Bean Cooking Guide
How to prepare and cook healthy beans.
Besides being delicious and accepting of just about any flavoring, virtually all types of beans are nutrient powerhouses—rich in protein, folic acid, magnesium and protective phytochemicals. (Choose darker-colored beans, and you’ll benefit even more; recent research confirms that black, red and brown beans are richest in heart-healthy, cancer-protective antioxidants.) Most beans are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, and the carbohydrates they contain are slowly digested, with a gentler effect on blood-sugar levels. That makes beans especially filling and satisfying, even though they’re fairly low in calories—about 100 to 125 calories per half-cup serving. Hearty, protein-packed and toothsome, beans closely match meat’s nutrition and flavor profile, without the accompanying dose of saturated fat. You can cook any variety of beans with our basic cooking method.
Cooking dried beans from scratch gives you the firmest texture and best flavor, and it’s easy to do with a little advance planning. But there’s no denying that canned beans are wonderfully convenient, and you’re more likely to eat beans regularly if there are canned beans in your cupboard. So we’re advocates of having both types on hand.
When you use canned beans in a recipe, be sure to rinse them first in a colander under cold running water, as their canning liquid often contains a fair amount of sodium.
A pound of dried beans (about 2 cups) will yield 5 to 6 cups cooked beans.
One 19-ounce can yields about 2 cups cooked beans; a 15-ounce can, about 1 1/2 cups.
Our preferred method for cooking most types of dried beans is to soak them first, to shorten their cooking time. (Lentils and split peas do not need to be soaked, as they cook quickly.) For the best results, use the overnight soaking method; if you’re in a hurry and don’t mind risking a few burst bean skins, use the quick-soak method.
Overnight Soak: Rinse and pick over the beans, then place them in a large bowl with enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Let the beans soak for at least 8 hours or overnight. (For longer soaking, or in warm weather, place the bowl of beans in the refrigerator.) Drain.
Quick Soak: Rinse and pick over the beans, then place them in a large pot with enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 1 hour; drain.
Conventional Method: Place the drained, soaked beans in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches (about 2 quarts of water for 1 pound of beans). Bring to a boil, skimming off any debris that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 1 to 2 hours (cooking time will vary with the type and age of the bean). Wait until the end of the cooking time to add salt or acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, vinegar or molasses; these ingredients prevent the beans from softening.
Slow-Cooker Method: Place the drained, soaked beans in a slow cooker and pour in 5 cups boiling water. Cover and cook on high until tender, 2 to 3 1/2 hours. Add salt, if using, and cook 15 minutes more.