People say beans take too long to cook. The good news is that – if you are inclined to cook instead of using canned (and no judgment either way, I do both!) – there are tricks to shorten bean cooking time. Some of these are easier to do than others, but here is what the scientific literature has to say! Plus, at the bottom of this post, I included a link to a handout on how to reduce bean cooking time AND a video on how to cook dry beans.
How Can You Speed Bean Cooking Time?
- Soak – soaking beans and other pulses (like chickpeas) can shorten their cooking time. Generally, you do not need to soak lentils.
- Note: If you have hard water (with lots of minerals in it), this can actually make beans take a very long time to cook. More to follow on the why in a future post. If your beans are never cooking, it may be worth testing your water, and there are cheap water hardness test strips available.
- Soak in salts – common salts you likely already have around the house can shorten bean cooking time. For example, adding a little salt (here meaning sodium chloride in the form of sea salt, table salt, kosher salt, etc.) or baking soda (aka sodium bicarbonate) to the soaking water has been shown to reduce cooking time, and sometimes dramatically! It depends on the type of pulse, but baking soda can reduce cooking time by up to about 50% more than just soaking in water. Sea salt reduces cooking time as well, but not as much as baking soda. However, the sea salt can result in a better flavor. So play around with it and see what works best for you!
- We’re not talking a lot of baking soda or salt, either. Maybe like 1.5 Tbs of salt in about 8 cups of water for soaking 1 lb of beans. And you will then discard the soaking water and rinse the beans before cooking, so you are not eating all of that salt.
- Note that there is a myth that salting beans prevents them from softening – this is not true!! Unless you have a salt-restricted diet, do no wait to salt. Your beans will cook faster and taste more delicious.
- Avoid acids – adding acid to beans can lengthen cooking time and prevent them from softening. A little acid is not going to kill you (or the beans), but you may want to wait until the beans have softened, especially if you are using a lot of acidic ingredients, like tomatoes and lemon.
- Store your beans well – beans are known for their long shelf-life, but it is still important to store them properly. For example, storing in hot and/or humid conditions can lengthen the cooking time of beans. Storing in cool places away from humid or moist conditions is ideal.
- Get fresh(er) beans – as beans age, they become harder to cook. Now, getting fresher beans is easier said than done because often the age of the beans is not labeled. However, if you do have the opportunity to get beans that were more recently harvested, they tend to absorb the water better and cook up more quickly.
I would truly love to hear your thoughts about cooking beans and other pulses (pulses are lentils, dry beans, chickpeas, dry peas, etc.)! I am doing my PhD on pulses, so if that doesn’t convince you that I am truly interested, I’m not sure what will.
Basically: Wondering anything about cooking pulses? Let me know – I’m here to help!
Handout on How to Shorten Bean Cooking Time
Check out this handy dandy handout with tips on how to shorten bean cooking time!
I’m impressed with your PhD ambition.
I’m older than you and remember a time when we were told to avoid butter, eggs and Cream as they were bad for heart health and instead we were told to use Margarine and avoid fatty food. Fast forward 25 years and they told us they made a mistake and butter eggs and Cream were actually the better choice to begin with as a lot of heart trouble was being detected due to Trans Fats found in processing the “better alternative”.
My Grandma lived to be very old and she always told me that we need a little FAT in our Diet and a little Chocolate, (God love ya Maw) and now as I age I think with a little exercise Grandma was right.
Now for you I ask as I’m doing a bit of long life research… Is a Diet rich in beans rice and root vegetables a good idea or is it all in moderation with a greasy pork chop once in a while. I make soup once a week in a large pot and have a bowl every day to get all my veggies and beans with garlic and onions so that nothing is waisted.
Is too much dried beans and veggies and lentil a good thing or do I need some Cheese Cake as well? Lol.
Thank you for your help and best wishes for a wonderful Degree.
Thank you for sharing your family stories!
In general, moderation and variety (of healthy foods) is a good thing, and focusing on nutrient-dense foods is a healthy choice. I don’t think cheesecake is really going to add to your health… but that doesn’t mean that it should never be enjoyed. Ultimately, everyone needs to make their own choices about a dietary pattern than works well for them personally. Moral of the story though: having beans as a staple is a good choice. 🙂
I appreciate the good wishes! Back at you!
I’m so excited to find your site! And wish I’d found it about 24 hours ago. I live at 8750’ in Fraser and COMPLETELY forgot about how much longer it takes to cook dried beans (making a Mexican-ish black bean soup). Good news: I had soaked the beans in water for 24 hours, changed the water twice. (Forgot to salt the water…and I have pretty hard water.) Then drained, added the rest of the ingredients (no acid) and broth, and had it in a crockpot for 7 hours on high today (about 2 cups of black beans and a half cup of pintos). The dumb thing was, I started using a hand blender on the whole pot and I forgot to make sure the beans were completely cooked first. They’re still a little undercooked…so even though they’re pulverized, I’m hoping that leaving them cooking on high maybe 2-3 more hours will finish them vs having a slightly grainy (?) texture. Any experience on “can these beans be saved?” Is appreciated. Also the black beans were best by Oct 2022, stored in the sealed bag I bought them in. The pintos have an expiry of 4/2023, and are in an airtight plastic container (as airtight as plastic can be…). The pintos definitely rehydrated/cooked faster than the black beans.
I’m glad you found my site too – I love connecting with people over beans and appreciate you leaving a message! It will depend on the bean (for example, if the beans are very dry and weren’t cooking well to begin with, they may not soften very well). But generally speaking yes, they should still cook up after that and may cook faster after not being whole. I’m so curious! How did they turn out? That’s a great idea about “can these beans be saved?” – thank you!. I can work on that. I think Oct 2022 should still be fine. The thing is that even when there are expiration dates, some beans may have just become very dry (and/or were potentially harvested with a slightly lower moisture content) and could take slightly longer to cook. I hope this helps, and please feel free to message me to discuss further! I also would truly love to hear how the soup turned out. 🙂