How to Cook Beans

Yes, pre-cooked canned beans exist, but I like to get dry beans and cook them because it’s a lot cheaper  ($0.99 for two cups of dry beans verses $0.99 for a can of cooked beans), I know what’s in them when I cook them myself  (they’re not loaded with sodium & other non-bean-items), I can flavor them how I want, they make my apartment smell delicious, and I prepare them so that the gassiness issue vanishes (I’m such a lady).

Also? It’s wicked easy to cook your own beans–it takes a bit of time because you have to soak them over night (or you can quick soak them, which I’ve never done), but I mean. That’s not exactly labor intensive. Cooked beans freeze really well, too, and when you have cooked beans on hand, you can just toss them into anything to make things more filling & hearty! I’m cooking cannellini beans here, but you cook any sort of bean (except green beans, of course) the same way. 

dry cannellini beans bought from the bulk section

You will need:

  • Dry beans (I used about 2 cups here)
  • Water
  • Optional: bay leaves, any thing else that you want to add to the cooking pot to give the beans more flavor (except salt, which this changes the texture of the beans)

First, you’ll want to rinse your beans and pick through them to see if there’s any funky stuff in there. Then it’s time to soak the beans. Just put them in a big container with as much water as possible, and stick them in the fridge over night.

all right, little beans--you hang out in there for a while!

The beans will grow in size a lot, so it’s important that the soaking-container is big. After 3-4 hours of soaking, I generally strain/rinse the beans again and replace the soaking liquid. The charming part of beans that gives them their gassy reputation comes out in the soaking process, so in my head the more I rinse the beans, the less gassiness (I told you, I’m SUCH a lady!).

my oh my, how they've grown!

Then after at least 6-8 hours, you can cook the beans. There’s no harm in letting beans soak for days at a time– as long as they’re in the fridge, nothing dramatic will happen to them.

I just think this is totally cool

Rinse the beans again, and put them in a big pot with plenty of water. If you want to add anything to the pot, that’s great. Here I added some bay leaves and cardamom pods, because those are the flavors I want to be faintly in these beans, since I’m planning to use them (and the water I’m cooking them in) to make some soup, which I will post up here soon.

Bring the water/beans to a boil, and then turn the heat way down to let them simmer away (with the lid on) for about an hour. You should occasionally stir them to make sure beans aren’t getting stuck to the bottom. Cooking time does depend on the sort of bean (obviously smaller beans cook faster than larger ones). I don’t really use a timer ever, but just go and look at them when my house starts to smell delicious. After an hour or so (I realize now that I should have noted how long these took to cook…), just occasionally check if they’re cooked by seeing if they’re squishy/bite them. You’ll know when they’re cooked.

mmm, this is when my apartment starts to smell delicious

Then strain the beans again (here I’m saving the bean water because I’m going to use it for soup), and then BAM–you’ve done it!

i really should get a prettier strainer

You’ll notice that the beans you cooked taste about a million times better than any bean you’ve ever eaten from a can. They’re creamier and have a much more complexly subtle flavor (I think, at least) than their canned counterparts.

From here on out, the possibilities are pretty endless, but chances are, unless you’re making a huge batch of something, you’ll want to freeze at least some of these beans. To do that, I recommend letting the beans get to room (or fridge) temperature. Then stick them in a zip-lock bag, and lay it flat in the freezer, so that if the beans freeze together a bit, you have a sheet of frozen beans instead of a solid rock of them.

clearly these are not the cannellini beans, but you get the idea!

I throw beans into my salad, soups, or into a bowl for a snack. Enjoy!


4 Comments to “How to Cook Beans”

  1. Thanks for the lesson! I never knew how to cook beans, now I will use your method.

  2. Something I used to do when I was young and “poor” but you’ve encouraged me to start again. Healthier than canned and nothing to throw in the garbage or recycle! Thank you!

  3. Just bought beans today at MB so I can make some this week 🙂 Thanks!

  4. I’ve got beans soaking now! Thanks for the reminder!

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