned. As you can see at the bottom of the page, soaking and dumping the water and pre-boiling, will prevent the problem. Also note that you shouldn't eat undecooked beans.

And here I thought they were being beans. You know, "rooty toot toot."

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answers from Boston on

Dry beans are about 1/3 the price of canned beans (cheap as they are), and also a lot of people are worried about the additives to any canned veggies.

The instructions should be on the bag for each type. But generally, you put them in a colander dry, sort through them for any obviously defective ones and any small stones (as directed on the package), then rinse. Then you soak overnight - put in more water than just covering them. In the morning, dump that soaking water out (IMPORTANT!) and start with fresh water or broth. Again, instructions are on the bag.

If I'm using a crockpot, I soak overnight just plain and then do the recipe in the crockpot itself. If you use the crockpot for the soaking part, you'll have really well softened beans.

I use a low salt broth cube (chicken or veggie, depending on what else is going int he recipe) that dissolves over time (Or I pour a little boiling water on the cube, let it soak, then mash with a fork.)

For the gelatinous liquid you lose from a can - I never used it anyway - I drain canned beans in a strainer and rinse that away.

Seasonings - I choose them based on what the beans are being mixed with. For Mexican things, I use chili powder or cumin & coriander. For soups, I often add in some crushed tomatoes and chopped veggies (carrots, celery, onions, turnips, parsnips, whatever I feel like or what's on sale). A good crockpot cookbook will have all kinds of ideas for you, and you don't really have to stick too closely to the recipes. For classic baked beans (which uses white beans), use brown sugar and/or molasses and onion. If you're adding chicken, you can use any seasonings that would go with a roast chicken.

To freeze, let soaked beans drain, and then put in a freezer container or plastic bag, and squeeze out as much air as you can. They keep really well. I even mix together things like black, red kidney and pinto beans, and then I just use them together for enchiladas and other Mexican type foods.

I never cook them for hours and hours on the stove - I think it takes a lot of electricity and I don't feel like babysitting them and making sure the water doesn't get used up. It can be done, but stay on top of them.

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answers from Dallas on

Rinse and "sort" the black beans (that means get rid of any that look obviously bad/different). Then put the beans in a big bowl and soak them in water, overnight for cold water (8 hours) or hot water for four hours. Drain and rinse again.

Then you can cook the beans in a crock pot on high or stovetop on low. For a crock pot add the beans, then add water to just cover them, and add aromatics as well (garlic, onion and cumin work perfectly, but no salt yet and nothing like lemon or tomato with vitamin C. Adding those things can make the beans stay too firm). Cook for around 4-5 hours in the crock pot or 2 hours on low on the stovetop, and test for doneness, salt to taste.

Homemade beans taste awesome. It's like the difference between canned green beans/asparagus/corn/etc and fresh. Way better!

FYI, pintos are cooked the same way, exactly. Not sure about northern beans.

ETA: I was taught the the only beans you need to be wary of eating raw/undercooked were Red Kidney Beans. Cooked they are fine, any method of cooking will work. I was also taught that most people soak beans to shorten cooking time and make the beans more "digestible" (i.e., cause less gas). HTH!

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answers from Chicago on

Well, the way all of my husband's family makes them is to soak overnight only because they don't have to stand by the stove all day. Drain the water and rinse. Then they add chicken broth and garlic. It gives the liquid you want. You add enough liquid to completely cover the beans plus about an inch. They start a boil, and then reduce to simmer for about an hour. I found that great northern cook faster than black or pinto and black may stick to the pot if not stirred. I don't see why a crock pot would not work if you put it on low and then you would not need the extra inch of water.

Make sure you check the beans when you empty the bag. There could be little pebbles mixed in. I also check for any that split and would end up just skin when I cook 'em. I've never had any last more than a few days so I am not sure about freezing.

ETA, well , I saw the comment about poison and had to look it up and I think I will definitely make sure I cook my beans on the stove. Apparently kidney beans have the highest concentration but all beans contain lectin (or a much longer word) and undercooked can make you very sick.

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answers from Chicago on

I've got some beans cooking right now :-)

I tend to add Mexican flavoring to mine. Here's what I do for black and pinto:

3 cups rinsed beans
1 onion cut in half
1/2 jalapeño
5 Teaspoons salt
1 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Dash of cumin
9 cups water

Cook in crock pot on low for 8 hours.. If you want refried, Cook on high for 8 hours, drain, reserve liquid, mash with enough liquid to the consistency you like. No need to soak over night.

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answers from Austin on

I always cook my own dry beans.

I cover the beans with 2" of water, bring to a boil, boil for 2 minutes, then take them off the heat and let them sit for about 60 minutes. I usually pour off that water, add 6-8 C water, and let them simmer for about 90 minutes, until tender.

I scoop out the beans, and put 2 C (or just under 2 C) in a freezer bag, label, and lay flat on a cookie sheet to freeze.

To use those beans, I pull them out of the freezer, pop in the microwave to thaw, and toss them in whatever needs beans.

I never use that gooey liquid in canned beans...I always rinse canned beans.

Cooking and freezing your own is much better..... much less sodium and other junk! I rarely buy canned beans anymore.

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answers from Las Vegas on

Yes! What Julie S said. I thought I just couldn't eat (pinto) beans any longer because they made my stomach hurt. Someone said something about that when I asked about cooking red beans. After I read their comment, I started cooking the beans on the stove and gave up on the crock pot and no more stomach aches.

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answers from New York on

I use the crock pot to cook my beans all the time. I've always done it on low heat during the day so that I can check them to make sure they don't over cook and get mushy. I usually do 2 packages of beans at once so I end up with a lot of beans.

Since I'm the only bean eater in the house I put them in sandwich size zip lock bags adding 1/2 cup of beans to each bag and stacking them flat in the freezer. I use them mostly as a quick lunch by throwing the frozen bean in the microwave along with 1/4 cup of costco organic salsa. Tasty, fast, and healthy.

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answers from Dallas on

My family is from San Antonio, and if you want beans that taste like they are from a good Mexican restaurant here's how we make them.

Sort 2 pounds of dried pinto beans and cover them with water. Add a stick of butter and about 6 or 7 slices of raw bacon. Also add a ton of salt and pepper (I never measure anything). Bring to a boil and then turn down and simmer for an hour and a half or so until beans are tender. Remove bacon and throw it away. Add more salt and pepper if needed.

Scoop out some beans and put them in a pot. Mash them with a potato masher. These are refried beans for tostadas, burritos, nachos, etc. Add extra juice from the original pot as needed. The unmashed beans are tasty as they are or mixed in with chili.


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answers from Austin on

I've actually been experimenting and reading and learning about dried beans.

The latest research says that certain beans don't need to be soaked before cooking, and in fact, soaking them can detract from their flavor.

There's some good reading to do on the subject.

But lately, here's what I've done.

I cooked both black beans, white beans and pinto beans without soaking first. I simply placed them into a slow cooker, with plenty of fresh cold water, and just let them slowly cook on low until they were soft. It just took a couple of hours, unattended.

For the black beans, I added a couple of garlic cloves and a fresh orange, cut in half. The flavor was excellent. I didn't add anything else until I got closer to using them, and then I added cumin and salt since they were intended for a Mexican meal.

The pinto and white beans just were cooked plain, with no aromatics or herbs.

They all turned out beautiful, tender, and flavorful.

I also tried cooking them in my rice cooker, set to the brown rice setting, without soaking the beans, and they also turned out wonderfully.

The one bean I don't mess with is red kidney beans. I do soak them and cook them carefully, as I understand that undercooked kidney beans can have very unpleasant side effects.

I encourage you to try skipping the soaking, and use a rice cooker with a brown rice setting, or a slow cooker!

The other "beans" that work great in the rice cooker are garbanzo beans (chick peas). I soak them first, for at least 8 hours, since they seem to need it. Then I cook them in the rice cooker on the brown rice setting until they're tender. They make the most delicious hummus, with roasted red peppers, or cumin, or curry. No tahini is needed (it can be expensive) - just use a little fresh squeezed lemon juice, a little olive oil, and lots of spices.

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answers from Chicago on

Careful with the crockpot at night because beans soak up the water and dry out. Best to do it on low during the day so you can replenish the water. At least that is how I am since I don't like leaving room for error unless I can check it. Also true of cooking on top of the stove. Make sure the water is covering the beans. We add salt and I throw in an onion for taste. They take several hours.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

I soak red beans overnight in cold water or if I forget to do that, soak them for an hour in boiling water. Drain, rinse, and put in the crock pot with about twice the volume of water as beans. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, chili powder, and jalapenoes.
Cook on high until they come to a boil, then leave on low the rest of the day or overnight (total cooking time about 12 hours).
Refresh spices to taste at end of cooking process, as they can break down with prolonged exposure to heat and lose some of their flavor.
I have heard the business about beans cooked in the crockpot being potentially poisonous, but I have been doing it this way for over twenty years and have yet to get sick from it.

YMMV depending on the kind of beans you have.
Black beans, white beans, and blackeyed peas cook faster than red beans or pinto beans.
Lentils don't have to be soaked at all and cook quickly on the stovetop.

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answers from St. Louis on

My husband is kind of odd, he reads packages. I can't speak for all beans but apparently if you crock pot red beans they give off a poison that mimics a stomach virus. Yeah, never happened to me but he is quite obsessed with how he cooks beans now.

Well good, after reading the comments I see my husband is not unduly obsessed with his beans. Can you tell he does a lot of cooking in our home? :)

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answers from Chicago on

What kind of beans? White Bean, Black Beans etc.

White Beans we soak over night, rinse and then cook them in the crock pot. but you can also put them on the stove..

Good luck

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