How to Cook Dry Beans

Dry beans are inexpensive, a great source of fiber, and combined with rice- the perfect protein. Today, I’m sharing 3 methods on how to cook dry beans and how to pre-soak beans before cooking.

Image: slow cooked red beans with rice in a thermos

Out of ground beef or turkey but really looking forward to taco Tuesday? Beans!

Want burgers for dinner but used that last lb of ground beef to make American Goulash? Beans!

I think you get the point…

Beans are incredibly versatile and make a terrific substitute for protein in almost any recipe.

Types of Dry Beans

There are a number of bean varieties to choose from, each with it’s own unique texture and element, below I’ve included the most common varieties and a few notes of recipes to use each with.

  • Black – tacos, Veggie Burgers, and Huevos Rancheros
  • Cannellini – the classic Minestrone soup bean, pastas, and salads.
  • Great Northern/Navy – similar to Cannellini and great for soups and stews
  • Red Kidney – the iconic bean of New Orleans thanks to Red Beans & Rice
  • Pinto – used to make refried beans and baked beans.
  • Chickpeas – can anyone say hummus? Also great on salads, curries, and soups
  • Crowder Peas – also known as black eyed peas, the common dish around New Year’s.
  • Split Peas – Split pea soup!
  • Lentils – Small but powerful source of protein that’s great slow-cooked over rice, in a curry, and tossed into a salad.

How long can you store them?

Dried beans will last for up to 2 years after the harvest, so about 2 years from the time you purchase, making them a smart pantry ingredient to keep on hand.

Once cooked, you’ve got about 7 days to use those beans in a soup, chili, stew, or salad before they expire. That won’t be hard to do because I’ll be sharing recipe ideas at the end of this post.

If you are here because you’re trying to meal plan with essentials and make fewer trips to the store, check out the Pantry Staples Meal Plan. It’s your 2-week guide to cooking with what you already have in your pantry and freezer.

image: four photos in a collage showing clean meal ideas, text reads "healthy meal plan with pantry staples - cook with what you have!"

How to soak them

“Do you have to soak beans?” , A question I got often and the truth: no.

Dried beans do not have to be soaked before cooking but they will take longer to cook and won’t yield that soft, buttery texture like soaked beans do.

If you can, soak them. It’s not complicated and there are two methods to do this, which I’m sharing below:

Overnight soaking
Cover 1 lb beans with 2 inches of water in a large bowl or soup pot. Add 1 teaspoon salt and allow them to soak for 4-12 hours. Drain and rinse before using.

Quick soaking or Rapid Soak Method
Add 1 lb beans to a pot, cover with 1 inch of water, add 2 teaspoons of salt, stir, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, remove from heat and allow them to soak for an hour. Drain and rinse before proceeding with the recipe.

Stovetop Instructions

Here’s where we learn how to cook the perfect tender, buttery-soft beans you can’t get from canned. Starting with the stove-top: 

  • 16 ounces (1lb) dry beans, about 2 cups
  • Water
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Optional Aromatics:

  • Bay Leaf
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 1/2 Onion

1. Soak the beans overnight in a large bowl, covered with water by about 1-inch. Before cooking, rinse and drain the beans.

2. In a large pot, place the beans, fill with enough water to cover the beans by 1-inch, add any aromatics you have on hand.

3. Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for one hour. Simmering means you should barely see the bubbles in the water moving.

For firmer beans, for salads and pasta, simmer uncovered.

For softer beans, for burritos, soups, and general cooking, simmer with the lid on, slightly open.

4. After one hour, check the beans. If they are slightly softened, add the salt. Cook for an additional 30minutes to 2 hours until desired tenderness.

5. After one hour, check the beans. If they are slightly softened, add the salt. Cook for an additional 30minutes to 2 hours until desired tenderness.

Depending on the variety of beans you are cooking, it may take up to 3 hours to cook through. Make sure to taste them frequently as they become tender.

6. Use the beans immediately or cool them down completely in the cooking liquid before storing. Once cooled, transfer the beans with the liquid to a container or zip bag and store.

7. To use, drain the beans from the liquid, and use as needed.

*For lentils, follow this method. 1 cup dry lentils with 3 cups of water will cook in about 20 minutes.

Slow Cooker Instructions

Cooking beans in the slow-cooker is the epitome of set it and forget it. You can add everything to the cooker, cover with lid, set to cook, and when you come back, you’ll have the perfect batch of cooked beans. The New Orleans Style Red Beans & Rice is a superb recipe for this method. 

Important note: for the best and most tender beans, set your slow-cooker on low.

Also, pre-soaking the beans is less important for this method since they will be cooking low and slow for a while; tender beans are a guarantee. Let’s get to it! 

  • 16 ounces (1lb) dry beans, about 2 cups
  • Water
  • 1 teaspoon salt per pound of beans
  • Optional Aromatics:
  • Bay Leaf
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 onion

1. Soak the beans overnight in a large bowl, covered with water by about 1-inch. Before cooking, rinse and drain the beans. This is optional with this method.

2. In the slow-cooker, place the beans, fill with enough water to cover the beans by 2-inches, add salt, add any aromatics you have on hand.

3. Set slow-cooker on low, cover, and cook for 6 to 8 hours. If you soaked the beans, check for doneness after 4 hours. Otherwise, for un-soaked beans check after 5 hours, and then every 30 minutes until they are cooked to your liking. 

4. Use the beans immediately or cool them down completely in the cooking liquid before storing. Once cooled, transfer the beans with the liquid to a container or zip bag and store.

5. To use, drain the beans from the liquid, and use as needed.

*For lentils, follow this same method. They do not need to be soaked. 1 cup dry lentils with 4 cups of water in the slow cooker will cook on low in about 4 hours.

image: beans and other pantry staples on white shelves

Instant Pot Instructions

By far, the quickest method to cook beans is in the pressure cooker. If cooking beans always seems like a chore and you own a pressure cooker, this method is for you!

Pressure cookers have two methods for releasing their pressure: natural and rapid. Natural release means that once the cooker is set off, the cooker is left to release its pressure naturally over time; this is imperative for beans. Rapid release is when you open the pressure valve completely and quickly release the pressure. Refer to your cooker manual for guidance on natural and rapid release.

Do you have to soak the beans for the pressure cooker?

You can pre-soak beans overnight like the other methods or do a “rapid-soak” cycle of 2 minutes (check your pressure cooker’s manual). Place the beans, fill with water, do a high-pressure cycle for 2 minutes. Release the steam, drain the water, and rinse. Place the beans back in the pressure cooker and continue with the cooking method.

  • 16 ounces (1lb) dry beans, about 2 cups
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt per pound of beans
  • Optional Aromatics:
  • Bay Leaf
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 onion

1. If soaking, soak the beans or run them through a high-pressure cycle, rinse, and place beans back in the pressure cooker.

2. Place the beans, fill with enough water to cover the beans by about 2-3-inches, add salt, add any aromatics you have on hand.

3. Secure the pressure cooker’s lid and set the pressure on high for 5 to 15 minutes depending on the bean you are using.

  • Black beans: 6 minutes
  • Black-eyed peas: 5 minutes
  • Chickpeas: 15 minutes
  • Navy beans: 8 minutes
  • Kidney beans: 8 minutes
  • Great Northern beans: 8 minutes
  • Cannellini beans: 8 minutes
  • Pinto: 8 minutes

4. Natural release: when the time is up, turn off the heat. Allow the pot to cool down and release the pressure naturally. Unlock according to your instruction manual.

Rapid release: when the time is up, release the pressure valve. Once the pressure is out, unlock the lid.

5. Use the beans immediately or cool them down completely in the cooking liquid before storing. Once cooled, transfer the beans with the liquid to a container or zip bag and store.

6. To use, drain the beans from the liquid, and use as needed.

*For lentils, place 1 cup lentils per 4 cups of water in the pressure cooker. Close the lid. Set your pressure cooker to the bean setting (if you have it), otherwise for about 7 minutes. Release the pressure and let them sit for about 10 minutes. Open the lid and use as needed.

Image: an assortment of dried beans in jars and bowls.

Simple Bean Recipes

Now it’s time to put that bean cooking expertise to use. Since we are using pre-cooked beans it will be about 2 cups per can, that’s half a pound of beans.

How to Cook Dry Beans | Red Beans & Rice New Orlean’s Style

Image: slow cooked red beans with rice in a thermos
  • Author: MOMables – Laura
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Yield: 68 servings 1x
  • Category: Pantry Recipes
Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
  • 1 pound dried red kidney beans
  • 10-ounce ham bone, or  10-ounce smoked tasso, or  1/2 lb uncooked bacon (46 strips), diced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Water
  • 23 green onions, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups cooked white rice

Instructions

  1. In a 5-8 quart heavy soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat, add onions, bell peppers, and celery. Cook until the vegetables are tender and the onions translucent.
  2. Add the dried kidney beans, ham hock (or tasso or bacon), bay leaves and seasoning. Stir to combine and toast seasoning with vegetables for about a minute or two.
  3. Add 2-3 inches of water above the bean line (about 8-9 cups).
  4. Increase the heat to high and bring water to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce heat to low, allow the beans to simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes until the beans are creamy and begin to break apart when you stir them.
  5. When beans are done cooking, take out ham hock (or smoked tasso) remove bone and roughly chop the ham meat. Return it to pot, stir, and cover.
  6. Optional: remove 1 1/2 cups of red beans from pot, blend in a blender, pour back in the pot. This will yield a very creamy thick base.
  7. At the last minute, stir in green onions, season with salt and pepper and serve with white rice.
     

Notes

  • Slow cooker directions: add all ingredients and cook on low heat for 7-8 hours.
  • Vegetarian option: use vegetable oil, omit ham bone add 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 bowl
  • Calories: 454
  • Sugar: 4.1g
  • Sodium: 435.7mg
  • Fat: 6.9g
  • Saturated Fat: 3.3g
  • Carbohydrates: 70.4g
  • Fiber: 11g
  • Protein: 28g
  • Cholesterol: 35.5g

More Recipes Using Pantry Staples

image: collage of four dinner photos using rice as a main ingredient.

Recipes Using Rice – Check out this master list of family-friendly recipes using rice (or cauliflower rice, if you’re trying to go low-carb).

Image: photo collage of three different recipe using oats

Recipes with Oats – Due to their versatility, oats are staple in most homes. Learn how to go beyond oatmeal and use oats in all kinds of recipes here!

About MOMables - Laura

Mom to 3 kids, obsessed with coffee, meal planning, and helping you cook fresh meals for your family fast!

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