Cooking dry beans is rather simple, really, once you know the process. Soaking your beans first is key to a better digestive experience. Soaking also helps your beans cook faster, as they have already absorbed a nice amount of water and softened just a little.
All dry beans do better when soaked, even lentils. Most people say lentils and split peas don’t need soaking because they are small, but I believe they are better digested if soaked at least overnight.
Before cooking dry beans, my preferred way to soak each kind of bean is for 2-3 days. I know – that seems like a long time – but I find that there is much less in the way of intestinal discomfort and gas if I soak them longer.
So the process of soaking your dry beans goes like this:
Wash and sort through, removing any rocks, foreign material, or off-color beans.
Place beans in a large pan or slow cooker and cover with water 2-3 inches above the top of the beans. They will expand and soak up some of the water.
After 8-24 hours, you may drain and rinse the beans, adding fresh water for cooking or additional soaking.
Repeat 2 more times for the ultimate soak, rinsing and adding fresh water every 24 hours or so.
Note: I like to add about 1 tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar for extra break-down of the enzymes that cause intestinal gas. I’ve heard you can also use the same amount of whey (the liquid that forms in plain yogurt), but I haven’t tried it.
Cooking Dry Beans
When ready to cook your dry beans, cover with fresh water (or other liquid such as chicken stock) 1 inch above top of beans. Make sure to add more liquid if needed. You don’t want the liquid to cook out and scorch the beans.
It’s best to only add a dash of salt when beginning to cook, as too much salt during the initial cooking phase can prevent proper cooking. I don’t know why, but salting heavily at first tends to prevent the beans from softening thoroughly. So, only a dash when beginning to cook, then add more once the beans are soft, tasting throughout to make sure you don’t add too much. Use no salt when soaking.
Bring to a boil in the stock pot (or turn on high for an hour in the crock pot). For the stove top method, turn down the heat to medium and cover until beans are soft, then add salt and other seasonings to taste. For the crock pot method, you can keep the beans on high for 4-6 hours or turn them down to low for 6-8 hours (depending on the size of bean). Keep an eye on your beans and add more water as necessary during the cooking process.
Cooking Times of Dry Beans
Cooking times of dry beans vary with their size. Larger beans like pintos, for example, will take longer to cook than smaller ones like lentils or split peas.
I find that soaking for a couple days before cooking dry beans makes them cook faster – another perk beyond improving their digestibility. If you can get used to planning ahead for when you need them, I think you’ll find (like me) that it’s not a hassle at all.
You can add chopped onion, garlic, a ham bone and/or chopped ham pieces to make the beans more flavorful.
If you have older beans, they may not soften readily after hours of cooking. If so, you can add a pinch or two of baking soda. This will bubble up and aid in softening your beans.
Ratio of Dry Beans to Canned & Cooked
1 can of beans (15 ounces) =
- 1/2 cup dry, uncooked beans
- 1-1/2 cups cooked beans
1 pound dry beans =
- 2 cups dry, uncooked beans
- 6 cups cooked beans
- 4 cans of beans (15 ounces each)
1 part dry beans = 3 parts cooked beans
I have lots of great bean recipes in my 2 books, “Frugal Cooking With Beans”
They are currently available on Kindle only, but I may be having them in other formats in the future (if demand is high enough). Note that you don’t need a Kindle to purchase and read Kindle books. You can download a free app to read on your PC or IPhone.