Cooking Dry Beans

I’m trying anew with the Mediterranean diet and that means I need to learn how to cook dried beans.

I’ve had numerous dry beans failures. I never seem to get them to the stage of fat plumpness that canned beans have.

I have no issues with buying canned beans but I’d really like to nail this one down.

How do the experts at HO do it?


Experts will tell you that the best results come from soaking overnight. Since I am often a spur of the moment cook, I have come to rely on a faster method. After rinsing and sorting beans, cover beans by several inches of water and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand for an hour. Then either change out water for fresh or continue. Bring beans to a simmer and cook, adding basic seasonings of your choice (onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme et friends but wait to salt until beans are cooked). Cooking time will deend on the age of the beans, from half an hour to several hours. Test along the way until bean is cooked to your preference. This works for me.


Pressure cooker - cooking time depends in pre-soaking or not


I’ve read pro and con about soaking. I’ve done your method. It just didn’t work. My beans have always been OK, edible, but nowhere near as good as canned. What are they doing to the canned that I’m not?

I agree with everything you say except for the not salting until beans are done. I subscribed to that practice for years but come to find out (in my experience anyway) that’s an old wives tale.

otoh - I learned the hard way not to put tomatoes in with great northern beans.


Probably depends on the bean, but I “brine” the longest cooking ones, like chickpeas, overnight. According to me and CI, they cook more evenly and with less blow outs. Not necessarily worth it, but it allows for acceptable procrastination.

I love “Nancy’s” recipe for chickpeas, but again; it’s probably not necessary. Somebody here shared it and deserves some credit.


Decidedly not an expert but know there’s a big difference in cooking time depending on the type and age of bean (fresher cooks faster and, I think ends up plumper).

Most of the time the beans I cook are destined to be cooked with a bunch of other stuff (soups, chili, etc.), as opposed to being served on their own or with something (as part of a salad and so forth), so I’m fine with using older beans, as they’re part players not the stars.

If cooking with the intent of the beans being highlighted, then Rancho Gordo or other heirloom growers are my choice.

Oh, tomatoes are a no-go but I have not had an issue with salting early.

(And in the interest of transparency, I buy and cook with a lot of canned beans.)

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If you are new to eating beans, you can start with those that are easier to digest and work your way up as your system gets accustomed.

I always soak beans, and almost always use a pressure cooker or instant pot to cook them. I soak because I find a noticeable difference in digestibility. I pressure cook because it’s faster and more energy efficient.

Different beans require different times and treatments. Chickpeas are among the toughest. Peeled lentils and smaller beans (moong/mung, masoor/brown lentils, etc) need much less time.

You can add a pinch of baking soda while soaking or cooking - that’s one of the chickpea tricks. Barely a pinch, though - or you’ll taste it.


Cooks Illustrated did a deep dive into bean cookery maybe 10 yrs ago. You can, and should, do an overnight brine in cold/room temp salt water. Then rinse and cook in fresh, unsalted water. There are two little pores on each bean which will allow salt to permeate the bean but which seal up when heated. Brining this way does not result in tough beans. But acidic cooking liquid toughens all vegetables, so when using tomato products, don’t add until the beans are nearly finished.

A few years later, CI changed its tune and decided canned beans taste better than cooked dry beans.

I have gotten good results cooking brined dried beans in a pressure cooker. Don’t fill it more than halfway, so the foam won’t reach the gasket or valve. I like to put the brined beans in a clean, empty 28 oz can, and cover with ample fresh water. I can fit three cans on a rack in my PC, and then put a half inch of water in the bottom. 8 minutes plus a natural pressure release works a charm.


I don’t know about the tomato no go . They have always worked for me . Have I been doing it all wrong .


The acid (any acid) keeps the beans from softening as they should, so no acid until they are almost done. This applies, by the way to mustard and molasses…ask me how I found this out! Lol


There are two little pores on each bean which will allow salt to permeate the bean but which seal up when heated. Brining this way does not result in tough beans. But acidic cooking liquid toughens all vegetables, so when using tomato products, don’t add until the beans are nearly finished.

What about adding a touch of baking soda, then?

A few years later, CI changed its tune and decided canned beans taste better than cooked dry beans.


I wonder what on earth they do to make canned beans so gigantic and plump. Some kinda sciencey-industrial magicke.


I’m Team Overnight Soak. Also I rinse the beans in a few changes of water and pick out stray stuff such as a tiny rock (happens now and then) and any cracked or shriveled beans.

ETA: Now I want to try brining beans as part of their overnight soak, as other smart people here have done, to see if I prefer the result.

If you still happen to have a slow cooker hanging around the house as I do, I find that to be the easiest and most fool-proof cooking method.

I typically cook my beans in plain (filtered) tap water so I can add flavor later in whatever dishes I happen to make with them. Typically I cook about half a package of beans at a time and get multiple uses out of that for two people.

Lentils don’t need the presoak or the long cooking time, so I reach for them the most. Those I cook on the stovetop in a heavy stainless steel pot or my enameled cast iron Dutch oven.


Besides brining overnight, I find the key is using “fresh” dried beans, not beans that have been in the back of the cupboard for years. Rancho Gordo are my favorites but any dried beans with a “use by” date that has not expired is good. Cover with lightly salted water by more than an inch, bring to a hard boil for 5-7 minutes, then simmer gently for as long as it takes for the beans to get creamy (could be one to two hours or longer), adding additional hot water as needed. Canned beans likely have more salt than you are using and have been cooked longer. Also, nothing wrong with canned beans, like others I use them all the time even though I prefer RG. But sometimes you just need beans right now. Good luck!


Mostly overnight soak in tepid water. Pressure cook to speed things up but not the same; that’s what I keep canned beans for.


I had so many experiences with beans that were grainy or burst until I found Rancho Gordo beans. Without any soaking the pintos and black beans cook up perfectly in my small IP. Also my sister and I get together on ordering directly from RG to ensure freshness.



Old beans will make you mad / sad / frustrated, because you won’t even know why they aren’t cooking properly or taking forever to tenderize.

The only way to know whether the beans are not old is to buy them from somewhere with high turnover - could be your regular supermarket, or an Indian or middle eastern grocery, or other similar source where you know beans are a regular purchase for customers.

My regular supermarket does fine for smaller beans (lentils for eg) but was awful for gigantes / lima / butter beans. There was a marked difference for those vs getting them at the regular store.


I didn’t know that! I included one of their brined beans links upthread. I didn’t notice one about canned beans. I’m going to look.

Another important idea, at least for me, is to try three beans, and not just one, to see if they are done. I have had undercooked beans several times, especially frustrating when they have already been cooled and stored in the refrigerator for future use, but not since I started trying a few beans.

This link is NYT and and it describes several kinds of beans, but may have a paywall.

Another one from CI- You can brine, freeze, and cook later!

  1. Slow slow cooking …
  2. NO salt.
  3. Soak beans overnight (200 grams - 250grams) in not cold but not hot water.
  4. When you wake up, rinse the beans and remove anything that is not a perfect bean.
  5. Back to the slow slow cooking … ( 2 hours more or less for Alubia white beans = northern beans and chick peas (garbanzos) …

Lentils do not require soaking overnight … I soak mine for 30 to 45 minutes prior to cooking.