How To Cook Beans
Your Complete Guide!

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.

"I love your website. This is the site I start with when I have "how to" questions. You totally got me cooking beans, something I'd never done before."
-- Sarah A., Cape Coral, Florida

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 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!

"I can't cook worth a lick, but thank you! I made the best beans tonight!"
-- R. Bianca, Oakland, California

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...

"I just want to sincerely thank you and your adorable husband for showing me how to cook dried beans! It was just what I needed to give me confidence in picking out and soaking bulk beans as well as using my pressure cooker. Your website is fantastic and I thank you for your efforts!"
-- Julie, Carol Stream, Illinois

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.

"Thanks for posting the warning to people about the dangers of dried Red & Kidney Beans eaten uncooked. I found this out the hard way a few years ago. I soaked them but used them raw in the recipe. There was nothing on the dried bean package about any danger, and I read the recipe instructions wrong. My husband and I both got sick learning this the hard way. You can't tell while eating them that you will get sick."
-- Jona F., Hermitage, Tennessee

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.

"I found your information on how to prepare and cook beans to be VERY informative. I have to admit that I have been avoiding preparing or experimenting with them because I had no idea where to begin. After reading your information, I'm going out to buy at least 4 different varieties to try because you gave me that much confidence. Thank you so much!"
-- Ericka T., Hammond, Indiana

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 dramaticallyThose 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.

"Thank you (times 3). I really had a craving to make chili after I saw a bag of beans at the store. All the recipes I found online feature canned. Your page on how to prepare and cook them was very helpful to me!"
-- Kate, Woodinville, Washington

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.

A silver pot with a lid
An electric pressure cooker
An electric slow cooker
A stovetop pressure cooker

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.

(What are Flavor Matches?)


  • Chili Powder
  • Cilantro
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Onion
  • Oregano
  • Garam Marsala
  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Mayonnaise, non-egg and non-dairy (I like Vegenaise)
  • Mustard
  • Pasta
  • Pimentos
  • Rice
  • Sauerkraut
  • Savory
  • Sweet Potato
  • Tomatoes
  • Vegetables, all
  • Vinegar
  • Yogurt, non-dairy


  • Bacon, vegetarian (I like Fakin' Bacon. Eat sparingly - this is not a health food!)
  • Beer
  • Brown Sugar (I prefer Organic Sucanat)
  • Cheese, non-dairy - especially Cheddar and Monterey Jack (I like Follow Your Heart brand)
  • Chiles
  • Cilantro
  • Coconut
  • Garlic
  • Nuts
  • Olives, especially black
  • Onions
  • Oregano
  • Rice
  • Salsa
  • Savory
  • Tomatoes
  • Vegetables, all


  • Avocados
  • Cheese, non-dairy (I like Follow Your Heart brand)
  • Chiles, especially serrano
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Garlic
  • Jalapenos
  • Mint
  • Onions
  • Oranges
  • Peppers
  • Rice
  • Savory
  • Sour cream, non-dairy
  • Tequila
  • Tomatoes
  • Vegetables, all


  • Bulgur
  • Caraway
  • Carrot
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Green Onions
  • Lemon Juice
  • Onion
  • Mustard
  • Savory
  • Seeds, especially sesame
  • Tahini
  • Tomatoes
  • Vegetables, all
  • Vinegar
  • Yogurt, non-dairy

WHITE BEANS (Great Northern, Navy, etc.)

  • Bacon, vegetarian (I like Fakin' Bacon. Eat sparingly - this is not a health food!)
  • Barbecue Sauce
  • Basil
  • Brown Sugar (I prefer Organic Sucanat)
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Chiles, especially Chipotle
  • Crushed Red Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Beer, especially dark
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Leeks
  • Lemon Juice
  • Onion
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Savory
  • Tamari, organic
  • Thyme
  • Tomatoes
  • Vegetable Broth
  • Vegetables, all
  • Worcestershire Sauce, vegetarian


  • Allspice
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Basil
  • Bay Leaf
  • Cilantro
  • Dijon
  • Garlic
  • Green Bell Pepper
  • Marjoram
  • Mayonnaise, dairy - and egg-free
  • Nuts, especially hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts
  • Onion
  • Orange
  • Oregano
  • Pineapple
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Rice, especially brown and sweet gelatinous
  • Rosemary
  • Sauerkraut
  • Savory
  • Tabasco
  • Tamari, organic
  • Thyme
  • Vegetables, especially squash, potato, and sweet potato
  • Whole Grains
  • Worcestershire Sauce

"I've really enjoyed the beans information. They petrify me actually because I don't know how to cook with them, but your info was especially helpful. Thank you for your pertinent and wonderful information."
-- Gaytha Z., Ada, Oklahoma

Helpful Hints

  • Beans are done to perfection when you can easily smoosh one between your tongue and the roof of your mouth.
  • Click here for info about cooling, storing, and reheating your beans. The cooking water is delicious and nutritious, so you can certainly use a bit of it when you reheat your beans to keep them moist. Or you can rinse the water from them before re-heating. Both ways are fine and it is completely your personal preference.
  • How to cook beans with perfect results every time? DON'T ADD SALT TO THE WATER! Adding salt or any acid (like tomatoes or vinegar) to beans hardens their skins and prevents them from cooking properly. In most instances, it's best to add salt AFTER they are almost entirely cooked. (Although some people swear by adding salt to the soaking water - 2 tsp salt per quart of water, then drain and rinse the salt off before adding beans to fresh water for cooking.)

There are two exceptions to this rule:

  1. When cooking limas and black soy beans (and any legumes with very delicate skins), then it is a good idea to add salt to the water. This will help to keep the bean skins intact;
  2. When pressure cooking soups, you can feel free to add some tomatoes or use a stock which is only lightly salted. While this may add a little more time to the cooking process, it will not prevent the beans from getting soft and tender.
  • Bean varieties that cook faster include Anasazi, Calypso, Fava, Baby Lima, and Trout.
  • Varieties that require 2 hours or more to cook without a pressure cooker include Chickpeas (Garbanzo), European Soldier, Great Northern, Lima, Navy, and Red Kidney.
  • Lupini and Soy require the longest cooking times, anywhere from 3 to 4 hours, unless you use a pressure cooker.

Of course, you can cut your cooking time by using the Pressure Cooking Method (above).

  • Although some legumes have a more intense flavor than others, most are remarkably versatile and can be used in just about any dish. They usually blend right in, giving you a fabulously simple nutrition boost.
  • If you notice your red kidney beans split during SOAKING, read this.

You Asked...

Is there a "too old, must toss" date for my beans?

Sassy Sez: We've been working with many types of dried beans for years and rarely find any that are too old. But the best way to tell is to begin by pre-soaking a small batch. If you have any floaters (they float to the top immediately and never really take any water) toss them and cook up the rest. If they cook up tender in the time you expect, then they're good to go. If they take a verrrry long time to cook and they STILL won't get tender, they're likely too old.

  • Create your own baked beans recipes in a snap! White beans (such as Great Northern or Navy) are traditionally used. Begin by making a delectable sauce with some of your favorite ingredients from the Vegan Food Matches (above). My favorites are chopped onions, barbecue sauce, dark beer, Dijon mustard, organic Sucanat (or other organic brown sugar), Worcestershire sauce, and organic Tamari (or other organic soy sauce). I like to toss in a little minced chipotle chilies too just to add a little kick.

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.

  • Whip up a refried beans recipe in minutes! The basic idea is to add a little extra-virgin olive oil to a large pan and add chopped onions and/or garlic. Add desired amount of pre-cooked pinto or black (or other bean!) to the pan with about 1/4 cup water. While they heat, mash them with a potato masher until you get the desired results. Easy peasy!
  • As if we needed yet ANOTHER reason why it's a good idea to eat legumes and beans, this video from provides an enlightening (and quite humorous) point about "Beans and the Second Meal Effect".

Happy Cooking!


"Your website and info has helped change my life so quickly and got me really running faster down my positive and healthy journey. Not to mention I love the Flavor Matches and how to prepare and clean things like brown rice and beans."
-- Jae Zee, Los Angeles, California

"I absolutely love Vegan Coach! I first found you when trying to learn to cook dried beans to save a few bucks on groceries. Since then, I have devoured your site trying to learn the ins and outs of cooking Vegan, and truly learning to appreciate the health benefits that come from a vegan diet. I am addicted to Vegan Coach!"
-- Jaime D., Murray, Utah

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