Choosing and cooking with beans

beans
Simple and satisfying
Beans are among the healthiest, most economical, versatile and delicious foods. They’ve nourished us for thousands of years and are winning new fans every day.

A healthy choice

With the exception of peanuts and soy, all beans are very low in fat and good sources of fiber, protein, folate and other B vitamins, and the minerals magnesium, potassium and iron. Light-colored beans are higher in calcium, darker beans are higher in iron.

Beans also provide an array of “phytochemicals,” natural plant compounds that promote protection against chronic and degenerative diseases, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The fiber — particularly the soluble fiber — may help reduce the risk of diabetes, and also may help lower blood cholesterol levels.

Try different varieties to enjoy their unique flavors and colors in different dishes, hot or cold.

Preparing dry beans

For best digestion and to shorten cooking time, most beans benefit from pre-soaking. Smaller beans, including adzuki, mung, lentils, black-eyed peas and split peas, generally need no pre-soaking but are more easily digested if soaked, drained and cooked in fresh water until very tender. This substantially reduces the effect of starches that promote intestinal gas during digestion.

Sort and rinse: Discard shriveled beans or small stones; rinse in cool water and drain.

Quick soak: For each cup of rinsed beans, add three to four cups water to a heavy cooking pot and bring to a boil for five minutes. Turn off heat, cover and let stand for one hour, then drain.

Longer soak: For each cup of rinsed beans, add three to four cups water and soak eight to 12 hours, then drain.

Stovetop cooking

Place soaked, drained beans in a pot with three to four cups of water or broth for each cup soaked beans (or add sufficient water or broth to cover beans by two inches). Bring to a boil, reduce to low heat, cover with lid slightly ajar and cook until tender (see chart for cooking times).

When able to mash a bean easily between your fingers, add salt or acids such as citrus juice, vinegar or tomatoes. Adding these before beans are tender generally yields tough beans.

Pressure-cooking

You may use soaked or unsoaked beans. Soaked beans cook quicker and are more digestible.

Add two cups water or broth for each cup soaked beans, or three cups water for each cup unsoaked beans. It’s wise to add a tablespoon or two of cooking oil to the pressure cooker, as oil blocks potential clogging of pressure vents from foaming beans.

It’s unwise to pressure cook split peas, lentils or lima beans, all of which foam heavily. In general, pressure-cooked beans save time and are more tender, flavorful and digestible.

Crockpot cooking

Whether using presoaked or unsoaked beans, always start by boiling beans for five minutes, then transfer to the crockpot and set on either low or high, noting manufacturer’s recommendation and/or your preferred time for finished beans.

Bean cooking chart

1 cup soaked beans water
or broth
stovetop pressure
cooker*
crock pot yield
* Use longer times for unsoaked beans.
** These legumes all tend to foam excessively and could clog the pressure cooker vent. One to two tablespoons of oil in the pot may help.
Adzuki 4 cups 30 to 40 min Not recommended** 4 hrs 2 to 2 1/2 cups
Black-eyed peas 4 cups 30 to 45 min 15 to 25 min 6 to 12 hrs 1 1/2 to 2 cups
Black Turtle 4 cups 60 to 90 min 20 to 40 min 8 to 12 hrs 1 1/2 to 2 cups
Cannellini 4 cups 60 to 90 min 20 to 40 min 8 to 12 hrs 1 1/2 to 2 cups
Garbanzo (chickpea) 4 cups 90 to 120 min 35 to 40 min 10 to 12 hrs 1 1/2 to 2 cups
Kidney 4 cups 60 to 90 min 20 to 40 min 10 to 12 hrs 1 1/2 to 2 cups
Lentils/green, brown 4 cups 30 to 45 min Not recommended** Not recommended 2 1/2 cups
Lentils, red 4 cups 10 to 20 min Not recommended** Not recommended 2 1/2 cups
Lima, baby 4 cups 45 to 60 min Not recommended** Not recommended 2 cups
Mung, whole 4 cups 30 to 40 min Not recommended** 4 hrs 2 1/2 cups
Peas/split green, yellow 4 cups 45 to 50 min Not recommended** 8 to 10 hrs 2 cups
Pintos 4 cups 90 min 25 to 40 min 10 to 12 hrs 2 cups
Small red 4 cups 60 to 90 min 20 to 40 min 8 to 12 hrs 2 cups
Small white (navy) 4 cups 60 to 90 min 20 to 40 min 8 to 12 hrs 2 cups
Soybeans 4 cups 2 to 3 hrs Not recommended** 24 hrs 2 cups

For better digestibility

Beans
  • To help tenderize beans and promote digestibility, use seasonings in bean dishes such as bay leaves, cilantro, coriander, cumin, epazote, fennel, garlic, ginger and peppers.
  • Add a six-inch piece of dried Japanese seaweed called kombu to the cooking pot. It can be snipped into small pieces adding nutrients but no flavor or color. If preferred, leave kombu whole and remove after cooking.
  • Research indicates that many people find beans become markedly more digestible when they gradually increase portions of well-cooked varieties over several weeks.

    A tablet of an enzyme product, such as Beano®, can be taken during a meal of beans and may prove useful if intestinal discomfort continues to be a problem.

For recipes using beans and legumes, please visit our recipes section.

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