This may seem like a daunting task. I mean, it's just so easy to open a can and rinse right? Well yes it is, and I do use canned beans sometimes for convenience. But once you get into the habit of soaking and cooking dried beans you will be motivated to do it more often!
Why soak and cook dried beans?
- Less expensive. One can of beans can cost about the same amount as a large bag of dried. One can will yeild approximately 11/2 cups of beans whereas 11/2 cups of dried beans will produce about 4 cups cooked.
- Cook them to the softness that you like. Canned beans are often very mushy in texture. Although you can cook your own to that state you also have the option of having them hold their shape better and have some bite to them.
- Infuse flavour into your own beans. Adding aromatics such as garlic, bay leaves, onion etc. to the cooking liquid makes for some very tasty beans!
Does quality matter?
Absolutely! The fresher the beans are the better they will taste and the faster they will cook. Whenever possible, look for as local as possible. I like this Storehouse Foods brand (affiliate link). They are Canadian but you can find locally produced beans in many countries. Storehouse also sells in bulk which may not be the best option for everyone. Check your local health food store for good brands in smaller packages.
How do I store cooked beans?
Make a big batch of dried beans and store them in your freezer. Freeze flat, in resealable bags so they don't freeze in a clump. Then you can take out as many or as little as you need. They will also keep in the fridge, in their cooking liquid, for 3-5 days.
Quick soaking dried beans
Dried beans need to be soaked first to soften the skins to make for more even cooking. Keep in mind you do not have to soak lentils, split peas, adzuki or mung beans.
This quick soak method saves on time and frees up your memory bank. I don't know about you, but I can rarely seem to remember to start this the night before. So this method is perfect!
- Sort through the beans first and remove anything that doesn't belong, like little stones or sticks etc.
- Rinse under cold water. Place in large pot and cover with cold water by about 3".
- Bring to a boil and boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour and up to 4 hours. Drain and discard soaking liquid.
How to cook dried beans
- Place soaked beans in a large pot. Cover with 2" cold water.
- Add aromatics such as garlic, bay leaves, onion, fresh herbs, peppercorns etc. Note: fresh herbs and peppercorns should be tied in cheesecloth or in a tea infuser.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a gentle simmer, and cook until desired tenderness. This can take anywhere from 40 minutes to 1 ½ hours depending on the size of the beans. The bigger the longer. Check them from time to time until they are the softness you like. For navy beans, approximately 40 minutes.
- Add salt approximately ¾ of the way through cooking. Adding salt too soon can cause the skins to stay tough. Adding it ¾ of the way through cooking avoids this and gives the beans a much better flavour. How do you know when it's been ¾ of the time? When they are soft enough to bite into but still too firm to eat.
- When done drain but save the liquid. Storing them in the fridge in their cooking liquid keeps them moist and flavourful. Also, you can use the cooking liquid in soups in place of or in addition to stock.
Use your beans in these recipes:
- Greens and Beans Soup
- 3 Bean Vegetarian Chili
- White Bean Sausage and Arugula Soup
- White Bean Salad with Roasted Red Peppers
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Soaking and Cooking Dried Navy Beans
- 1 ½ cups dried Navy beans
- ¼ of an onion
- 1 bay leaf
- cold water to cover for both soaking and cooking
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Sort through dried beans and remove anything that doesn't belong there.
- Rinse beans under cold tap water.
- Place in large pot and cover with 2" of cool water. Bring to a boil and boil for 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1-4 hours. Amount of soaking time could affect cooking time later.
- Drain and discard soaking liquid
Cooking the beans
- Place soaked beans in a large pot and cover with 2-3 inches of cool water. Add onion, bay leaf, and any other aromatics you might like such as garlic, thyme, rosemary, peppercorns etc. Tie up herbs and peppercorns in cheesecloth or put in a tea infuser.
- Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 25 mins. then add 1 teaspoon sea salt. Continue to simmer for another 15 mins or until done to your liking.
- When done, drain over a bowl to reserve cooking liquid. Let cool and use in recipe, or store in cooking liquid in fridge or freeze, drained, flat in ziplock bags.
- If adding peppercorns or fresh herbs to cooking liquid tie in cheesecloth or use a loose tea infuser.
- Store beans it the fridge in it's cooking liquid for 3-5 days.
- Place drained, cooled beans in resealable bags. Lay flat in the freezer. Can be frozen for 6 months.
- Keep the cooking liquid to use in your favourite soups, stews or chilis instead of, or in addition to stock.