February 13, 2011

How to Cook Beans

I stated in a previous post that we need to take responsibility for ourselves and learn to cook. I also said that many nourishing, real foods don't take very long to prepare. Those foods are also cheaper. So, I decided I should put my money where my mouth is and give some examples.

Long soaked black beans.
Let's first take beans. I cook dried beans and we eat them all the time. I do freeze them but, even if I didn't, I could still cook them every day in only a few minutes. Here's how:

Pour dried beans in bowl - 15 seconds
Fill bowl with hot water - 30 seconds
Walk away until tomorrow - totally free time
Drain and rinse beans - 60 seconds
Put beans in pan or crock pot, fill with water, and place on stove/turn on crock pot/put in oven - 60 seconds
Walk away for a few hours - totally free time (and if you use a crock pot or oven you can even leave the house)
Turn off stove/crock pot/oven and proceed as you would with a can of beans.

(add in some onion, carrots, celery, garlic, etc. and you've got a soup)

Total time: 2 minutes, 45 seconds

This is how I cook beans every day. It takes forethought but essentially no time. And this is why I don't buy it when someone says they don't have time to cook beans so they have to purchace (relatively) expensive beans in a can.

Check out this article in the NY Times for a complete bean meal cooked in the oven. This takes more than 2 minutes, 45 seconds (although it is a quick recipe) but you could just use the water/temperature/cooking time guidelines to cook your 2 minute, 45 second beans in the oven.

I normally give my beans a 12 hour or more soak. They cook very quickly when they're soaked for that long. A 4 hour soak as the recipe in the NY Times suggests means a longer cooking time. Here is more on beans.

Also, simmer the beans for a few hours, don't do a hard boil. The amount of time it takes the beans to cook depends on the type, size, how long they were soaked and how soft you like them. If you're in a big hurry lentils and split peas cook super quickly - 20 to 40 minutes with no soaking, 5-10 minutes with soaking.

And as for how much water to cook the beans in, you can find recipes for this but I'd say that I probably cook well soaked beans in a water volume three times that of the bean's volume.

(This post is part of Pennywise Platter Thursdays on The Nourishing Gourmet. Check it out for more real food recipes! Also part of Simple Lives Thursday on A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa)

What quick real foods do you rely on?


  1. We love beans too. I usually put on a big pot and freeze several containers. We really enjoy pintos or brown beans as some folks call them.

    Our favorite meal is what my mom called, Poor Man's Supper which is pinto beans with cornbread and fried potatoes with onions and gravy. Now we just have beans and cornbread. Yum

    I rely on salads simply because you can make them anyway you want and add other ingredients to make it go farther or have it by itself as a meal.

  2. Salads are great indeed. This winter I didn't grow many lettuces, just kale and mustard, and I really missed my salads!

    Poor man's supper sounds awesome. Our favorite bean meal is beans over rice with "vegetable saute" which is exactly what it sounds like made out of whatever veg is in the fridge. Tonight it was black beans over rice with chopped roasted cabbage and feta.

  3. BEANS! Love them. I have been cooking more and more beans over the past 2 years. When I decided to cut out store bought canned foods, beans where the first things I started to cook. Specifically black beans. So easy. I think the only thing I do differently then what you mentioned is I bring them to a boil, then turn off the stove and let them sit. I might do that 2-3 times over the course of a day (when I remember to check them). Just a way to cut back on the stove being on for 2-3 hours. And like Theresa, I freeze them for later use. I also do that with chick peas - using those for hummus or chickpea burgers. I hope to grow more beans this spring and fall. MAYBE enough to dry. Gosh this bean talk to making me hungry! Emily

  4. Do you freeze them packed in water or dry in a jar?

  5. It depends. Sometimes I drain off the cooking liquid and freeze them very dry but sometimes I leave some liquid in. It depends on what I think I might do with them... although probably it depends more on what kind of mood I'm in :-) Refried beans for example are best made with some cooking liquid rather than water added. But if I'm going to put the beans on a pizza, I'll be draining them thoroughly anyway.

  6. "How to cook beans super-fast". Ya sucked me in with that one! You're right though, hands on time is very short.
    Dried beans are soooo cheap and then you can control the sodium as well. Love this post.