Ask The Readers: Cooking Dried Beans

Erin left a question in the comment section of the Spicy Tuna Skillet post last week that I felt deserved its own post. I have the exact same problem she does so I’m not much help in answering her. But I thought maybe you’d all have some insight to share, so please…share away!

One of my more recent favorite inexpensive proteins is black beans. Unfortunately, I really prefer the silky texture of canned rather than dried. Dried always come out a bit, well, dry! In most foods, it’s not a big deal, but in black bean burritos, where half the beans are pureed, the smooth texture of canned is so much better. Likewise with dishes like taco salad. If the meal requires long cooking, dried beans work just fine. If anyone has any tips on cooking dried beans so that they approach the texture of canned (maybe using a pressure cooker?), I’d love to hear them!

Dried black beans and garbanzo beans seem to be the two I most struggle with getting the same texture as canned. Like Erin said, when the dish can simmer for a long time it’s not as much of a problem as other times. Please share your tips for cooking dried beans!

14 thoughts on “Ask The Readers: Cooking Dried Beans

  1. I don’t know if I can be of any help or not, because I always prefer dry beans made from scratch over the canned ones, and I’m not sure what you mean and your reader mean by the “silky texture” of canned beans. Maybe you are talking about the thicker broth?

    Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s what I do. I usually don’t soak my beans overnight. I’ve never really found that it makes a noticeable difference, but other readers might disagree. For all beans, I add 1 Tablespoon of salt per pound of beans (most times, that equates to a teaspoon per cup of dry beans) and plenty of water. Unless I’m making a vegetarian/vegan dish, I usually add about 2 teaspoons of bacon fat. Otherwise I add that much vegetable oil. I place the beans on top of the stove, turn the heat on high and bring all of it to a rolling boil. At that point, depending on what I have going on that day, I either turn the beans off, cover them and let them sit/soak for about an hour or so, or I just cover them and turn them down to a simmer. If I soak them, after about an hour, I turn them back on to simmer. I let the beans simmer for several hours, stirring every 10-15 minutes and checking to see if they need more liquid, until they are tender. The cooking time will vary, depending on the type of bean and how old they are. Some will cook in just over an hour, while others may take 3 or more hours. (Really, really old beans may never get tender.)

    Once they are tender you can add more liquid if needed to make soup, or if you want less liquid, you can either uncover them and simmer then a little longer until the liquid evaporates a bit, or you can drain off some of the liquid. They can be used immediately in the same way you’d use canned beans, or they can be packaged and frozen. I prefer to freeze them with some of their liquid rather than draining them first.

  2. Pressure cooking. We have cooked w/dried beans for eons. 🙂 Black-eyed peas, pintos, white, whatever. Yes, soak overnight (cover w/water, bring to boil, then turn off & cover, let soak at least 2 hrs., pour off water). Fresh water is added when you are ready to cook, add the salt now. For a firmer texture bean, pressure cook at 10lbs for 5 mins; for a softer, squishier bean, about 8 mins.

  3. I fill a big pot of water and start it boiling. While that is working, I wash and sort the beans. Place a liner in the crockpot, add the beans, then the pot of boiling water. At this point I add a chunk of ham or a bit of oil. Cook on high for at least 8 hours then check to see if more time is needed.

    I read that method somewhere and use it all of the time now. Saves me a lot of time and money.

  4. I feel the same way about my dry beans, the texture was just never as smooth as I wanted it. So America’s Test Kitchen was making something with beans and had the same issue. They added salt to the soaking water to brine the beans. I tried it and they turn out fantastic!! The most important step of the brining is make sure you RINSE, RINSE RINSE. Rinse the beans throughly before you add the cooking water or you will have very grainy beans. The cooking method is whatever works best for you after that, I’ve done both stove top and crockpot with brining and there is no difference. I hope it helps!

    1. Finally tried brining, and it worked great! The bean texture is smooth and creamy rather than the more granular and dry beans I’d come to expect. Thanks so much for the tip!

  5. First time commenting on your site and I have to say you have a really wonderful blog. I usually soak the beans (any kind) in regular tap water overnight. The next day, I pop it in the pressure cooker and cook under pressure for 6-10 mins depending on the kind of beans. For black beans, it usually takes 10 mins to get soft and mashable consistency. Hope it helps.

  6. Are your dry beans old? Old beans take longer to cook and don’t have as nice a texture as fresher dried beans. I also store my dry beans in an airtight glass jar, not a plastic bag. FYI–I use the crockpot and don’t soak.

  7. I make my own “canned” beans. I use the crockpot method with the overnight soak in the liner, drain and refill in the morning. Cook on low most of the day (exact times vary by crockpot and amount of beans). I season with a few spoonfuls of the frontier brand chicken flavored broth powder which is actually vegan but tastes really good. I then measure out roughly 1.5-2 cup portions of the beans- mostly drained but with just enough liquid to cover and put in cleaned glass peanut butter jars or clean canning jars and pop them in my freezer. You wind up with the time to cook to the consistency you want, control the salt, and skip the BPA can liners while still have the ease of canned beans. Although, I do sometimes slightly undercook the beans if I know I intend to use them in something that will cook them slightly more and don’t want to wind up with them too mushy.

  8. I cook often with dried beans and have been branching out lately from our usual pinto bean to include more northern beans, lentils and red beans. They have all turned out wonderfully! My usual method for the larger beans is to put them in the crockpot the night before (after a thorough rinsing) on low and simply let them cook all night and day~I usually need to add some water in the morning. I add in a little bacon fat and I don’t add the salt until the last hour of cooking b/c I have read many times that it makes the beans tough if the salt is cooked in too long. If it’s a smaller bean that requires less cooking, I usually use the *quick soak* method outlined on the package~works great! As for storing, I have always stored my beans in their bags in the freezer. I’ve never had a problem with them seeming *old* even when I have used some that had been in there for a while.

  9. I make up big batches of beans using the jars/canner. I soak my beans overnight and then fill Ball pint or quart jars about 3/4 full with the beans. You can add in spices if you like. I add in some water to slightly cover the beans, but not up to the top. You need to leave enough room for the beans to expand. I pressure can a whole batch at a time. It saves me time to have them ready as a “go to” off the pantry shelf and I have controlled the amount of salt that I have in them. I make up batches of pinto and black beans this way. I also can up some beans ready for chili. You can use small red or kidney beans and I add in spices and tomato juice. These I use for making chili. There are some good recipes in “Country Beans” cookbook.

  10. I also mostly cook black beans/pinto beans and garbanzo beans. I have heard that salting can at the beginning can make the beans tougher and add to the cooking time. I have tried several ways and have found the best way for me is to just rinse and sort the beans put in a crock pot on LOW and never let them get to a boil. It make the skins of the beans break and they don’t look as appetizing. It takes most of the day and when they are done I turn off the heat and put a little salt in the crockpot with the beans still in the water. Let them sit and absorb the salt for about 15-20 min and taste and then add more if needed. It seems to really absorb seasoning best when I do it this way at the end. Then I freeze the beans in batches in quart size freezer baggies.
    Sometimes I think beans are just old and never get soft. This has only happened once with a bag of dollar store garbanzo beans they were in the crockpot about 15 hours and never got fully softened. I was making hummus for a party and had to run to the store for canned. I think my hummus is smoother with homemade garbanzos so I was bummed!

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