Want to learn how to cook beans from scratch?
Here we'll teach you how to take dried beans and make them into tender nutritional powerhouses. The helpful photos below will guide you through the entire process.
If you want to be a healthy vegan, you really must add these power-packed little guys to your vegan diet. Hubby Jeff and I were vegan for MANY years before we began to understand the importance of eating this great source of protein on a regular basis.
So how did we go from not eating ANY beans to learning how to cook them in a pot, and then later moving on to the "big time" by using a pressure cooker?
Well just like you, perhaps, we started out buying the canned stuff, which was quick and easy and at least got us on the road to eating and cooking with these little nutritional powerhouses. But after a while we made the switch to cooking up our own.
Since it takes a while to cook beans in a regular pot on the stovetop, we learned to cook with a pressure cooker to save time (WAY easier than we thought it would be). And thus began our love affair with beans in all shapes and sizes.
"Why should I go through the trouble of cooking them from scratch when I can just use some canned beans" you ask? Good question. Although canned are convenient, they're NOT the healthiest way to go since they usually contain lots of sodium and preservatives. And it's best to try to get away from eating processed foods as much as possible.
Not to mention, canned stuff tastes totally different than fresh. It's amazing the difference! (And you might have heard some concerns about the BPA found in canned beans, but as you will see from this video over at NutritionFacts.org. While the case is made, and it isn't yet proven that BPA in cans do as much harm as we might think, I don't recommend them if you can avoid them. Better to be safe than sorry, in my book!)
And lastly, it's WAY more expensive to buy canned ANYTHING (!) than simply cooking it yourself.
Plus, once you learn how to cook beans and get the hang of it, you'll be whipping them up and happily munching away on them every day!
We make a batch of legumes 1-2 times per week. When we finish up one batch, we start another one soaking overnight. By the next day, they're ready to be cooked up.
Once you get in the groove, it all works beautifully and really doesn't take up all that much of your time, ESPECIALLY if you have a pressure cooker.
We have a LOT to cover, so let's get started...
A List of Popular Beans
There are MANY types to choose from, and each has their own distinct flavor. Let's take a look at some of the most popular that are available for you to play with.
Perhaps the most popular, kidney, has a deep red color and are chock full of great flavor. They're a strong bean, meaning that they hold their shape well when cooked, making them a great choice for vegetable stews and bean salads.
Kidney (or red) beans are the bean of choice when creating your very own red beans and rice recipe, which you can create quickly and easily with the information contained within this site.
By the way, red kidneys contain a toxin that can only be destroyed with thorough cooking, so never eat your kidney beans raw or under-cooked.
Coming in 2nd place for the most popular is pinto. You might not recognize them in their dried form. Once they're cooked, they lose their famous markings and simply turn pink. They're used most often when making chili and refried beans. By the way, pink beans (popular in the Southwest) can be substituted for pintos.
Black (one of my favorites -- also known as turtle) has a very mild, earthy, sweet taste. Because of their dense texture, they are perfect when combined with spicy flavors and hot seasonings.
Garbanzos (or Chickpeas) - or as we like to call them "G-Beans" - have a distinctive flavor which is slightly nutty, yet offer a sweet taste. Garbanzos are used in dishes such as hummus since they break down into a delectable and dense creamy texture. You will also see them floating around in soups (think Minestrone) because they offer a dense and firm bite that really help to fill you up.
I'm including soybeans here for one reason only - to let you know that while many foods are made with soybeans, they're not (in all actuality) the best when eaten on their own. They're difficult to digest for most people, and their taste is very bland and neutral. Refer to the Soy section for more information on the preparation of foods made with soybeans.
Now, having said all that, black soybeans (or black soya) are far better tasting and cook up beautifully. But their skins are thin and can easily break open during the cooking process. For this reason, you will add salt to the cooking water (unlike when you cook most beans in which the salt makes it difficult for them to cook properly). Black soybeans are "low carb".
Adzuki (or Aduki) Beans are perhaps my favoritest of all. They are small, so they are easier to digest than some of the larger variety. They do not necessarily have to be pre-soaked before cooking (since they are less dense than larger beans and easier to digest) but I still recommend pre-soaking when you can - just know the cooking time will, as with other pre-soaked legumes, be drastically reduced.
Adukis have a strong flavor that is a delicious mix of sweet and nutty. They are rounded with a point on one end.
Adukis tend to be less beany-tasting than most with a bit of a meaty flavor. They tend to go well with foods that traditionally taste good with meat such as potatoes.
How To Select Beans
No matter which bean you choose, the rules are the same.
Choose organic whenever you can, which are usually quite easy to find. I purchase bulk beans from the bulk department of my natural foods store, but it's important that you know how old the product is in the bins. Anything over 12 months begins to lose their fresh taste.
If you don't find what you're looking for, or you're not sure on the age, ask your grocer about placing a special order. Beans can also be found online.
How To Clean and Prep Your Beans For Cooking
First, you'll want to learn how to clean and get your beans ready for the cooking process.
MOST require soaking. Why? Because it helps your body to digest them easier, and it cuts the cooking time dramatically. Those that DO NOT require soaking include Black Soybeans, and Black-Eyed Peas.
The soaking and cooking of beans remains a mystery for so many people. I should know because I used to be one of them! Hopefully the following instructions along with photos will help to take some of the mystery away so you can start cooking your legumes of all sorts today.
By the way, are beans hard for you to digest? If so, you might need to build up the necessary enzymes to help your body do its job more easily. So start with the smallest legumes first like lentils or aduki (which are so small and easy to digest they don't need pre-soaking). Then when you feel you can digest these easily, move up to the medium sized like black and pinto (this size -- and up -- need pre-soaking). Finally, when your body can handle the medium-sized legumes, you're ready to move up to the "big guns" like red kidney and garbanzos (chickpeas).
Another way to get your digestive system used to beans is to use small amounts, such as 1/2 cup in a soup or stew. Continue to add more as time goes by and your body gets used to it. Next mix some in with brown rice or other whole grains. And finally, you will be ready for a bowl of straight-up legumes or refried beans without any digestive challenges.
Step 1: Measure one cup dry beans.
Step 2: Pick over. This means that you lay them out (I usually do this step in a long, flat Tupperware container) and pick through them, looking for rocks, stones, and dried, withered and discolored, then discard. If you find that you're picking out MOST of your beans during this process, then chances are your batch is old.
Step 3: Measure triple the amount of water as beans, in this case 3 cups, or more if desired.
Step 4: Place beans in a container with a lid (I use a wide-mouthed jar) and pour water over the top.
Step 5: Let sit 8 hours (or overnight) -- although up to 24 hours is what we do in our own home and have noticed far easier digestion! The soaking jar or container does not have to be covered, but you may want to for cleanliness sake, to keep out dust or any flying insects (especially during the warmer months).
Step 6: Admire your soaked beans.
Step 7: Drain and rinse. (Plants love the bean soaking water.)
Now, that wasn't so bad was it?
And guess what? It's FINALLY time to learn how to cook those beans! Woot! :)
How To Cook Beans
Here are the cooking techniques we use and recommend for beans.
Click the one you'd like to learn more about for complete cooking instructions.
Bean Vegan Flavor Matches
Create your very own vegan bean recipes with some of your favorite ingredients from this list of foods that match perfectly with your chosen legume.
RED (KIDNEY) BEANS
WHITE BEANS (Great Northern, Navy, etc.)
Try One Of These Vegan Bean Recipes...
7-Layer Tortilla Pie
Sautéed Swiss Chard and Black Beans
Easy Greens & Beans
Coconut Veggie Rice Concoction
Peanut Butter Vegetable Soup
Rustic Vegetable Soup
Peanut Butter Coconut Rice
Creamy Edamame Gratin
Edamame Fried Rice
Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salad
Sassy's Baked Beans
Italian Rice and Black Bean Burritos
Southwest Quinoa Burros
Vegetable Bean Burrito
Mexican Fiesta Smothered Polenta
Beet, Chickpea, and Almond Dip
Rice and Beans Rollups
Jeff's Veggie Bean Soup
Black Bean and Yam Stew
There are two exceptions to this rule:
Of course, you can cut your cooking time by using the Pressure Cooking Method (above).
Mix your sauce into the legumes and bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and the beans have soaked up most of the liquid (30-45 minutes). Aim for 1/2 the amount of sauce as compared to the legumes. So if you are using 6 cups of beans, make 3 cups of sauce.