A while back, I wrote a blog on 5 ways to shorten bean cooking time. I wanted to provide an updated version, with 7 helpful tips to shorten bean cooking time. I made this handout for Extension and worked with my PhD advisor. You can download the handout here:
I also created a video on how to cook beans, which you can find here.
How Can You Shorten Bean Cooking Time?
The handout shares a bit more detail, but I’ll group the 7 tips into three categories. When you want to cook beans faster, here are things you can control:
- Add salt
- Don’t add acidic ingredients until the beans are cooked
- Store beans well
Things you can sort of control:
- Bean freshness
- Type of bean you’re using
What about things you can’t really control?
Should You Soak Dry Beans?
Ah, one of the age-old questions. My answer is – do what works for you. There are benefits to soaking, and there are benefits to not soaking. I’m not here to argue with you – we’ll save that for another blog. 😉 What I am here to say, though, is that one of the benefits of soaking beans is that it shortens cooking time. It gives beans time to start soaking up water before you boil them. This can also help with appearance (by preventing blowouts). One caveat – hard water is not a friend of quick bean cooking times. Hard water can slow down or even prevent softening, so if your beans never soften, that could be the reason. (Granted, there are other possible reasons as well, such as the beans are too old and/or have too low of a moisture level.)
Should You Salt Dry Beans?
If you don’t have a salt-restricted diet, then pretty much the answer is yes. Salt improves flavor, and it makes beans cook faster. There is a myth that salting beans prevents them from softening. NOT TRUE. I honestly don’t know where this myth came from and would be very interested to hear the origin story if you happen to know it! To further prove how cool I am, I’m writing a paper on bean cooking time, so look forward to that!! Also, if you’re looking for a fun at home science experiment, set up 4 conditions: 1.) no soak; 2.) soak beans in just water; 3.) soak beans in water with sea salt added; and 4.) soak beans in water with baking soda added (you can try a 1% solution of salt or baking soda for starters). Or just set up 2 or 3 of those conditions. Then, compare cooking times. Or, if you really want to get fancy, add a fifth condition: add vinegar to the soaking water and see what happens to the cooking time.
Does Acid Make Beans Take Longer to Cook?
This one is not a myth. Acidic ingredients slow down cooking time. So, if you’re adding a lot of lemon juice, tomatoes, or other acidic ingredients to a pot of beans, it may be best to wait until the beans have softened before you toss those ingredients into the pot (or slow cooker, or pressure cooker… you get the idea).
Do Fresher Beans Cook Faster?
Fresher beans generally cook faster and more evenly. If you can find a good source of beans from a local farmer or bean processor, then you can make sure you get beans from a recent harvest. Plus, you get the added bonus of warm fuzzies from supporting very hard-working bean growers and processors!
Do Beans Take Longer to Cook at Elevation?
Indeed, beans take longer to cook at higher elevations. Due to the lower atmospheric pressure, water boils at a lower temperature, and the beans take longer. I’m not suggesting you move to sea level (unless you want to, of course), but this is something worth keeping in mind. If you live at very high elevations, pressure cookers can be hugely helpful.
Cooking Times – Another Reason to Enjoy Bean Variety
Some beans/pulses take longer to cook than others. ALL beans are worth trying, in my opinion! However, if you know you are running short on time but want to eat some delicious beans, consider choosing a type that takes less time to cook. So, add this to the list of reasons to enjoy lots of types of beans, along with: unique textures, appearances, flavors, and more.
How to Cook Beans Faster?
Here is what the handout with cooking tips – which mainly focus on how to shorten cooking time – looks like:
I hope this helps! As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments, and thank you for reading.